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The multi-coloured pools of HuangLong – Songpan, Sichuan

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Huanglong

The multi-coloured pools at Huanglong, leading towards a small temple

HuangLong (literally “Yellow Dragon”) is the lesser known companion to Jiuzhaigou. Both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites due to their scenic and historic interest.

Huanglong

Viewed from a different angle the pools change colour

HuangLong contains a wide variety of geological formations, but the most unique is the famed travertine landscape.

Travertine is a form of limestone, often deposited in hot springs. Sichuan’s volcanic mountains make it a perfect place for creating travertine, and the air here gives it the vivid colours. This is the same material that makes up Yellowstone National Park in the US and Plitvice Lakes in Croatia.

Huanglong

Travertine Dam

In HuangLong, the travertine has formed natural dams creating a long series of lakes, waterfalls and pools reaching 3.6km down the mountainside. These are said to look like a golden dragon winding its way through the mountains. It really doesn’t in any way, but that makes it no less spectacular.

Huanglong

The dams form a series of pools

Huanglong

Huanglong panorama

Huanglong

Looking down the Yellow Dragon valley

The travertine deposits start up at the Buddhist temple at the top of the valley and continue downhill to the waterfalls near the entrance.

Huanglong Travertine

Flat plates of travertine

HuangLong Visitor Tips

The pools are on top of a small mountain, so you have the choice of walking up the steps or taking a short cable car ride. The entrance fee is 200rmb, plus 80 to take the cable car one-way.

Once at the top there are more steps to reach the upper pools.

There will be a lot of steps no matter which way you go, but the easiest is to take the cable car up, walk round to the top of the pools and walk down the stairs.

The official guide said it was possible to visit the whole park up and down on foot in 4 hours. We took the cable car up and walked down, yet still took over 5 hours due to numerous photo opportunities.

Overpriced and underwhelming food and drinks are available near the top. The only other stores are outside the gates, so take drinks and snacks.

Huanglong

Quick lunch

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Author

Since leaving London in 2006 I’ve travelled, worked, volunteered and lived in over 90 countries. Highlights so far would be driving along the Silk Road from Beijing to Istanbul, a complete circuit of South America and volunteering with Habitat for Humanity in Costa Rica. I’m currently back in Beijing, as a base to visit more of Asia and attempt to learn Mandarin.

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