Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou, 10+ hours by bus

I have heard that the trip from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou can take anywhere from eight to 20 hours, by bus, although it is less than an hour by plane. The reason for the slow ground travel is the badly damaged roads, probably stemming from the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan that left nearly 90,000 people dead, and millions displaced. Regardless, I can confirm: The roads are bad.

I chose to take the bus, partly because air travel in foreign countries is the boring way to go, and also, I was not pressed for time. It took fewer than 11 hours. Not so bad. The drivers along the route frequently honk, less in anger and more in warning that they’ll be passing. Regardless of intent, incessant honking is the soundtrack from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou.

The trip follows the Min River, a tributary of the upper Yangtze River, with waters rough from the rainy season, and the roads badly damaged and in need of repair. We encountered a few rockslides and mudslides along the way. Despite the challenges, it is a beautiful trip, through beautiful country, with karst-like topography with sheer drops down into the river below.

About three-quarters of the way there, we reached Songpan, and the bees outside of the bus felt almost apocalyptic. There were dozens, probably hundreds, maybe thousands, swarming the bus, seemingly attacking the windows. I could see local villagers trying to fend off the bees as they transported goods on their back. Even after eight hours on the bus, I was pleased to learn that we had another 100km to travel. I did not want any part of the bee apocalypse.

Typical Chinese rest stop between Chengdu and Jiuzhaigou.

The road from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou.

Fruit stand at Chinese rest stop.

Slicing samples of fruit for customers at a rest stop in between Chengdu and Jiuzhaigou.

Roadside fruit vendor on the road between Chengdu and Jiuzhaigou, along the Min River.

Vegetable stand, China; notice the cigarette, for extra flavor.


Buying corn, 5 RMB; the dirty fingernails make it taste better.

Curious passenger at a rest stop in China.

Seen at a rest stop near Jiuzhaigou, China; I’m not sure if this is a missing persons sign, or a wanted sign.

Washing the bus at a stop in between Chengdu and Jiuzhaigou.

One of the first people I met in Jiuzhaigou: a Tibetan woman whose name I couldn’t understand even after hearing it three or four times; she invited me to stay in her home, but, sensing a tourist trap, I declined.

Traffic and reckless driving are common in Jiuzhaigou; the SUV drove into the side of the bus, blocking traffic for miles.

My bus ticket for Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou (143 RMB), and a note asking for a ticket on the the same route back to Chengdu, on August 18.