Famous for its spicy cuisine, Chengdu is a lovely, laid-back city of tree-lined avenues, half-timbered houses, pagodas and traditional tea-house culture... But the biggest draw is its most lovable residents – the captivating Giant Pandas...



The province of Sìchuān is home to 80% of the population of these cuddly black and white bears, but being increasingly endangered, it's a rare treat to see them in the wild. Thankfully, there are some fantastic reser​ves dedicated to protecting these cheeky creatures from extinction where you can see them up close and personal, looking happy and relaxed in their natural environment – and each of these three favourites has its own magical draw…​

Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding & Research Centre

​​​​​​​​​​​Open daily from 7.30am to 6.00pm

One of the world's most successful Giant Panda breeding centres, this is one of Chengdu's most popular tourist attractions, and best for those tight on time, being the closest one to the city centre (though it's worth noting that unlike other reserves, you cannot hold the pandas here). It's also the easiest way to glimpse Sìchuān's most famous residents outside of a zoo, as well as many other endangered species like Red Pandas, black-necked cranes, white storks and more.

The main focus here is getting these super-shy creatures to breed, and being credited with over 100 panda births, we think they're doing pretty well! One of the best times to visit is in high summer (July to September), when, with a bit of luck, you'll get to see a row of swaddled baby pandas in the nursery through the floor-to-ceiling plate-glass windows.

Try to visit in the morning (around 8.30am to 10.00am) as not only is it feeding time – when the larger solitary adult pandas wake from their lazy slumber to mosey to a nearby pile of bamboo shoots laid out by the keepers for them, their muscular jaws making quick work of stripping, mincing and munching through their fodder – it's also when they're at their most active, so you'll see the younger pandas clambering up trunks, hanging from arching branches and wrestling with each other along the forest floor.

Dujiangyan Panda Base

​Open daily from 8.30am to 5.00pm

Around 34 miles and 90 minutes from Chengdu, set at the foot of Qingcheng Mountain, Dujiangyan is the area's newest panda centre. Built in 2011, the emphasis here is on rescue, rehabilitation and disease control, taking care of sick and injured wild Giant Pandas, and serving as a 'nursing home' for sick and disabled pandas who can receive special care.

It's also the only base in Sìchuān where you can have your picture taken holding a panda (a super-exclusive experience for just 20 visitors at 11.00am each day that must be booked in advance); and offers an interactive experience where you'll learn all about the life of a Giant Panda and how they are rescued and brought to the base for treatment.

Or why not join the Panda Volunteer Programme for the day? Anyone over the age of six can help caretakers wake the pandas up, prepare their food and clean their enclosures, slice bamboo (pandas eat about 40 kilos of fresh bamboo shoots a day, so get ready to work!), prepare panda snacks of steamed buns and apples, and learn more about these furry friends up close. Magical.​

Panda Valley (Baima Village, Dujiangyan)

​Open daily from 8.00am to 5.00pm

If you want to see pandas in a quieter, more natural environment, then this small field centre – gorgeously landscaped over 328.6 acres with brooks, meadows and a variety of edible bamboo – is just the place. Eleven miles from the Dujiangyan Panda Base (and easily walked around in just an hour), it's here that Giant Pandas are gradually habituated and returned to the wild, so you get to watch them learning to live on their own within their natural surrounds.

Still in the first phase of development, Panda Valley boasts three enclosures for transitory breeding and training of captive Giant Pandas before their reintroduction, each with a surrounding outdoor eco-playground and an indoor playground. More than 10 Giant Pandas have undergone adaptive training for reintroduction into the wild at this facility, and future plans include a Giant Panda habitat covering an area of three square-miles, set to incorporate a breeding and husbandry area, a semi-wild training area, a wild training transitory experimental area, a reintroduction experimental area companion animal area, a multi-functional conservation education centre and an experience village for juvenile ecology education.


Temple House Hotel, Chengdu​​

​The third of Swire Hotels' ultra-chic boutique, 'House' hotels (the others being The Upper House in Hong Kong and The Opposite House in Beijing), The Temple House is a stunning hotel nestled in the vibrant and bustling heart of Chengdu that beautifully evokes China's rich heritage and fuses it with all the thoroughly-modern amenities we love.

From the moment you take your first steps through the historic, remarkably-restored Qing dynasty courtyard building you'll see this is the perfect Chengdu base. Even the entry-level rooms start at a generous 60 square-metres – warm and welcoming and cleverly designed for maximum use of space.

And when you're not out hugging pandas or exploring the bustling Taikoo Li lifestyle hub (home to over a dozen restaurants, bars and all the luxury brands you can dream of), the hotel serves up a few surprises of its own… a fantastic swimming pool and gym, three on-site restaurants (including the super-popular Temple Café – its highly-lauded afternoon tea a magnet for Chengdu's chicest), and the soothing Urban Day Spa, with its ancient courtyard and indulgent treatments.


​​From £95 per person per night, including breakfast​

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