Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I may receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you.
Finding the best Chengdu panda tour for your China trip needn’t be hard, you just have to decide what you actually want to see in Chengdu. A lot of panda tours can be combined with something else in the surrounding area which helps to maximize time and save money.
Below I’ve compiled the best Chengdu panda tour options for travelers short on time and looking for convenience.
Tips for Choosing a Chengdu Panda Tour
Proof of purchase: Make sure you read the details of the tour carefully to see how they need you to provide proof of purchase. Never assume that a screenshot on your phone is enough even while most of the time it is, you don’t want to be caught out if you catch the rare tour operator that requires a physical print out.
Meals included: Check carefully to see if the tours include any meals so you can prepare if they don’t. Oftentimes these tours will include a Chinese lunch.
Tipping: With my experience of two years living in China I can advise you that tipping is in no way part of the culture in China. Tour listings often mention tips however as they know Americans tip, so its mentioned but its not expected.
Where to stay: You’ll want to base yourself in downtown Chengdu as most of the tours only do pick ups in this area. If you’re staying outside the city, your hotel will probably offer their own tours but they may be pricier. I recommend the following:
- Budget: Dreams Travel International Youth Hotel is a great option if you’re a backpacker looking for a dorm with prices starting in the single digits – see the latest prices here.
- Mid-range: The Grand Dorsett Chengdu offers affordable private rooms with breakfast and a sauna for relaxation – click here for the latest prices.
- Luxury: The Temple House (see the latest prices here) or Niccolo Chengdu (click here for more details) are my picks for luxury as both offer pools and great decor.
The 10 Best Chengdu Panda Tours
As I mentioned above there are quite a few options and its a good excuse to combine two things you want to do in the same day trip. The company that hosts all the tours I’m recommending is Get Your Guide, as that’s the company I use to book the majority of my tours.
Please note: tours often change so please double check any inclusions listed before booking the tour.
1. Leshan Buddha and the Giant Panda Research Base
This is probably the most classic tour for Chengdu hence why I’ve put it in the first spot. This tour tackles two of the main sights in the region. Firstly you’ll visit the panda center where you’ll get to see not only giant pandas but the much smaller red pandas as well. Then its a two hour drive to Leshan to see one of the more impressive giant Buddha statues in China.
See the latest prices and more information for the private tour here. For the group tour, which is a bit cheaper, view the details here.
Who its suited to: Travelers who want to see the Grand Buddha and pandas in a limited amount of time. Both of these places are a little difficult to get to on your own and would take a day each when visiting independently.
Time Needed: 1 day (approximately 9 hours)
What to bring: Camera with a wide and zoom lens, snacks
Included: A Chinese style lunch is included as well as entrance tickets to see the pandas and the giant Buddha. Many tours don’t include entrance or lunch but this one does, and a driver and guide too!
Languages: English or Chinese
Pick up / Drop off: Your hotel in downtown Chengdu.
2. Pandas, Leshan Giant Buddha, Huanglong & Jiuzhaigou
You may have never heard of Jiuzhaigou or Huanglong, but if you have the time its definitely worth the side trip. They are two ridiculously beautiful national parks near the Tibetan plains in China. The tour also includes a visit to the pandas (of course!), sightseeing in Chengdu, and a visit to Leshan giant Buddha.
You can also catch a bus to these parks if you want to visit independently but keep in mind its an 11 hour trip by roads each way.
For more information and to see prices, click here.
Who its suited to: Travelers who are into surreal national parks, or have seen the main sights already and looking for something less known.
Time Needed: 5 days
What to bring: Your passport! As the tour contains flights.
Included: 4 lunches, driver and guide are included, as are all entrance fees.
Pick up / Drop off: Airport or hotel pick up, and they’ll drop you off at the Juizhai Airport on the final day for your flight back to Chengdu.
3. Giant Panda Half Day Tour
If you’re strictly down to business it would be cheapest and most convenient to take a half day tour focusing solely on seeing the pandas. You’ll get to spend a couple of hours exploring the panda centre with your private guide and the centre itself is pretty easy to walk around.
