Zhangjiajie (张家界市), a city located in Hunan Province, is famed for its mountainous regions featuring karst rock formations that were the inspiration for the scenes in the movie Avatar. Near to the city is the Wulingyuan Scenic Area featuring large-scale limestone karst landforms in the northern part of the scenic spot have been eroded and dissolved by the transition of hundreds of millions of years of rivers, forming spectacular landscapes and native wonders.
The area is also home to more than 400 species of wild animals and more than 850 species of plants many of which are classed as protected by national laws. Wulingyuan is known as the maze of nature, the museum of geology, the kingdom of forests, the gardens of plants, and the paradise of wildlife. It is also UNESCO listed and a national 5A tourist attraction.
- Chinese name: 武陵源风景名胜 – Wulingyan Scenic Area – Pinyin: Wǔlíngyuán fēngjǐng míngshèng
- UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site listed in 1992
- Location: Zhangjiajie, Hunan Province, 270 km to the northwest of Changsha (capital of Hunan)
- An area with multiple attractions that can be visited across several days
- Suited for nature lovers, photographers, hikers etc.
Wulingyuan Scenic Area Highlights
Wulingyuan Scenic Area area has a swathe of attractions and is broken into sub scenic areas and attractions, the key area is Zhangjiajie National Forest Park (which is broken into Suoxiyu, Yangjiajie, and Tianzi Mountain scenic areas), Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon, and Tianmen Mountain.
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park (张家界国家森林公园)
Covering an area of 130 square kilometers it was China’s first national forest park. This area captures the essence of Zhangjiajie’s famous landscapes with over 2000 sandstone pinnacles and lush trees. Within Zhangjiajie National Forest Park the three main areas are Suoxiyu, Yangjiajie, and Tianzi Mountain. Each area of the park has its own character and attractions.
- Tianzi Mountain Scenic Area (天子山风景区) – This area is known for its landscapes and vistas with its karts landforms, waterfalls, and clouds that flow in between.
- Yangjiajie Scenic Area (杨家界风景区) – In 1992, a new scenic spot in Yangjiajie was discovered in the northwest corner of Zhangjiajie. This new scenic area has a total area of 3,400 hectares. Key sites here include Step into heaven (一步登天), King off the wall (绝壁藤王), Tian bo (天波府), Longquan Waterfall (龙泉瀑布)
- Suoxiyu Scenic Area 索溪峪风景区 – There are more than 2,000 peaks in the Suoxiyu Natural Scenic Area, as well as 19 gullies and 6 streams. The main attractions are Baofeng Lake (宝峰湖), Huanglong Cave (黄龙洞), Baizhang Gorge (百丈峡), Shili Gallery (十里画廊)
Tour Route for Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park 张家界国家森林公园 →Huangshizhai 黄石寨→Jinhuaxi 金鞭溪→Bailong Tianti 百龙天梯→Yuanjiajie 袁家界→Wulongzhai 乌龙寨→Tianbofu 天波府→Old House 老屋场→Tianzishan 天子山→Helong Park 贺龙公园→Shili Gallery 十里画廊
- Mar to Nov: 225 RMB/adults and 160 RMB/children between 1.3 – 1.5 meters
- Dec to Feb: 115RMB/adults and 85 RMB/children between 1.3 – 1.5 meters
- Free entry for children below 1.3 meters (65 RMB for the electric cart shuttle)
The admission ticket includes Zhangjiajie National Forest Park and its subsections Tianzi Mountain Nature Reserve, Suoxi Valley Nature Reserve, Yangjiajie Scenic Area, and the electric cart shuttle. It also lasts for four days.
Cable car/elevator/train fees
- Bailong Sightseeing Elevator: 65 RMB; 43 RMB for children between 1.3 – 1.5m.
- Yellow Stone Cable: 65 RMB; 40 RMB for children between 1.3 – 1.5m.
- Tianzi Mountain Cable Car: 72 RMB; 43 RMB for children between 1.3 – 1.5m.
- Yangjiajie Cable Car: 76 RMB; 46 RMB for children between 1.3 – 1.5m.
- Ten-mile Gallery Tourist Train (Shili Gallery): 38 RMB; 24 RMB for children between 1.3 and 1.5m.
Time: 2-4 days to explore all the sites
Open Hours: 7:30-17:00
Getting There: From Zhangjiajie Central Bus Station (张家界中心汽车站) take the bus to Wulingyuan Bus Station (张家界武陵源汽车站) near the Wulingyuan Southeast Gate (武陵源东南门) which takes about 50-70 minutes and costs 12 RMB.
Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon (张家界大峡谷) and the Zhangjiajie glass bridge
Located near Wulingyan in Sanguan Township it offers the world-famous glass bridge that spans the epically beautiful canyon. The Grand Canyon is a 4A rated national scenic attraction that was only developed as recently as 2011. Main attractions here are
- Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon skywalk – the longest glass bridge in the world which also offers panoramic views over the valley
- Plank road – a short plank path on the side of the mountain with spectacular views
- Waterfalls – Tianhe Waterfall, Pearl wall, Butterfly Spring Falls, Cuitan Waterfall
- Southern Red Flag Canal
Tickets: 256 RMB (includes Grand Canyon and Glass Bridge tickets)
Time: you can spend 4 hours here
Open Hours: 7:30-17:00
Getting There: From Zhangjiajie Central Bus Station (张家界中心汽车站) take the bus to Wulingyuan Bus Station (张家界武陵源汽车站) which takes about 50-70 minutes. Then take the “Wulingyuan–Grand Canyon” line (武陵源–大峡谷) to the site taking around 30 minutes.
