14 Days Sichuan-Shaanxi Nature Expedition
Date: May 10 & June 8, 2021, 2022
Price: From 3740USD/PAX
Trip Focus: Nature + Birds & Flora
Status: Open to Booking
Route: Chengdu-Baoxing-Mt. Jiajin-Rilong-Mt. Mengbi-Maerkang-Ruoergai-Huanglong-Jiuzhaigou-Tangjiahe-Guangyuan-Xi'an.
Trip Code: N003
Sichuan is a hotspot for natural diversity. Situated in a sub-tropical climate, it is blessed with impressive geological formations that stretch over 6,500m in elevation, creating a variety of habitats perfect for flowers and birds. In the spectacular natural scenery, this tour will cover diverse landscapes, including farmlands and rivers of the Sichuan Basin, sub-tropical mountain forests and magnificent Tibetan Plateau mountain ranges of the west with rolling grasslands, and the colorful sub-alpine forests. Our experienced local guides are prepared to leave no stone unturned as we venture into the Chinese wilderness in search of some of China’s most sought-after flowers and birds that you dream to see. We will slowly climb into the massive mountains in western Sichuan. These mountains are great habitats for some rare and enchanted flowers, such as Cypripedium tibeticum, Lilium lophophorum, and beautiful birds like Chinese Monal, Grandala and rosefinches, and so on.
While we are birding and searching flora along the way, we have opportunities to visit some of the most featured minority group villages in the area. Amdo and Jiarong are two of the branches of Tibetans who live on the western edge of Tibet Plateau in Sichuan. We will have a cordial welcome with its irresistible allure and warm hospitality.
After we finish the Sichuan part with visiting one of the best habitats of wild pandas, Xi’an will be our last memorable stop by offering its world-renowned historic heritages and authentic food from its local Muslim community. With this 15 days itinerary designed specifically by our team’s local plant and bird experts, this tour is certain to meet the needs of most nature-enthusiasts.
Search for some of China’s most sought-after flowers and plants such as Iris, Orchid and Meconopsis and rare endemic birds like Chinese Monal, Temminck‘s Tragopan and Golden Pheasant.
See the magnificent snow mountains along the way and enjoy various kinds of landscapes.
Explore the wilderness of this part of China on this tour led by our team’s local experts of plants and birds.
Visit Chengdu Panda Base and panda habitats in nature.
• Experience an in-depth cultural immersion in different Tibetan areas.
Introduction to Trip Destinations:
Few cities in the world can enjoy such unique resources as Chengdu. Located in the western part of the rich Sichuan Basin and to the east of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the vertical maximum elevation difference of Chengdu is close to 5,000m, creating a unique landscape that allows many kinds of ecosystems, flora, and fauna to flourish. Most notably, Chengdu is famed for being the "Panda city" and hosts the largest captive panda population in its panda bases.
February 22, 1869, Armand David, a French biologist and missionary left Chengdu Plain and ventured to a place called Baoxing deep in the Qionglai Mountains. Baoxing is a paradise of plants, animals and most importantly, pandas. Now you can see the influence of panda in everywhere of Baoxing and people here treasure the fame as the real hometown of pandas. Moreover, Baoxing serves as a very important biodiversity hotspot and type locality for many endangered species, including Giant Panda, Dove Tree, Golden Snub-nosed Monkey, Chinese Thrush, Primula moupinensis, etc.
Jiajin Mountain is a high mountain in the south of Qionglai Mountain Range which is located in the northwest of Baoxing County and south of Xiaojin County. With an altitude of more than 4000 meters and known as a sacred mountain, Mt. Jiajin was described in old local folk songs as "birds can not fly over and man can not climb; to cross the Jiajinshan mountain, unless a god helps" Its snow-capped peaks and the vast sea of clouds are incredibly attractive. Moreover, being a core part of the World Heritage Site "Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuary", Jiajin Mountain owns rich biodiversity that has not been quite known by the outside world.
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 beautiful creatures. Alpine wildflowers such as Meconopsis racemosa, Primula optata, Orchis wardii, Saussurea medusa, Paeonia veitchii, Paraquilegia microphylla, birds like Tibetan Snowcock, Snow Partridge, Chinese Monal as well as rosefinches, accentors and pipits can be seen by the roads or on the mountain slopes.
