After hearing about the mystical world of Zhangjiajie China, the floating pillars shooting straight up in an almost unbelievable fashion, the so called “Avatar Mountains” after their resemblance to the beautiful scenes from this ground breaking film… we just had to visit! But China is not the easiest place to navigate and several inquiries got us nowhere, sitting in the middle of the western part of the country and in a pretty remote location we did wonder how we would even get there. Then comes the confusing maps and the crazy layout of the park, created for ease of use it leaves a lot for you to figure out if you are to see the best of this place! Here is a run down of how to visit this crazy place and the all important information on Zhangjiajie travel!
What is Zhangjiajie
Zhangjiajie, as we are referring to it here is actually the “Wulingyuan Scenic Area” that most people simply call “Zhangjiajie” Confusingly Zhangjiajie is the name of the nearby city, a village near the park and also the unofficial name of the park itself! So it can be confusing where exactly to head to! It is located in the Hunan province of China, the capital of which is Changsha! So heading to Zhangjiajie China isn’t as simple as it first seems and arranging Zhangjiajie travel can be a headache!
The park itself is famous for its precarious peaks, dense forests and meandering rivers and streams. Becoming China’s first national forest park in 1982 it only really came into fame after the film Avatar! These tall sandstone peaks, some standing over 1000ft tall, are a result of erosion over thousands of years. Ice, wind, water and the plants that grow on them in this tropical environment have worn layers of the rock to create the free standing peaks we see today making Zhangjiajie China one of the most unique places in the world!
From many parts of the country you will find no direct service to this area. The city of Zhangjiajie should be your target destination before heading to the park. To get here you will likely have to transit through one of the bigger cities. On the way over we travelled from Chengdu and took the train to Yichang before on to Zhangjiajie, on the way out and over towards Guilin we travelled through Changsha. Zhangjiajie China has good train connections to these nearby larger cities and these cities in turn are very well connected to pretty much everywhere else in China. The train is the best way to travel over distance in China and overnight trains offer great sleepers, the “Hard sleep” is cheap and really not as bad as it sounds and a great way to sort you your Zhangjiajie travel problems!
Once you arrive into the city you want to be heading out towards the park, yet more Zhangjiajie travel hassle! There are several entrances but the most used are the Zhangjiajie Forest park entrance and the Wulingyuan entrance. Most people stay in the village of Wulingyuan as it has a great atmosphere, plenty of shops, hotels, hostel and places to eat but is close by the entrance. To get here you must head to the central bus station and take one of the small minibuses around the corner from stand 1. These only have their destinations written in Chinese, so show them your destination in Chinese or check that it matches up. If you ask for Wulingyuan though you should be ok, most of the buses do head this way! This takes an hour and costs 14 Yuan, you pay on the bus. Finally you will be heading towards Zhangjiajie China!
Where to stay around here
As mentioned above the park is closest to the Wulingyuan village and this is a great place to base yourself. The village is small enough to feel warm and friendly but is also Developed enough to have banks and plenty of places to stay, eat and stock up on supplies. There is also a central bus station here where you can take buses back into the city and to the other park entrances. Where you stay in Zhangjiajie China can make all the difference as to how long you get to spend it the park!
Staying in the city of Zhangjiajie China is also an option and is a good idea if you want to visit the mountain in the city. But if you focus is on the park then you will be having to get hour long buses to and from the park twice a day, add this to the fact that once you are in the park you have to take buses to various starting points. It can add time and money on to your trip. Wulingyuan is the best place to base yourself for exploring the park for sure!
How to get into the park and how much it costs:
The park as several entrances but the main ones are the Zhangjiajie forest park and Wulingyuan entrances. Wulingyuan entrance is walkable from the village of the same name and Zhangjiajie forest entrance is accessible from a bus costing 10 Yuan and taking 30mins from the village.
Entrance into the park costs 245 Yuan, 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.
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Navigating your way around the park, the cable cars, buses, lifts, hiking trails views and what not:
Zhangjiajie China is huge and is serviced by several modes of transport to allow you to navigate it. The first is the buses, these run along routes on both the top and bottom sections of the park. These are free to use and will take you to great starting point for hiking and for using the other transport.
There are also 3 cable cars, a monorail and elevator to help you gain access to the top sections of the park. These all incur an additional fee which is annoying!! 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! We hiked 3 out of our 4 days and on the last day took one cable car and walked back down.
Bear in mind that the buses will stop running at a certain time, then still do operate after dark but 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!
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.
Our route advice:
Spots in the park not to miss and the best view points:
This is a list of areas of the park we feel are not to be missed on your Zhangjiajie travel adventure!
- The 10 mile gallery, Skip the monorail and walk this amazing trail to the 3 sisters peaks. It is also not 10miles, but only 5.8km… around 4 miles!
2. Continue on passed the 3 sisters and hike the trail here up to the Tianzi Mountain, it is hard going but you will be rewarded with some amazing views. Make sure to head to the heavenly platform!
3. Take in the viewing platforms of Yunqing rock, Arranging battles platform and Imperial writing brush peaks and even walk a little further to some of the others. These will be much quieter than other spots in the park!
4. Get off the bus when others stay on and see “One dangerous stop” and “Cock pecking” for amazing views on top of one of the peak!
5. Take the walkways from the Enchanting terrance all the way towards the lucky mountain. Here are the best views of the park by far! It might be a little busy but seeing the heavenly peak and natural bridge are must do’s!
6. Stroll around the 5km stretch of the Golden Whip Stream, though the valleys of these amazing sandstone pillars and take a break from steep hiking!
7. Hike up to the Yellow stone village mountain through monkey infested forests!
If you only have one day, here is what we would do!
Head to the Wulingyuan entrance
Take the Zhangjiajie travel bus to the first cable car and take this scenic ride up to the top. Take in the view point of Yunqing rock, Arranging battles platform and Imperial writing brush peaks. You can even venture a little further down the road for some more viewpoints close by that are usually pretty quiet.
From there take the bus all the way around to the Enchanting Terrance and make your way back up the trails towards the direction in which you just came. Along here is where we would consider the most amazing views are, the heavenly pillar and also the natural bridge. It can get busy along here though. You can also head up the Lucky peak that is covered in prayers, quite an amazing sight! If you have time heading up to where the youth hostel is offers great views too.
Next you can take the bus all the way to be Balong Elevator and take it down to the bottom of the park, or nip down the trail instead. Now you can walk along the stunning Golden Whip Stream. This is about 5/6 KM but is easy walking through a valley.
From here take the bus to the base of the Yellow stone village cable car and head up to the top of this amazing mountain, from here you can hike the trail down through the monkey infested forest! Once you get back down you then take the bus all the way back to the Forest park entrance where you will need to get a minibus back to Wulingyuan for 10 Yuan.
Zhangjiajie travel costs once inside the park:
The elevator costs:
CNY 72 for a single trip;
CNY 144 for a round trip
The first cable cars cost (Tianzi Mountain)
CNY 67 for a single trip;
CNY 134 for a round trip
Second cable car cost (Yellow Stone Village)
CNY 65 for a single trip;
CNY 118 for a round trip
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