Top places to see in Sichuan, time to visit Danba, Jiaju & Suopo

Sichuan highlights - a 10 days travel itinerary - Top places to see in Sichuan, time to visit Danba, Jiaju & Suopo

Last updated on July 10th, 2015 at 04:53 pm

Read the full Itinerary on Sichuan top destinations – a 10 days travel itinerary guide

How easy is to visit the top destinations of Sichuan? We had only 10-14 days and planning was absolutely essential. The popular attractions are far apart however the transportation network is quite good, although delay may be expected as we experienced in our months in Yunnan. We started with a map and we highlighted the top places to see in Sichuan, well, there were too many. We went down in number trying to make a selection between the tourist attractions and the popular destinations, always considering the activities we love to do

It was two intense weeks of travelling which took us through the most beautiful scenery of Sichuan.

This week we explore Danba, Jiaju and Suopo. Follow us on the blog or Facebook next week when we move deeper in the region with some interesting finding and unpredictable surprises.

Top places to see in Sichuan: Danba, the crossroad rivers

The Danba Valley, located in the western part of Sichuan, was part of the historic Tibet provinces. Attached to Sichuan during the redrawing of the provinces by Mao, the Danba region has still a strong influence from the past Tibetan culture.

The local population is still a nomadic community that worship the gods of the sacred mountains of the region. Here, the rural life persists to keep his Tibetan authenticity by establishing sustainable model villages. Even the 10 years of the Greater Western development policy, led by Beijing, did not alter the mountain environment. That is in our opinion the top attraction of Sichuan, the authenticity of the local people and the link to the Tibetan past

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Road and water infrastructure depict the landscape. the more we travel in this valley the more we understand the resistance of the inhabitants towards the changes imposed by the Modern China expansion. It is always difficult for any government to find the balance between keeping the roots and moving forward and the Danba Valley is a clear example of this eternal dilemma.

The agricultural subsidies and decentralization policies try to control the minorities however, thanks the local perseverance to keep the own tradition, we reckon there will be still plenty of time to experience ancestral way of life in Sichuan, a way of life that does not want to change

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Top places to see in Sichuan: Jiaju, the ethnic village

The nearby village of Jiaju has been recognized by the Chinese National Geographic as one of the most beautiful villages in China.  The village is home to about 150 Tibetan families (Jiaju means one hundred families in Tibetan language)

As soon as you arrive to Jiaju you will be surprised by the major attraction. What is it? The local houses, with a unique architecture and an aesthetic that take them apart from the rest of China. The three colors painted on the house walls, doors and windows symbolize the local way of life: red for joy, white for happiness, both around the black, described as the demons.

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The typical Jiaju houses are wood made, with a flat roof used to dry the grain crop, painted all around. Some of them have been refurbished to the formal glory and they are now used to host the tourists of the valley. Although Jiaju is clearly a top attraction in Sichuan, it has not over-developed. It is instead a major destination that has decided to develop as a sustainable village, based on autonomous energy, welcoming visitors in a framework of simple and authentic life.

This is the difference with many other Chinese top attractions, you feel part of the local life. The inhabitants understood that tourism can actually safeguard their village, and they developed this new economy integrating the visitors in the own Tibetan minority, being part of them instead that purely working for them.

Are you wondering where can you capture the best landscape of the village? Walk on one of the house roofs. This is also an ideal spot to take pictures of the valley. Ask the owner first!

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Top places to see in Sichuan: Suopo, the oldest architecture

Is Suopo the kingdom of the thousand towers? Probably not as many, however the remaining ones are clearly a top attraction, which is still a secret to most of the Chinese mainstream tourism. There may be many reasons for that, distance and challenging roads are absolutely a factor however we want to believe again in the sustainable village growth system.

As Jiaju, Suopo has been trying to preserve the authenticity of the place attracting tourists interested to visit the towers and experience the mythological stories behind it. Do not expect security measures to climb the towers. Expect instead authenticity from the local people as well as from the towers infrastructure, still as they used to be. This is what fascinate and intrigue most of us because they have withstood the great earthquake that devastated part of Sichuan in 2008.

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These towers are made of stones and soil, structurally sound wood beams, they have an average height of 60 meters and you can enjoy from the top a unique view of the Suopo valley. Of the thousand recorded towers, half of them remains now and their ages is still controversy. These towers are outstanding features of shaped star architecture, they can reach up to 13 different angles.

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Can you visit the towers?

Yes you can 🙂

There are many real and mythological stories about these towers. It is said that the towers were used as warehouses where valuable goods were stored in the top levels. Other stories say that they were used in case of siege and, considering they are still there after the 2008 earthquake, they were clearly built to resist incursions and attacks.

Walk around the village and you will most likely encounter one or more locals offering you access to a tower for a modest fee. Take the opportunity to shoot some outstanding photo of the village from the top

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Travel & Photography Tips

  • Don’t forget that the Sichuan region is huge and some road have been destroyed so every journey can take lots of time. (organize your trip in advance, don’t waste your precious time without a list of top places to see in Sichuan)
  • You are in Tibetan region and not all adults speak mandarin. Sometime it’s easier to speak to a child, if you have a minimal knowledge of Mandarin
  • All the buses arrive in Danba (as it’s the main city) but we advice you to go to stay in jiaju or suopo villages.
  • In these ethnic villages, you should negotiate a price which includes room and food (real home made fresh food from the garden : amazing )
  • Best spots for a village photo: the rooftop in Jiaju and the top of the towers in Suopo
  • Wait for the sunrise or sunset and go for an excursion around the local hills for the best view of the villages. Well worth the climb


Read the full Itinerary on Sichuan top destinations – a 10 days travel itinerary guide

Travel Photography Stefano FerroStef Ferro is the founder and editor of MEL365, a travel & photography website made to enhance the travelling experience and improve the photography work.

Stef is a professional travel photographer with past experience in the cycling and film industry. 

Stef runs travel photography workshops in Melbourne and around the world. 


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Remi Lesueur
I love the light, travel and the idea that our steps that creates the way. I don't like vacuum cleaners, be catching cold and cooked chicory. I try to make photos like telling a story. A plot of contrasts with the colourful words, moving characters and a smile for the end.

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