After moving to China in August of this year, I asked around about the must sees of China. From word of mouth, and of course Lonely Planet, I came across Zhangjiajie National Park, which is one of Lonely Planets Top 30 sites.
Zhangjiajie National Park in the Hunan province of China is one of a kind. The director of the movie Avatar got inspiration for the floating mountains here. Since then, the park has been more commonly known as the Avatar Hallelujah Mountains .
The best time to go:
This is actually a really important part when travelling around China.
During the first week of October, I got my first week off work to explore China. Although it is recommended not to go during this time, (which is known as the Chinese Holiday) because pretty much all of China is on holiday and most people from the country go to the city and vice versa. Sadly, a huge tourist attraction like Zhangjiajie National Park is going to be overcrowded at this time.
So I was prepared for the crowds and still wanted to go -I still had a great time, but I would be lying if I said it didn’t affect the trip.Ques and stand stills when you are trying to walk around and enjoy the view of the mountains is just awful. It’s the last thing you want after a few hours of hiking. Because of this, there are many parts of the park that I missed.
If you are going during this time – get up extra early (the park opens at 7.30) or bare the over-crowding!
Although the best time might be September -October, try to avoid that first week in October, and possibly the Mid-Autumn festival around the 16-18th of September (it’s still worth a visit if you can’t!)
Before you go:
Plan your accommodation to suit what you want to do in Zhangjiajie National Forest. It would be useful to research and figure out what you want to see while you are there. You can then organise your accommodation around this.
It might also be useful to note that, in another part of Zhangjiajie, the world’s longest glass bridge re-opened. Although it’s expensive due to how popular it is, it might be useful to bare in mind when you are planning your trip. For more information on the bridge and boat trips see: http://www.chinahighlights.com/tour/zhangjiajietour/hun-3a/
If you want to do both the National Forest Park and the bridge do remember you are in the mountains, getting around when you are in the Park is fine, but if you want to do the glass bridge, a boat trip and the National Forest, make sure your accommodation is in between.
The Cost: you get a 4-day ticket which costs – 245 ¥ which is about €34. For what you see and for four days, that’s pretty good! Prepare for extra costs like Cable Carts.
Although I was too far away from the glass bridge – Eden Mountain Hotel was a very cute and calm stay, which suited us after a few days in Shanghai and a 20-hour sleeper train. We were a quick walk to one of the park entrances and you could see the mountains from the hotel.
Zhangjiajie National Park
- Try plan out what you want to do in the park before hand.
- Bring lots of water!
- Prepare for a lot of walking.
- Make sure you take into account places to stop for food and the toilet!
- Get yourself a Map (it might be in Chinese but some words are in English – the main thing is following the roads and knowing give or take where you are)
We entered Yangjiajie ticket station – as it was nearest to our hotel. From there we were advised to start from Luoguta ticket station.
It took two buses to get there – you just hop on the buses at no cost, which brings you to different sections of the park. We then made our way up the Golden Whip Strem – I would recommend taking this route – it’s a beautiful scenic route up the river.
Golden Whip Stream:
A highlight for me walking the Golden Whip was the wild monkeys. They have no fear of humans , so they can get up close and personal, which is amazing but some monkeys are quite aggressive.
We planned our trip to follow Lonely Planets recommendation (and we wanted to get away from the crowds). Although I’m not sure if we followed it exactly as we took a left turn a few hours in (the green line on the map).
For those who don’t have the book, here are Lonely Planet recommendations:
This was actually one of the best parts, no one was around, it really felt like you were walking around in the jungle while hiking up the mountains.
At the same time, the steps were a killer – When you get to this point, it’s another 2 hours or more of walking and hiking up the steps.
When we got to the top – I was delighted, the legs had given in and I didn’t want to see another step. But we ended up coming to a main road which was quite dangerous and I would not advise anyone to do this. Wait for a bus, don’t risk walking on the roads.
Eventually, we got to the Avatar shooting site. Again fairly packed – which after a long day of hiking, this is the last thing you want!So remember, try to avoid the first week in October, or any other Chinese holidays! I really feel like I missed a lot of parts due to
So remember, try to avoid the first week in October, or any other Chinese holidays! I really feel like I missed a lot of parts due to overcrowding, but what I did see was beautiful.
I recommend going to the Bailong evaluator , we didn’t make it this far.. after hours of walking and crowds, it was time to make our way back.
To get back we got buses to the Upper Station Yangijgie – where you can get a cable cart down the mountain – which actually allows you to see the mountains from a different view. And after a long day, it’s nice to just sit back and enjoy the view.
Because it would have taken all day to travel through the park by bus, our hotel organised a driver for us to enter the park through the top of the mountain – Tianzi Mountain ticket station.
We were glad to be on top of the mountain and have the option of hiking down instead of up!
This part felt more “Avatar” to me. It was really breathtaking.
We then got an even better Cable Cart then the day before. -Upper Station of Tianzi Mountain Cable to Lower station of Tianzi Mountain. Again, after a full day of walking it’s nice to just enjoy the view.
The cost of Cable Carts: do not come with your ticket. It was around 20euro per journey so use the cable carts to help you get around the park.
This part had a Jurassic Park feel to it:
As we were pushed for time on the trip we only got two days at the park. But two days felt like enough, apart from the over crowding and missing certain parts – I feel you could do the best parts in two days.
Not many people know this place even exists – I didn’t before I moved to China. I defiantly recommend this to anyone who has a love for nature, hiking and mountains. It was a surreal experience.
For more information see: http://www.chinahighlights.com/zhangjiajie/
Or feel free to contact me!
*all pictures are my own*