CHENGDU, May 13, China Daily -- National Geographic Traveler Magazine has selected Chengdu as one of 2017's 21 must-seeplaces. It is the only tourism destination in China on the list.

"This special issue takes readers on a globe-spinning journey to 21 of the world's best destinations," said George Stone, editor in chief of the magazine.

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"We think this year's list represents a carefully curated selection of forward-leaning places that reveal the bright future of travel. This list is all about exploration and discovery. It's not just about where to go, but why to go now and how to make 2017 a year of enlightenment through travel."

Capital of Southwest China's Sichuan province, Chengdu is known for its giant pandas-a strong cultural symbol of the city.

The Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in the north of the city is one of the most popular scenic spots in Chengdu. It is dedicated to wildlife research, captive breeding of giant pandas, education on panda conservation and educational tourism. More than 100 giant pandas live in the base.

The pandas are also the stars in the Chinese wildlife-themed documentary film Born in China,which started to air in the United States on April 21. The film was created by Chinese, British and US teams.

Rich history

Chengdu has a history of 3,000 years, with dynamic culture. It was listed in the first group of national historical and cultural cities by the State Council in 1982.

The Jinsha Site Museum has been hailed as a significant archaeological discovery, which was unearthed in 2001. It shows the thriving culture that existed in Chengdu more than 3,000 years ago.

More than 5,000 pieces of precious cultural relics have been found at the site, such as gold, jadewares and metric tons of ivory works. The most famous relic is a round, golden ornament featuring the sun and immortal birds. The State Administration of Cultural Heritage has used thepattern as the symbol of Chinese cultural heritage.

About 40 kilometers northwest of the city center is the Dujiangyan Irrigation Project. First built in 256 BC, it is adjacent to Qingcheng Mountain, the birthplace of Taoism. Dujiangyan is the world's oldest and only surviving irrigation system without a dam. It is still functioning today.

In the urban areas of Chengdu there are also many tourist attractions with cultural flavor, such as the Temple of Marquis Wu, built to commemorate Zhuge Liang (181-234), prime minister of the Shu Kingdom (221-263), and Dufu Thatched Cottage, the former residence of prestigious Chinese poet Dufu of the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

According to the MasterCard 2016 Global Destination City Index, Chengdu ranked as the world's second global destination city in terms of visitor growth rate.

Overseas tourists receive an 11-percent tax refund when he or she leaves Chengdu's airport oncondition that his or her total purchases reach 500 yuan ($72.4) at a single appointed store on a single day.

The city also has a 72-hour visa-free policy, allowing transit passengers from 51 countries who have valid visas and a flight ticket to a third country to stay in Chengdu for three days.

The preferential policies are expected to lure more overseas tourists. It is estimated that Chengdu will receive 8.5 million in bound tourists annually by 2025, accounting for 2.8 percent of overall visitor numbers, according to the city's tourism authority.