Jiuzhai Valley National Park, or locally known as Jiuzhaigou (Chinese for “Nine Village Valley” because there are nine Tibetan villages scattered throughout the park), is one of the most beautiful national parks in the world. Sure, that's a lofty phrase, what with the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, but it's true (and we have the photos to prove it). With over 220 species of birds, countless endangered plants and animals (like the giant panda!), the national park has plenty to see other than just the landscape.
The valley is located in the Min Shan mountain range in Northern Sichuan, which is in the southwest part of China. In 1992, the park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site (they said the park “is an incredible place of great natural beauty”); it's perhaps best known for its amazing blue and green lakes, incredible waterfalls, and unique wildlife.
One of our favorite parts about the park is that it can be enjoyed year-round; that, and it's accessible by direct flights from multiple cities in China. The park covers over 177,000 acres and the elevation ranges from 6,500 feet above sea level to 14,760 feet. Interestingly enough, evidence has shown that people have lived in the park for around 3,000 years, and the villages today maintain a very traditional lifestyle – about 1,000 people in over 110 families still live in the area.
Delve more into the story of the park and you'll discover the legend of a young boy who fell in love with a goddess. Evil got in the path of the lovers and the gem-like lakes of the Jiuzhai Valley were formed as a result of the shattered relationship.
Some of the best spots to see are the Shu Zheng Lakes and Waterfall, the Five Coloured Pond, Panda Lake, Peacock Riverbed, and the Pearl Waterfall.