We’re big fans of visiting religious monuments around the world – out of interest and curiosity for the building or monument, an appreciation of the incredible work in building it, and out of respect for the beliefs of the locals. We made our way to Nara in Japan to visit their Big Buddha. We also made our way to Lantau Island in Hong Kong to visit their Big Buddha also. So we couldn’t come all the way to Chengdu, China, without taking a day trip to the nearby city of Le Shan to visit THE biggest Buddha statue in the world – the Giant Buddha of Le Shan!
We based ourselves in the capital of Sichuan, Chengdu for several days and planned a day trip to Le Shan – about two hours from Chengdu. Our hostel offered tours to the Giant Buddha, however from what we could tell from their itinerary – our experience would be quite rushed, and didn’t offer a lot of value for money. We don’t enjoy tours at the best of time, and hate having time restrictions put on us – we like to take our time exploring, to leave early if we’re done or stay longer if we’re completely captivated.
In China it can be a little scary to be reliant on public transport, due to the language barrier – but it really is quite straightforward and just requires a little pre-planning. We consulted our Lonely Planet and cross-checked the latest timetables on line, and then double-checked with the hostel staff that we had our route figured out correctly – and, our day trip to Le Shan couldn’t have gone any smoother!
Our day started early – 7.30AM – as we took the subway to Huaxiba station, the closest to Xinnanmen Bus Station, the main bus station for tourists in Chengdu. We got two tickets on the next bus to Le Shan, and settled in for a comfortable two hour journey.
We arrived at Xiaoba, the main tourist bus station in Le Shan a little over two hours later which is located right next to a series of public bus stops. We jumped aboard Bus 13 which took us all the way to the North Gate of the Giant Buddha Tourist Site – it couldn’t have been any more straightforward!
Whilst every guidebook will instruct you to avoid major tourist attractions on weekends, our day in Chengdu fell on Saturday and Sunday – so we couldn’t avoid it. Arriving later in the day meant no queues at the ticket office, but it was a whole different story inside!
After purchasing our entrance tickets, we climbed a series of stairs and in around five minutes we found ourselves at the top – of the Giant Buddha’s head! Whilst it wasn’t the busiest sight we’d visited in China, due to the small amount of space it FELT like the busiest – everyone was jostling for a space up the front!
After exercising patience and lining up, and eventually a little pushing in of our own (seriously – when in China – do as the Chinese do or you’ll NEVER get anywhere!) we grabbed a spot along the barrier to view the Giant Buddha up close.
Over 1200 years old, the Giant Buddha is an incredible sight to see. He stands 71 metres tall – making him the largest Buddha statue in the world. His shoulders span 28 metres, his ears are 7 metres in length and his big toes are 8.5 metres long – how’s that for some measurements?! You can’t even begin to compute those dimensions until you see the Giant Buddha in person.
After waiting it out at the viewpoint to get the shots we wanted, we joined the very long queue to begin our descent down to the base of the Giant Buddha. The staircase is built into the rock face that surrounds the Giant Buddha, and is single file so only a certain number of people are allowed down at a time. On a Saturday afternoon, we spent about 45 minutes in the queue, and then 30 minutes descending down the staircase. Queuing up is not so much fun, but climbing down the staircase and slowly seeing more and more of the Giant Buddha from different angles is incredible.
It was once we descended down to the bottom and looked back up at the 71 metre tall figure, that the grandness of this figure finally hit us. We had uhmmed and ahhed over whether queueing up would be worth it – but trust us, it is! You can’t see even half of the Giant Buddha from the top viewpoint – descending down the stairs is a must, and there is much less jostling at the bottom as there are fewer people permitted in the area. From the base, you can appreciate just how grand this structure is – and wonder how on earth they first constructed it over 1200 years ago!
We exited to the right of the Giant Buddha after we’d spent an hour or so capturing it from every angle, and took a steep staircase back up to the top viewpoint. All up, we spent around 3 hours inside the Giant Buddha attraction – including all the wait time. Not too bad considering it was a weekend and we battled some of the craziest crowds so far in China!
Exiting from the East Gate, we decided to jump in a taxi back to the Xiaoba bus station instead of waiting for the public bus. The taxi only cost a fraction more, and took 15 minutes instead of 45 on the bus. It meant we were back on a 3.30PM bus back to Chengdu, and back at our hostel before dark!
A day trip to the Giant Buddha of Le Shan from Chengdu was definitely a long day, but getting to and from was both straightforward and inexpensive, and breaking up the bus journey with several hours exploring this incredible attraction gave us a chance to stretch our legs. It’s well worth the trip if you’re in Chengdu – and then you can tick the world’s largest Buddha off your bucket list!
- How do I get to the Giant Buddha of Le Shan from Chengdu?
We took public transport all the way to Le Shan and back from Chengdu. It’s very straightforward!
Take your nearest subway station to Huaxiba station.
Walk to Xinnanmen bus station – its about 10 minutes from Huaxiba.
Purchase a ticket from the vendor for Le Shan for the next available bus – the ticket is 45 RMB per person. You’ll be told which gate the bus leaves from.
On arrival in Xiaoba bus station in Le Shan, walk to the road and take bus 13 – this will take you to the Giant Buddha of Le Shan attraction north gate – the bus driver will also gesture to you when you need to get off. The bus ticket is 1 RMB per person, and will take about 30 minutes.
Reverse the process to get back to Chengdu. Buses run rom 7AM to 7PM every day.
- How much does it cost to visit the Giant Buddha of Le Shan?
Entrance tickets to the attraction are priced at 90 RMB per person.
- Any other tips?
Don’t be put off by the crowds – you’ll eventually be able to grab a great spot close to the barrier to view the Buddha, and be sure to join the queue to take the staircase down to the bottom of the Giant Buddha – the views here are magnificent!
Note that there are lots of vendors outside the gates, but fewer inside and at a higher cost. Bring your own food if you plan on spending a few hours.