Mengbi Mountain is located in the central part of the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture about 30 kilometers from Maerkang City. It is another important bird-watching and flora-searching spot on this trip. Virgin forests scattered on different elevations of this mountain with few people visiting, making Mt. Mengbi a paradise for birds like Blood Pheasant, Crested Tit Warbler, Chinese Fulvetta, the range-limited Crimson-browed Finch, Three-banded Rosefinch, Pink-rumped Rosefinch, Streaked Rosefinch, White-throated Needletail and flowers like Primula palmata, Dolomiaea souliei, Boschniakia himalaica, etc.
Ruoergai is believed to be one of the most beautiful grasslands of China. These picturesque highland prairies sit at an elevation around 3,600 meters and host hundreds of different bird species like Black-necked Crane, White-rumped Snowfinch, Golden Eagle, Ruddy Shelduck, and many more. What is more, it is a good place to searching colorful flowers endemic to the Tibetan plateau.
Huanglong is a natural world heritage site since 1992 and is regarded as one of the most beautiful places in the whole of China. The park is especially famous for its calc-sinter terraced ponds and high altitude forests. Besides good natural scenery, Huanglong is also a good place to see orchids, such as Cypripedium flavum, Cypripedium bardolphianum, Cypripedium tibeticum, Calanthe delavayi, Calypso bulbosa, Orchis chusua, etc.
Jiuzhaigou National Park (Jiuzhaigou Valley) was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. If there are “fairylands” in the world, Jiuzhaigou Valley must be one of them. Stretching over 72,000 hectares in the northern part of Sichuan Province, the Jiuzhaigou Valley comprises a series of diverse forest ecosystems. About more than 200 bird species as well as some precious animals and plant species, including numerous rhododendrons. Its superb landscapes are particularly impressive for its series of narrow conic karst landforms and spectacular waterfalls.
Located the Minshan Mountains, Tangjiahe Nature Reserve is one of the first reserves set up to protect giant pandas, their companion animals and the whole habitat where they live. In the depth of those rugged mountains, we can find world-class attractions, colorful indigenous people, elusive endemic birds, and a great variety of mammals, insects, amphibians, and plants. Though it is not easy to spot a giant panda in the wild, the rewards from paying a visit to this panda habitat are extremely high. With the umbrella protection of Giant Panda, its companion animals like Asiatic Black Bear, Golden Snub-nosed Monkey, Golden Pheasant, Chinese Goral, Takin, Red Panda, Temminck's Tragopan, and Leopard Cat, etc. are all thriving here. Spotting those lovely creatures in the wild can bring you lots of fun on this natural journey. A guided walk through this scenic reserve will enable you to gain a panoramic understanding of pandas, a variety of wildlife sharing the same habitat and appreciate the breath-taking beauty of the panda habitat.
From about 200 BC to 1000 AD, Xi'an (named Chang'an at the ancient time) was the capital and once the most important city of China in history. The first unified dynasty in China, the great Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC), buried its Terra-Cotta Army underground Xi'an. Many exquisite relics from the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD) have been unearthed not far away. Meanwhile, the city is like a flashback of the Tang Dynasty(618-907AD), which reached the peak of imperial China. Besides, Xi'an's folk culture and food is a wonderful plus to your travel experience. Xi'an also is the starting point of the Silk Road. In Tang period, this city has the most diversified ethnics from various countries at that time. The Muslim Quarter, located in downtown Xi'an, is a heritage of that and one of the best places to taste local food.
