A spectacular area stretching over more than 26,000 ha in China’s Hunan Province, the site is dominated by 3,000 narrow sandstone pillars and peaks, ravines and gorges with streams, pools and waterfalls, some 40 caves, and two large natural bridges. In addition to the striking beauty of the landscape, the region is also noted for the fact that it is home to a number of endangered plant and animal species.
As a relatively unknown destination for Westerners, Zhangjiajie is a small city in China that is the gateway to some of the most stunning natural wonders in the world. If you are like us and enjoy the beauty of nature, then Zhangjiajie definitely needs to be on your bucket list. Or if u are a movie lover than you should know that that the Hallelujah Mountains in Avatar were inspired by Heavenly Pillar in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, which became in 1982, China’s first national forest park.
The three must-see attractions are:
1.Wulingyuan Scenic Aria
Wulingyuan Scenic Aria is divided into 3 parts:
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
- Yuanjiajie Scenic Area,
- Yellow Stone Stronghold
- Golden Whip Stream
Tianzi Mountain Nature Reserve
Yangjiajie Scenic Area, each has its own national park.
The scenic area also includes the remaining attractions of Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon, Yellow Dragon Cave, and Baofeng Lake, although they are in a separate area and have their own entrance fees.
3.Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge – the world’s longest and highest glass bridge.
What is Zhangjiajie
Zhangjiajie, as we are referring to it is here actually the “Wulingyuan Scenic Area” , but most people simply call “Zhangjiajie” to everything: to the nearby city, to a village near the park and also to the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park! So it can be confusing where exactly to head to! Zhangjiajie city is located in the Hunan province of China, the capital of which is Changsha! So heading to Zhangjiajie isn’t as simple as it first seems and arranging Zhangjiajie travel can be a headache! We hope that this travel guide will help you make it more simple for you.
When to go
Late spring and summer are good times for the seas of clouds and warm/hot weather. Go during fall for the fabulous autumn hues and cooler, drier weather.
The cold wintery months are not recommended due to slippery, unsafe access; and also because most of the attractions are closed if snow falls heavily. February is closed anyway for maintenance.
How to arrive
There are a limited number of direct trains and flights from China’s major tourist cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Xi’an to Zhangjiajie. Despite infrastructure improvement (to facilitate tourism), Zhangjiajie is still a smaller city surrounded by mountains, with a small airport and no high-speed railway. Zhangjiajie City is the gateway to the national park, which is 28 kilometers north on an 8-meter-wide rural road.
Where to Stay
When visiting Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, you have a couple of options:
- Zhangjiajie City- hotels in Zhangjiajie are relatively lower quality than hotels of the same star rating in other Chinese cities such Beijing, Shanghai and Guilin.
- Wulingyuan village- it is convenient for sightseeing in the forest park, and some of the best hotels in the region are there. Is a great place to base yourself
- Inside the park itself – here there are limited hotels
How to get into the park and how much it costs
The park has several entrances but the main ones are the Zhangjiajie forest park and Wulingyuan entrances. Wulingyuan entrance is walk-able from the village of the same name and Zhangjiajie entrance is accessible from a bus costing 10 RMB and taking 30 mins from the village.
Entrance into the park costs 245 RMB, a little pricey but well worth the expense. A standard ticket allows for 4 days of entry, those 4 days however must be consecutive. Each card is also fingerprint scanned too so it can only be used by you. You must use an official entrance to gain entry to the park. Opening hours change throughout the year so it is best to check with the park when you buy your ticket but sticking to day light hours is a good reference point.
Around the Park
Wulingyuan Scenic Aria is huge and it is serviced by several bus lines that allow you to navigate it.
- Bus – these runs along routes on both the top and bottom sections of the park. These are free to use and will take you to great starting points for hiking and for using the other transportation means. Bear in mind that buses will stop running at a certain time in the evening. The park is huge and it is entirely possible to get stuck on a trail, alone and in the dark! It will usually take you at least an hour to get down from the top to set off in good time for the buses and plan your route!
To help you gain access to the top sections of the park there are 3 ways:
- 3 cable cars
These all have an additional fee which is quite high. The only other way to get to the top is to hike up a mountain basically. Most route up to the top section take a couple of hours of basically walking up steps constantly.
The trails are well marked out and easy to follow but can be a little confusing. It is best to have a route planned out for your day ahead and check which transport you will use to complete each section. I would allow yourself the whole 4 days to tackle each different section of the park, especially if you want to hike and avoid the expensive cable cars.
Zhangjiajie travel costs once inside the park:
- Tianzi Cable Car – 67 RMB one way
- Yangjiajie Cable Car -76 RMB one way
- Golden Rock Village Cable – 76 RMB one way
- Tenli Gallery’s Mini Train – 38 RMB one way
- Elevator – 72 RMB one way
1.Wulingyuan Scenic Aria/ Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
The most picturesque but full of tourists area of the park. Here you can find the amazing:
- Avatar Hallelujah Mountain (it’s the main attraction of the entire park and it was renamed to “Avatar Mount” in honor of the film). One of the park’s quartz-sandstone pillars, Southern Sky Column, had been officially renamed “Avatar Hallelujah Mountain”.
- The First Bridge Under Heaven (a natural bridge between two rocks). The First Bridge Under Heaven is a unique natural creation. At a height of 357 meters it connects two peaks of the rocks. This is the highest natural bridge in the world.
