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The Best Places to See Pandas in China

***This post may contain affiliate links.***

Pandas are synonymous with China.  It’s one of the few facts everyone knows about this crazy country: it has pandas! The panda is exotic, been featured in many an animated movie, the symbol of the World Wildlife Fund and it’s completely unique to China. This is the one place in the world where you can see pandas in their natural habitat.  These days coming to China and not seeing pandas is a travesty akin to skipping the Great Wall.  And let me tell you, these cute, fuzzy, black and white bears totally live up to their hype.  They have so much personality and exhibit strangely human like features.  I am seriously fascinated every time I see them.

So where in China do the pandas live?  Chengdu! The main city in Sichuan province located in southwestern China.  Take an internal flight from anywhere in China to get to Chengdu, which will be your base for all your panda sightings.



The Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding and Research Center (goes by many names) is the easiest to get to, most well known, and as such the most popular place to see China’s iconic giant panda. At the base they have pandas of all ages from cubs (if there are any) kindergarten, teenage, and adult pandas.

When to Go?


As with most tourist attractions in China, it can get pretty crowded during holidays and over the summer (and by pretty crowded I really mean packed tighter than sardines), so going in a shoulder or off season will get you the best experience and photos of the pandas. I went in January and the base was quiet without many people, which made for an awesome time. The panda exhibits are all outdoors so as long as you don’t mind braving the cold (it was snowing as we walked around the base) winter is your best bet.


The pandas are the most active and spend the majority of their time outside. Pandas have a monstrously thick coat of fur and are most comfortable in cooler weather. During the summer they often spend most of their time inside of their enclosures, which are air conditioned.

Other Activities

Panda museum, where you can learn more about China’s giant pandas, their health, diet, interesting facts, and even see preserved dissected pandas (if you’re into that kind of thing – I am! It’s totally cool).


Best Time for Panda Sightings

Morning 8:00 – 10:00 or Evening 4:00 – 6:00

This is when the pandas get fed, so they will all be outside by the fence closest to their adoring fans. Plus, watching them munch on bamboo is seriously entertaining!

How to Get There

The easiest and certainly cheapest way to get there from Chengdu city is by local bus. Ask around at your accommodation and they can tell you which bus to take and where the closest bus stop is. Regardless of where you’re coming from in Chengdu you will have to change buses at the Zoo Bus Stop (动物园站) and then catch bus 87 or 198 to the Panda Base Bus Stop (熊猫基地站).

Taxi is also another option, especially if you are pressed for time. All the taxi drivers will know where the panda base is so you can either tell them to go to the panda base (they may or may not understand in English) or show them the name in Chinese:


How Long Does it Take to Get There?

From downtown Chengdu it will take about 1.5 hours by bus or 45 minutes by taxi.

Hours of Operation

7:30 am – 6:00 pm all year round.

Ticket Price

58 rmb/person




The Bifengxia Panda Base is one of the more remote panda bases, 150 km from Chengdu, but it’s certainly offers the most beautiful location and variety of experiences. Putting in the extra effort to get to Bifengxia rewards visitors with not just a panda base, but also an awesome zoo/safari and great hiking through the Bifengxia gorge. Definitely worth the trip for a day or two, and is by far my favorite panda base over the one in Chengdu.

At Bifengxia you will encounter pandas of all ages, from tiny babies in the nursery to adults and every age in between.

When to Go

Fall or Spring

As always with tourist attractions in China you’ll want to avoid the national holidays and peak travel times, but with Bifengxia’s more remote and off the beaten path location you have much more leeway of when to go without having to deal with throngs of people. While it’s true that the base is more crowded during times of peak travel, it still doesn’t see a ton of traffic and as such is much more manageable if you are traveling over the summer or Chinese holidays. We visited the base at the end of China’s National Day or “Golden Week” holiday and were pleasantly surprised with how little crowds there were.


As with the Chengdu base, it will get hot in the summer, so the Pandas will be less active, however with it’s location up in the mountains, you’ll have more times in the day to view the pandas outside with cooler evening and morning temps. The downside of Bifengxia’s mountainous location is that it often sees snow and ice in the winter time, which will close down the base. This unfortunately happened to me the first time I went to see the pandas there, but luckily the zoo was still open so there was still something to reward me for my travels.

Other Activities

Bifengxia Zoo, a part safari, part zoo that is super fun and interactive. All of the animals look extremely well cared for and you can even get up close and personal with some deer, and llamas and lots of super cool birds as you walk freely through their exhibits with no fences between you and the animals! Super up close and personal, and a really unique experience. The zoo houses tigers, bears, panthers, camels, hippos, cheetahs and more!


Best Time for Panda Sightings

Morning 9:00 – 11:00 or Afternoon 3:00 – 4:00

Again, this is their feeding time when the pandas are most active.

How to Get There

Best way to get there from Chengdu is to take a bus. Buses leave from the South Gate Bus Station, Xin Nan Men (新南门公交车站) every 35 minutes from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm. You can purchase your tickets at the bus station for 46 rmb/person. With so many buses departing there is no need to go ahead of time to purchase tickets, unless you will be devastated to have to wait an extra half an hour for the next bus if need be, in that case it couldn’t hurt. In the off season I arrived at the bus station about 20 minutes before the next bus departed and had no trouble getting tickets.

The bus arrives in Ya’an at the Ya’an Tourism Bus Station. When you get off the bus walk around to the main road directly in front of the bus station. There will be a line of vans with signs in the window waiting to take people to the panda base in Bifengxia 18 km away. The signs are in Chinese, and the vans go to two different places but if you walk up to one of the drivers and ask for Bifengxia or say “To Panda” they will point you to the correct van. Drivers will wait until their vans are full, or they at least have a few people in them before they depart so you might have to wait a few minutes. The cost is generally 10 rmb/person. You can take a taxi instead if you are feeling particularly impatient but it will cost you around 50 rmb versus 10.

These same vans will be waiting at the panda base to shuttle people back to Ya’an as well, so when you are done and back in the parking lot, look for a van again to catch a ride back to town.

How Long Does it Take to Get There?

2-2.5 hours by bus from the Xin Nan Men bus station in Chengdu.

Hours of Operation

Bifengxia Gorge: 8:00 am – 4:00 pm during peak season, 8:30 am – 3:30 pm during low season.

Panda Base: 9:00 – 11:30 am & 1:30 – 4:00 pm

Ticket Price

118 rmb/person (includes the panda base as well as the gorge)

Inside the Bifengxia Gorge.


Located 65 km from the city of Chengdu, the Dujiangyan Panda Base is currently the only panda base that allows visitor to take a picture with a panda. It is also the only panda base with an operational volunteer program where visitors can go volunteer with the panda keepers helping to care for the pandas at the base.

We have not yet been to this panda base, but if you are at all interested in volunteering with pandas or getting your picture taken with one, this is the place to be! Be warned though, it’s extremely expensive. Your two minute up close encounter with a panda will cost you upwards of 2000 rmb. So be prepared to part with a hefty chunk of cash if you want to hold a panda.

You can find more information about the Dujiangyan Panda Base here.


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