See the price and more details here.
Who its suited to: If you’re short on time in Chengdu and want to explore the city for half the day, or have a flight leaving in the afternoon.
Time Needed: 4 hours starting 8am
What to bring: Your own snacks and a camera (zoom and 35mm or 55mm would work well here)
Included: Driver, entrance fee & guide.
Pick up / Drop off: Your downtown Chengdu hotel
4. Volunteer as a Panda Keeper
If you want to get up close with the pandas then this is the best panda tour for you while visiting Chengdu. You’ll get to spend the day making panda food, cleaning the enclosures and even feeding some of the pandas. Not only are you getting up close with them, you’re also helping out the center to continue the good work they do.
For more details and recent prices visit the website here.
Who its suited to: Travelers who want to volunteer for a day to get closer to the pandas at Dujiangyan Panda base.
Time Needed: 1 day
What to bring: Snacks, camera
Included: Lunch, entrance, guide and driver. **Please note** the volunteer fee is payable directly to the panda base and not included in the tour price. If you don’t want to worry about carrying the cash around, this tour which visits Bifengxia Panda Base instead includes the price in the fee paid to the tour company.
Pick up / Drop off: Downtown Chengdu hotels
5. Dujiangyan (Scenic Mountain Area) + Giant Pandas
I really enjoyed this tour when I took it and was surprised how pretty Dujiangyan was considering the area is technically an irrigation project. On this tour you get to see the pandas in the morning when they’re more active and then finish up the day at the mountain park where’s there’s a cool hanging bridge you get to cross.
Head’s up – don’t try to cross it with an icecream in hand (speaking from personal experience).
You can see more information and prices here.
Who its suited to: If you’re into pretty mountain scenery as well as excited to see pandas
Time Needed: 1 day
What to bring: Your camera (wide angle and zoom), snacks
Included: Guide, driver, hotel pick up. Does not include entrance fees or lunch so make sure you have cash handy.
Languages: English, Chinese
Pick up / Drop off: Yes
6. Panda visit + Sichuan Cooking Class
Sichuan cuisine has a spicier taste than the food in other parts of China and its so, so good. This is the perfect Chengdu panda tour for food lovers as it combines a visit to the panda base and a cooking class.
You’ll start the day with a trip to the Sichuan Cuisine Musuem before diving into a 3 meal cooking class, which ofcourse you get to eat afterwards.
Then the last stop of the tour ia a visit to one of the surrounding panda bases to see the giant pandas of China. This is kept until the afternoon as the pandas are the most active either in the morning or afternoon, during midday they’re likely sleeping.
Find more details here.
Who its suited to: Travelers who love pandas but also want to learn how to cook delicious Chinese food
Time Needed: 1 day
What to bring: Camera, your best cooking skills, snacks
Included: Your lunch, driver, guide and entrance fees are all included in the price of this tour
Pick up / Drop off: From your hotel
Chengdu Travel Tips
- Currency: Chinese Yuan (rmb)
- Electricity: 220v. Bring an adapter like this one here on Amazon.
- Language: Mandarin is spoken in mainland China.
- Visa: Most nations need a pre-arranged visa for China.
- Safety: China is pretty safe, I’d dare say even safer than the west. However the bystander effect is common here so visit a police station if things go wrong as pedestrians may not want to get involved.
- Weather: Chengdu gets very hot in summer and moderately cold in winter. Spring and Autumn are both a pleasant time to visit.
- Transport: Taxis are pretty cheap but you can also get around via subway and buses. Out of the subway and the bus I found the subway easiest to navigate due to English signage and the bus drivers not normally understanding my broken Chinese.
- Recommended gear:
- Camera: I personally used my zoom lens for my time at the panda base and my wide angle for the landscapes. Check out an SLR + lens combination like this one here.
- Handheld fan if visiting in summer due to how hot it gets,
- jacket for winter trips,
- plug adapter,
- comfortable walking shoes,
- Mandarin phrasebook – try this one,
- Lonely planet China (see prices here)
If you found this article helpful please pin it or share it on social media.