Tianmen Mountain (天门山)
Located 8km away from Zhangjiajie city center, it is the highest mountain in Zhangjiajie, with the main peak of 1518.6 meters (4982.3 feet) high. It is famous for beautiful scenery and key attractions including
- Tianmen Cave (天门洞) – aka gateway to heaven, an archway/cave that is often shrouded in clouds or mist, giving it the appearance of a gateway when looking from below
- 99 Bends – the amazing road that leads to the foot of Tianmen Cave
- Glass Skywalk – there are three different sections on the mountain
- Cliff Hanging Walkway – also has three different sections on the mountain
- Tianmen Temple (天门山寺) – a Buddhist temple dating back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644)
- Tianmen Cable Car (天门山索道) The longest cable car in the world from the foot of the mountain to the tourist area takes 30 mins
Tickets: 258 RMB
Time: you can spend 4-6 hours here
Open Hours: 08:00-16:30
Getting There: It is cheap and convenient to take a taxi from anywhere in Zhangjiajie to get to the Tianmen Mountain ticket office (天门山国家森林公园索道售票处), and then take the cable car up to the top. Most people choose the A route which is cable car up and bus back down later in the day. It is suggested to get there early (before opening) to beat the lines.
April to May is Springtime and is a favorable time to visit with temps from 15 to 25c and whilst there is more chance of rain at this time of year it can also add to the beauty of the mountain. The average annual precipitation in the territory is 1380.0~1450.0 mm. The precipitation is unevenly distributed every month, concentrated in April to July. The concentration period of heavy precipitation is from May to July, and the precipitation reaches 650 mm, accounting for 46% of the total. From December to January, there is less precipitation, about 56 mm, which accounts for only 4% of the total.
August to September is a relatively dry season. August has the highest average of sunny days with 202.5 hours of sunshine; the least in February, the average is 55.7 hours. The period from September to October is also busiest with its sunny days and comfortable weather and little rain.
February to April are slightly windier than other months. The annual average wind speed is 1.1 m / s, which is larger from February to April, 1.3 to 1.5 m / s, and other months is between 1.0 and 1.2 m / s.
December-February can possibly see snow. The snowfall in Wulingyuan Scenic Area is mainly concentrated from December to February and temperatures range from 3 to 10c.
Getting to Zhangjiajie
Zhangjiajie Hehua Airport (张家界荷花国际机场) serves mostly local flights from major domestic airports across China. The airport is around 5 km from Zhangjiajie city and around 40 kilometers from Wulingyuan Scenic Area and Zhangjiajie Forest Park.
From the airport to the city, you can take bus #4 (4路内环) which does a loop of the city (see route on Baidu Maps) or take a taxi which will cost 15-20 RMB.
Zhangjiajie Railway Station (张家界站)
Is the original railway station servicing normal speed trains (K and T type trains) from cities such as Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai, Guiyang, Hangzhou, Kunming, Nanning, Zhengzhou and more.
The station is central to the city and also near to the Tianmen Cable Car ticket office. It is simple and convenient to take a taxi from here to your hotel/guesthouse. Zhangjiajie Central Bus Station (张家界中心汽车站) is also near the train station and from here you can take buses to Wuligyuan for 12 RMB (40-minute journey).
Zhangjiajie West Railway Station (张家界西站)
Located just 5kms from central Zhangjiajie it will offer fast bullet trains to major cities, it will open in late 2019/early 2020. It will connect to Changsha, Yichang, Guilin, Chongqing, Wuhan, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and others.
Where to stay in Zhangjiajie
Zhangjiajie central city area close to airport and train station
- Twinning Hotel – New modern apartments, English speaking staff, restaurant, and free airport shuttle.
- Wan Feng Holiday Inn – modern boutique hotel with English speaking staff
Zhangjiajie Forest park area
- Zhangjiajie Walishanfang Guest House – near the main Wulingyuan Southeast Gate (武陵源东南门) and bus stop
- Glass Cube Guesthouse – featuring traditional Chinese architecture this four-star homestay offers chalet rooms and also offers a unique glass cube room
- Whispering Mountains Boutique Hotel – Located near the western gate of Zhangjiajie Forest Park offering amazing serenity and views with English friendly staff and modern clean fit-out.
Attractions nearby Zhangjiajie
- Tujia Ethnic Folk Garden (土家风情园) – located in central Zhangjiajie it is an ancient castle that displays the classic buildings, folk customs, food, dance of Tujia ethnic minority.
- Xibu Commercial Street (溪布街) – an ancient street in Zhangjiajie city with loads of snacks and local crafts
- Fenghuang Ancient Town (凤凰古城) – one of China’s classical riverside ancient towns
- Red Stone Forest (红石林国家地质公园) in Guzhang County of Xiangxi – stone forest
- Shanjiang Miao Village in Fenghuang (山江苗寨) – Miao minority ethnic customs
- Furong Ancient Town (芙蓉古镇) – scenic ancient waterside village attractions inc. Furong Waterfall, Wuli Slate Street, Tusi Palace, Xizhou Bronze Pillar and Tujia Ancestors’ cave Relics.
- Mengdonghe River Rafting – float down a beautiful 17km section of the Mengdonghe River near Furong Town
- Dehang Miao Village 德夯苗寨 – located in Jishou city it is another village representing Miao customs and culture
- Maoyanhe River Whitewater Rafting (茅岩河漂流风景区)