7 Top Rated Tourist Attractions in Sichuan
First impressions matter. A lot. So it is no wonder that China's spectacular yet forlorn landscapes, bizarre wildlife and fascinating traditions have become the fodder of some of the world's most awe-inspiring travel photographs.
But China's more soulful highlights are mostly underground. These sights are as unique as they are off the beaten track. So get ready to experience some of China's best attractions, from the fantastic and fantastical to the downright wacky and bizarre.
We've started this list with the top ten top attractions in China. The most obvious options for a visit are Wuhan, Shanghai and Beijing, but once you've tasted this country's best spots, you'll have your eyes opened to a whole new side of China. If you're wondering where to go on your next vacation, start planning here.
Leshan Giant Buddha
The Giant Buddha of Leshan (Jilong), China, is a 40-meter tall sculpture of a seated Buddha, carved in limestone. This is one of the world's largest Buddhist sculptures. Leshan was a strategic trading site that was populated by Liangshan cultures and flourished for over 400 years before being destroyed by warfare between the Tang and the Tibetan Empire in the eighth century. The Leshan site was ruled by the Liangshan dukes who exported tea, rice, minerals and medicinal herbs. As one of the largest and most striking Buddhist statues outside of India, this colossal statue resides in a landscape populated by three smaller Buddhas, giving the viewer a sense of being in the presence of something magnificent.
Jiuzhaigou is the smallest and least developed section of the Giant Mountains in Sichuan. It's the gateway to an area once traveled by the early Buddhists and ascetics and a popular place for religious pilgrimage. The wide valley provides a calm and quiet place to relax, with only a few visitors and lots of ancient trees, bushes, and rare herbs, and the vegetation of the valley is particularly rich. The sight of the heavily forested park in the rainy season and the autumn leaves are breathtaking and a must-see attraction.
Chengdu is a lively and fast-growing city located in southwestern China. Chengdu is popular as a base for trips to the Everest region, and also for traveling to the Sichuan capital, Chengdu. Outstanding destinations nearby include the traditional Tibetan settlement of Shigatse, also known as Ganden Sumtse. Many of the region's monasteries and nunneries are open to visitors, such as Gyari Tashi Gompa. The largest single structure in Chengdu is the Mingzhu Temple (Mingzhu Chuan), which is said to have been built during the reign of the first Ming emperor.
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Located on the border between Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces, Emei Mountain is one of the most famous sights in China. A World Heritage Site that straddles the boundary between two provinces, it is home to many gorgeous Buddhist monasteries and temples, some of which have been built and restored over many generations. Climbing Emei can be extremely difficult due to the steep terraces and cold temperatures. Nevertheless, the beauty of the mountain and its remote location make it worth the effort.
Climbing the 880 steps to Potala Palace offers visitors a chance to get to the top of a majestic fortress to see the stunning panoramic views of Lhasa. Built in the 15th century by the legendary third Dalai Lama, it was the residence of the Dalai Lama for nearly six centuries. Only a fraction of the palace remains today, but the main part of the fortress is open for visitors to see. The Potala can be reached by car, or from Lhasa on foot, as it is about a three-and-a-half-hour walk from the city.
Tibet has always been a highly sought-after destination for travelers interested in Buddhist culture. Perched at altitudes of 11,000 to 25,000 feet (3,400 to 8,000 meters), the vast majority of the land is covered by the Himalayan-Tibetan plateau. In this high-altitude environment, Buddhist monasteries lie scattered in every valley and provide the primary source of life, education, and spirituality for Tibet's population. Sichuan is located in the southwest of China, bordering a few other provinces and a few countries. This rich province features many of the traditional Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and other significant Buddhist temples, pilgrimage centers, and heritages.
West Lake is the largest of China's rice-growing lakes. Overlooking the historic city of Chengdu, the lake is bordered by a mountain range and numerous temples, shrines and pagodas. Filled with various kinds of waterfowl, it's also home to over 100,000 bird species. While lakes may be well known for their bird life, the rich cultural history of West Lake is less-known, though also perhaps more significant than its birdlife. Chengdu is the political center of the country and was once capital of Sichuan. The former capital in fact still attracts large numbers of tourists. West Lake area is packed with restaurants, temples, pagodas and other tourist attractions.