The capital of the Sichuan province and one of China’s most populous cities, Chengdu has a remarkably laid-back atmosphere considering its size. Although the centre of the city is a continuous hive of activity, Chengdu is often referred to as the ‘Land of Milk and Honey’, due to its wealth of green spaces and agricultural heritage. Indeed, the city is located on the edge of the richly fertile plains of the Sichuan Red Basin.
With Sichuan being one of only three provinces in China where pandas can be found in the wild, many visitors to Chengdu are eager to encounter the world’s most adored animal species. Located just a short distance from the city centre, the Giant Panda Research Base is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the area. Home to over 50 giant pandas, the base is best visited during the morning as this is the time when the inhabitants are most active. Back in the centre of the city, there are a number of attractions which appeal to those who have an interest in Chinese history. The Wenshu Temple is the largest Buddhist place of worship in the city and enjoys a serene atmosphere all of its own. This wonderfully peaceful temple is situated in one of the city’s older neighbourhoods, featuring narrow streets which are lined with shops, food stalls and tea-houses.
To experience the more modern side of the city, the place to head for is Chunxi Road. This vibrant area is home to a wealth of brand name stores, cinemas and restaurants serving all manner of international cuisine.
In terms of the weather, the ideal months to visit the city are from March to May and September to November. Visiting during these periods will ensure you miss both the rainy season and the most humid conditions. To experience the magic of the Chinese New Year festivities, the time to visit is during February.
Low season in the city occurs during the months of March, April, November and December. Prices are generally cheaper during these months and the city is less crowded.
Like most major cities in China, the roads in Chengdu are often incredibly busy. The network of buses in the city is extensive and exact fares are required to board as change is not given. As with the airport, taxis in the city are either green or blue but be aware that most of the drivers do not speak English.