Danba is a small city situated in a steep valley at the confluence of several rushing rivers 350 km west of Chengdu in the Sichuan Province of China. It is a popular tourism site for Chinese tourists, famous for the Tibetan villages and watchtowers clinging to the sides of the river valleys. The scenery is spectacular and the area still gets very few western visitors. You can read about my visit to the area here.
Best Time to Go
May to October is the best time as the roads can become difficult the rest of the year.
Getting to Danba
Most visitors come to Danba from Chengdu—Buses leave from the Chadianzi Bus Station in Chengdu at 6:30am to 7:00am. They take around 10 hours and cost 91 RMB. If coming from elsewhere, you’ll have to ask about the availability of buses to Danba at the local bus station, if there is one.
If there are no buses from your town—or even no bus stations in the town—your best bet is a shared minivan. Just be careful. Many drivers claim you have to hire the whole van for a ridiculous rate. You don’t. There are always shared vans available. Seats should not cost more then 20 or 30 Yuan (and for most destinations, they shouldn’t even cost that), but the drivers will probably ask for more. I always tried to see what the locals were paying and used that to bargain.
Visiting the Tibetan Villages of Zhonglu, Jiaju and Suopo
These villages are within 10 km from the town of Danba, so you could walk there. You can also get a seat in a van for 10 Yuan one way, but these only leave when full, so you may spend a lot of time waiting if you plan on visiting several villages (recommended). Your best bet is to get together with some other travelers and charter a van for 100 RMB per day.
Be very specific about where you plan on going and what you plan on doing, as their idea of a day will be much shorter than yours, often ending at lunch time. We let our driver go to a separate restaurant at lunch time and he came back completely drunk. It might be a good idea to keep your eye on yours while you eat, as this did not seem to be an uncommon problem.
All of the villages charge an entrance fee of 15 to 30 Yuan.
You’ll find a few hostels in Danba town that will ask around 100 Yuan for a room or 30 Yuan for a bed in a dorm. Danba does not get many tourists, so you will likely have a dorm room to yourself, as long as you don’t end up sharing a place with a large tour group.
The Deng Ba Danba Youth Hostel (No.94,Sanchahe South Road) is the most popular, but it was pretty full when we were there, so we stayed across the street where we were the only guests.
Families in the Tibetan villages around Danba offer home-stays for 60 Yuan, which includes dinner and breakfast. I highly recommend spending at least one night in a village.
Danba has a few restaurants serving either Tibetan food or the standard Chinese cuisines. If you spend a night in a village, dinner and breakfast are included in the price.
Hi Daniel! I am an Argentinian filmmaker, I’m travelling around the world shooting a documentary on how kids relate to art in different cultures.
I was looking at your blog (great information, thanks!) trying to figure out if tickets for Danba departing from Chengdu should be purchase with a day advance. We will be getting to Chengdu at 9 pm aprox, so I don’t know if we will have enough time to get the tickets. Is there a lot of demand? Is there a box office opening early?? It’s Chadianzi bus station where we should go to, right?
Thanks a lot for your help!
Daniel McBane says
I would buy the tickets in advance to be safe, but outside the peak travel times (any Chinese holidays or the summer) you can probably still get one a few minutes before the bus leaves. If you get in at nine, you may still be able to buy them at the bus station (it was Chadianzi when I was there, but things are always changing in China).
I bought mine the day before through my hostel and this is probably your best bet. Any of the main youth hostels in Chengdu will buy tickets for you and they don’t usually charge much (I think I paid 5 RMB, so just under US $1). They will also be able to tell you for sure which bus station and how best to get there (you’ll probably have to take a taxi, since the bus leaves very early in the morning). Travel agents can help too, but some might try to overcharge you.
I hope you enjoy Danba and good luck with your documentary!
Daniel McBane recently contributed to world literature by posting..Snacking on Scorpions in Beijing
Susy Soenarjo says
Thanks for sharing your experience in Danba! I am a solo traveler from Indonesia. I am in Chengdu now until 30 May 2015. I am interested to go to Danba, but a bit hesitated to go since I speak no Chinese word at al! Would I survive in Danba and surrounding villages if I go there by myself? Would I meet some people who speak basic English and give me advices if I ask them questions (i.e. direction, etc)?
Thanks a lot!
Daniel McBane says
You’ll be fine. You won’t find many English speakers in Danba, but in China, there always seems to be someone around who knows some English. I’ve met a number of tourists who went to Danba without knowing any Chinese and they managed to get by. It’ll definitely be a bit more challenging, but it’s doable.
If you stay at the hostel, I remember the owner speaking decent English and she was willing to help set up trips to the outlying villages (even if you don’t stay there, she’ll help–she gets a commission after all). You’ll also meet other tourists at the hostel. They will mostly be Chinese travelers, but many of them know some English and are always thrilled to get a chance to practice it.
Daniel McBane recently contributed to world literature by posting..Drinking Yak Sewage in Ngawal