Zhangjiajie is where you will find the absolutely beautiful landscapes made famous by the movie, Avatar. We are particular fans of nature and absolutely love visiting National Parks around the world. Zhangjiajie National Park is definitely up there with the likes of Zion National Park, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon – the scenery is spectacular! We didn’t know Zhangjiajie National Park existed until we ran into Australian and British backpackers in Guilin who raved about how amazing the place is. We travelled to Zhangjiajie from Guilin by train, which took approximately 9 hours.
Zhangjiajie National Park
Zhangjiajie National Park has an entrance fee of 245 CNY per person which allows you four days of consecutive entry into the park. There is plenty of things to do and see in the National Park and you could easily spend four days in the park without getting bored if you have the time. However, if you are short on time, most hotels in the area recommend spending at least 2 days in the National Park.
How to get to the National Park from Zhangjiajie City?
Most people traveling to the area first arrive in Zhangjiajie City. The two main entrances to the National Park are the Zhangjiajie National Park entrance and the Wulingyuan entrance.
The Zhangjiajie National Park entrance
As we were staying in Zhangjiajie, we used the Zhangjiajie National Park entrance to enter the park every day. To get to here, take a bus from the main bus station in Zhangjiajie City to the National Park. It costs 12 CNY and takes around 1 hour to reach the park. From this entrance, you can also reach Wulingyuan for 10 CNY.
The Wulingyuan park entrance
Wulingyuan is 1.5 hours from Zhangjiajie City and costs 20 CNY in a bus. Many people prefer to stay in the town of Wulingyuan after they arrive in Zhangjiajie City due to its close proximity to one end of the National Park.
As the buses in this area of China are not numbered, it is helpful to have the Chinese characters of where you want to go. Here is the Chinese for the following:
- Zhangjiajie National Park – 张家界国家公园
- Wulingyuan – 武陵源
- Zhangjiajie – 张家界
How to navigate the Zhangjiajie National Park?
Zhangjiajie National Park is a big area spanning 4,810 ha (11,900 acres). As it is a large area, there are a variety of different transport options in the Park including buses, trams, cable cars and the longest outdoor elevator in the world. The buses are complimentary and are in included in your entrance fee however, the cable cars & elevator cost an additional fee. The price of the cable cars is around 76 CNY (varies marginally cable car to cable car) & the elevator is 72 CNY. This can be quite an expense if you wish to visit the park for 4 consecutive days. The only other choice is to hike. Every part of the National Park is accessible by hiking. We preferred to hike as the National Park is very busy and hiking gives you an opportunity to enjoy the views without hordes of tourists around.
What are the best things to do in the National Park?
There are a lot of things to do in the National Park and you could easily spend 4 days in the Park. Here are what we think are the ‘must see’ attractions in the Park.
1. Walk the Golden Whip Stream & 10 Mile Gallery
This is relatively easy and flat walk along the river’s edge which takes over two hours one way from the Zhangjiajie Forest National Park entrance. There is absolutely stunning scenery in the area and if you are a monkey fan, the river bank is absolutely infested with monkeys! You can even see them swimming in the river in the summer months which is pretty cool to observe. Continue this walk to the Ten-mile gallery, admiring the views at the Three Sisters Peak and exit the park via the Wulingyuan park entrance. This walk can also be completed in the opposite direction.
2. Check out Huangshi Villlage
We hiked to Huangshi Villlage from the Zhangjiajie National Park entrance. It is 90 minutes of walking straight uphill, stairs all the way up. It is safe to say, it is not an easy walk but we definitely felt accomplished when we reached the top. Despite being a hard hike, we enjoyed taking breaks to the many monkeys playing in the trees overhead. For people who do not want to hike, catch the free bus to the Lower Station of Huangshi Cableway. From here, catch the Huangshi Village Cableway to the Huangshi Villlage. At the top, there are absolutely gorgeous views from many different vantage points. If you are not too exhausted when you reach the top, you can take a 3 hour walk around the area. Some people chose to take the cable car up and walk down which is definitely a good option for older people or people with kids. The hike downhill is only 60 minutes and relatively easy.
