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The Miyaluo landscape is at its most beautiful during autumn, when the leaves of the maple trees turn a deep red. With a surface area of 3,000 square kilometres, this is China’s largest ‘red forest’. Mountain streams of melted ice water and bubbling hot springs lend the region a natural beauty, which can be deeply appreciated during a mountain walk.
Most travellers looking to explore nature from Chengdu are directed towards Jiuzhaigou Valley. While this is a nature reserve of outstanding beauty, it is situated roughly 400 kilometres from the city. Miyaluo may be virgin territory for most western travel guides but the Chinese have certainly discovered this paradise of lakes and forests at the foot of the Himalayas. For years they have enjoyed walks in this living landscape painting of mountain lakes and waterfalls. And at a distance of 260 kilometres, it is much closer to the city!
There is no better time of year to visit Miyaluo than autumn. The red leaf canopy dances to every breeze like waves on the sea. The time of year that the first flakes of snow are due to fall on the red leaves is considered such a special occasion that the whole of China sits down in front of the TV in anticipation. The nature reserve, with its plateaus, mountains and glaciers, is best explored on foot. Along the way you’ll come across crystal-clear mountain lakes and hot springs. Keep quiet and you might spot a deer or an eagle. If you happen to be there at a different time of year, Miyaluo is still worth a visit as each season has its own distinctive colour. Because of its altitude (5,000 metres), Miyaluo is covered with snow during winter. In spring, the peach trees’ soft-pink blossoms appear and the slopes are as green as grass during summer.
“Soft pink peach trees in spring and grass-green hills in summer”
Miyaluo lies between the heavily populated Chengdu and the sparsely inhabited Tibet. The region covers the foothills of the Himalayas and is home to mountain people. During a walk you may come across the Qiang villages in the valleys. These people use grey stones from the river to construct their walled settlements, which house a maze of alleyways. Qiang women wear pink dresses made from flax, often with a sheepskin jacket to keep them warm in the often freezing mountain temperatures. The villages have watchtowers up to 30 metres tall, which were once used to send smoke signals to neighbouring villages and warn them of attacks. But don’t worry, hikers are welcome and there’s a good chance you’ll be invited for dinner. A sheep on the spit and a section of bamboo filled with rice are the dishes placed before guests during a Miyaluo feast.
Miyaluo park in Sichuan