16 Days Chengdu-Dunhuang Nature Odyssey
Date: 7th, Apr. & 8th, Oct. 2021, 2022
Price: From 4100USD/PAX
Trip Focus: Nature + Culture
Status: Open to Booking
Trip Code: N002
The Silk Road is one of the most fascinating trade routes opened by human beings ever in history. The impact from the Silk Road is far-reaching and has gone beyond the borders of nations involved. The influences can still be easily detected even in nowadays in China. By linking ancient China with the rest of the world through trade, the Silk Road successfully bridged the oriental wisdom with western civilizations and brought the whole human civilization to a new height. Along the Silk Road, a huge number of cultural relics from its prime time are still accessible. Hundreds of poems depicting beautiful scenery along the Silk Road have been written by poets in different dynasties in China. This trip is designed to discover the stunning natural beauties and cultural attractions by focusing on the most exciting section of the Silk Road, the area between Chengdu and Dunhuang. Chengdu, as one of the birthplaces of silk production and the starting place of Southern Silk Road, is known as Land of Abundance and one of the most famous silk production bases in China. Its ancient name Shu comes from wild silkworm and the nickname of Chengdu is the City of Brocade. Dunhuang, is famed as a pearl on the Silk Road, which is the place where the world-famous site Mogao Grottoes are located. Geographically, between these two places, you can see almost all the different landforms and terrains in China. Culturally, this area boasts of rich ethnic culture represented by different ethnic groups, authentic Buddhism culture interpreted differently, and well-designed museums highlighting various cultural elements brought together by people traveling along the Silk Road. The rich resources along the Silk Road make this trip more than a culture or nature trip. It will be a trip of a lifetime for people of different interests to read what they like, explore what they are interested in, and unveil what they are unaware of. During this trip, we have so many wonderful things to show you, the plants and wildlife living in different habitats and people from different ethnic groups, mystical Tibetan Buddhism, magnificent snow-capped mountains, gem-like alpine lakes, vast grasslands as well as a variety of different landscapes. Though we call this trip a nature Odyssey, you will be equally amazed by the cultural attractions we are going to show you during this trip if you are interested.
• Come face to face with giant pandas in Chengdu Panda Base, which is the largest giant panda breeding base in the world.
• Experience a great variety of different landforms and terrains including the fertile Chengdu Plain, gorgeous Minshan Mountain, vast grasslands on Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, colorful Danxia landform in Zhangye and rolling deserts outside Dunhuang.
• Travel through one of the three ethnic corridors in China.
• Encounter a good number of birds, flowers, and mammals endemic to the different habitats we are going to visit.
• Guided by our nature and culture guide who know birds and plants well.
• Visit some of the most important monasteries, museums, and grottoes including Labrang Monastery, and Dunhuang Grottoes.
Introductions to Trip Destinations:
Holding the distinction of the world’s largest panda base, Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding (Chengdu Panda Base) attracts tourists and panda fans worldwide. Conveniently located a short drive away from downtown, this state of the art research facility comfortably houses more pandas than anywhere else at home and abroad. During your visit, you will see pandas ranging from young cubs to lumbering adults as well as the elusive and adorable red panda. Additionally, the scenic, garden-like atmosphere of the panda base is especially ideal to look for urban birds like Red-billed Leiothrix, White-browed Laughingthrush, Chinese Blackbird, Spotted Dove, and so on.
Wolong Shenshuping Panda Base is a new panda base built with the charity donation from Hong Kong Government after the 2008 earthquake when the old Wolong Panda Base was damaged by the earthquake. It takes about a 2-hour drive from Chengdu to the base. This base has the best natural temperature for pandas and is an excellent place for people who want to see active panda cubs with fewer crowds. Wolong Giant Panda Habitat Reserve where the base is located is one of the most first reserves set up in China to protect giant pandas and their habitats.
