This 3-day Chengdu itinerary will ensure you see all the highlights. **Including Leshan and Emei Shan (Mt. Emei)**
It goes without saying that China is a HUGE country and it’s understandable that you might not have the luxury of time while exploring the many sites of the Middle Kingdom.
Chengdu is close to my heart- it’s the first city in Asia I ever lived in, where I met my husband, and where we later got engaged. During that time, we had several visitors including my dad and brother. Packing in the “must-see” sites of Chengdu and the greater area, before moving on to more well-known destinations like Xian, Beijing, Shanghai, and Guilin, became a talent of mine.
Whether you are living in Chengdu and hosting out-of-town guests, or visiting the area while pressed for time, the itinerary below will provide you with an incredible experience of the highlights of Chengdu, Leshan (Giant Buddha), and Emei Shan, a sacred Buddhist mountain in Sichuan Province, China.
Getting to Chengdu
Chengdu is quite a distance from many other major cities in China. Chongqing is about a 4-hour drive away. Depending on where you are coming from, flying into Chengdu will often be the quickest way to get there, but you can travel from most cities by high-speed train, as well.
Where to Stay
Depending on your budget, here are several hotel options to serve as your home base for exploration in Chengdu:
7 Days Inn Chunxi Road Walking Street (approx. $25 USD)
Address: 39 Huaxing Zheng Street, Chenghua District, Chengdu, China 610020
For your taxi driver:
华兴正街39号商业场新座16-19楼, 成华区, 成都, 中国 610020
We stayed here to save after splurging on a stay at the Shangri-La Hotel. The accommodations were very basic, but clean and safe.
Wenjun Mansion Hotel ($40-$45 USD)
Address: 180 Qintai Road, Chengdu 610041, China
For your taxi driver:
琴台路180号, 青羊区, 成都, 中国
A boutique hotel in a great location (walking distance from Jilin Street, the Opera House, and subway system), with traditional Chinese architecture and décor.
Shangri-La Hotel Chengdu ($145-$160 USD)
Address: 9 Binjiang East Road, Jinjiang District, Chengdu 610021, China
For your taxi driver:
滨江东路9号, 九眼桥酒吧街商业区, 成都, 中国 610021
On our most recent trip to Chengdu, we splurged on a room at the Shangri-La Hotel (and later balanced our budget at the 7 Days Inn!). This is an absolutely gorgeous and luxurious hotel. If you are celebrating a special occasion or have the opportunity to treat yourself, you will enjoy your stay here.
After traveling to Chengdu and spending the night at one of the hotels above, start this itinerary the next morning for 3 action-packed days of the sites around Chengdu!
Eat like the locals for breakfast and grab some steamy “baozi” (steamed bun) from a nearby street vendor. Typically you can choose from beef, pork, or vegetable.
Beef: niúròu bāozi (pronounced “neew-row baozuh”) 牛肉包子
Pork: zhūròu bāozi (pronounced “ju-row baozuh”) 猪肉包子
Vegetable: cài bāozi (pronounced “shoo baozuh”) 菜包子
After breakfast, head out to see China’s treasure- the pandas!
Taxi: Take a taxi to 1375 Xiongmao Ave. Chenghua, Chengdu, Sichuan Province, China (this means “Panda Avenue”)
For your taxi driver:
For information about public transportation to the Giant Panda Research Base, visit this link of their website: http://www.panda.org.cn/english/visitor/Getting/2013-09-12/2442.html
Admission cost: 58 RMB or approximately $9 USD
Chengdu Panda Base Tips
– Visiting hours are from 7:30 am to 6:00 pm, 7 days a week, year-round.
– Unfortunately, you cannot currently hold a baby panda at this location any longer. There is another panda reserve further from the city, China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda (CCRCGP), Dujiangyan Base, which offers 1-2 day-long panda volunteer programs, where volunteers have the opportunity to take a photo with a 2 year-old panda.
Taxi: Take a taxi from the Panda Base to the intersection of Wuhouci Dongjie and Wuhouci Hengjie. To make it easy, ask the taxi to bring you to Wuhou Temple and you can easily walk around the area from there:
Public Transportation: There is also a tourist shuttle bus that runs from the Panda base to Wuhou temple (same neighborhood as Tibetan Street and Jilin Street), but it only runs once a day at 2:30 pm.
What to do
Chengdu is known as the “Gateway to Tibet.” Discover Tibetan textiles and art at the many small shops in Tibetan Quarters and try some Tibetan food! You are almost guaranteed to see Tibetan monks walking around and some Tibetan cowboy-looking characters.
Where to eat
A Re Tibetan
234 Wuhousi Dajie, Chengdu, China
This is a very unique restaurant with the best-rated Tibetan food in town. It is decorated with interesting Tibetan pieces and offers an English menu. Try some yak or yak milk tea! For those of you who are not so excited about the idea of yak, they have many crowd-pleasing vegetarian dishes and more mainstream meat options (pork, beef, etc.).
Walk to Jinli Street from Tibetan Street. The entrance is right near Wuhou temple, where you arrived from the Panda Base.
What to do there
Jinli Street is a wonderful little walking street with gardens, ponds, and lots of culture. Enjoy the music, crafts, shops, tea houses, and traditional architecture. There is also a Starbucks inside and before you cringe, they have a lovely little outdoor garden area and a clean bathroom.
Hot Pot! Hot pot is a culinary hallmark of Sichuan cuisine and an absolute must-consume while in Chengdu. There are hot pot restaurants all over the city, ranging in prices. If you have a well-traveled stomach, any crowded hot pot place is probably a solid choice.
I would recommend Shu JiuXiang Hot Pot Restaurant. I brought my dad here on his first night in Chengdu (right after he met my husband, then boyfriend, for the first time!) Everyone really enjoyed the food.
