Songpan (松潘; Sōngpān) is a small town in northern Sichuan. The city is mostly used as a base-camp for exploring the nearby national parks and Tibetan Villages, and is additionally visited for its existant remnants of the old city.
It is about 310 kilometer from Chengdu downtown to Songpan downtown. Rent a private car in Chengdu, the driving time is about 6 hours. On the way, You can visit the 2008 earthquake memorial site in Yingxiu town, Baishi Qiang Village in Maoxian, Diexi Lake. After arriving at Songpan, you can spend some time to explore the Songpan ancient town and climb up to the Songpan city wall to remember the history.
There is two bus stations: Chengdu Xinnanmen Bus Station and Chadianzi Bus Station in Chengdu. Chadianzi Bus Station operates the direct bus from Chengdu to Songpan downtown; and Chengdu Xinnanmen Bus Station operates the bus from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou, you can take off the bus in Songpan, located on the way to Jiuzhaigou.
Songpan Bus Station
There's a bus station at the North end of town, a few blocks north of the North gate of the wall.
The bus station serves major locations in Sichuan, as well as locations in Qinghai, and can also connect to Xiahe in Gansu, via Tongren and Hezuo. There are also buses to/from Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve and Huanglong National Park. The place can take on a very touristic flair in the summer months overrun with bus loads of foreign and Chinese tourists arriving eager to spend their money on fake nicknacks and souveniers, give or take the odd cheesball picture.
The first bus of the day to Jiuzhaigou leaves at 9:00am, costs around 40RMB and takes 2 hours. If you want to leave earlier, your best bet is asking around in the town the night before - locals involved in the tourism industry sometimes need to make an early morning trip there.
Near Songpan downtown, there is a airport named Jiuzhaigou Huanglong Airport, about 32 km to the downtown. There is no expresses bus there, and you have to take the taxi to Songpan.
You can easily visit the town on foot, but there are a plethora of tricycle taxis if you get tired. Motor cycles and horses can take you for longer trips.
There are 2-3 ATMs in Songpan inside the Ancient Town--they are NOT reliable, however. Come to town with cash in hand rather than counting on them to work for foreign ATM cards. Many have to leave earlier than they plan due to inability to withdraw money.
Warning VISA EXTENSION (Update June 2017): Against what LP says, it is definitely not possible to extend your visa in Songpan PSB. According to Emma's Guesthouse they stopped since 2015. If you want an information update please contact Emma's Guesthouse, Emma speaks very good english and will help you. If coming from Danba you can do your extension in Maerkang (Barkam). Other PSB in the area : Lanzhou, Kangding, Chengdu & Leshan.
- While largely a modern touristic recreation, tiny parts of the old city walls are still standing (the gates) and can be climbed.
- Guanyin Pavilion, southwest of town on a hill. Offers a good view of the town and surrounding mountains. The shrine itself is currently closed.
- The West Gate - The primary path up to the West Gate is through the temple labeled above as Guanyin Pavilion above, through the village that sits on the bluff above Songpan proper and up the path that is often poorly labeled. Stop by the Adventure Access office beside the Old Bridge over the river inside the Old Town to get directions, a small map, and recommendations from their for the hike up the mountain to the West Gate and the Tibetan Village that sits just beyond it.
Opposite the horse trekking company, you can also follow the stream toward the dam and take the track on the left. About 45 minutes walk. From there, you can continue in many different directions. In particular, there are paths leading to the foot of two 4000 meters summits. (32°42'4145N/103°32'361E) It is not recommended that you attempt to climb up to these peaks from these paths.
- Horse Treks are offered by several guest houses and agencies around town but are serviced by one horse trekking company. Treks can be from one day to as long as a week, and frequently visit Tibetan villages and famous mountains. Prices are usually around ¥200 a day, and include food and camping/village stay. Some of the guides do not get along so well with the local Tibetans, however. Currently either a three or four day trip to Ice Mountain both cost the same amount, ¥450. The second day of the 4 day trip is a filler day, where you camp in an extra place, but don't travel very far. Normally you will be riding the horse going uphill, and have to walk near half of the journey on the return downhill trip, in order to let the horse rest. The trek may be physically demanding. Quite limited time on the horse every day, sleeping in tiny tents, the guides do not speak much English. Some guides regularly beat the horses with sticks - if you don't like that, it is important to tell the owner of the horse trekking company beforehand that he should tell his guides accordingly. It also helps to tell the guide "no!" very decisively every time he tries to beat the horses - after half a day it strongly decreased.
- Mountain Biking - Starting at 260 Yuan per half day for the most popular route. Experienced routes are also available as well as options to tour Muni Valley by bicycle.
- Day Treks Guided treks to surrounding villages or mountain vistas.
- National Park Visits Visit Huanglong National Park or Muni Valley's Er Dao Hai and Zhaga Waterfall.
- Family Outings
- Adventure Access, ☎ +86-18683729295 +86-18011506136 (email@example.com), . is a foreign run outdoor company specialising in 'off the beaten track' style tourism. They do mountain bike tours, cycling tours, day hikes and multi-day treks where you are guaranteed freedom from the masses of Chinese tourists. The company is based out of Songpan but offers options for Jiuzhaigou and Ruo er Gai as well. The office is located on the river just beside the old bridge, known as Gu Song Qiao, in the center of the old town. edit
- Songpan Qizanggou Valley Trek  is considered as an relatively easy trek in western China. Average altitude of the hike is around 3500m, so be sure to acclimatize before you set off. There are two high passes over 4000m, but as long as you take your time, they are quite manageable.