Dates and Prices
Day 1. Arrive Chengdu. (D)
Upon arrival, meet your guide and driver and transfer to your hotel. Overnight: Chengdu (Altitude 500m)
Day 2. Chengdu-Baoxing. 200km 3.5h (BLD)
After seeing Chengdu Panda Base, we drive to Baoxing County. Overnight: Baoxing (1,000m)
Day 3. Baoxing-Jiajin Mountain-Rilong. 155km 4h (BLD)
Drive to Rilong enroute Jiajin Mountain. Overnight: Rilong (3,200m)
Day 4. Balang Mountain. (BLD)
Balang Mountain nature safari in search of endemic plants and wildlife. Overnight: Rilong (3,200m)
Day 5. Rilong-Mt.Mengbi-Maerkang. 185km 5h (BLD)
Depart from Rilong Town to Mengbi Mountain for wildflowers, birds and scenery, rest in Maerkang. Overnight: Maerkang (2,700m)
Day 6. Maerkang-Ruoergai. 320km 5.5h (BLD)
Move to Ruoergai and enjoy the scenery, blooming flowers, birds there. Overnight: Ruoergai (3,450m)
Day 7. Ruoergai-Huanglong. 170km 3h (BLD)
Drive to Huanglong with a couple of stops to enjoy the snow mountain view and beautiful nature. Overnight: Huanglong. (3,200m)
Day 8. Huanglong-Jiuzhaigou. 104km 2h (BLD)
Visit Huanglong in the morning and leave for Jiuzhaigou. Overnight: Jiuzhaigou (2,200m)
Day 9. Jiuzhaigou. (BLD)
Wander in the colorful valleys of Jiuzhaigou. Overnight: Jiuzhaigou (2,200m)
Day 10. Jiuzhaigou-Qingxi-Tangjiahe. 260km 6h (BLD)
Move to Tangjiahe Nature Reserve via Qingxi Old Town. Overnight: Tangjiahe (1,400m)
Day 11. Tangjiahe. (BLD)
Nature expedition in the dense forest and scenic valleys in Tangjiahe. Overnight: Tangjihe (1,400m)
Day 12. Tangjiahe-Guangyuan 175km 4h, Guangyuan-Xi’an (by high-speed train). (BLD)
Drive to Guangyuan and take a high-speed train to Xi’an. Overnight: Xi’an (400m)
Day 13. Xi’an. (BLD)
Terracotta Warriors, Xi'an City Wall and Muslim Quarter. Overnight: Xi’an (400m)
Day 14. Xi’an Departure. (B)
Send to airport timely according to your flight schedule.
Day 1. Arrive Chengdu. Meals: D
After you arrive in Chengdu, you will be escorted to your hotel accommodation by AbsolutePanda Team. Free time for you to explore the city before our first dinner of this tour.
Overnight: Chengdu (500m)
Day 2. Chengdu-Baoxing. 200km 3.5h Meals: BLD
This morning we will visit the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding which has the largest captive panda population in the world and is widely regarded as the most visited panda base. It has graceful settings and a beautiful environment, reminding you of the natural home of pandas. After touring the base we will continue with driving to Baoxing where the Giant Panda was first discovered by western researchers.
Overnight: Baoxing (1,000m)
Day 3. Baoxing-Jiajin Mountain-Rilong. 155km 4h Meals: BLD
Today we start our trip in the early morning, we drive to Mt. Jiajin (4114m at the pass), experiencing huge gap of elevation from evergreen forest to alpine meadow while colors of nature change violently and charm your eyes. We will not only be able to see some stunning alpine wildflowers such as Meconopsis punicea , Meconopsis integrifolia, Meconopsis lancifolia, Lilium lophophorum, Primula species, Cypripedium tibeticum, also lots of birds and mammals. Rich Tibetan culture is well exhibited when we drive through the villages and great scenery on our way toward the mountain top. We will spend most of the day receiving gifts from nature. Our eyes and noses are busy with searching and smelling the alpine flowers and enjoying the birds singing with our ears. In the late afternoon we drive down to Rilong Town and leave this precious place in our memory.
Overnight: Rilong (3,200m)
Day 4. Balang Mountain. Meals: BLD
Balang Mountain is the guardian of Tibet Plateau’s east gateway. On the way to it, we have a chance to see the full view of “the Queen of Mountains in Sichuan”, Mt. Four Sister if the weather is good. The highest peak of the Queen stands at 6250m above sea level. As we are passing the viewing site and getting close to Balang Mountain, we have chance to see alpine wildflowers such as Meconopsis racemosa, Primula optata, Orchis wardii, Saussurea medusa, Paeonia veitchii, Paraquilegia microphylla, birds such as Tibetan Snowcock, Snow Partridge, Grandala, Chinese Monal by the roads or on the mountain slopes. If we are lucky enough, we can see some mammals such as Blue Sheep, Chinese Goral, Himalayan Marmot and even Red Panda. In the late afternoon, we drive back to our hotel. If you are interested, you can take a stroll on the street where you can see some local Tibetan ladies dressed in their traditional Jiarong Tibetan costumes.
Overnight: Rilong (3,200m)
Day 5. Rilong-Mt. Mengbi-Maerkang. 185km 5h Meals: BLD
Mt. Mengbi is our next destination to explore. Departing from Rilong Town to Mengbi Mountain (4,100m) for wildflowers, birds and scenery, we will drive past several Jiarong Tibetan villages and see the unique Jiarong Tibetan architectures, scattered along the gorge we are going to drive through. We will spend the whole afternoon searching for flowers such as Primula palmata, Dolomiaea souliei, Boschniakia himalaica, and birds such as laughingthrushes, rosefinches, grosbeaks and nuthatches on the mountain we pass. Then we drive to Maerkang County, the capital of Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture.
