The cuddly giant panda is not only a national symbol of China but also their national animal. China is leading the way in preserving this wonderful species, which has been brought back from the brink of extinction, with numbers of giant pandas in China rising by almost 20% in the past decade.


If you’re wondering where to see giant pandas in China, there are numerous places across the country where you can see them up close, ranging from zoos to dedicated research centres.


Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding


The Chengdu Research Base is the largest panda sanctuary in China, and over the past three decades has grown its population of giant pandas from just six pandas up to seventy. The Chengdu panda tour is the closest thing to seeing the giant pandas in their natural habitat, as the centre tries to recreate their natural environment as closely as possible. Across the 92-acre sanctuary you can see the pandas enjoying their everyday life across the Futoushan Mountain and its surrounding rivers, lakes and bamboo forests. As well as seeing the pandas in an authentic environment, you can learn even more in the Giant Panda Museum, as well as see another 20 rare species who live alongside the pandas.


two panda cubs laying down Chengdu China


Bifengxia Giant Panda Base


Around a two-hour drive from Chengdu is another great place to see giant pandas in China: the Bifengxia Giant Panda Base. After a damaging earthquake hit the original Wolong National Natural Reserve in 2008, several of the pandas that lived there came to live here, and today Bifengxia is home to over 30 giant pandas. Set in an environment similar to the pandas’ natural habitat, spanning gorges, valleys and waterfalls, the base hopes to give the pandas the skills they need to return to the wild. There are also 20 areas across the site designated for helping the pandas learn vital life skills for the wild, including a breeding zone, a nursery for baby pandas and bamboo forests where the pandas can source their food.


Dujiangyan Panda Base


Around 90 minutes’ drive from Chengdu, spanning a 760-acre natural enclosure at the foot of Qingcheng Mountain, the Dujiangyan Panda Base is home to over 40 giant pandas as well as five red pandas. This panda base has a major focus on caring for senior and disabled pandas – almost like a care home. Here you can see the pandas relaxing and feeding, and there is also the opportunity to have your photo taken with one of the young pandas. Dujiangyan is especially popular however due to its one-day volunteer experience, where you can get involved with feeding the pandas, planting bamboo trees and maintaining the enclosures.


panda climbing tree red and green leaves


Wolong Nature Reserve


After the original Wolong Nature Reserve was damaged by an earthquake in 2008, a new reserve has been built around 10 miles away and is now open to the public. The Wolong Nature Reserve is the world’s largest panda sanctuary, with 59 panda enclosures, where you will find the adult pandas much of the time relaxing and sleeping, a wild training area, a veterinary hospital and much more. As with the Dujiangyan Base, you can also take part in a volunteer day around the enclosures, or perhaps try the more unique Outdoor Trekking Research experience. This takes you through the wild open areas – the perfect chance to see the wild pandas in a natural habitat and learn all about how the centre’s conditions are training them to live in the wild again.


Embark on your own giant panda experience


Make meeting a giant panda a reality and discover the very best of China with this tour, which not only gives you the chance to see and meet pandas at the excellent Chengdu Research Base, but also the chance to fall in love with what the rest of China has to offer. Enjoy a cruise along the Yangtze River, see the Terracotta Warriors, stroll along the Great Wall of China and discover the bright lights of Beijing – these are just some of the incredible experiences you can enjoy on your China tour.


If you want to know even more about visiting China before you plan your once-in-a-lifetime trip, take a look at our advice for your first time in China.


Images by Pascal Muller, Mélody P and Chester Ho via Unsplash.