Day 1: Tourists are transferred to Kakagoukou, via Wenchuan, Maoxian, Songpan. On the way, visit the Diexi Lake, which is a landslide dam-created lake formed in the 1933 Diexi earth quake. (Camping)
Day 2: Tourists start to trek, about 16km today from Kakagoukou to Long Lake. As the elevation increases gradually, blue sky and white cloud will bring you a very easy mood, with small wooden cottage, stunted boskage and grassland. (Camping)
Day 3: Today trek about 10km from Long Lake to Grass Lake and climb the Qizanggou Ya Kou (4200m). (Camping)
Day 4: Today trek about 15km from Grass Lake to Hongxing Lake and then back to Fish Lake. (Camping)
Day 5: Today trek about 13km from Fish Lake to Awenggou Goukou, and take car to Songpan. (Camping)
Day 6: Drive back from Songpan to Chengdu, and visit Pingtou Qiang Village and 2008 earthquake memorial site in Yingxiu town on the back way.
There are dozens of shops in Songpan that sell locally made crafts including colorful textiles, silver jewelry, Tibetan hats, and fake antiques. Bargaining is a must. To get the best price on silver products go to the far southern end of the main street where a number of silver smiths are located. You might get the opportunity to see a silver smith hammering away on a new piece. The prices in these shops are dramatically cheapers than stores just up the block. One product you should not buy are the many furs for sale. The skins for sale have been poached in China or in neighboring countries. Asia's wildlife is quickly dissapeering as China's appetite for illegal animal products increases. Please don't contribute to this crisis.
No shortage of small restaurants, Tibetan and Chinese, in town.
- Emmas kitchen Very good food (with the exception of the pizza!) (western and Chinese) and coffee! This is the traveler café/restaurant in town. They provide Internet, Tour information, book swap, laundry service, car rental and booking tickets from Songpan. Ca 300 m south of the bus station. Turn left on the main road. Very friendly staff, good English spoken. Wide choice of drinks, alcohols (even have famous brands of whisky, gin, cognac...) etc. More expensive than local places.
- Sarah Yang. Good Chinese and Western food. Sarah is also very friendly and willing to share information about Songpan. edit
Songpan has a long history with tea. The tea culture is still a big part of the town and many people go to local tea houses in the evenings to hang out.
- Amdo Coffee House Inn, Ancient Town North Street (Inside North gate). This place has a comfortable Tibetan style atmosphere blended with a coffee shop vibe. It is a good mix of tradition and modern. They serve a variety of coffees, teas, beers, and cocktails. Free wifi is also available. The Americano at 18 yuan is a good deal for coffee in Songpan. Hai Bing, the owner, and his staff are very friendly! edit
- Butter Tea, Ancient Town North Street (Inside North gate). It is simple to prepare. Stir the butter, milk, walnut kernel, peanut and sesame, egg and salt in a barrel, and then mix them with boiled red tea for a just moment. Then the butter tea is ready to serve. In order to drink it whenever, Tibetan people are always keep the butter tea in a teapot to warm on a stove. edit
- Good Luck Guesthouse is near the bus station. Dorm rooms should go for ¥12-20, though the owner, Huang Xin, may be reluctant to rent them. Beware of his homemade Bai Jiu. Telephone (0837) 7231556.
- Jiaotong Bingguang (交通宾馆), attached to the bus station, has single rooms without a bathroom for ¥25.
- Emma's Guesthouse - in a small street off the main road, on the left when walking from the bus station towards the center. You can see the sign from the main road. If you miss it you will pass "Emma's Kitchen" (on the main road, the traveler café/restaurant in town) which also has a sign "Emma's Guesthouse". Dorm bed is 50Y. Hot water, electric blankets, wifi. Open in winter. Curfew at 10pm. English spoken.
- Shun Jiang Guesthouse Just off the main road behind Shun Jiang happy trails horse trek company. Great little family run guesthouse. Twin rooms from 120, hot showers, check water pressure first. Heat lamps and electric blankets. Also have dorm beds. Friendly local owner with decent English and lots of local knowledge. Often times, they do not wash sheets between guests.
- Amdo Coffee House Inn, Songpan Ancient Town, North Street (Inside North gate). Beautiful boutique type guest house in the back of the Amdo Coffee House Inn--newly opened in Songpan. 200~ (10/2016). edit
There are a couple of (relatively) upscale hotels in town and one or two just north of the Bus station. They are mostly aimed at Chinese tourists, but word on the street is that they're pretty nice.
- Taiyanghe International Hotel This was recommended as the best hotel in town and had a price to match. To be fair, the bed was comfortable and the room warm.
Beware of altitude sickness if travelling here straight from the Sichuan Province lowlands.
There is an internet bar located just across the southern most bridge. If your heading south the internet bar is immediately on the right after crossing the bridge down a few steps along the river. It is ¥6 for one hour.
Supposedly SongPan horse trekking now has a small internet bar. Emma's Kitchen has wifi, as well as her guesthouse nearby.
From the bus station located in the north of the town there are buses to Chengdu (6-7 hours), north to Zoige and Langmusi (5 hours) on the border of Gansu province, and to Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve (2 hours) and Huanglong National Park.