**Pack your bags for an early morning (or just “morning” for you night owls) train ride to Emei Shan and an overnight stay at the base of the mountain.
Wake up early and take the new high-speed bullet train from Chengdu to Emei Shan. You may be tempted to make a stop at Leshan (Giant Buddha) on your way, and that’s fine, but Day 3 already has Leshan covered, so you can maximize your time at Emei Shan today.
Take a taxi or the subway to: Chengdu East Railway Station (Chengdu Dong Zhan-成都东站)
You want to buy a ticket to Emei Shan ( 峨嵋山). Click the “tracks” below for a timetable of departure/arrival times (subject to change):
Where to stay
E Mei Shan Hot Springs Hotel is incredibly well located, with easy access to the entrance of the mountain and good restaurant options nearby.
Upon arriving at Emei Shan, you’ll want to take a taxi to Emei Shan town or, if you decided to stay at the hotel above, just give the driver the hotel name. It’s best to check into the hotel first (unless you’d like to hike with luggage) or at least store your bags at the hotel, if you’re not able to check-in that early. Every single time I’ve traveled to Emei Shan (4 times in total), I’ve stayed at this hotel- with the exception of a disappointing stay at another hotel, while participating in a random winter coat fashion show. A story for another day.
What to do
Visit Emei Shan (Mt. Emei)! In one day, you will not have enough time to begin at the base entrance and climb all the way to the top. That goal can be accomplished during a longer trip to the Chengdu area. Realistically, you have two hiking options:
1. Begin at the base entrance and hike up about half way, viewing temples, monkeys, a river, and a waterfall along the way.
2. Take a bus to the highest point of vehicle access (last tram entrance) and hike your way to the summit of Emei Shan, where you will find a temple and golden elephant statutes above tree level.
For first time visitors, I would recommend option #1- start at the base and go half way. The only time I went to the summit of the mountain was the day my husband proposed to me and while, on that day, I felt literally and figuratively on top of the world, a first-time visitor should not deprive themselves of the opportunity to meet the monkey thieves*, see the temples nestled into wooded mountainside, and go rock-hopping on the river, if you are so inclined.
End the day with dinner at one of the restaurants across from the hotel. Eat the Chinese way and order several dishes for the table to share.
Sichuan Dish Suggestions
– Jia Cheng DouFu- pronounced as spelled; (family style tofu): A spicy and garlicy sauce over large thin squares of firm tofu. This is a dish that changes throughout China, depending on the region you are in. Don’t miss Sichuan’s take of this dish!
– Kung bao ji ding- pronounced: “gung bao gee ding”(kung pao chicken): This is probably a dish you recognize, which is always nice to have on the table. True to form, the Sichuan version will be a little spicy.
– Fan qie chao dan- pronounced: “fan chiee chao dan”(tomato and fried egg): If you’re not a huge fan of spicy food or you’re looking for a dish to cut and balance the spice in your other dishes, this is a great option. It’s a flavorful stir-fry of diced tomato and scrambled egg.
– Qingjiao ruo si- pronounced: “ching jeeao row suh” (stir fried pork and green pepper): My husband’s favorite dish; spicy with great flavor.
After breakfast, depart to Leshan to see the Giant Buddha.
Take the same high-speed train you took to Emei Shan back toward Chengdu, making a stop at Leshan. Click the “tracks” below for a timetable (subject to change):
Admission: 90 RMB or approximately $14 USD (boat ride in front of the Buddha is 70 RMB or approximately $11 USD)
After you’ve soaked it all in and have some great photos, either have lunch in the town of Leshan or head back to Chengdu for a night of culture.
Yep. Get back on the high-speed train toward Chengdu. Click the “tracks” for a timetable (subject to change):
Upon arrival to Chengdu
1. Check into your hotel to unload your bags!
2. Depending on what time you get in, you will probably have time to see a few things before heading to the famous Sichuan Opera House. Here are some suggestions (in no particular order, just as time allows and depending on your preference) for afternoon activities:
a. Visit People’s Park (人民公园): a place of leisure where you can see people practicing tai chi, calligraphy, and other arts. A great place to people watch, especially if you’re tickled by adorable old people strolling with their hands behind their backs.
b. Tianfu Square (天府广场): A massive downtown square (a hallmark of Chinese cities), complete with a grand statute of Chairman Mao Ze Dong. It’s right in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the downtown commercial area. If you’d like to purchase a marked-up Louis Vuitton bag at 100% luxury tax, or watch wealthy Chinese people purchase them, you will find it in this area.
c. Wenshu Temple (文殊院): The best-preserved Buddhist temple in Chengdu offers free admission.
Then head to the Sichuan Opera before show time (shows start at 8 pm)! There are several options, but I would recommend Shufeng Ya Yun on Qintai Road in Chengdu Cultural Park (文化公园)
Address for your taxi driver:
By public transportation: Take Metro line 2 to Tonghuimen station. Then take Exit E and walk toward Chengdu Cultural Park.
Tickets are available for purchase at the door, subject to availability, and possibly at a discount. If you want to ensure that you will have tickets for the show that night, I would recommend stopping by on Day 1 to buy tickets or arranging the purchase of tickets through your hotel on Day 1. Prices start at 180 RMB or approximately $23 USD and upward, depending on your choice of add-ons.
I am confident that following this 3 day Chengdu itinerary will create wonderful memories and leave you thirsty for more (especially after all of that “chuan cai” (Sichuan cuisine)! There is so much more to do in Chengdu and I believe it’s also a very livable city in China. Please let me know if you are interested in longer itinerary suggestions for Chengdu!
Have a great time! Man zou! (“Walk slowly,” take it easy)