Balang Mountain is the first high mountain standing between the Sichuan Basin and the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. From the foot to the mountain pass, the elevation rises sharply from 2,000m to 4,500m which provides a wide variety of habitats to support a lot of creatures including some rare kinds of pheasants such as Chinese Monal, Chestnut-throated Partridge, and Koklass Pheasant. The mountain serves as a demarcation line ethnically and, due to the change in topography, has rich flora and fauna resources including the precious panda and snow leopard. In a day of fine weather, we can overlook this wildlife kingdom by the side of its winding roads.
Huanglong Scenic Area is located in Songpan County of Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture in Sichuan Province. About 100 kilometers away from Jiuzhaigou Valley, Huanglong is famous for its "Four Wonders", the colorful pool, awesome snow mountain, scenic valley, and virgin forest. In 1992, it was included on the World's Natural Heritage List. The travertine landscapes and colorful pools accumulated in a process of thousands of years make Huanglong stand out as one of the most popular tourist attractions.
Listed as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage, Jiuzhaigou is famous for its "Six Wonders," including the crystal water, terraced waterfalls, colorful forests, snow-capped peaks, Tibetan culture, and gem-like lakes. Water is the soul of Jiuzhaigou Valley, and numerous lakes of different sizes put Jiuzhaigou on the top of travel destinations in Asia. The lakes here are crystal clear all year round, and with the changing seasons, the color of the water shifts.
Langmusi is a small town at the border between Sichuan and Gansu provinces with two mountains sitting behind and a stream flowing through. Monasteries stand quietly among the mountains with prayer flags flying in the air, sending a strong religious message to the passerby. It is said Langmusi is a mini version of "Shangri-La": it is not only a paradise of natural beauty, the intersection of ancient roads, but also a place where diverse cultures blend and develop.
Labrang Monastery is a transliteration of the Tibetan word for the residence of the living Buddha master. Founded in 1709, it is one of the big six monasteries of the Gelug Sect (the yellow hat sect) of Tibetan Buddhism and the highest Buddhist school of the Gelug Sect of Tibetan Buddhism, known as the "World Tibetan Buddism University". More than 4,000 monks have studied in its splendid buildings at its golden age. Labrang Monastery has one of the longest corridors of prayer wheels over the world, which has over 1,700 scripture wheels. Now Labrang hosts many important and magnificent Buddhism ceremonies that attract Buddism believers worldwide.
Zhangye City is located in the central part of the Hexi Corridor, and there are various natural landscapes such as deserts, hills, grassland, and primitive forest in the its area. Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park is famous for its Danxia landform, in which sedimentary rocks have risen with colorful stripes and beautiful shapes. The tourist attractions in the park are divided into "Binggou Danxia" and "Qicai Danxia". Both of them are vast and magnificent especially when they are bathing in the sunlight of dawn and dusk or after rain.
Dunhuang, a city that flourished as an oasis on the Silk Road. Located at the western end of the Hexi corridor. Historically, it is the only pathway from central China to the western regions, even to Europe, and a confluence of four ancient civilizations—China, India, Greece, and Islam. Mogao Grottoes, also known as "Thousand Buddha Caves", is located on the south side of the city. Nearly 500 caves decorated with colorful murals and Buddha statues, making it a holy place in the Buddhism world. There are also many attractions near Dunhuang such as the Crescent Spring and Mingsha Shan, Yardang National Geopark, and the Ancient Great Wall of the Han Dynasty.
