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Pandas & Mountains of Sichuan
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Fly from the UK to Chengdu.
Arrive in Chengdu, the capital of the Sichuan Province and nicknamed the ‘Heavenly State’, where you’ll be introduced to your guide before enjoying the rest of the day at your leisure. Perhaps visit the Wenshu Temple, a famous Buddhist retreat to the north of town, or spend a few hours tackling the stone steps of Mount Qingcheng. After you’ve had your fill of the highlights, settle down for a spot of well-deserved shuteye in this panda-obsessed town.
Head south in search of Emeishan. En route, take a boat ride to appreciate the the largest stone-carved Buddhist monument on the planet: the Leshan Grand Buddha. Led by your experienced guide, soak up the atmosphere of UNESCO-listed Emeishan next and keep your fingers crossed for good weather – the views from the summit of this sacred peak and its ancient temple are positively breathtaking. Visit the forest-claimed Fuhu Tumple too, nestled at the foot of Mount Emei.
Call in at Bifengxia Panda Reserve near Ya’an and witness these amazing creatures in their natural habitat as they play and forage for bamboo. You’ll have the chance to spot some of the 80 endangered bears that live here, most of which were moved to Bigengxia after the 2008 Sichuan Earthquake destroyed their last home. Follow your guide up to Bifeng Gorge in the afternoon, a scenic spot flanked by thundering cascades and thick emerald forest.
Tour the ancient town of Pingle, a historic hub that dates back to the Han Dynasty and a popular stop-off on the bygone Silk Road. Follow your guide as your meander through charming alleyways, along stone passages and beneath enormous banyan trees. Next up is the Lugou Bamboo Sea – 2,500 acres of bamboo, each spear stretching skywards. For the best view, head for the suspension bridge that hangs precariously above. Spend the night in Chengdu.
Nine Villages Valley
Fly on to Nine Villages Valley to admire a natural wonderland spanning 270 sq miles and encompassing myriad peaks, crystal-clear lakes and of course a collection of bottomless valleys. This magical region is one of China’s best-kept secrets, its beauty epitomised by the colourful calcium pools of Huanglong, beautifully staircased as though they’ve been painted onto the landscape. It’s also peppered with traditional Tibetan settlements to explore, like Shuzheng village.
Return to Chengdu and visit the Panda Conservation Centre for another look at China’s most beloved bear in their natural habitat, not to mention red pandas and peacocks. When you’ve had your fill of these cuddly creatures, continue on to the Shu Brocade and Embroidery Museum, where your guide will show you a crucial piece of Chinese history, interwoven with decorative fabrics. Finish your trip with a bit of relaxation: perhaps try a dance class or a bit of tai chi in the People’s Park.
Depart Chengdu and return to the UK.
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