Sichuan is a province in south/central China. It is one of the nation’s largest provinces and its most inaccessible regions owing to the lofty terrain and lack of expressways and airports.

Sichuan made worldwide news in May 2008 when a huge earthquake struck the province. It was centered to the north of Chengdu, the capital, and flattened entire towns and cities killing many thousands. Although reaction from emergency services was swift, the rugged nature of Sichuan made it tough to access. Tourists can visit the memorial town of Beichuan, which was almost completely destroyed.

There are more than a dozen ethnic minority groups in Sichuan and it is much less touristy than neighboring provinces, such as Gansu, Shanxi, and Yunnan. Although neighboring Guizhou Province is popular for traditional villages, Sichuan is more authentic.

The capital of Sichuan is Chengdu, a massive city of almost 10 million with 2,000 years of history. It lies roughly in the center of the province, about 600kms north of Kunming. Despite its size, Chengdu is pretty laidback and has a good nightlife, although is not worth spending more than a few days in.

Chengdu has the main airport in Sichuan and is good for daytrips to numerous surrounding attractions. Of these, the Giant Buddha, Stone Elephant Lake, and Mount Qingcheng are all must-sees.

Farther north of Chengdu is Jiuzhaigou Valley, a stunningly beautiful place of pristine lakes, wispy waterfalls, and vivid fall colors. In addition, nearby Huanglong National Park has Sichuan’s most delectable landscapes and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Its blue-colored water terraces are the main appeal.

Sichuan is mainly about the landscape and trekkers and hikers will enjoy it most. Much of Sichuan lies over 3,000m so acclimatizing is a must. Mount Emeishan, in the southwest of Sichuan, is the province’s most famous mountain and has good hiking. It is one of China’s sacred Buddhist mountains and has stunning bamboo groves and sheer cliffs.

Options for sightseeing and trekking farther afield include a look into the Tibetan areas of Sichuan, with buses leaving to Moxi and Kangding from many border towns. Langmusi, straddling the Gansu-Sichuan border, is the perfect example of a Tibetan town, with its monasteries and horse trekking.

Getting There & Away

Sichuan is quite inaccessible due to the harsh terrain and there is only one main expressway going through the territory - the north-south Xi’an to Kunming road which goes through Chengdu. The best way in is to fly to Chengdu Airport - one of China’s busiest - and radiate out by road or rail.

Flights serve Chengdu from all over China, as well as from other Asian and some European cities. You can also get in by train from Kunming (Yunnan), Chongqing (Chongqing), and Xi’an (Shanxi).

Onward Travel