3. Admire the Avatar views at Yuanjiajie
We hiked to Yuanjiajie from the Zhangjiajie National Park entrance. To reach the start of this hike, start walking down the Golden Whip Stream, keep right, do not cross the bridge and walk until you see stairs going uphill. The area is not well signed. The pictures below show you which way to go if you wish to hike. From the stairs, it is a 60 minute hard walk uphill until you reach the town. From here, there is a walk along the cliffside with picturesque avatar views. Make sure you see The National Bridge, The Hallelujah Mountain vantage points and the Enchanted Garden. Alternatively, if you don’t feel like walking you can catch the free bus from the Zhangjiajie Forest park entrance to the Yangjiajie cableway and head up that way. Once you get off the cableway, get a bus 10 minutes down the road to Tianqiao Stop to begin your scenic walk. On the way down, if you don’t want to take the cable, you can walk (much easier than the way up) or alternatively catch the bus to the Bailong Elevator and head back down that way if you are staying in Wulingyuan.
4. Hike around Yangjiajie Scenic area
The Yangjiajie Scenic area either requires you to walk up the same way as to Yuanjiajie and catch a free bus from the Tianqio Stop to the Yangjiajie cableway to start your hike or catch the cable car straight up. The views in this area are fantastic but in our opinion not as nice as those at Yuanjiajie if you are pressed for time.
How to get to Zhangjiajie?
Train Travel to Zhangjiajie
Zhangjiajie is a little bit of an isolated location so traveling by train is probably the most convenient option. We traveled from Guilin by train which took approximately 11 hours. Train travel onwards to Chengdu (to see the gorgeous pandas) takes around 12 hours.
Closest Airport to Zhangjiajie
If you are not a fan of train travel, the closest airport to Zhangjiajie is Zhangjiajie Hehua Airport (DYG) but it is only serviced by a limited number of airlines. Check Skyscanner to see if your destination flys to Zhangjiajie. If not, it may be possible to get a flight to Guilin and take the train from this point.
Where to stay?
To visit the National Park, you have three choices as to where to stay:
- Zhangjiajie – 1 hour outside the Park;
- Wulingyuan – 1.5 hours from Zhangjiajie City, Park entrance 1km from Wulingyuan bus station; or
- Zhangjiajie Forest park entrance – Directly at the park, 1 hour from Zhangjiajie City, 30 minutes from Wulingyuan
As arrived by train at 11pm at night, we decided to stay in Zhangjiajie City at the Art Hotel. This hotel was clean, comfortable and very modern with a fantastic wifi speed (very unusual for China). We only paid 170 CNY a night ($25 USD). The 9.8 review score the hotel boasts on booking.com is definitely a true representation of the quality of the hotel. The hotel also has a very nice common area and some pretty cute cats to play with.
Other activities to do in the Zhangjiajie area?
We preferred to spend all our time in the National Park as there is a lot to do & see and we didn’t feel as though the other attractions in the area would be as good. However, if you have some extra time up your sleeve, you can consider adding Tianmen Mountain and the Glass Bridge into your itinerary.
- Tianmen Mountain is best accessed & is located directly in Zhangjiajie City. It costs 250 CNY to enter for a day pass which includes the cable car but does not include its main attraction, the Glass Bottom Cliffside Path. The views from the top look beautiful but are essentially just gorgeous mountain views which we have seen elsewhere in the world. We decided to opt out of this day in favour of spending more time in the National Park with the unique avatar views.
- The Glass Bridge is located a 45 minute drive from Zhangjiajie City & costs 138 CNY to enter. Many tourists are underwhelmed by this attraction as, despite its claims, it is not a completely glass bridge or as scary as it claims.
We hope this guide helped you plan your trip to Zhangjiajie National Park and that you love it as much as we did! Leave a comment below if you have any questions or anything to add about visiting Zhangjiajie National Park.
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