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Most tourists to Wolong come for the Giant Panda Protection and Research Center in Hetao Ping, which is good enough reason, but there are so few chances in China to enjoy nature, free of crowds, that you may want to do some hiking while you're here. If so, be prepared for temperature fluctuations and rain, especially in summer. Also consider hiring a guide at the Panda Museum if you plan to hike very far. Trails can be faint and muddy, and descents at times slippery (the downside of not having stairs).

A viable 2-day plan is to arrive in Shawan in the afternoon. After checking into your hotel, visit the museum for an hour or so and roam around the very small town before dinner. The next morning, get up early and visit the breeding center in Hetao Ping. Spend the late morning and afternoon hiking. Depart the next morning.

Wuyipeng Shengtai Guance Zhan (Wuyipeng Field Observation Station)

This used to be an active station for researching and monitoring the giant panda, but it is no longer in use. A visit here makes a nice 1- to 2-hour hike on a steep trail that flattens out the last mile or so. The habitat behind the station is prime forest, and Darjeeling woodpeckers and various species of pheasants have been sighted here.

The cost of a guide from the Panda Museum's Tourist Desk is ¥100 ($13/£6.50) for the round-trip trek (¥100/$13/£6.50 with lunch) and ¥40 ($5.20/£2.60) for the taxi to and from the beginning of the trail, which is about 9km (5 1/2 miles) southwest of the museum. Hire your own taxi round-trip for ¥15 to ¥20 ($1.95-$2.60/£1-£1.30), but you'll have to agree on a pickup time. Allow about 3 hours. Pay at the end.

To go on your own from Shawan, walk south on the main road until you reach a small village. Look for a large sign by the road with two big Chinese characters (for "Distillery"). Cross the wooden bridge on your left and follow it to the mountain. If at that point you regret not hiring a guide, you may be able to persuade one of the farmers on this patch of land to lead you. Unless you speak Chinese, you'll need the Chinese characters to indicate your destination and a calculator to settle on a fee. Expect to pay around ¥20 ($2.60/£1.30) -- more if weather conditions are poor or if the farmer has something else to do.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.