Sichuan On a Budget
Due to Sichuan being so spread out, the climate dramatically varies between regions. For the most part though, April-May and September-October tend to have the best scenery and most comfortable weather conditions throughout all of the regions. Peak tourist season lasts from July-August, resulting in large crowds and quite expensive accommodations.
SightsWith such a large region, there's a wide variety of sights to see. In the capital city of Chengdu, you'll find over 2,000 years of history spread out across the city. From the mausoleum of the Princes of Shu of the Ming Dynasty to the contemporary art gallery, A Thousand Plateaus Art Space, you can experience centuries of Chinese culture all in one city. The city of Dege is famous for their Tibetan library which has a treasure trove of wooden printing blocks with Tibetan Buddhist texts on them.
You can visit a huge cliff carving of Buddha while touring Mount Emei in the city of Leshan, both the statue and the mountain are a World Heritage Site. Songpan is known for housing remnants of their ancient city and is a great base camp for touring Tibetan villages nearby.
RegionsThroughout the four regions in the Sichuan Provence, there are seven major cities. The first of which is the capital of Sichuan, Chengdu. This 2,000-year-old city, often referred to as the Land of Milk and Honey because of its fertile plains, is a beautifully scenic city that combines the ancient with the modern and concrete cityscapes with wide-open plains. In Dege, you'll find an incredible Tibetan library and an old Buddhist printing house that was founded in 1729.
Ganzi is a rural city with a strong Tibetan culture and is home to a quite large indigenous Tibetan population and beautiful monestaries. Kangding is a small mountain city that's often considered to be the gateway to the Tibetan area of Sichuan. Kangding is a small temple town situated on a mountain that is often considered to be the gateway to the Tibetan area of the Sichuan region.
Langmusi is a stunning small village where you find Hui Muslims and Amdo Tibetans coming together to create beautiful temples. Leshan is famous for having the largest stone carved Buddha in the world located on Mount Emei. Finally, there is Songpan, a quaint town in the north with ancient temples and a popular spot to stop in before heading into the Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve.
ActivitiesWhether you're looking for a three-day adventure or just a day of fun, a must do is a horse trek in Langmusi! The Langmusi Tibetan Horse Trekking Agency offers guided treks that last 1-3 days, with some longer treks allowing you to stay with real Tibetan nomads. Just outside of Chengdu, you'll find the Panda Research Base which has around 60 giant pandas, along with a few red pandas and black-necked cranes. Chengdu is also a great place for shopping, especially on Chunxi Road where you'll find everything from arcades to bookstores. If you're looking for a bit of relaxation, head to Kangding to enjoy hot springs in the Er Dao Qiao hot spring resort or the hot springs located in Mugecuo National Park.
Food and DiningThere's no doubt that you've probably heard of Sichuan Chinese Cuisine, especially kung pao chicken and twice cooked pork. Make the most of this by taking a food tour in Chengdu; they are guided by local English speakers who take you out of the tourist areas to restaurants that locals praise! On the western, Tibetan, side of the region, expect to find more Tibetan food including yak, dumplings, and dairy products made from yak and goat milk.
The majority of nightlife happens in Chengdu, with everything ranging from karaoke bars to Irish Pubs. Nightlife is sparse in other areas, though you can purchase a beer from most restaurants. Traditionally, most people will sit and enjoy a cup of tea or lemon drink in the evening.
TransportationBeing such an established region, Sichuan has many options for getting into the area including planes, buses, and trains. Most of these options run through Chengdu, with smaller bus and train lines running from Chengdu to other areas of the region.
Most cities have local bus lines or small train systems within the city to get you around. Some of the smaller cities are easily walkable or can be navigated on scooter or bicycle. There are also many tourist bus companies that run in loops around larger cities taking you to the major tourist attractions.