Located in China’s Hunan province, one look at the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park by most people makes them immediately want to visit. The unique pillar-shaped mountains, combined with an absolutely beautiful and magnificent karst and forested landscape, have made this one of the China’s best National Parks.
Being China’s first National Park, Zhangjiajie has become an incredibly popular tourist destination. During peak season, it is usually filled with so many guests it’s hard to move around. Try to avoid holidays and any school breaks for this exact reason.
If you’re interested in visiting this incredible part of China, here are a couple of tips to get you going and the best places to visit in the park. Also make sure to check out Tianmen Mountain, just next door and a short bus ride (or cable car ride) away.
-Zhangjiajie translates to the home of the Zhang family. This refers to a general during the Hang Dynasty known as Zhang Liang.
-Zhangjiajie was China’s first National Park, having been made as such in 1982.
-Zhangjiajie was the sight of iconic ‘floating mountain’ scenes from the 2009 James Cameron Film Avatar.
-Zhangjiajie is where you will find the longest glass bridge in the world: it’s about 300 meters high and takes a fair amount of time to traverse.
-There is also the world’s tallest glass elevator located in the park. It’s 326 meters down from its highest point.
-When you in Zhangjiajie, you’ll be confronted by wild monkeys. Don’t try and become friends with them though, they have a habit of stealing tourists’ food and possessions.
History of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
Zhangjiajie itself is actually a prefecture-level city located in the Chinese province of Hunan. It has a recorded history dating back as far as 221 BC, when it was known as Dayong. Today, the city itself is not particularly famous, yet the national park which comes right next door is one of the most beautiful in China.
Due to the city and National Park’s location, combined with the huge number of mountains which surround and are inside of them, the area has not been as developed as other area’s in China. In fact, during much of history, the people who lived in the area were known as the savage southern tribe.
Despite this, in more recent years, the natural beauty of the park has come to be incredibly famous; internationally so after the movie Avatar was released. With several of the world’s tallest, longest, and largest structures having been made here, it’s also been thrown into the Guinness book of world records.
In 2004, the Zhangjiajie was marked as a UNESCO Global Geopark.
Culture Of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
Mount Tianzi: One of the parks largest mountains at 1262.5 meters, Mount Tianzi is a must for anyone looking to explore the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. Its location makes it the perfect place to start your exploration of the park. You can either walk to the top or take a cable car.
The World’s Longest Cable Car: For one of the best views of the park, you’ll want to take the cable car. This Cable Car will take you another of the best areas of the park: Tianmen Mountain – or heavenly fate mountain. The Cable Car measures an impressive 7455 meters and will take you right across most of the National Forest Park.
Yuanjiajie: If you’re looking for the best photo ops in the park, then head to Yuanjiajie. Here, the mountains are all roughly the same height, meaning that you can stand atop one of them and any pictures you take will not be ruined by large obscuring mountains. A definite favorite for most photo-savvy travelers. Moreover, it’s right next to the Golden Whip Stream Trail.
Golden Whip Stream Trail: If you really want to explore the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park from the ground up, then you should make sure to include the Golden Whip Stream Trail in your itinerary. This magnificent walk through the parks forested under-canopy will take you alongside the Golden Whip Stream. If you prefer forest views over mountains, this will definitely be the right place for you. Try to time your visit so you arrive just after it’s been raining. You’ll get a higher water level in the stream and so better pictures.
Bailong Elevator: The world’s tallest elevator – even in the Guinness book of world records. At 326 meters tall, the Bailong elevator offers a truly impressive view of the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. It’s not as scary as the Coiling Dragon Cliff, but still might be a little off-putting for those with a fear of heights.
Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge: The world’s longest and highest glass bridge. This engineering super-feat is 430 meters long and 300 meters high. The bridge was closed for some time due to safety concerns, yet it is believed to have been opened again following a thorough review. Limited guests are able to travel on the bridge every day, so it’s best to book up in advance. You can also expect to see some people who are a genuine fear of heights.
Tips For Visiting Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
-You must buy a 2-day entrance ticket to enter the park. This costs 248 RMB.
-On top of this, the cable cars which travel through the park and other attractions cost extra. The Cable Car fee is 72 RMB per person / per time.
-If you want to go up Tianmen Mountain, this is an additional 248 RMB but includes the cable car.
-The best time of year to visit is during Autumn. This is because the weather is just right and the park erupts into incredible hues.
-You can take a bus to the Zhangjiajie Central Bus Station. From here, you can take another, smaller, bus into the park for just 15 RMB.
-Be careful about booking a hotel. Due to the park’s somewhat remote location, many of the hotels are of a lower quality and will not serve western food.