Lying in the Sichuan Basin, the capital of Sichuan Province in southwest China, Chengdu is the home of the giant pandas in China, with much of their original small range being in the lands to the north of the city. While there are plenty of places across China where you can see giant pandas these days, Chengdu is the original home of these cute and cuddly bears and is still the best place to travel to for a visit to the giant panda breeding centers. This is a guide to searching for a Chengdu Panda tour.
Chengdu has four centers that care for and breed the giant pandas, mostly for release into the wild from captive breeding programs, which have helped to take the giant pandas off the endangered species lists and reclassify them as simply rare species. Thanks to these centers, the population of giant pandas in China, which was severely decimated over the centuries to just a few hundred left in the 1980s, has increased dramatically, and there are now more than 2,000 giant pandas living in the wild and in centers in China, a huge increase over the past 30 years.
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The best time for a Giant Panda Tour
Just like any other tourist attraction, the giant pandas of Chengdu have their high and low seasons for visiting, and you can choose when to go depending on what your expectations are about visiting the centers. Pandas really do not like hot weather, and in the summer months in China tend to hide away, making it harder to see them, even in their enclosures. The four centers in Chengdu have air-conditioned rooms for the pandas to sleep in during the summer months, and you will rarely see them active, except at meal times in the morning and evening, when it is cooler. Summer is also the time when tourism in Chengdu is highest, so the centers tend to have more visitors, often making them very crowded.
The best time of year to visit the pandas is from September to May when the weather in Chengdu is cooler, and the pandas tend to be more active. It is also best to visit in the early morning or late afternoon, as this is their natural feeding time, and they are even more active than ever. The cooler months also mean that the pandas spend less time sleeping during the day, and can be seen in their enclosures throughout most of the day. If you are looking to see the new-born pandas in the centers, then the best time would be from September to November, as the babies are normally born between August and October.
The best places to visit the Giant Panda
Chengdu has four centers for giant pandas, which are all within easy traveling distance of the city center, and which can be visited together over the course of a few days to get the best out of your tour to the giant panda capital of the world.
Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Base
Located just ten kilometers from downtown Chengdu, in the northwest of the city, the Chengdu Panda Base, as it is more commonly known, is the primary panda research center for breeding these beautiful creatures. Opened in the late 1980s with just six captive pandas rescued from the wild, the center has created the natural habitats of the pandas for their continued research and breeding programs, which has allowed them to increase in population over the years.
One of Chengdu’s most popular tourist attractions, the center sees hundreds of thousands of visitors every year and has been widely acclaimed as the top panda research and breeding center in the world. Chengdu Panda Base is the best place in China to see the cuddly pandas in their natural habitats, and the center currently has more than 200 resident pandas, from the oldest to the newborns. Including a stunning Giant Panda Museum, the only panda museum in the world, this huge site is one that it is easy to get lost in, and organized tours are the best way to get around the center to see the most pandas and get the best experience.
Dujiangyan Panda Base
Located around 67 kilometers to the northwest of downtown Chengdu, the Dujiangyan Panda Base is one of the closest panda centers to Chengdu and can be easily reached by bus and car. Located at the foot of Qingcheng Mountain, 55 kilometers outside Chengdu, it takes around an hour and thirty minutes to drive to the center. The high-speed train from Chengdu North Railway stops at Qingchenshan station, from where you can get a short taxi ride to the center.
With the perfect climate and natural habitats for the giant pandas, the center is one of the top breeding centers in China and has more than 30 resident giant pandas. A huge complex, there are seven different zones within the center, including the healing zone, educational zone, and scenic zone, which are all open to the public. Located in some of Sichuan’s most beautiful countryside, the scenic location of the center is ideal for a good day out, and is worth the long trip, as the center also has beautiful gardens to explore and red pandas that you can see.
Wolong Panda Base
Lying in the southwest part of Wenchuan County in Sichuan Province, around 130 kilometers from Chengdu, the Wolong Panda Base is the hometown of giant pandas in China. Located within their original natural range in the Hengduan Mountains, this 100-acre reserve is the largest center in China, and once held more than 100 pandas in their own natural habitat within the main area of the center. The captive population is now down to around 30 pandas, thanks to the successful breeding and rehabilitation of the pandas back into the wild. A major center for the research, care, and breeding of giant pandas, Wolong is the Panda Kingdom of China, and the entire area holds around 60 percent of the world’s population of giant pandas, both captive and wild.
After the Wenchuan Earthquake of 2008, which severely damaged much of the center at the old Hetaoping site, the government built a new base for pandas in Gengda township nearby, known now as the Shenshuping Panda Base, and a part of the overall Wolong center. This new center has three areas, one for the captive pandas, one for training for reintroduction into the wild, and one for reintegration with wild pandas. The center also has more than 50 enclosures and has the most comprehensive hospital facilities for the giant pandas in the world.
Bifengxia Panda Base
Located in Ya’an, to the west of Chengdu in Sichuan Province, the Bifengxia Panda Base was opened in 2002, after concerns about the safety of pandas in Wolong was discussed, and the center was constructed to split the population of giant pandas for their own safety and well-being. This proved to be the right move when the Wenchuan earthquake hit the Wolong centers in 2008. Constructed on maiden forest land in the hills outside Ya’an, near part of the giant panda’s natural range, this huge center was originally meant for young pandas not yet ready for the breeding program and the old and retired breeding pandas that could not be released into the wild.
The center covers around 400 hectares of land, stretching over the hills and forests of the area in several sections, known as the Leopard Mountain, New Leopard Mountain, Bai Xiong Ping, and Bi Tang or quarantine area. The center also has a large kindergarten and nursery, a complete breeding center, a research center, and a good veterinary hospital. The center also has a nearby zoo, which has captive animals that can be visited, which includes several red pandas, several species of rare birds, and hundreds of other beautiful creatures.
Recommended tour itinerary–2 days Chengdu Panda tour
If you are planning a trip to see the giant pandas of Chengdu, then there is no better itinerary to travel on than our 2-day tour of the giant panda centers and the ancient area of Chengdu that shows the quaint style of the Qing Dynasty in Sichuan Province.
The tour takes you to the Chengdu Panda Base on the second day, and our expert tour guides will show you around the center, giving you’re the best possible tour and letting you have the chance to see the pandas in their natural habitats. The Chengdu Panda Base is huge, and it is easy to get lost and confused with the layout, so our guides will make sure you get the best of the center for your day out.
The first day, when you arrive, we will pick you up at the Chengdu Airport or train station, and transfer you to your hotel, where you can freshen up and take a short break. Then we will take you to see one of the most amazing parts of Chengdu, the Jinli Ancient Street. One of the oldest streets in the city, it dates back to the ancient Qing Dynasty of China, and the architectural styles are a perfect example of the elegance of the Qing Dynasty era in Sichuan Province.
If you are planning a trip to Chengdu to see the giant pandas, then you are in for a rare treat. With four places to choose from, you can visit one or check out all four, depending on how much time you have. The closest center is the Chengdu Panda Base, which lies in the city itself, but if you want to see pandas in the open air, then Wolong or Bifengxia are your best options.
If you are planning a trip to Chengdu for pandas, then you should consider a guided tour, as the center in Chengdu is huge and hard to get around by walking. You may also get lost or confused and miss some of the best parts of the center.
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