This small mountain city is at an altitude of 2600m (8,530 ft) and offers a welcome relief from the pollution and overcrowding of the larger cities of the Sichuan plain. By far the largest city in Western Sichuan it is mainly ethnically Han Chinese with a notable Tibetan presence and flair, particular in its shops, restaurants and the lama local temple. For centuries it has been the meeting place of many cultures and therefore is home to memorial to the Tea Horse Road. It serves as kind of last outpost before the wild Tibetan mountains and passes of the Chengdu-Lhasa highway and the historical Tibetan region of Khamba. The views of the neighboring alpine peaks down the river are spectacular. Outdoor activity opportunities abound with particular focus on hiking and growing influx of bikers in the summer. There also is an authentic "hot springs" nearby and a cable car in the city that takes you up the mountainside. It can get very cold here in the winter and if you venture up you will most likely be the only tourist in the city!
Buses travel from Chengdu (6 to 9 hours, ¥127), Luding (4 hours, ¥40), Tagong (4 hours, ¥40), and Litang (9 hours, ¥81). Buses between Kangding and Chengdu run through early afternoon; other routes generally leave only at 6-6:30 am. Private and shared minivans can also be hired outside the bus station.
The airport is one of the highest in Asia and the world at 4,000 meters with flights to Chengdu. Flights in the winter are not available. It is about 30 km outside the city over a large mountain pass which takes time to reach therefore.
Anjue Temple (Anjuesi). A small, central temple.edit
Jinggang Temple (Jinggangsi), (A short taxi ride or twenty minute uphill walk from the centre). Temple with an adjacent shop that sells prayer flags and other Buddhist goods. At lunch time it is also possible to ask if you may eat in the temple kitchen, for a small fee.edit
Namo Temple (Namosi), (A short taxi ride or twenty minute uphill walk from the centre). edit
Paoma Mountain (Paomashan), (Cable car from Jinggang Temple or you can walk up in thirty minutes). This is the mountain under which the city lies, famous for being referenced to a popular love song and horse races in the past. Guide books have cautioned about incidents of muggings in the past, so going in groups may be advisable.edit
Mosque, (City centre). Entry inside may be limited.edit
Roman Catholic Church, (City centre). Entry inside may be limited.edit
Old Town Spring, (City centre). English signboards that give an interesting background to the history of the spring and horse races on Paoma Shan/Mountain.edit
Town Square. From 7PM most evenings. Witness droves of locals dance to traditional music at the town square. They all mimic one leader through the steps, can you spot who she is?edit
Yak Bridge, (Near the end of the middle of town going towards the bus station at the local farmer's market). (During Spring Festival) Serves as a marketplace for all things yak. Culturally relevant to the local Tibetans, it is a one of a kind site to see. Warning, not for traveler with a weak stomach!edit
Er Dao Qiao, (Located 4 kilometre and ¥10 taxi ride away). A hot spring resort. A private room with a pool may entail a wait of up to a few hours, while a public pool is available immediately. A bit rough on the edges with very questionable cleanliness but this place is very affordable and its the real deal offering great medicinal benefits. Bring your own towel.A private room with a pool is ¥10 per hour; a public pool is ¥48. edit
Mugecuo (3200m), (feasible as a day trip, the entrance is roughly 21 km from Kangding, along the same road as the hot springs). 8AM-5PM. National park containing lakes, forests, mountains, hikes, hot springs, Tibetan Buddhist rock paintings, and grasslands. The entrance price is rather high by Chinese standards but it still well worth the (literally) breathtaking views. This is wild man's lake in Tibetan and you will be going up high to see the glory of the unspoiled alpine world. If you venture up in winter via taxi (¥200 one way) you most likely will be the one and only guests in the park with it all to yourself add a few wild yaks that cross the road in front of the tour bus. You can practice your Mandarin and/or Tibetan with the local staff who just love visitors at this time of year essentially giving you a private tour of the whole park. Bring sunscreen and warm clothing! You may have to arrange a pick up time for your taxi beforehand. Get the taxi driver's mobile number just in case. This place is too far from Kangding to walk. An internal bus circuits the park from the lake down to the valley every 30 min in full operation.¥120 + ¥100 internal bus ticket. edit
Also in Kanding you can go to the illustrious club 88 where you can party with all the local "celebreties" you want.
ATM's of major Chinese banks make shopping possible. There are many shops along Xinshi Dian Jie (the street en route from the bus station to the town square/centre) that specialise in Tibetan jewelery, accessories, clothing, artwork, silverware, and religious paraphernalia and clothing.
Note that most ATMs don't accept international credit cards. There is an ICBC Bank across from Himalayan Coffee that does. You can also change money at the Agriculture Bank of China on the main road in the town center.
