Thinking of visiting Zhangjiajie National Park during your trip to China? Do not hesitate because it is a unique site in the world, with rare beauty, and absolutely unforgettable! Zhangjiajie National Park is one of China’s must-sees. If this fabulous forest inspired James Cameron, the director of Avatar, it must be because it is out of this world. But let me try and give you all the details to organize your visit.
The park is the main attraction of the Hunan region. It attracts visitors from all over the world, (even though you will meet mostly Chinese tourists), and it is especially famous for having inspired the sets of the planet Pandora in the Avatar movie. This forest park is very special and particularly photogenic. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2004, it is undeniably a magical place and one of the most beautiful (if not the most beautiful) parks in the country. Its many vertical and stretched rocky peaks are covered with plants and surrounded by lush vegetation, giving it a mystical and supernatural appearance. The park is huge and suitable for hiking in the heart of nature.
Visiting the park
There are several areas in the park. Depending on the weather and the mist, you have to select what you want to see first. Tianzi Mountain is one of the tallest mountains and is often hidden by mist. Yuanjiajie, Avatar Hallelujah Mountain is the most visited. In the Enchanted Forest, as in different places in the forest, you can spot monkeys. Old House Area is little visited and therefore very peaceful. The park can be visited all year round, but in terms of weather the best period is September to mid-November. On site, it is possible to make tours with guides.
How to get there?
The Zhangjiajie park is very easy to access, since you can get there by plane from Shanghai. They have direct flights with Shanghai Airlines to the nearest airport Zhangjiajie Hehua. It is a two-hour flight, for around 170 euros (I guess this might vary depending on the time of year). Then, for transfers, take a local bus or taxi (inexpensive in the area), it is forty-minute ride approximately to the park gates. The park is very well maintained and well organized, which makes the visit pleasant. On site, you can get a detailed map of the park, to find your way and follow the hiking trails. The entry ticket, which costs around 30 euros, is valid for 4 days, allowing you to fully enjoy the site. Inside the park, it is possible to travel by bus or tourist train (at an additional cost). You can also take the cable cars and a panoramic lift (at an additional cost), which saves time reaching the summits and the most beautiful views. Note that the Bailong elevator is the highest outdoor elevator in the world: with its 326 meters it’s almost a perfect tie with the famous Eiffel Tower! I thought for a long time that a visit to Zhangjiajie would be impossible without a guide for a foreigner, but the organization is rather efficient. With a simple map of the park and a few signs, you will always be told what shuttle to take to get to such or such viewpoint!
Other centers of interest in the region
If you are lucky to spend enough time in the area, I can only encourage you to explore the few other points of interest in the region. Lake Baofeng which is very close to the park is a real delight. Barely 1km long, you can discover it by boat with many traditional boats which run continuously all year round.
A little further from the park (a little over an hour by car) but closer to the city of Zhangjiajie (about 40 minutes) you can also discover Mount Tianmen, nicknamed, the gateway to heaven. On site you can take the longest high mountain cable car for passenger! Over 7km long and 1279m vertical drop! But also the many cliff-side paths … sometimes with a glass floor for the bravest … At the top you can discover a temple in the style of the Tang dynasty.
Finally, the region is also an opportunity to discover the famous glass bridge of Zhangjiajie. With 430m long and 360m high it is the tallest and longest glass bridge in the world. It is known for the viral videos of those caught panicking on it. To get there plan between 40 minutes and 1 hour depending on where you stay.
One small practical detail for your trip: always provide enough cash for all these visits … few places accept Visa or MasterCard and distributors are extremely rare!
Where to sleep to visit Zhangjiajie National Park?
You can choose your hotel in the city of Zhangjiajie of course. But if you want to get closer to the park you should stay in the small town of Wulingyuan. Even better if you want to optimize your stay: opt for an atypical Lodge. I personally chose to stay at the Glass Cube Guesthouse and can only recommend it! It is accessible only on foot. You will have to climb no less than 500 steps before entering the establishment lost in the forest. As the name suggests, there is a room made entirely of glass up in the trees! It’s the one that I stayed in. But the lodge also has huge and typical rooms (13 in total) with whirlpool tub, etc … All of them offer an exceptional setting and lots of comfort. This lodge is perfect for getting off the beaten track, sleeping in an idyllic setting, while being close to one of the park entrances. In the summer you can even enjoy the swimming pool or long evenings under the stars by the bonfire!
Zhangjiajie National Park is a must-see when traveling to China. This natural site is captivating and breathtaking. I came back from this trip with lasting memories. Don’t wait any longer and book your stay for a one of a kind adventure!