How to Plan a Chengdu Panda Tour

The Panda Is Eating Bamboo

1. Where to See Giant Pandas in Chengdu?

So you're planning a Chengdu panda tour? But where is the best place to see pandas? When is the best time to go? What experience you can have in a panda tour? On this page, you'll find suggestions for how to make your panda travel dreams come true.

The best place to see giant panda is Chengdu, the hometown of giant pandas. Not only you can have a close look at pandas but also join in a volunteer program to take care of pandas and even hold a panda for photos.

There are four panda reserves in Chengdu: Giant Panda Breeding Research Base (short for Chengdu Panda Base), Dujiangyan Panda Base, Wolong Panda Reserve, and Ya’an Bifengxia Panda Base.

Place Pandas Activities Time Needed Crowds? Location
Chengdu Panda Base 50 See pandas Half a day Very crowded 40 mins from downtown
Dujiangyan Panda Base 20 See pandas, join in a volunteer program, hold a panda for photos 1 day Quiet 1½ hrs. from Chengdu
Wolong Panda Reserve 30 See pandas, join in volunteer program, hold a panda for photos, hike in panda habitat 2 days Quiet 2½ hrs. from Chengdu
Bifengxia Panda Base 20 See pandas, join in volunteer program, hold a panda for photos 2 days or more Quiet 3 hrs. from Chengdu

Travel SR’s suggestions: If you only want to see pandas, go to Chengdu Panda Breeding Center near the downtown; if you want to experience one-day panda volunteer, Dujiangyan Panda Base is the best choice; if you have more days, Wolong or Bifengxia can be your option.

If you don’t have time to go Chengdu, the city zoos or animal parks in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Chongqing offer convenient access to giant pandas.

Read more: 5 Best Places to See Giant Pandas

2. When is the Best Time to See Giant Pandas?

As mentioned above, Chengdu Panda Base is the best place to see giant pandas. To maximize your experience, you should know the best months in a year and the best time in a day to see the pandas.

The best time to visit the pandas at Chengdu Panda Base is from September to the next June. Giant pandas usually fall in love from March to May and give birth to cubs between July and September. If you visit during autumn or winter, you may see newborn panda cubs in the nursery.

You’d better try to avoid visiting in the summer time because pandas don’t like hot weather and they usually stay in the air-conditioned living quarters.

The best time to see giant pandas is 9:00 am to 11:00 am, when the pandas are most active, eating or playing.

Here is a rough schedule of the pandas in Chengdu Panda Base:
9:00am~9:30am: panda's first feeding time
10:00am~11:00am: playing or eating outside in their yards.
11:30am~2:00pm: sleeping
2:30pm~3:00pm: the second feeding time

TravelSR’s suggestions: To beat the crowds, we highly recommend you to arrive at the panda base before 8:30 am and even earlier during summer vacation (July and August). We usually pick up our clients around 7:00 am to avoid the rush hour and arrive at the panda base before other guests. In this case, you can see pandas at your pace and take photos without tourists in the shot.

3. Top 3 Activities in a Chengdu Panda Tour

Beyond seeing pandas in Chengdu Panda Base, there are more activities you can do to have closer contact with pandas.

1) Join a panda volunteer program

Dujiangyan Panda Base, Wolong Panda Reserve, and Bifengxia Panda Base offer panda volunteer program. Among them, Dujiangyan is the most popular one for its shorter distance, 1½ hours by car, from Chengdu City. The duration of the program lasts from 1 day to over one week.

In the volunteer program, you will be able to be a panda keeper and work with the panda experts to take care of giant pandas, such as feeding pandas, making panda food, and cleaning their enclosure.

2) Hold a panda and take photos

If you seek a zero-distance contact with pandas, you can consider holding a panda and taking photos with it. The charge is CNY1,800 per person, which will be donated to help save this endangered species and create a better environment for them. Only 20 tourists can have this once-in-a-lifetime chance each day.

3) Hike in the natural habitat of wild pandas

Wolong Panda Reserve, considered to be the real hometown of wild pandas, offers you a chance to hike in the natural habitat of the wild panda. The hike usually takes about 2–3 hours. You will enjoy the real natural sightseeing of the protection zone and observe rare plants in panda's habitat.

4. How Many Days Needed in Chengdu

Here are three suggested itineraries for your China panda tour:

1) One-day Chengdu Panda Tour

  • Morning activity: Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Center
  • Afternoon activities: Wenshu Monastery, Chengdu People's Park, and Kuanzhai Alley

2) One-Day Panda Keeper Program Tour in Dujiangyan

  • Early morning around 7:00am, transfer from Chengdu City to Dujiangyan Panda Base;
  • Full day volunteer activities to take care of pandas
  • Around 4:00pm drive back Chengdu City

TravelSR’s suggestions: As there is no direct bus from Chengdu to Dujiangyan Panda Base, it is advisable to hire a car or book a private tour with a private car and driver. There are a variety of hotels in Dujiangyan. You can stay overnight if you want to.

3) 2-Day In-Depth Panda Tour in Wolong

  • Day 1: Transfer from Chengdu City to Wolong Panda Reserve, and Dengsheng Gorge Hike
  • Day 2: Panda Keeper Program at Wolong Panda Reserve

5. How to Get to Chengdu

By flight: There are direct flights from the main cities in China, such as Beijing, Shanghai, Xi’an, Hong Kong, Guilin, Hangzhou. It is convenient to travel to Chengdu by air.

By train: If you travel from Xi’an, Chongqing, and Beijing, you can consider taking a train to Chengdu.

  • Xi’an-Chengdu takes about 4 hours.
  • Chongqing-Chengdu takes about 1.5 hours.
  • Guilin-Chengdu takes about 7 hours.