Bala Boutique, Guangdong Lu. Traditional and modern Tibetan clothing, Pashima shawls, jewelry and accessories. English speaking owner tells about Tibetan customs and culture. Located in the Anjue Monastery across from the Kangding Hotel. Mary designs these authentic Tibetan chubas from custom brocade fabrics which are sewed by her Tibetan tailors. edit
A're Tibetan restaurant, Xinshi Dian Jie. Venue for both good food and ambience. The restaurant is decorated in a traditional style, with adjacent private rooms and waitresses in traditional dress. Waitresses and local customers have a habit of dancing to the local music playing in the cafe. The food is varied and delicious. Westerners may appreciate the potato fried in Yak butter. Service is prompt.Prices are not excessive. edit
Sonam Tso, (From the Black Tent Hotel cross the river and then turn hard right along the street on the south riverbank, walk about 60 feet). Small cafe serving drinks and - perhaps - western breakfast. Check out the unusual Tibetan handicraft prototypes that adorn the cafe walls.edit
Kalakar Hotel, (On the south bank directly facing the river, about 10 minutes walk down from the Black Tent). Restaurant on the second floor that serves up french fries, bobo shakes, and other East-West-blend fast foods.edit
Tangsubao, (From the Black Tent hotel doorway turn right and walk to the front steps of the large Kangding Hotel, then turn left to follow the alley; after about 40 feet you will find the restaurant on your left. There is no English sign, but you will see a doorway leading to the kitchen on the right and microscopic dining room on the left). Open for breakfast only. a tiny hole-in-the-wall, serves up the best meat dumpings in Kangding, maybe anywhere. They do take-away, or you can ask them to set up a table in the street.edit
Himalayan Coffee (喜马拉雅咖啡), #13 Historical Walking Street, LiuLiu Chen, Kangding Old Town (150 m upriver from main square. Look for General Bridge (JiangJunQiao) with statutes of Tibetans. Cross river at bridge and enter into tourist shopping district behind the large yak statute. Turn left on walking street at large prayer wheels. Cafe is located up a small staircase immediately on the left.), ☎ 0836-2818887. 9:30-22:30. In addition to great coffee, Himalayan Coffee offers several Western light meal options. Breakfast options include granola, fresh Swiss bread twists with butter, jam or cream cheese, and an egg & cheese tortilla with salsa. Lunch and dinner options include a selection of fresh wraps and grilled quesadillas. Bakery items include homemade cheesecake, cookies, biscotti, cakes and pies. House specialties are the fresh tiramisu and cappuccino cheesecake.20-50元. edit
Himalayan Coffee, #13 Historical Walking Street, LiuLiu Chen, Kangding Old Town (150 m upriver from main square. Look for General Bridge (JiangJunQiao) with statutes of Tibetans. Cross river at bridge and enter into tourist shopping district behind the large yak statute. Turn left on walking street at large prayer wheels. Cafe is located up a small staircase immediately on the left.), ☎ 0836-2818887. 9:30-22:30. Serving the best Italian espresso in SW China, feating all-imported, freshly-roasted beans. Nuova Simonelli espresso machine operated by well-trained baristas. Western bakery featuring cheesecakes, tiramisu and apple pie. Light food options for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Import beer and wine. Retail items include coffee merchandise and Tibetan-themed handicrafts and tourist products. Relaxed environment featuring wood and stone Tibetan themes make it a great "base camp" for exploring the local area. English-speaking staff. Free wifi. Foreign-owned and operated.20-50rmb. edit
Yongzhu Hotel, (On a small street on the left side of the Kangding Hotel which goes uphill), ☎ +86 0836 2832381/cell of owner Dengzen: +86 159 8373 8188. A friendly Tibetan styled and owned guesthouse with very clean rooms & dorms, some with own bathroom. 24 hour hot showers, free wifi, and electric blankets provided. Once you get to Kangding, just show taxi the guesthouse's Chinese name: 拥珠驿栈. Once you arrive they can help you reserve trusted local drivers to show you around and take you to other neighboring towns. ¥30/bed. edit
Zhilam Hostel, (up the path from Kangding Hotel), ☎ +86 836 2831100, . Quiet and clean hostel, overlooking Kangding. Run by three Americans (who can be disinterested and at times unhelpful) and (somewhat) English-speaking local staff, the only foreign run guesthouse in town. It is built in authentic Tibetan style and supports local cultural interests. One downside is its location high up above the town, which requires a little hike. Free wifi. Tasty Western-style breakfast, dinner, and coffee. Specialties are the homemade cakes and the hot apple toddy (with homemade cider). Lots of travel info compiled by the owners and camping equipment available for rent. Dorms (some cramped and dark), shared bath, and self-contained rooms. See web site for prices (website prices in terms of food and beverage were not accurate as of July 2013).Dorms ¥35, private rooms ¥160 (shared bath), ¥260 (private bath). edit
Black Tent Inn, (From the Anjue Temple (where the previous location used to be...they moved) cross the river go right and head up the street that follows the river about 200 meters, it will be in a big yellow building on the second floor (no enlish sign)). Dorm rooms are basic but fine. Bathrooms clean, decent atmosphere. Wifi. Dorms 25. edit
Along Xinshidian Street, it is possible to charter a minibus to Tagong which you can bargain down to ¥45 per person (roughly 3 hours, cuts across to Tagong and does not bypass Xinduqiao). It may entail a wait of a few hours as the driver looks for other passengers to share the cost, but will allow you to stop for pictures along this scenic mountain pass road.