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16 days Chengdu-Dunhuang Nature Odyssey Trip Map
Day 1. Arrive at Chengdu. (D)
A city tour based on your time of arrival. Dinner and trip briefing. Overnight: Chengdu (Attitude 500m)
Day 2. Chengdu-Wolong.105km, 2.5h (BLD)
Chengdu Panda Base, then drive to Wolong Nature Reserve. Overnight: Wolong (Around 2,000m)
Day 3. Wolong-Rilong. 105km, 2.5h (BLD)
Wolong Shenshuping Panda Base and nature safari on Balang Mountain. Overnight: Rilong (Around 3,200m)
Day 4. Siguniang Mountain. (BLD)
Shuangqiao Valley. Overnight: Rilong (Around 3,200m)
Day5. Rilong-Huanglong. 390km, 9h (BLD)
Drive to Huanglong and see the landscape and ethnic culture along the road. Overnight: Huanglong (Above 3,000m)
Day 6. Huanglong-Jiuzhaigou. 108km, 2h (BLD)
Visit Huanglong National Park and drive to Jiuzhaigou. Overnight: Jiuzhaigou (Above 2,000m)
Day 7. Jiuzhaigou. (BLD)
Jiuzhaigou exploration. Overnight: Jiuzhaigou (Above 2,000m)
Day 8. Jiuzhaigou-Ruoergai. 230km, 4h (BLD)
Jiuzhaigou to Ruoergai, enjoy the wetland scenery in Ruoergai. Overnight: Ruoergai (Above 3,400m)
Day 9. Ruoergai-Langmusi. 90km, 1.5h (BLD)
Enjoy beautiful nature and culture along the road and visit Langmusi. Overnight: Langmusi (Above 3,300m)
Day 10. Langmusi-Xiahe. 190km, 3h (BLD)
Visit Labrang Monastery and the neighboring area. Overnight: Xiahe (Around 3,000m)
Day 11. Xiahe-Lanzhou. 240km, 3.5h (BLD)
Drive from Xiahe to Lanzhou, city tour in Lanzhou. Overnight: Lanzhou (Around 1,500m)
Day 12. Lanzhou-Zhangye by high-speed train. (BLD)
High-speed train from Lanzhou to Zhangye and reach Zhangye Danxia Geopark before sunset. Overnight: Zhangye (Above 1,700m)
Day 13. Zhangye-Dunhuang by high-speed train. (BLD)
Watch the sunrise and visit Zhangye Big Buddha Monastery. High-speed train to Dunhuang. Overnight: Dunhuang (Around 1,150m)
Day 14. Dunhuang. (BLD)
Visit Mogao Grottoes in the morning and Mingsha Shan in the afternoon. Overnight: Dunhuang (Around 1,150m)
Day 15. Around Dunhuang. (BLD)
In the morning we drive to explore the “ghost city” (Yardang landform). After that, we head to see the Great Wall of the Han dynasty and the Yumen Pass. Overnight: Dunhuang (Around 1,150m)
Day 16 Dunhuang departure. (B)
Airport see off.
Day 1. Chengdu arrival. Meals: D
Airport picks up. Based on the time you arrive, we can plan some free city tour programs such as visiting People’s Park to experience the typical laid-back lifestyles of Chengdu or visiting Jinli Street to feel the bustling shopping street with all types of shops selling unique local souvenirs and food stands to offer delicious local take-away food.
Overnight: Chengdu (Attitude 500m)
Day 2. Chengdu-Wolong. 105km, 2.5h Meals: BLD
We catch an early morning to visit the renowned Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. In this world-class research facility, conservation center and international educational center lives more than 100 pandas varying from cubs to adults. Our guide will tell you about their diet and mating habits and how they have survived despite increasing threats to their existence. The base environment is quite pleasant with nice bamboo sitting and green vegetation. In the afternoon, we will head to an even greener place, Wolong.
Overnight: Wolong (Around 2,000m)
Day 3. Wolong-Rilong. 105km, 2.5h Meals: BLD
Today, we set out to visit the newly rebuilt Wolong Panda Base in the Wolong Nature Reserve. Renowned for its picturesque natural backdrop, this base has the best natural temperature for the pandas and is an excellent place for people who want to see active panda cubs with smaller crowds. After our tour of the base is complete, we will drive to the nearby Balang Moutain to view some magnificent snowy peaks and ranges. Also, there are some endemic birds and plants such as Chinese Monal, Meconopsis for you to search. Driving through Balang Mountain, we have chances to see an overall perspective of the “Queen of Mountains in Sichuan”—Mt. Siguniang. Then we will rest in our cozy hotel in Rilong, a small town at the foot of the Mt. Siguniang. The Tibetans live in this area are called Jiarong Tibetan. They are a separate branch of the Tibetan ethnic group and mainly engaged in farming instead of living a nomadic life. They have architecture styles, clothing, dining, custom, festivals, culture, and dialect of their own.
