Located in the fertile plains of the Sichuan Province's Red Basin, Chengdu seems so much like a small town that it can be easy to forget it is one of China's largest cities. With nicknames such as 'Heavenly State', 'City of Hibiscus' and 'Land of Milk and Honey', it is no wonder that Chengdu is also ranked as one of China's most liveable places.
Still a well-kept secret for many tourists in China, Chengdu lacks the famous historical sites that draw crowds to tourist magnets Beijing, Shanghai and Xi'an. This doesn't mean that the city lacks historical importance, being the site of origin for the Bronze culture, the Southern Silk Road and the printing of the first paper currency. Chengdu is full of rich history, where travellers can visit attractions such as the Wenshu Monastery, Wuhou Memorial Temple, Tomb of Wang Jian, Green Ram Temple and the Thatched Cottage of the ancient poet Du Fu.
Chengdu is an important culinary destination in China, and visitors can attend traditional Chinese tea ceremonies at many teahouses, including Wenshu Monastery and Guanghe Chalou. The food in Chengdu is some of the best in the region, offering fiery Sichuan dishes such as hotpots, Chongqing duck neck and spicy dragon prawns from roadside carts or stylish restaurants.
But the top attraction in Chengdu is located in the lush valleys surrounding the town: the Chengdu Panda Breeding and Research Center is the world's only centre of its kind, and offers one-of-a-kind opportunities to see and interact with pandas and their cubs.
Chengdu makes a great base for exploring the Sichuan Province, as it is within easy distance of the Giant Buddha of Leshan, Mount Qingcheng and the Jiuzhaigou Scenic Area. It is also a convenient stopover on travels to Tibet, as there are almost daily flights to Lhasa.