CHINA – When it comes to iconic symbols of China, giant pandas immediately come to mind, and witnessing these creatures in their natural habitat is a dream for many.

Here is a comprehensive guide to the top places where you can see giant pandas up close and personal.

Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding

Top 14 Best Places to See Giant Pandas in China - image 1

Giant Panda Research and Breeding Base in Chengdu

  • Location: Suburb of Chengdu, 40 minutes by car, easily accessible
  • Number of pandas: Around 50
  • Activities: Watching giant pandas and their cubs
  • Recommended for: Those with limited time who only want to see giant pandas
  • Time needed: Half a day

Situated in Sichuan, the Chengdu Research Base is a leading conservation center dedicated to the protection and breeding of giant pandas.

The lush greenery and professionally recreated habitats provide visitors with the opportunity to observe giant pandas in a semi-wild environment.

Wolong National Nature Reserve

Top 14 Best Places to See Giant Pandas in China - image 2

Wolong National Nature Reserve

  • Location: 121 km west of Chengdu, 3 hours by car
  • Number of pandas: Around 30
  • Activities: Watching giant pandas, participating in panda care programs, trekking in the panda’s natural habitat
  • Recommended for: Those interested in volunteering in a peaceful environment
  • Time needed: 1-2 days

Wolong National Nature Reserve, nestled in Sichuan province, is a UNESCO World Heritage site known for its dedication to giant panda conservation.

The reserve offers guided tours providing insights into the lives of these magnificent creatures amidst stunning landscapes.

Bifengxia Panda Base

Top 14 Best Places to See Giant Pandas in China - image 3

Bifengxia Panda Base

Located near Ya’an in Sichuan, Bifengxia Panda Base is renowned for its efforts in the care and rehabilitation of giant pandas. It offers a unique opportunity for volunteers to contribute to panda conservation while getting up close with these gentle giants.

Ya’an Bifengxia Panda Base

An extension of Bifengxia Panda Base, the Ya’an facility provides additional opportunities for visitors to interact with giant pandas. The surrounding areas include educational exhibits on panda behavior and conservation.

Dujiangyan Panda Base

Top 14 Best Places to See Giant Pandas in China - image 4

Dujiangyan Panda Base

  • Location: Dujiangyan County, 67 km or 1.5 hours from Chengdu
  • Number of pandas: Around 20
  • Activities: Watching giant pandas and participating in panda care programs
  • Recommended for: Those looking for a less crowded panda base or wanting to join a one-day volunteer program
  • Time needed: Half a day

At Dujiangyan Panda Base, visitors can engage in meaningful activities like feeding and cleaning panda enclosures. This hands-on experience, set against the backdrop of beautiful mountains, creates lasting memories while supporting panda welfare.

Dujiangyan Valley Panda Valley

The Dujiangyan Valley Panda Valley is an innovative project within the Dujiangyan Panda Base, simulating the natural habitat of giant pandas. It allows pandas to roam in a less restricted environment, offering visitors the chance to witness their playful antics.

Foping National Nature Reserve

Venture to Foping National Nature Reserve in Shaanxi to see pandas in a more remote and tranquil setting. This reserve is home to various wildlife, including the elusive golden snub-nosed monkey, providing a comprehensive nature experience.

Gengda Wolong Panda Center

The Gengda Wolong Panda Center focuses on rescuing and rehabilitating pandas, especially those affected by natural disasters. Visitors can gain a deeper understanding of panda rescue efforts and learn about crucial conservation work being undertaken.

Beijing Zoo

  • Location: Beijing City
  • Activities: Panda viewing only
  • Time needed: 2 hours
  • Recommended for: First-time visitors to China with limited time

Although not a natural habitat, the Beijing Zoo is home to a significant population of giant pandas. It provides an accessible option for those visiting the capital, offering the chance to see these giant pandas amid other fascinating wildlife.

Chongqing Zoo

  • Location: Chongqing City, convenient on subway line 2
  • Number of pandas: Around 16
  • Activities: Panda viewing only
  • Time needed: 2 hours
  • Recommended for: Travelers visiting Chongqing or taking a Yangtze River cruise

The Chongqing Zoo takes pride in housing 16 giant pandas, ranking second only to the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Research Base among city zoos. Situated in the “City of Mountains,” the Chongqing Zoo is built on the mountainside.

The panda enclosure utilizes the natural slope of the mountain and includes a rocky cave. Therefore, visitors need to climb a bit to visit the pandas there.

Chongqing is a prominent embarkation point for river cruises on the Yangtze River. You can opt for a brief excursion to the Chongqing Zoo before embarking on your cruise along the Yangtze.

Wildlife Research and Conservation Center in Qinling Mountains

Dedicated to the research and conservation of wildlife, this center provides a unique perspective on giant pandas. Visitors can learn about ongoing research and efforts to protect these animals.

Chimelong Safari Park in Guangzhou

  • Location: Guangzhou, 40 minutes by car
  • Activities: Watching giant pandas, one-hour small panda keeper program
  • Time needed: 2 hours
  • Recommended for: Families with children

Considered China’s largest wildlife-themed park, Chimelong Safari Park offers the opportunity to dine in a panda-themed cafeteria while observing pandas at play.

Children above 5 years old can participate in a one-hour Small Panda Keeper program.

Research and Conservation Center for Giant Pandas in Sichuan

This center focuses on enhancing our understanding of giant pandas and their behavior. It offers educational programs and interactive exhibitions to shed light on the challenges of panda conservation.

Fengtongzhai National Nature Reserve

Off the beaten path, Fengtongzhai National Nature Reserve provides a serene setting for observing giant pandas. Its remote location ensures a more intimate encounter with these captivating creatures.

In addition to giant pandas, you’ll be surprised by many other interesting activities to experience in Chengdu.

Learn more: Chengdu Travel Experience.