Overnight: Rilong (Around 3,200m)
Day 4. Siguniang Mountain. Meals: BLD
After waking up in the beautiful morning in Rilong, we will spend a whole day exploring the incredible scenery in Shuangqiao Valley which is nearly 35 kilometers long. With the altitude of above 3000m, we can see snow-capped peaks in every direction with domestic yaks flock scattered on the meadows by the riverside. Colorful geological forms and mirror-like lakes are along the boardwalk trails. Pagodas and prayer flags are narrating the holiness of this land. A legend says that four beautiful and kind-hearted girls fought a fierce demon long time ago for protecting their beloved giant pandas and sacrificed themselves. They became the Mt. Siguniang, namely four girls mountain. After touring this beautiful place We travel back down the valley and drive back to the hotel in Rilong.
Overnight: Rilong (Around 3,200m)
Day 5. Rilong-Huanglong. 390km, 9h Meals: BLD
After packing our luggage, we will ride a whole day to Huanglong. Drive north along the eastern edge of Tibetan Plateau, we will drive past many ethnic Qiang villages. As an ethnic group with a long history in the west of China, the Qiang people have a broad and far-reaching influence on the historical development of China and the formation of the Chinese nation. Their fortlike houses are interesting to watch and explore. The religious belief of Qiang people is still in the primitive stage of polytheism, which is dominated by nature worship and ancestor worship. They put white stones on the roofs of their houses expressing the worship for the gods of the sky, earth, mountains, etc.
Overnight: Huanglong (Above 3,000m)
Day 6. Huanglong-Jiuzhaigou. 108km, 2h Meals: BLD
In the morning, we will ascend to the top of Huanglong to watch the colorful pools in Huanglong. Besides, Huanglong also offers snow-capped mountains, scenic valley, and virgin forests as the rest three of its “Four Wonders”. After enjoying the picturesque landscape in this park, we head to its big sister park—Jiuzhaigou.
Overnight: Jiuzhaigou (Above 2,000m)
Day 7. Jiuzhaigou. Meals: BLD
Known as the "Fairyland on Earth," Jiuzhaigou Valley offers guests a once-in-a-lifetime experience for its mirror-like lakes, magnificent waterfalls, snow peaks, immense forests, and local Tibetan culture. We will spend the whole day in the park's beautiful valleys to explore the entirety of this heavenly-like place.
Overnight: Jiuzhaigou (Above 2,000m)
Day 8. Jiuzhaigou-Ruoergai. 230km, 4h Meals: BLD
Today, we will slowly drive out of the mountains into the vast Ruoergai Wetland. After a nice Tibetan meal in Ruoergai County, we head to the diamond of Ruoergai—the “Flower Lake”. Known as "the oasis of the northwest Sichuan Plateau", Ruoergai (Zoige) ranks first among the six most beautiful marshes and wetlands selected by China National Geographic. Hundreds of wetland plant species are shriving here, providing a precious shelter for some rare wildlife including the Black-necked Crane—the only crane breeds on high plateaus. We head back to Ruoergai County to rest for tonight.
Overnight: Ruoergai (Above 3,400m)
Day 9. Ruoergai-Langmusi. 90km, 1.5h Meals: BLD
Today we take a slow and leisure journey on the good roads to Langmusi. Langmusi is sitting at the border of Sichuan and Gansu with a graceful environment surrounded. Monasteries stand quietly among the mountains with prayer flags flying in the air, sending a strong religious message to the passerby. It is said Langmusi is a mini version of "Shangri-la": it is not only a paradise of natural beauty, the intersection of ancient roads, but also a place where diverse cultures blend and develop. It is a small but exquisite place to explore with alpine birds and flora as a plus.
Overnight: Langmusi (Above 3,300m)
Day 10. Langmusi-Xiahe. 190km, 3.5h Meals: BLD
After saying farewell to Sichuan Province, we will enter the territories of Gansu Province. Our first stop is the prestigious Labrang Monastery. We immerse ourselves in the magnificence of Labrang Monastery by watching hawks and griffins flying overhead and listening to the sound of Tibetan longhorns echoing from the surrounding massifs. Labrang Monastery is a grand monstery that has one of the longest corridors of prayer wheels over the world with over 1,700 scripture wheels. Now it hosts many important and magnificent Buddhism ceremonies that attract Buddism believers worldwide. Though Tibet is not on our itinerary, this monastery fully conveys the mystery of Tibetans’ devout faith, leaving us an indelible impression of the Holiness of this land.
