Jiuzhaigou Scenic Reserve was settled centuries ago by Tibetans, whose fenced villages gave Jiuzhaigou (Nine Stockades Gully) its name. Hemmed in by high, snowy peaks, the reserve’s valleys form a south-orientated Y-shape, with lakes descending them in a series of broad steps, fringed in thick forests – spectacular in the autumn when the gold and red leaves contrast brilliantly with the water, or at the onset of winter in early December, when everything is dusted by snow. The park gets incredibly busy, though – the best you can do is to get in when the gates open at 7am and try to stay one step ahead of the hordes. Gates close at 5.30pm, and there is no accommodation inside the park. Boardwalks connect all the sights and some people plan to save on the bus fare by hiking everywhere, but given the distances involved – over 30km from the gates to the far end – this isn’t a realistic option.