Overnight: Maerkang (2,700m)
Day 6. Maerkang-Ruoergai. 320km 5.5h Meals: BLD
Today we will move from the Jiarong Tibetan region of Sichuan into the Amdo Tibetan region. All the while, we will experience a shift in the local environment as we move out of the mountains to the famous Tibetan Plateau. We drive along an ascending gorge to the edge of Tibetan Plateau which features vast grassy hillsides decorated with blooming flowers, nomad tents, their yak herds and chirping birds. Alongside the river, we will search for flowers endemic to the Tibetan plateau. This part of the plateau is regarded as one of the most important wetlands in China. It is a paradise for flowers and birds. Many bird species arrive for the annual mating season. It is the best time to see some beautiful alpine birds including the rare Black-necked Crane, the colorful Ruddy Shelduck, elegant raptors and noisy larks.
Overnight: Ruoergai. (3,450m)
Day 7. Ruoergai-Huanglong. 170km 3h Meals: BLD
Today we drive from Ruoergai toward Huanglong World Heritage Site. We will spend some time on the plateau searching for flowers and birds we may have missed in the previous day. Then we drive to Chuanzhusi Town for lunch. After lunch we will drive to search for alpine flowers on this vast grassland. If the weather is good, we can get a nice view of the highest mountain peak of the Minshan Mountain range called Xuebaoding (5,588m).
Overnight: Huanglong (3,200m)
Day 8. Huanglong-Jiuzhaigou. 104km 2h Meals: BLD
Today we will spend the Morning searching for flowers while enjoying the beautiful scenery and birds inside the Huanglong National Park. We will prepare a picnic lunch for everybody. Huanglong is a Natural World Heritage Site since 1992 and is regarded as one of the most beautiful places in the whole of China. The park is especially famous for its calc-sinter terraced ponds and high altitude forests. Along a few kilometers of calc-sinter streams we can see a large number of Cypripedium orchids and many other orchids, such as Cypripedium flavum, Cypripedium bardolphianum, Cypripedium tibeticum, Calanthe delavayi, Calypso bulbosa, Orchis chusua. In the afternoon, we will drive to Jiuzhaigou and accommodate there.
Overnight: Jiuzhaigou (2,200m)
Day 9. Jiuzhaigou. Meals: BLD
In Jiuzhaigou, our main focus is on its natural beauty of mirror-like lakes, colorful ponds, magnificent waterfalls. But we can also explore a number of birding sites both inside and just outside this wonderful sanctuary. It is not allowed to take our own vehicles inside the park. We’ll use the reserve’s frequent shuttle bus services to explore a number of excellent birding sites. Rufous-headed Robin is virtually unknown away from here, so we’ll spend time searching for an area of mixed forest for this fabulous songster. Other species include Chinese Nuthatch, Rusty-breasted Tits, Sooty Tits, and the noisy Spotted Laughingthrush. At the doorstep of the virgin forest in Jiuzhaigou, we can have a glance at its rich genetic pools of plants.
Overnight: Jiuzhaigou (2,200m)
Day 10. Jiuzhaigou-Qingxi-Tangjiahe. 260km 6h Meals: BLD
Today we will leave Jiuzhaigou in the morning for a panda nature reserve called Tangjiahe. Along the way, we will drive through the beautiful Danyun Gorge. We will have several stops along Danyun Gorge to search for some special orchids such as Cardiocrinum giganteum, Bletilla ochracea, Calanthe alpina, Oreorchis fargesii. After lunch, we will drive to visit Qingxi Ancient Village; one of the few villages which have city walls going around. We can walk through the paved street with traditional houses standing on both sides. Now the houses are either used as shops for local agriculture produces, restaurants or small shops. Here we will see a nice mosque built by the Hui ethnic group by the side of the old city wall.