Overnight: Xiahe (Around 3,000m)
Day 11. Xiahe-Lanzhou. 240km, 4h Meals: BLD
After breakfast in Xiahe, we will head to the capital city of Lanzhou. The capital of Gansu Province. Lanzhou was once an important link along the Silk Road and presently a major transition center of the Yellow River. This trip provides us with a gateway into the culturally rich landscapes of the Hexi Corridor. Our first stop at Lanzhou is at the Gansu Provincial Museum which exhibits over 350,000 artifacts of Buddhism Art, Fossils, Pottery, and Silk Road Civilization. In the evening, we have free time to explore people’s life near the hotel. An early good rest can help the journey heading to the northwest.
Overnight: Lanzhou (Around 1,500m)
Day 12. Lanzhou-Zhangye (by high-speed train). Meals: BLD
Take a high-speed train from Lanzhou to Zhangye in the morning and reach the Qicai Danxia (colorful Danxia) in Zhangye National Geopark to photograph the sunset view. Known for its colorful rock formations, the park has been voted by Chinese media as one of the most beautiful landforms in China. Hills here are in different shapes and colors are bathing in the twilight, driving you to marvel at the incredible craftsmanship of nature.
Overnight: Zhangye (Above 1,700m)
Day 13. Zhangye-Dunhuang (by high-speed train). Meals: BLD
We wake up early today to take sunrise pictures in the morning and leave no regret. Then we head to Zhangye city to visit Big Buddha Monastery, a prestigious monastery with more than 900-year history. In the late afternoon. We will board a high-speed train to Dunhuang.
Overnight: Dunhuang (Around 1,150m)
Day 14. Dunhuang. Meals: BLD
Dunhuang was the last supply point for the merchants on the ancient silk road before venturing into the Taklimakan Desert. However, Dunhuang is famous mainly due to its Mogao Grottoes, which are one of the world's richest art treasures of Buddhist manuscripts, murals, and statues. The murals (wall paintings) are especially exquisite and inclusive in Mogao, reflecting the scenes from Buddhist activities, people’s daily life to the entertainments of the nobles and mentalities of the artists. The colors of the paintings remained quite well due to the extremely dry climate. But in recent 150 years, visitors’ activities are exerting a negative impact on these precious artifacts and some of the caves are periodically closed for sustainable protection. We will be using torches like ancient Buddhist to enter those caves now. Mogao is among the highest artistic achievements in this world and a glance at it shall be an unforgettable and touching experience for all of us. After lunch, we will head to the Crescent Spring and Mingsha Shan (the Echoing Sand Mountain). Here we can climb to the top of the vast dunes to view the crescent-shaped spring and the ancient architectures beside it. The water of the spring surrounded by the vest dunes is amazingly crystal-clear. We wait for the stunning views of the sunset in the desert and then go back to the hotel.
Overnight: Dunhuang (Around 1,150m)
Day 15. Around Dunhuang. Meals: BLD
In the morning we drive to explore the Yardang National Geopark near Dunhuang. Local people call it “the Ghost City” for the peculiar-looking rocks shaped by the howling wind. It looks fantastic in the Gobi Desert and a great place to take pictures. We also will have a look at the ancient Great Wall of the Han dynasty and its Yumen Pass which is renowned nation-wide. As an important military fortress and trade center in history, Dunhuang was once protected by these walls and gates. Now they are quite shattered by the force of time, letting people think and feel the prosperity of the silk road behind this desolation.
Overnight: Dunhuang (Around 1,150m)
Day 16. Dunhuang departure. Meals: B
Airport see off.
1. If you need help in arranging a flight to Chengdu from Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an, etc., or a flight out of Dunhuang, please feel free to contact us.
