Step into fairytale Jiuzhaigou, where pristine lakes, picturesque waterfalls, and virgin forests makes their home. These remote valleys are possibly the most beautiful in the world.
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By Kevin McFarland
Visited February 2017
Enter this world-renowned heritage and biosphere reserve, a hidden gem in the mountains of Sichuan, and nothing else will compare. With the pure, turquoise lakes, the unspoiled virgin forests, and the resplendent waterfalls, Jiuzhai Valley is a land of fairy-tales. Around every turn you are begging to glimpse more of its one-of-a-kind ecosystem, yet at the same time your senses are on overload.
And I'm not the only one who thinks so highly of this landscape. For a millennium the Tibetans who call it home can only think of the supernatural when trying to describe these lakes. Legends have formed that a beautiful goddess received a dazzling mirror from her lover, only to be overly excited and drop the mirror. The mirror then shattered into 108 fragments, and the 108 lakes that lie in Jiuzhai Valley are what remain. One thing remains true though: human words or thoughts cannot adequately describe these lakes and landscapes.
In 1982 it was designated under China's very first batch of National Parks. In 1992 it was designated as China's very first natural UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition, Jiuzhai Valley is a World Biosphere Reserve, National Geopark of China, Nature Reserve of China, and a 5A tourist attraction, the highest honor. The tourists have took notice of its unmatched beauty, and they flock here to equally unmatched numbers. If you arrive during the summer months or on holidays, expect to wait a few hours just to even enter the National Park.
With the emerald and turquoise lakes, multi-layered waterfalls, ancient forests, snow-capped peaks, and Tibetan influences, along with harboring China's most iconic animals such as the Giant Panda, Red Panda, and the Golden Monkey, it is no wonder people have called Jiuzhaigou the "Paradise on Earth."
Three primary valleys making a Y-shape compose the landscape of this National Park. Each valley contains its own unique ecosystem of waterfalls, shoals, lakes, and rivers. The incredible colors of the lakes are due to the high concentrations of calcium carbonate. This enables the water to have crystal clear clarity with the lake floor clearly visible regardless of depth. The ecosystem at work here is entirely unique, yet fits together seamlessly.
Jiuzhai Valley is really one of those places that pictures will do much more justice than a thousand words. Infinitely better is the chance to walk through these pristine valleys and gasp at the crystal-clear lakes with your very own eyes. The entrance fee s steep (220 yuan + 90 yuan for bus) and the crowds in certain months may be overwhelming, but it is still entirely worth it to glimpse this unique landscape. We've traveled to numerous places in China, and Jiuzhaigou matches or exceeds in terms of pure beauty than anywhere else we've seen.