Overnight: Tangjiahe (1,400m)
Day 11. Tangjiahe. Meals: BLD
We spend a whole day exploring one of the best panda reserves in the world. As one of the best-protected reserves dedicated to wild pandas, it offers you the best chances for encounters with animals such as Takin, Golden Pheasant, Tibetan Macaque, Reeve’s Muntjac, Chinese Goral, Serow, Wild Boar, Asiatic Black Bear and Yellow-throated Martin (if you are lucky enough, even giant panda.) There have been several encounters of pandas by the visitors in the past years. People even took photos with their mobile phones of panda roaming on the main road. We will have a private bus driving us in different valleys to maximize our chances.
Overnight: Tangjiahe (1,400m)
Day 12. Tangjiahe-Guangyuan 175km 4h, Guangyuan-Xi’an (by high-speed train). Meals: BLD
Today we will drive to the train station in Guangyuan to board a bullet train to Xi’an, a city that served as the ancient capital of China.
Overnight: Xi’an (400m)
Day 13. Xi’an. Meals: BLD
In the early morning, we will drive you to the world-famous Terra-Cotta Warriors. Built by the first emperor of China Qin Shihuang to protect him in his afterlife, this army consists of over 8,000 life-size warriors, horses and chariots in 3 pits and has been buried for more than 2,000 years until uncovered by a local farmer in 1974. Standing in front of these clay figures, one can’t help being amazed not only by the ambition of Emperor Qin Shihuang but also by the fabulous artistic skills of ancient Chinese artisans. Then we will visit Xi'an Old City Wall, the largest and best-preserved ancient city wall in China. After dinner we spend some time in the Muslim Quarter, one of the biggest Muslim community blocks where you can try different local snacks and explore the mixed culture brought by silk road.
Overnight: Xi’an (400m)
Day 14. Xi’an Departure. Meals: B
Send to airport timely according to your flight schedule.
14 Days Sichuan-Shaanxi Nature Expedition
AbsolutePanda firmly believes travel is an art. To ensure every trip traveling with us is a great travel art for our client, the AbsolutePanda team does all we can to consider every possible detail. The choice of hotels is an essential part of making a great trip. After many years of running a travel business, we have built up our network of cooperative hotels at different levels. We understand people are different in the choice of hotels when they travel. If you want to use some specific hotels, please feel free to let us know, we are delighted to book it for you at a competitive price to make the hotel choice better meet your taste, budget and travel style. We can either reserve a hotel with competitive price for you or simply include the hotel into your trip cost if possible. You are welcome to contact us and tell us your requests, we will do our best to create the best travel itinerary for your private use.
1. Are the guides leading this tour specialists in birds and plants?
Yes, within our team we have a variety of guides that specialize in different topics for our tours. The AbsolutePanda team has bird and plant specialists who are equipped to not only guide you through finding and photographing birds and plants but also share good knowledge with you.
2. How are the road conditions on this trip?
The roads throughout most of Sichuan are quite well developed, it will only be as we travel deeper into the countryside that there may be bumpier roads.
3. What will be the strategy for finding all of the birds and flowers mentioned in the itinerary?
Our guides are experienced at building a strategy in real-time to best suit the conditions of a particular trip. We take into consideration what species our clients have shown interest in as well the real conditions of the environment on that given day to give you the best chance of spotting the wildlife and plants you are looking for.
4. Will crowds be an issue?
There are several destinations on this tour that have large crowds such as the Terracotta Warriors Museum or the Chengdu Panda Base. However, it should be noted that our guides are especially experienced at leading you to these places without being hindered by the crowds. Except for Chengdu and Xi’an, most of the trip is free with crowds since our expedition is going into the remote lands in Sichuan.
5. Are we going to see wild pandas on this tour?
While Sichuan is famed as a province accommodating the most substantial portion of the wild panda population (75%), it should be noted that spotting a wild panda is quite slim due to the small population and unique lifestyle of pandas mostly living inside the bamboo forest. While panda viewings in Tangjiahe Nature Reserve have been reported almost every year by visitors and rangers, it is really hard to predict for a particular trip. For us, we will do our best to show you all the possible attractions we see inside this panda habitat and make your trip full of wonderful memories. Pandas live in the place we are going to visit, and we just enjoy everything we have blessed to see there.
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Corydalis pachycentra on mountain slopes.
Two male golden pheasants in Tangjiahe.
Cypripedium smithii is on our target list of this trip.
Peaceful alpine scenery.
The winding road at Balang Mountain.
Blood Pheasant has an attractive color blending.
Yaks, green grasslands, blue sky and Amdo Tibetan culture.
Dense forest cover in Tangjiahe.
Night cityscape of Chengdu.
Terra-cotta Warriors in Xi'an.