Jiuzhaigou National Park: An Icy Winter Escape

  • Share
  • Read Later
Romain Cintract / Hemis.fr / Aurora

The park's lakes are strikingly azure

China's best-kept winter secret isn't really hush-hush at all. Jiuzhaigou, in Sichuan province, has been a national park for nearly 30 years, and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1992. With its dazzling lakes and famous rainbow-colored foliage, it's a must for domestic tourists. But almost all of them visit in summer. Hence, one of the country's best expanses of wilderness is delightfully deserted throughout winter.

Harbin draws far more tourists for its ice festival, but Jiuzhaigou is the genuine winter wonderland. Waterfalls turn into elaborate ice sculptures as the mercury falls, and stunning trails wind into thickly forested hills.

Getting there is an adventure. You fly through snowy mountains to an airport at nearly 3,500 m. Then it's a 90-minute drive to hotels on the park's fringe. Expect big discounts in winter, but there's no reduction in enjoyment — only in crowds. Up to 10,000 arrive daily in summer; sometimes fewer than 100 per day in winter. For more, see jiuzhai.com.