The crystal clear waterfalls, numerous lake clusters, and rich variety of rare flora and fauna make Jiuzhaigou, sometimes called Jiuzhai Valley in English, one of China's most popular tourist destinations. No matter what time of year travellers come, the lush landscapes present visitors with unique and breathtaking panoramas throughout all four seasons.
Jiuzhaigou's best-known features are the dozens of blue, green, and turquoise colored lakes, called 'hai zi' by local Tibetans meaning "sons of the sea." The lakes have varying shapes and depths, but regardless of their depth, the bottoms of most can be seen through the transluscent water. This dazzling collection of lakes, on par with neighboring Huanglong Park, spans three main valleys: Shuzheng Valley, Rize Valley and Zechawa Valley.
Geographically, Jiuzhaigou lies in the northwest of Sichuan province, in Northern Sichuan Aba, 330 km (205 miles) north of the provincial capital of Chengdu. Jiuzhaigou (which literally translates as 'nine villages valley') derives its name from the nine Tibetan villages in close proximity, seven of which are still inhabited today. They provide a great opportunity for tourists from inside and outside of China to get a glimpse into the unique life of local Tibetans and gain a better understanding of Tibetan culture and customs.
Jiuzhaigou valley was opened to the public as a nature reserve and national park in 1984. Since then, an increasing number of tourists have swarmed into this region every year, making tourism a major contributor to the development of the local economy. Since the valley is now under national protection and agriculture is no longer permitted, the locals depend on tourism and local government subsidies to make a living. Various handicrafts, souvenirs and snacks are readily available for sale by the local Tibetans. These locally-produced goods are reasonably priced and make great souvenirs for tourists to take home with them.
Jiuzhaigou's dream-like vistas are some of the most enchanting on earth and a must-see when visiting China. Spring bursts with the energy of trees budding and flowers in full bloom, while cool summers make Jiuzhaigou an ideal place to escape the Sichuan heat. Autumn's changing leaves add a touch of color to the natural scenery, and if you should be lucky enough to experience a blanket of snow in winter, you will certainly be glad you made the trip.