Sichuan: Lend a Hand

Chengdu's panda reserve     Photo: Karen Chen

You're familiar with the headlines. On May 12, an earthquake ripped through the town of Wenchuan, killing tens of thousands and displacing five million. This is not a reason to stay away from Sichuan, a lush southwestern province that's roughly the size of Spain; in fact, the area needs tourist support. Heart to Heart, a global relief group, runs reconstruction-based volunteer trips out of the provincial capital of Chengdu (from $3,000, including airfare; hearttoheart.org). To explore Sichuan's wild northern regions, take an eight-day trip into the 18,000-foot Min Mountains with Overland China, an American-expat-founded outfitter based in Chengdu ($1,500; overlandchina.com). The range, eight hours north of Chengdu, sits in the middle of the world's richest temperate habitat and is home to newly reforested, bamboo-and-panda-heavy nature reserves.
GET THERE: KLM flies from Amsterdam to Chengdu (from $1,000; klm.com), and Air China flies from Beijing to Chengdu (from $460; fly-airchina.com).

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