The Zhangjiajie National Park, or the ‘Avatar Mountains’, as it’s been known since James Cameron’s stunning film came out, is one of the most incredible places to see on earth with sights that will make you feel like you’ve been transported to the mystical planet of Pandora. These majestic mountains rise in a way that seems impossible, and provide incredible views.
However, if you’re going to hike this incredible park you need to know more about what to see, when you should plan your trip, and how long you should plan to stay there. We asked fellow travel bloggers and Zhangjiajie visitors, Agness and Cez of eTramping, to to answer these vital questions and more in the sections below. Take our advice and plan your best possible adventure to Zhangjiajie!
How Long Will You Spend in the Park?
This is a highly debated question that has many different answers. Honestly, it depends on how much you would like to see. There are so many beautiful sights and so many places to go and wander in the 185 square miles that are encompassed in the park that you could literally spend weeks there.
The main ticket into the park will let you stay for 3 days, and costs 245 yuan, or 140 yuan for students under 24. There are additional costs for some things inside the park, such as the glass elevator. You will need at least 3 days to cover the main sights without feeling rushed, although if you don’t have the time you can buy single day passes.
One thing to note, from our experience, is that you only need the tickets to enter, which means it’s up to you how long you spend inside, as long as you don’t leave the park. There are both cheap hostels and expensive hotels within the park itself, so you don’t need to make your way out every night.
What to See
The Zhangjiajie Scenic Area is where you will start your journey, and you can either hike the treacherous path to the top of the peak or take the amazing glass elevator to the top to see the incredible sites. Wander the trails along the tops of these fantastic mountains and find the best sights!
The Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Skywalk is an absolutely essential part of your journey here. A death-defying glass walkway that links two cliffs, this incredible space has just recently been opened to the public and hangs 980 feet above the ground. To enter the Grand Canyon area and see the skywalk, you will need to pay an estimated 240 yuan extra.
There are many more incredible sights to see, including tranquil rivers, caves and caverns to explore, and miles and miles of well-worn hiking trails through valleys and up steep hills, traveling over mountains and traversing rivers.
Also, don’t forget the often overlooked Tianmen Mountain, which is well worth the additional 258 yuan. This price includes a ride in a cable car to the incredible site (one of the longest cable car rides in the world). Walk up the stairs to Heaven’s Gate, and make your way higher and higher, up to Heaven Gate Mountain. Don’t try this if you’re afraid of heights! The views are absolutely stunning from the top, and it will take you a full day to truly explore this wonder.
Where Will You Stay?
There are many different options in and around the park area. If you decide to hike up Mt. Wugong, there is a camp near the Jinxin Bridge where you can stay as a sort of halfway point. There are also many different hostels inside the park, and if you’re willing to live simply, they are perfect. There are also hotels and hostels outside the park in nearby Wulingyuan (where a five star hotel will cost only 600 yuan), and you can re-enter the park without a problem if you’ve bought a multiple-day ticket.
What Should You Bring?
Make sure you have a good camera and know necessary steps to take the best travel pictures as you’ll want to save these memories. Also, rain gear is good for spring time, and sunscreen is necessary in summer. Make sure your clothing is fit for hiking and that your shoes won’t allow you to slide. Your own toilet paper might be a good idea as well. And don’t forget your hiking snacks and plenty of water!
When to Go
To get the most out of your trip, knowing when to visit is important. November to March is winter in Zhangjiajie, and although this may present some delightful snowy vistas, hiking the area at this time of year is very cold and could be dangerous. Also, the park sometimes closes due to snow. It would also be best to avoid the rainy season which runs from April to June. This time of year, you risk your views being obscured by fog, or the trails being dangerously wet and muddy. The months of July and August have lovely weather, but tend to be very crowded.
Our best recommendation would be to visit between September and October (although the first week in October is a holiday in China, so beware of crowds!).
The breathtaking views that surround you in Zhangjiajie are beyond anything you can imagine. Create your perfect vacation there and you will leave with a treasure store of unforgettable memories.
Agness and Cez are the creators of eTramping, a travel blog where you can source budget travel guides in almost every city in the world and teaching jobs across China. They are full of passion for photography and local food. Follow their journey on Facebook and make sure you check their blog!