- Lost Souls Platform
- Bailong Elevator (the world’s highest elevator). Bailong Elevator is the highest outdoor lift in the world. It brings tourists to the top of 330-meter steep slope in the center of Zhangjiajie Park. The ride in a glass elevator cabin will open stunning views of the valley. The main thing is to get closer to the window, because it could be up to 50 people in the booth, so not everyone is able to enjoy the beauty in front of their eyes.
Yellow Stone Stronghold
Yellow Stone Stronghold is located west of the park. It is the largest observation spot of the forest.
Golden Whip Stream
Named after the Golden Whip Rock that it flows by. This stream is 5.7 km long, joins the Lute stream in the west and Syoxi Stream in the east. Wild flower are in abundance here. On the way, girls from Tujia will present visitors traditional folk songs when requested.
The reason Tanzi Mountains tales the spotlight is that this area is high. At 1,182 m, it offers the best chance of photographing the sea of clouds, manly during spring and early autumn. There is a cable car up to this area and it is popular with photographers. Tanzi Mountains is something that ranslates as Son of Heaven. Emperors were thought to be descendants of heaven and the peaks, like floating islands in swirling mists, are the traditional image of heavenly realms. in this area Ten-Li Gallery is a place with a cute level monorail train that winds its was up to a stream, with 3 fingers like mountains towering over it.
Tianmenshan National Forest Park is characterized by huge limestone mountain tablelands with sheer cliffs and jagged peaks. Although Tianmen Mountain doesn’t have the amazing pillars of Zhangjiajie, this place is striking in its beauty and grandeur. Tianmen is known for its “five wonders” :
- Tianmen Mountain Cableway – It is the longest cableway in the world. Spans of the cableway are up to 500 meters! In some places, the road rises steeply at an angle of 70º, suddenly crashing straight into the clouds. An unforgettable experience!
- Tongtian Avenue– You can go down from the mountain by bus over the road “Avenue Leading to the Sky”. The name of the road is not an exaggeration; it’s one of the most impressive mountain roads in the world. The serpentine length is about 11 kilometers, but the elevation rises rapidly from 200 meters to 1300 meters. The road is so popular that some people consider it as the main attraction of the park. The road is built for tourist use, taking tourists from the mountain foot to the top of the mountain and Tianmen Cave. Tourist buses take travelers from the midway cable car station along some of these 99 bends to Tianmen Cave.
- Tianmen Cave – Heaven’s Gate Cave is the world’s highest cave of its kind. It was formed naturally as a result of soil erosion. In the year of 263, a large chunk of the mountain just fell off, creating a huge cavity. There is a feeling that after passed through the gates you’ll find yourself in heaven.
- The Glass Sky Walk – The Glass Sky Walk is part of the cliff-hanging walkway, and is the highest section. The skywalk is 60 meters long, with a width of 1.6 meters. In order to make it easier to keep the glass floor clean, all visitors are required to wear a special textile slippers, which can be rented at the entrance for 5 RMB.
- Tianmen Mountain Temple – It was built during the Tang Dynasty as the center of Buddhism in the western Hunan. The modern church is a reconstruction of the original temple on an area of over 10,000 square meters. m. The temple is located in a mountain hollow with a broad overview. If you look at the temple from the south-east, the surrounding hills seem to be so small that the temple looks like a lord – the son of the sky. This temple is one of the major pilgrimage sites in Hunan Province.
The entrance ticket costs 258 RMB and includes an ascent up to the mountain on Tianmen Mountain Cableway.
3.Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge
The world’s longest and highest glass bridge, Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge opened to the public on 2016. It offers a way to enjoy a panoramic view of the stunning Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon — if you dare to walk on it!
The glass bridge will not only serve as a walkway. Visitors can go bungee jumping as well. No more than 8,000 visitors each day have the opportunity to walk on the bridge. Entrance tickets can only be obtained by reservation.
As tickets are limited, you are recommended to book a ticket through a travel agency, like us, who have first priority for ticket purchase. Individual booking is extremely unlikely to be successful.
How many days should you stay
I recommend to have 3 days for Wulingyuan Scenic Area and a day for Tianmen National Forest Park. we only had 2 days and it was not enough.
What to eat
Food in Changjiajie is spicy and sto0ng-flavored. Food options inside the National park are very limited. In Wulingyuan is better than in the park, but still limited. The Flavors of Hunan Cuisine are hot and spicy and salty buy eating Hunan food is fun. You’ll have the chance to feel on your tongue a new kind of cuisine. If you’ve experienced the burning numbness of Sichuan or Chongqing food, see how your body reacts to the vinegar/chili mix of Hunan food. Crunchy vegetables: Eating a wide variety of vegetables keeps them healthy as does their cooking method. They generally like to sauté with a little oil so it is still crunchy “al dente.” It preserves vitamins in food this way.
- Queues are normal in the forest park, so please be patient and try to avoid Chinese national holidays. Bailong Elevator is the worst place (waiting time is 1–2 hours, sometimes even 4 hours!).
- Come to the park early in the morning. Most of the tourists come after 10 am, and the park opens at 7 am.
- Almost no one speaks English in remote provinces of China. It’s better to learn a set of basic phrases to be able to communicate with the taxi drivers, to make an order in a cafe, etc. All names and addresses need to be written down in English and Chinese.
- Not everyone in China can read and write. It’s better to have pictures of everything that is important, including Danxia spots and a hotel. And to be able to pronounce it. It helps also as an additional information to a written address or a name.
- Ali Pay and Union Pay are payment system in China. It’s possible, even very likely that your Visa or MasterCard will not work. You need cash: RMB. It’s the only way that ensures a successful payment.