A Self-Drive Adventure Along National Highway 318 in Sichuan

A Self-Drive Adventure Along National Highway 318 in Sichuan

National Highway 318 in Sichuan, China, is an iconic route that offers breathtaking landscapes, diverse cultures, and thrilling adventures. Spanning approximately 1,100 miles, this highway connects the bustling city of Chengdu to the Tibetan plateau, passing through a wide range of terrains and attractions. A self-drive tour along this highway is a remarkable journey filled with natural beauty, cultural experiences, and unforgettable memories. In this guide, we’ll provide you with a detailed itinerary for an enriching self-drive adventure along National Highway 318 in Sichuan.

Day 1: Chengdu to Ya’an (Approximately 80 miles)

  • Begin your journey in Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, and set off early to avoid traffic.
  • Your first destination is the Bifengxia Panda Base in Ya’an, where you can see giant pandas up close in a natural habitat.
  • Visit the Bifeng Gorge and enjoy a hike through lush forests and pristine landscapes.
  • Overnight in Ya’an at a comfortable hotel or guesthouse.

Day 2: Ya’an to Kangding (Approximately 130 miles)

  • Continue your drive towards Kangding, known as the “Gateway to Tibet.”
  • Along the way, stop at Luding Bridge, an ancient bridge with a rich history.
  • Explore the charming town of Luding and have a taste of local Sichuan cuisine.
  • Reach Kangding, the capital of Garzê Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, and check into your accommodation.

Day 3: Kangding to Tagong (Approximately 90 miles)

  • Spend the morning exploring Kangding, visiting temples like Paoma Mountain and Nanwu Monastery.
  • Head towards Tagong, a picturesque Tibetan town surrounded by grasslands and mountains.
  • Explore Tagong Monastery and the stunning Tagong Grassland.
  • Stay overnight in a Tibetan-style guesthouse or camp under the starry sky.

Day 4: Tagong to Xinduqiao (Approximately 60 miles)

  • Depart from Tagong and drive to Xinduqiao, often referred to as the “Photographer’s Paradise” for its stunning landscapes.
  • Take your time to capture the mesmerizing scenery with snow-capped peaks, pristine lakes, and Tibetan nomad camps.
  • Stay overnight in Xinduqiao and enjoy local Tibetan dishes.

Day 5: Xinduqiao to Litang (Approximately 160 miles)

  • Continue your journey to Litang, the highest town in the world, located at an altitude of 4,014 meters.
  • Visit the Litang Chöde Monastery, one of the most important Gelugpa monasteries in the region.
  • Explore the historic town, known for its Tibetan architecture and vibrant culture.
  • Spend the night in Litang at a cozy guesthouse.

Day 6: Litang to Daocheng (Approximately 220 miles)

  • Drive through some of the most stunning landscapes on this stretch of the highway.
  • Marvel at the Yaha Pass, where you’ll reach an elevation of 4,800 meters.
  • Arrive in Daocheng, often referred to as the “Switzerland of China,” and explore the picturesque town.
  • Enjoy the tranquility of this remote destination as you relax in your accommodations.

Day 7: Daocheng to Yading Nature Reserve (Approximately 60 miles)

  • Drive to Yading Nature Reserve, a hidden gem with stunning alpine scenery, sacred lakes, and pristine hiking trails.
  • Spend the day hiking to Chonggu Monastery and the three sacred peaks: Chenresig, Jampayang, and Chenadorje.
  • Camp or stay in local lodges within the reserve.

Day 8: Yading to Shangri-La (Approximately 210 miles)

  • Start your journey towards Shangri-La, where you’ll experience Tibetan culture in a lush valley.
  • En route, visit the hot springs in Riwa and stop at the picturesque Napa Lake.
  • Explore the enchanting old town of Shangri-La, visit the Songzanlin Monastery, and immerse yourself in Tibetan culture.
  • Check into your accommodation in Shangri-La and unwind.

Day 9: Departure

  • After breakfast, consider exploring more of Shangri-La or beginning your journey back to Chengdu.
  • Depending on your schedule, you can choose to stay in different towns along the highway for more adventures or return to Chengdu to conclude your trip.

This self-drive tour along National Highway 318 in Sichuan promises a mesmerizing blend of natural beauty, cultural exploration, and thrilling experiences. Ensure you have a reliable vehicle, necessary permits for Tibet if you plan to venture further, and check road conditions before embarking on this unforgettable journey through one of China’s most captivating regions. Enjoy the ride!

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