PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 April, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 26 April, 2011, 12:00am


Jiuzhaigou is a fairyland of spectacular biodiversity and topography. The National Reserve spans almost 800 square metres and includes a landscape of lush valleys, jagged peaks, a dozen large waterfalls and, most famously, a collection of iridescent mountain lakes and pools. The valley has become one of the premier tourist destinations in the country, and has undergone tremendous development in recent years.

The National Park is listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site and is in its Man and the Biosphere programme. Jiuzhaigou is a natural reserve and a habitat for nine villages, whose residents are mostly of Tibetan and Qiang origin and have lived there for centuries.

Management of the park has been delegated to the private sector, with admission fees more expensive than in previous years, but services are more convenient.

The route through the park is plied by 'green buses' and there are also walkways and signs directing tourists. A walk through the area open to tourists could take a full day.

There are many hotels, including two new 5-star resorts in the wilderness behind the tourist area.

Nearby is Huanglong, a collection of lakes similar to those in Jiuzhaigou, but in a very different setting. Whereas the lakes in Jiuzhaigou are surrounded by alpine forests and stark grey spires of rock, the lakes around Huanglong sink into the surrounding countryside and cascade down the cliffs of a broad, wide valley.