Zhangjiajie, in China, is surely one of the most famous and popular National Parks in the country . And it is, among other things, thanks to one of the most viewed movies of recent years. We talk about “Avatar” a James Cameron movie, which tells a story that reached millions of hearts across the planet.
The Hallelujah Mountains of Avatar were a representation in fiction, of the same mountains that exist in real life in the Zhangjiajie National Park , which is located in the northwest of Hunan province, more than 1,000 kilometers from cities such as Shanghai and Beijing . And you have to know, that it is the first national park in China, established in 1982, and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Of course they could not choose a better place. Zhangjiajie is famous for its beauty, and for its more than 3,000 vertical pillars , some with more than 200 meters high , and for being covered in a dense and lush green foliage. Karst pillars formed by erosion, attracting more than 30 million national and international tourists every year. Between the peaks there are ravines and gorges with streams, natural pools and waterfalls, some 40 caves and two large natural bridges.
How to get there?
Is not difficult. There are direct trains and flights from the most important tourist cities of China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Xi’an, to Zhangjiajie, which although it has improved in terms of infrastructure, is still a small isolated city surrounded by mountains with a small airport , and without high-speed trains.
If we go by plane, we must go to Wulingyuan , a small town that is right at the main entrance of the park. Taxis are available for the trip from the airport, but remember to negotiate the price beforehand. It should not cost you more than 260 yuan.
How to plan your visit?
To make the most of your time, since the park is really immense, it is best to organize the tours you want to do in advance. The most important thing is that you try not to go on a weekend or on holidays, there will be too many people and you will lose a bit of magic.
Get a map, at the hotel if possible, and ask in advance what is the best itinerary . In the park the information in English is very scarce.
The most important thing is that there are two entrances : one next to the city, and another about 15 minutes by bus from the Wulingyuan bus station . This last entrance is less crowded and offers excellent views from the village of Huangshi at a distance of 3.8 kilometers on foot, in case you feel like walking. And there is a cable car to get to Huangshi.
When you arrive you will end up buying an entry, which is valid for four days, so do not lose it . And once inside the park, you have to follow the road to where the buses pick you up to take you further up the mountain. Attentive because there are several routes. One of them will take you to the cable car of Tianzi Mountain .
The cable car is paid separately. And we do not need to tell you that the views during the trip are simply amazing. The cableway of Mount Tianzi is 2,084 meters away and it is worth it. The Chinese Avatar mountains are usually shrouded in mist which gives a magical air to the landscape.
Once up, you just have to go to the observation areas, and there are buses that will take you from one platform to another, it is quite comfortable.
If you’re hungry, you will not have a problem, because even if it seems like a lie, there’s a McDonald’s up there.
As we have said, there are several scenic observation areas connected by buses, but to get to Pilar del Cielo del Sur, the mountain that has inspired the famous “Hallelujah Mountains” that you see in the film, you have to walk. The mountain changed its name and is now called “Avatar Hallelujah Mountain”
When the trek ends, the Bailong elevator awaits you , or “the three dragons” elevator. Built on the side of the cliff, it is a mega-construction that breaks the magic a bit, but it is one of the most curious panoramic elevators in the world , in which if you want to enter you will have to pay another 72 yuan.
The Bailong elevator has several records to its credit: to be the outdoor lift exposed to the highest weather in the world, the world’s highest hikers and the fastest and most loaded passenger in the world. An authentic work of engineering. Yes, be prepared to stand in line, the trip is short and you will have to try to get as close as possible to the glass to be able to enjoy the landscape. As you usually go to the top, if you have claustrophobia, do not worry, you can also go down some stairs, those are long, about 500 steps. Once down there is a bus that will take you back to the park entrance .
Where to sleep?
The best place is the city of Wulingyuan, next to the main entrance of the park. This city is about 70 kilometers from Zhangjiajie Airport. And one of the few five-star hotels there is the Zhangjiajie Pullman Hotel. The location of this hotel is good, just 10 minutes walk from the entrance to the Zhangjiajie National Park.