High among the snowcapped peaks of the Aba Autonomous Prefecture of northern Sichuan lies the Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve, a spectacular national park filled with lush valleys, jagged peaks, a dozen large waterfalls, and most famously, a collection of iridescent lakes and pools. Jiuzhaigou has become one of the country's most popular tourist destinations, with more than 1.5 million people visiting every year.
This UNESCO World Heritage site preserve's cerulean and aqua pools are among the most beautiful in the world, and the park's raw natural beauty has been compared to Yellowstone National Park. Also similar to Yellowstone are the crowds—throngs of Chinese tourists descend daily on this 800-km (497-mile) stretch of lush forests, piercing peaks, languid lakes, and clear pools.
Jiuzhaigou is a natural reserve and a collection of villages, mostly of Tibetan and Qinang origin. (The name Jiuzhaigou means Nine Villages.) The park shelters 76 mammal species, including pandas, black bears, and deer. The climate is wet in the spring and fall, very snowy and cold in the winter, and bright and warm in the summer.