Yading Nature Reserve:
Yading Nature Reserve in Sichuan Province, China is a park I had looked at for many years before travelling there. I would see beautiful images from travellers going here pop up in my Instagram feed and knew that I needed to visit this remote park deep in the mountains of Sichuan.
However, it seemed rather daunting. From other peoples experiences, it seemed like a tough place to travel to. As a solo traveller, I wasn’t sure I could do this trip on my own without being able to speak any Mandarin. However, I made the trip and now would like to share some of my tips on getting to Yading National Park and how to do it as a solo traveller.
How to Get To Yading Nature Reserve
Yading Nature Reserve is not an easy park to get to by any means, but it’s become much easier with the opening of Daocheng Yading Airport. I’ll detail out the various ways to get there.
If you want to get there without flying, which you may want to do, to avoid the possible problems with elevation (the Yading Airport is 4,411m high), then you first want to go to Chengdu. From Chengdu, you can take a direct bus (1 daily @ 10am as of writing) from Chengdu XiNaMen Bus Station. It takes around 22 hours and 2 days with a stop in Kangding where you would need to find your own lodging and figure out when the bus leaves the next day as well.
If you don’t want to take the direct bus, you could get a bus to Kangding first and find lodging. There are quite a few buses up until 2pm that leave XiNaMen Bus station to Kangding. The bus takes around 7 to 8 hours to Kangding. Then from Kangding, you would want to get a bus to Daocheng (around 11 hours. Finally, once in Daocheng, you would want to get a taxi or mini-bus to Yading National Park.
*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links through booking.com, which means I may receive a small commission, at no cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link.
*Lodging recommendation in Kangding: I’ve heard great reviews from many people for Zhilam Hostel in Kangding. They speak english, have lots of great travel advice and could help you with the bus tickets onwards to Daocheng and Yading.
If the bus option doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then a much faster way is by Air. From Chengdu there are semi regular flights to Daocheng Yading Airport. The flight is about 1 hour in length. However, the airport is still about 1 hour from Daocheng town and 3 hours to the entrance of Yading Nature Reserve.
At the airport, catch one of the shuttle buses outside to get to Daocheng (around 35rmb). Then once in Daocheng town (the drop off is in front of the Airport Hotel), you will want to find a mini-bus driver to take you to Riwa (also known as the entrance to Yading Nature Reserve). There should be plenty of mini-bus drivers to get you there. Cost should be about 50rmb per person.
Finally, once you are in Riwa, you can easily find the entrance to the Yading Nature Reserve. Here you will pay your entrance fee (around 270RMB) which is admission fee and shuttle bus fee as there is one more shuttle bus that takes you from the entrance to Yading Village (which I’ll talk about later) and onwards finally to Long Long Ba which is the official start of the Nature Reserve.
*Tip if Flying: On the shuttle bus from the airport to Daocheng, you can purchase oxygen if you are feeling the effects of the altitude. Also, I’m sure you can find oxygen at the airport as well if you need some. At over 4000m you will surely feel it a little bit.
What To See in Yading Nature Reserve?
Yading Nature Reserve will not disappoint you. The mountains and lakes here are stunning and impressive and there is more than enough to occupy your time for at least 2 days. The park can be seen in 1 day, however, I’d recommend 2-3 days to fully enjoy your time. If you took so long to get here, why not enjoy a few extra days?
About a 10 minute walk from the entrance at Long Long Ba, this monastery at 4000m and over 800 years old sits near the base of Mt. Chenresig. It’s a beautiful setting and a great place to get orientated in the Nature Reserve. From the Monastery, there are 2 main paths. One will take you to Luorong Pasture and other will take you towards Pearl Lake.
Located about an hour hike from Chonggu Monastery, you will find Pearl Lake. At over 4100m, this beautiful alpine lake is a stunner. Located directly in front of Chenserig Mountain (6032m), there is a boardwalk that goes around the lake that I recommend taking. In total from the monastery, it should take around 1 to 3 hours with exploring to see Pearl Lake.
Milk Lake and 5 Colored Lake
In my mind, this is the most stunning part of the park. The hike begins near Chonggu Monastery. There is an amazing boardwalk that goes from near Chonggu to Luorong Grasslands and follows beautiful clear streams and fields. If you have the time, I highly recommend going this way. However, if you don’t have the time, you can hop in an electric cart (around 50RMB) and get to the grasslands much quicker.
From the grasslands, you can follow the nice maps at the park and look for the direction to Milk Lake. This path isn’t boardwalked like the way to the grasslands, so it’s a bit rougher, but the path is still quite nice. To get from the grasslands to Milk Lake by hiking should take around 2 hours. Then finally from Milk Lake to 5 Colored Lake which is just above Milk Lake should take around 20 minutes and is around 4500m in elevation. This hike isn’t the easiest, but I highly recommend a visit to 5 color lake. It’s got its name for a reason and has commanding views of the whole area. To miss this would be a real shame. If you don’t want to walk to the lakes, you can go by horseback, however, it is rather pricey and often there is a line for horses.
Yading Nature Reserve Accommodation
Some people only do a day trip in Yading Nature Reserve from Daocheng. However, this severely limits your time in the park. Others start from Riwa where there are some lodges, but again, you are spending too much time in a bus to and from the park. So I would highly recommend to people to stay in Yading Village. At only about a 20 minute shuttle bus ride from Long Long Ba (the entrance of Yading Nature Reserve), its the closest you can stay within the park.
Also, because it’s within the park, you don’t need to pay every time you get on the shuttle bus. Thus, it saves you money.
The hotel I stayed at was called Hotel Blanche, however, I can’t find it on booking.com anymore. However, there is one called Tibetan Style Theme Hotel which gets good reviews and looks beautiful. Any hotel in Yading Village has great views and is close to the shuttle bus. Just know that a lot of these hotels won’t have english speakers and you should have enough cash. The hotel I stayed at only accepted credit cards through WeChat and thus I couldn’t pay with my credit card. As for food, most of the hotels do have restaurants attached, but again, the menu will likely only be in Chinese.
Another thing to know, is at least when I went there, when you take the shuttle bus from Riwa to Long Long Ba, they won’t stop in Yading Village. You have to get off at Long Long Ba, and get the shuttle bus back to Riwa. On the way back, you can get off at Yading Village.
Tips for Yading Nature Reserve
- Best season to visit is during Spring and Fall. Especially in the fall time, early November, the leaves change and make the area absolutely stunning. I went in early September though and had clouds most of the time.
- Altitude can kill. Take time to get acclimatised. Remember the park is above 4000m.
- Learn a few phrases in Mandarin. It will help, however, you can get by with a translator on your phone and some people do speak a little bit of English.
- If you have time, spend a night in the town of Daocheng. It’s a beautiful location (especially in the fall time) and will allow you to explore more of this incredible part of Sichuan. I recommend a stay at Harvest Inn.
- Don’t rush your trip. There is a lot to explore just in Yading Nature Reserve. However, if you want to explore more of this part of Sichuan, you can extend the trip and explore Mount Siguniang further north or Minya Konka as well.
Well, I hope this mini guide was helpful in planning your trip to Yading Nature Reserve. If you have any other questions or comments, let us know in the Comments Section below.