Known for it’s amazing effects and awe-inspiring backdrop, The Avatar movie introduced us to the fabled Hallelujah Mountains in the mythological land of Pandora.
James Cameron’s movie took his inspiration for the mountains from the scenic Zhangjiaje National Forest Park and the park has become so recognized that the Chinese Government has even renamed one of the park mountains the “Avatar Mountain!”
More than just a movie
As well as inspiring a movie, Zhangjiaje National Forest Park has many other wonderful things to offer; it is part of the Wulingyuan scenic area where you can find also some hiking trails and lakes to visit. In this article we outlined all you need to know about planning your Avatar adventure.
How to get there
There are not as many flights to and from Zhangjiajie, as one might expect, for such a popular destination. Xi’an, Chengdu, Beijing and Shanghai all have regular flights but Kunming, for example, don’t. Make sure you check carefully before making travel plans.
If you are planning to fly into Changsha, a busier hub offering more daily flights, expect a 5-6 hours journey to get from Changsha to Zhangjiajie area.
As for trains, only K trains travel to Zhangjiajie at the moment. No bullet trains are available, not even from “near-by” locations such as Guilin.
Where to stay
There are 2 main areas where you would want to plan your stay – Wulingyuan and Zhangjiajie.
Contrary to what you might think, Wulingyuan is where you should plan to stay the longest as it is located at the entrance to the Zhangjiajie park. It is a small town north to Zhangjiajie about an hour drive. If you can, plan to stay there for 2 or 3 days.
Though named as the national park, and the largest city in the area, there are not many place to visit when staying in Zhangjiajie. Tianmen mountains and the Fox Fairy Show are the main ones. Don’t forget your flight will arrive in this city, though, so plan accordingly.
How to plan your days
If you are staying in Wulingyuan, you can visit Zhangjiajie park, Baofang lake and the Yellow Dragon cave. Many of the viewing spots are very popular and therefore crowded, but the wait is definitely worth it.
Our Tip: start early to make the most!
Day 1 – Zhangjiajie park
Zhangjiajie national park is, of course, the No.1 place to visit in the area, but there are so many things to do that you can spend few days just here. The park is open from 07:00 to 18:00 all year round.
You can purchase a three-day ticket for CNY 248 ($38), which includes Yellow Stone Stronghold, Golden Whip Stream and Yaozi Village in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park and Yangjiajie, Yuanjiajie, Tianzi Mountain, and the Ten-mile Gallery in Suoxiyu Valley Scenic Spot.
If you are planning to hike around the park you will need sturdy boots and a good sense of direction.
Day 2 – The world’s tallest Glass Bridge
About an hour drive from Wulingyuan, there lies the tallest glass bridge in the world that can host 8000 people at once. Though this is definitely the major attraction of the area, the visit to the bridge is a short one, which means you can spend the rest of the day touring other parts of the area.
Our recommendation is to explore the Grand Canyon, if open. The canyon might not look that impressive from above, but once there, you will find a beautiful leisure hiking trail with small streams, water-falls, big caves and even a lake where you can take a boat-ride.
Our Tip: The way down is a bit steep but there is an elevator half-way through which is worth taking.
Day 3 – or, the alternatives
If the Grand Canyon isn’t open for visits, you can always opt for Baofeng lake or the Yellow Dragon cave, each about an hour to hour and a half drive from Wulingyuan.
On the other hand, there are s few walking and hiking trails in the area of Wulingyuan as well, but you will need to check at your hotel which is open on the day of your trip.
Day 4 – Tianmen mountains
This day starts from Zhangjiajie city, though technically, you can also reach Tainmen mountains from Wulingyuan. Plan for about 4 hours of touring around this area and do note that the park is closing at 4pm.
Our Tip: If you plan your flight back home on this day, you can still include dinner or the Fox Fairy Show in the evening, as most flights leave late from Zhangjiajie.
Days 5-6 – Fenghuang city
Fenghuang (Phoenix city) is a famous attraction to visit in Hunan, if you have the time. It is a long journey from Zhangjiajie, but you can plan on staying over night in this picturesque old town and from there drive to Changsha (also 6-7 hours’ dirve) or back to Zhangjiajie airport.
Our Tip: The small village of Tujia is on the way from Zhangjiajie to Fenghuang, if you want to make a nice break-stop along the way.
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