There is much to explore in Sichuan Province, from Chengdu’s secret back alleys to the gorgeous mountain valleys in the countryside. There is scrumptious local cuisine, sweeping landscapes, ancient history and (of course) those popular local residents: the giant pandas. However, first-time visitors might find the options overwhelming. That is where these tours step in, to help you get the most out of your Sichuan experience.
For a diverse and incredibly intimate encounter with Sichuanese cuisine, get in touch with Jordan Porter and his team over at Chengdu Food Tours. These guys are incredibly passionate about the city of Chengdu and Sichuanese cuisine, and have tailored several unique experiences that help to express their love and knowledge of the food and culture that exudes from the streets and hills around them. While they do have two established group tours, they are also adept at creating private tours if you’re interesting in going deeper, or farther afield.
To explore the wilder corners of Sichuan, hop on a tour with Third Pole. In addition to the ubiquitous panda tours, as well as trips to popular mountains like Leshan and Emei, they also offer tours that take you farther afield. There is a five-day trek on horseback through the stunning northern Sichuan region of Songpan (in the Tibetan Autonomous Region of the province) and the stunning Jiuzhaigou National Park, you can go hiking up the Four Girls range up to 5,000 meters, and more. It’s a stunning way to see some of the natural, rugged beauty that Sichuan has to offer.
Chengdu is a city known for its food, so it would make sense that it is home to two great food tour companies. Lost Plate offers tours in Xi’an, Beijing, and Shanghai, but the founder hails from Chengdu and this is where the tour company’s original passion lies. This tour involves less walking than Chengdu Food Tours, so if you like zooming around in tuk-tuks to your meal, this is the one for you.
When you touch down in Chengdu, the best way to get your bearings in the expansive city is to set off by bike. This is an intimidating prospect for those new to the streets. For a long and exciting escapades along the promenades and back alleys of the city, link up with Extravagant Yak, which offers tours on handmade bamboo bicycles, which are made by the company’s lead guide. For those a little more adventurous, Extravagant Yak specializes in tours to Tibet as well as the regions on its border, and can help build those tours for you as well.
For the ultimate guided panda experience, hook up with YakPanda, which has experience bringing tourists through the Giant Panda Center in Dujiangyan. You’ll have the opportunity to volunteer at the center near and with the pandas for an up-close and personal experience. The tour also includes a trip to a nearby mountain temple, where you’ll meet local monks and enjoy a local meal with them.
Ding Ding Bike tours is another leisurely bike tour option. Offering frequent stops along the way, you’ll get a little exercise and deep knowledge of the local landscape. You’ll also get to explore parks, temples and more for a taste of one of the most laid back cities in China. There’s also a longer tour the will take you into the countryside right outside of the urban center.
Colorful China offers several tours in Chengdu and Sichuan, but the most unique takes you around the province. Not only will you experience the popular Emei Mountain and incredible buddhas of Leshan, you’ll also travel to the Salt Wells of Zigong, the grottos of Pilu, and more. This gives visitors a great combination of history, food, and natural hikes.
For dedicated bikers, head out on the Pandas and Buddhas bike tour of Sichuan, where you’ll bike 298 kilometers across seven days and see the beautiful, more rural side of this amazing province. The tour includes stops in to see the pandas (of course) as well as the ancient towns of Mengding, Mount Emei, and the bamboo forests.
If you have 13 days, a passion for food, and some extra cash to burn, then get in touch with Wild China for the chance of a lifetime. They run a tour with cookbook author and premier foreign voice on Chinese cuisine, Fuschia Dunlop. The author of books including Shark’s Fin and Sichuan Pepper: A Sweet-Sour Memoir of Eating in China and Land of Plenty: A Treasury of Authentic Sichuan Cooking partners with Wild China to run an eating tour through China. However, the crowning glory is the time spent in Chengdu, as this is where Dunlop discovered her passion for the cuisine, and she will help light your passion as well.