Chinese Name: 松潘 (sōng pān)
Area: 8,486 square kilometers (3,276 square miles)
Location: in the northeast of Aba Autonomous Prefecture of Tibetan and Qiang Minorities, Sichuan Province, southwestern China
Area Code: 0837
Zip Code: 623300
GDP (2018): CNY 2.11 billion (USD 0.32 billion)
Nationalities: Tibetan, Qiang, Hui, Han
Songpan, a county under the jurisdiction of Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture of Sichuan Province, is adjacent to Pingwu on the east, Maoxian on the south, Jiuzhaigou and Ruoergai on the north. The downtown of Songpan Sichuan is 2,850 meters (9,350 feet) above sea level and only 33 kilometers (20.5 miles) away from the well-known Jiuzhaigou National Park. Songpan is famous for the Huanglong National Scenic Reserve with the colorful and vast calcified landscape. The magnificent Songpan Ancient Town and unique ethnic-minority customs are also worth visit and experience. Visitors can spend 2-3 days to visit Songpan and Jiuzhaigou National Park together as they are very close. As the largest trade distribution center of tea-horse trade in Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Songpan keeps being one of the best destinations for horse trekking.
Best Places to Visit & Top Things to Do in Songpan
Huanglong National Scenic Reserve
Huanglong National Scenic Reserve, the only well-protected plateau wetland in China, is world-famous for breathtaking calcified pools, snow mountains, grand canyons and primeval forests. It is composed of Huanglong Valley, Mounigou Valley, Danyun Canyon and Xuebaoding Snow Mountains. Tourists should pay attention to that most spots of Huanglong Scenic Area may close from December to March for the maintenance except for Mounigou Valley.
Huanglong Valley highlights the large-scale and colorful calcified pools. From a distance, the pools are like pieces of jade plates laid out neatly and can change into different colors under the sunlight. The best time to visit Huanglong scenic area is in summer and autumn when the pools are more beautiful due to its abundant water supply.
The scenery of Mounigou Valley is mainly characterized by primeval forests, alpine lakes, hot springs and waterfalls. The scenic spot includes two parts: Zhaga Waterfall and Erdaohai Lake. Zhaga Waterfall is located at an altitude of 3,270 meters (10,728 feet), with a height of 93.2 meters (305.8 feet) and a width of 35 meters (115 feet). It is far less crowded than Jiuzhaigou but is definitely the most spectacular calcified waterfall in China. Erdaohai Lake is named after the Xiaohaizi Lake and Dahaizi Lake. The clear and crystal lakes are dotted in primeval forests and a leisurely stroll around them will make you enjoyable and refreshing. Mounigou Valley is also a place in which you can see Tibetan Buddhism temples like Xiaobao Temple, adding more religious charm to the valley.
Songpan Ancient Town
Songpan Ancient Town was not only an important military fortress in the northwest of Sichuan, but also a major post station for the tea-horse trade of the Tibetan, Qiang, Hui and Han people. It is still well preserved and you can see the 6.2 km (3.9 mi) long old city wall. The Min River flows through the city from east to west and there are many antique buildings and two old mosques. Tourists can stroll around the city by taking a rickshaw or climb up the wall to enjoy the magnificent scenery.
Take a Horse Trekking Tour
The special horse trekking tour is also worthy of trying in Songpan. It takes 1-2 days for a short trip to Munigou Valley or 5-7 days to Mount Xuebaoding. You can enjoy the stunning scenery and have a glimpse of the local nomadic life. It is better to bring enough warm clothing and snacks as well as a sleeping bag. It costs CNY 300/day per person and the best time to visit is from May to September.
Best Time to Visit Songpan
The best time to visit Songpan Sichuan is from May to October, the rainy season when the Huanglong Valley and Mounigou Valley is more beautiful. Because of a variety of terrain and altitude, the climate in Songpan Sichuan has obvious regional differences. From November to March, the weather is dry and windy and the temperature is below 0℃ (32℉). The annual extreme minimum temperature is - 21℃ (70℉). From May to September, the average temperature is above 10 ℃ (50℉). Songpan weather also has the characteristics of large daily temperature differences.
Songpan Weather Forecast
Songpan is 300 kilometers (186 miles) from Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province and 400 kilometers (249 miles) from Barkam, the capital of Aba. Visitors can take a flight to Jiuhuang Airport that is 40 kilometers (25 miles) from Huanglong National Scenic Reserve. The airport has opened flights to 14 cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Beijing, Xi’an, Chengdu and Zhangjiajie. Visitors can also access Songpan Sichuan by coach from Chengdu Chadianzi Bus Station, taking about 8 hours.
Situated in the downtown area, the Songzhou Bus station is easy to access. The coaches which pass by the Huanglong National Scenic Reserve depart to Mianyang, Jiangyou and Pingwu at 6:00, 7:00 and 14:00. But you need to inquire whether the coach stops at the scenic spot or not. Coaches to the Huanglong National Scenic Reserve and Jiuzhaigou National Park from the airport are privately operated. The departure time is uncertain because they don’t leave until they carry enough tourists. The car rental fee is CNY200-300 per car from the downtown area to Huanglong National Scenic Reserve. If you have a day trip to Huanglong National Scenic Reserve and Jiuzhaigou National Park from the airport, the fee is CNY400-500.
Best Songpan Food to Try
The best Songpan foods to try are Tibetan Hot Pot, Stewed Chicken with Fritillary, Beef Offal Soup, Mash Soup, Fried Leek dumpling.