Jiuzhaigou (pronounced [tɕjùʈʂâɪkə́ʊ]; Chinese: 九寨沟; literally: "Valley of Nine Fortified Villages"; Tibetan: གཟི་རྩ་སྡེ་དགུ།, ZYPY: Sirza Degu) is a nature reserve and national park located in the north of Sichuan province, China.
Jiuzhaigou Valley is part of the Min Mountains on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau and stretches over 72,000 hectares (180,000 acres). It is known for its many multi-level waterfalls, colorful lakes, and snow-capped peaks. Its elevation ranges from 2,000 to 4,500 metres (6,600 to 14,800 ft).
Jiuzhaigou Valley was inscribed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1992 and a World Biosphere Reserve in 1997. It belongs to the category V (Protected Landscape) in the IUCN system of protected area categorization.
The stunning Unesco World Heritage Site of Jiǔzhàigōu National Park is one of Sìchuān’s star attractions. More than two million people visit the park every year to gawp at its famous bluer-than-blue lakes, its rushing waterfalls and its deep green trees backed by snowy mountain ranges.
Add into the mix kilometres of well-maintained boardwalk trails and ecotourism camping trips and you’ll begin to get a feel for Jiǔzhàigōu’s charms.
The best time to visit is September through to November, when you’re most likely to have clear skies and (particularly in October) blazing autumn colours to contrast with the turquoise lakes. Summer is the busiest but also rainiest time. Spring can be cold but still pleasant, and winter, if you’re prepared for frigid temperatures, brings dramatic ice-coated trees and frozen-in-place waterfalls (as well as lower prices).
Peak-time tickets for students and over-60s are ¥110. Over-70s and children under six can enter for free.
Jiǔzhàigōu means ‘Nine Village Valley’ and refers to the region’s nine Tibetan villages. According to legend, Jiǔzhàigōu was created when a jealous devil caused the goddess Wunosemo to drop her magic mirror, a present from her lover the warlord god Dage. The mirror dropped to the ground and shattered into 118 shimmering turquoise lakes.