Located deep in the heart of the Aba autonomous prefecture in Sichuan and 400 kilometers from Chengdu, Jiuzhaigou is an impressive spot offering scenery to rival Guilin and an atmosphere and culture that is not dissimilar to much of Tibet.
Jiuzhaigou is actually a huge nature and scenery reserve covering approximately 60,000 hectares situated in the Min Shan mountain range. Ancient Chinese legend has it that the goddess Semo accidentally smashed her mirror here and the pieces which fell down the mountain formed beautiful lakes, streams and waterfalls. Despite official attempts to attract thousands of tourists, Jiuzhaigou remains a surprisingly peaceful and traditional place. Yaks, shrines and prayer wheels are all common sights. The small villages here are inhabited by Tibetan and Qiang people who conduct their lives in a very traditional manner. The scenery here is pretty spectacular too. Lakes and waterfalls spill down the mountainside, mountains tower above small hamlets and villages and there is an abundance of beautiful wildlife too. Panda, monkey and bison exist here and birds and fish are everywhere, nestled in amongst the pretty bamboo forest.
Although transport and accommodation here are pretty basic, this is a beautiful spot to get away from city life and really see some of the more traditional parts of China. There are excellent hikes here and walkers could easily spend a week just relaxing, hiking and taking in the breath-taking scenery.