Jiuzhai Valley

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Tucked away in the mountains of the northern part of the Sichuan Province of China is the Jiuzhai Valley (or Jiuzhaigou National Park). It is a haven for nature lovers and birdwatchers. With its 72,000 square kilometers of forests, lakes, waterfalls and springs, it is home to rare animals and birds, such as the panda and the Sichuan takin. It is dubbed as the "Wonderland on Earth" because of its natural beauty and the diversity of its flora and fauna.

Its other claim to fame is its colorful lakes – turquoise, green and blue are the predominant colors. These lakes are very clear, owing to the lakes' high calcium carbonate content. The lakes are so clear that, sometimes, you can see right up to the bottom, which makes for an eerie yet fascinating effect. The three valleys (namely, the Shuzheng, Rize and Zechawa gullies) that comprise Jiuzhaigou form a Y shape.

The Jiuzhaigou National Park has a lot of interesting features. There is the Sparkling Lake (with its deep blue surface providing sparkling reflections, the Lying Dragon Lake (thusly named because in the middle, 20 meters deep, you can see a dragon-like shape) and the Miniature Landscape Lake (where there are various shapes such as a horse and eagle formed by poplars, azaleas, metasquioa and other plants).

The national park also features the Shuzheng Group of Lakes (which is comprised of 40 interconnected lakes), the Long Lake (Jiuzhaigou's largest, deepest and highest lake) and the Magic Mirror Cliff (whose smooth surface resembles a mirror and toweres 800 meters above ground level). The Primeval Forest, meanwhile, is a well-preserved ancient woodland. It contains Sword Rock, which is a 500 meter high rock amidst cliffs and mountains.

The park also boasts of a number of breathtaking waterfalls - the Pearl Shoal (a fascinating waterfall whose splashing waters resemble millions of silver pearls pouring down the deep valley), the Nuorilang waterfalls (which has a 30 meter drop) and the Panda Lake Waterfall (which is actually three waterfalls falling down a precipice).

At the Shuzheng Gully, make sure to visit the Nuorilang Lakes and Falls. The highland waterfall serves as one of the symbols of Jiuzhaigou and is the widest such waterfall in China. The lakes, which originate from the glaciers, are fancifully named – Tiger, Rhinoceros and Unknown are examples of the names of the lakes.

Other water bodies include Swan Lake (an enchanting place that is home to wild ducks and swans), Reed Lake (whose blue waters are particularly fascinating during the autumn), Grass Lake (which is shallow but covered with vegetation patterns), Five Flower Lake, Seasonal Lakes and Five Color Pond. Other attractions include the Zaru Buddhist monastery and the small population of the golden snub-nosed monkey and the endangered panda.

The national park is also an ideal place to indulge in a variety of water sports – boating, fishing, or snorkeling. You can also go camping, hiking, and biking.

Jiuzhaigou is located at the Minshan mountain range's southern end. Because of its admirable beauty, it was included in the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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