Chengdu Giant Panda Research and Breeding Center

This is without a doubt the major tourist attraction in a city that is, at least from a tourist’s perspective, synonymous with the panda. The number of pandas existing in the wild is estimated to be around only 1000, spread across three provinces of China with the overwhelming majority of them living in Sichuan. The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding (ie. the panda zoo) is home to more than 100 giant pandas as well as a number of less interesting red pandas. There are several enclosures on site, with adult pandas separated from adolescents and cubs. Feeding time at 9:30am provides the best photo opportunities. There are limited opportunities to have your photo taken with a panda – but it’s pricey at ¥400 with an adolescent and ¥1000 to hold a baby panda.

Also of interest at the base is the Giant Panda Museum which holds detailed information and displays about the panda’s history, habits and habitat as well as a cinema where pro-panda propaganda is screened. There is also a restaurant, snack bars and souvenir shops on site. But what makes the Giant Panda Base really great is the atmosphere. Unlike zoos that hold pandas elsewhere in China or the world, the dense bamboo forests and mist of the panda’s home province give an authenticity to the experience that couldn’t be found anywhere else. And for that reason, the Giant Panda Base can make Chengdu worth visiting by itself.

It’s best to visit the base in the mornings as early as possible. You’ll see most action from the pandas between 8am and 11am – after that they’re likely to be sleeping. And, while you might not want to plan your whole trip around it, if you visit the base in September or October you’ll be able to see newborn pandas in the nursery.

Admission: ¥58. Open: 7:30-18:00.

Tel: +86 (028) 8353 3816. Website: http://www.panda.org.cn

Directions: Hostels and hotels run tours starting at ¥80 (including transport and entrance fee). You might also consider taking a taxi to the base – it will cost about ¥40 on the meter. But it can often be difficult to find a taxi for the return journey.

Show the taxi driver: 请带我去大熊猫繁育研究基地, 谢谢。 (Please take me to the Giant Panda Research Base. Thank you.)