2. This trip ventures into remote areas with high altitudes. Follow the advice from your doctor on altitude sickness before deciding to join this trip. In some events, high elevation can cause severe health complications for those with cardiovascular diseases or other poor cardiopulmonary function.
Dates & Prices
Group A: 7th-22nd, April, 2021
Group B: 7th-22nd, May, 2021
Group C: 7th-22nd, April, 2022
Group D: 7th-22nd, May, 2022
Group E: 8th-23rd, Oct., 2021
Group F: 8th-23rd, Oct., 2022
Group G: 8th-23rd, Nov., 2021
Group H: 8th-23rd, Nov., 2022
AbsolutePanda can tailor-make this trip according to your time and interest.
The AbsolutePanda team works hard to provide the highest quality tour experiences at a fair price. However, after working in the travel industry for more than 20 years, our team knows that no two travelers are alike in terms of their travel style, personal interests, choice of guides and preferences in restaurants and hotels. For AbsolutePanda, our client’s satisfaction is a top priority. To meet the needs of different clients and ensure they enjoy a trip suited to their preferences, you are welcome to email with specific requests ranging from trip themes, guides, the quality of vehicles, accommodations, and restaurants. Our group trip price has the following includes and excludes below.
This standard price is made based on a minimum of four travelers. The group size is 4~10.
The land cost for a group of 4 to 10 people:
1. Hotels listed in the itinerary;
2. Nice and fit vehicles during this trip;
3. A fluent English-speaking guide for each destination;
4. Train tickets listed in the itinerary;
5. Meals as listed above as BLD;
6. Sites entrance tickets and shuttle buses/cable cars listed in the itinerary;
7. China domestic travel insurance.
1. Drinks during the meal;
2. Extra charges due to change of itinerary from client-side or factors beyond the control of AbsolutePanda such as natural disaster and governmental policy change;
3. Discretionary tips to the guide and driver;
4. All personal expenses, such as laundry service and personal shoppings;
5. Train tickets or airfares not listed in the itinerary.
6. Any program not listed in the itinerary;
7. Entrance fee, car rental, or meals during your free time trip;
8. Single supplement.
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Only Good Travel Agency We've Ever Worked With. Phenomenal!
All of my previous experiences with travel agents/tour planners have been unmitigated disasters at one end and massive disappointments with added inconvenience on the other. Absolute Panda was the first exception and thank all the travel the gods for that.
We contacted them on short notice (just under 3 weeks) and during a busy time, with most of the guides already committed to other travelers. The team still managed to get something put together in time for us to get our expedited visas and locked up a great guy named "Leo" to be our guide.
Leo may have not known all the names of the birds we saw, but he knew the sights and their history well, freely providing detailed historical anecdotes with precise dates and other added insights. At one point, my DSLR camera body had an error that I couldn't clear and he was able to find an authorized Nikon repair shop that was open and, with just a 90 minute detour, we were able to get it fixed and not miss out on any of our planned activities.
Another thing we greatly appreciated (and it was one of the most grievous failings of the previous companies) was that they really listened to what we asked for, which was to fill our days from early start to late finish. When things ran short, Leo was always able to find another interesting stop or location to check out.
Even though Philllip was with another group during our visit, he still found time to check in with us and make sure we had everything we needed and that we were happy with the service. Our driver was a little quiet, but always polite and professional.
The only negative point is the whole payment by direct bank transfer thing, which is sadly standard practice across all the Asian countries we have visited, so it can't and shouldn't be held against them.
I unreservedly and enthusiastically recommend Absolute Panda and Phillip's team to anyone considering a trip to the shockingly beautiful country of the Sichuan Province. It was worth every cent and then some. I find it highly improbable that there is a better company to work with in the entire region.
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Videos & Photos
Wolong Panda Base is one of the best places to see captive pandas.
Rare flowers in Wolong Nature Reserve.
Mirror-like lakes and jade mountains in Jiuzhaigou Valley.
Exquisite religious statue in Ruoergai County.
Danxia landform in Zhangye.
Photo Album of AbsolutePanda