I have been living in China for 9 months now, and I can tell you travelling about the place requires a LOT of research, so look no further, for here is the perfect piece for planning your trip to Zhangjiajie.
Zhangjiajie goes by many names; floating mountains, Avatar mountains (inspiring the film), Hallelujah mountains and so on. And no doubt it is a magical place like no other. How such great, mostly top-heavy looking rock formation can stay upright, I don’t know. It is definitely a once in a lifetime place to see and deserves a spot on your bucket list! Now that you’re convinced, lets dive right in.
Top things to do:
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park:
This is home to THE mountains. When you arrive, there are busses that will take you about, you’ll want to go up the Glass Elevator which is a fantastic experience in itself, but it will also take you to the top of the mountains where you can then walk about and do some hiking along the paths whilst taking in the dreamy views. Just be sure to note the parks closing times and make your way back in good time. Something me and my friends did not do… and if it wasn’t for our really kind Hostel owner, Victoria, we’d have been stranded. But it was worth it for that sunset.
It’ll take you about 2 hours to get there from Zhangjiajie city.
Prices: You can take the bus for 20 yuan at the bus station in Zhangjiajie city. Simply go through security once at the bus station and ask anyone working there once you are through, were you want to go, they’ll point you to the right minibus and you get on, you’ll pay about 15 minutes into the ride. From Wulinyuan town, you will take another bus costing 20 yuan.
It costs 248 yuan for a 4 day entrance to the Park or if you bring your student and NUS card, you can get student discount and pay 160 yuan.
Wulinyuan Glass Bridge:
The tallest and longest glass bridge in the world, spanning across the forest valley. Walk as though you’re flying with eagles or lie across the glass panelling to really take in its height, and feel the shakes on no doubt crazy tourist jumping and ambling about, taking ten to the dozen selfies. Be sure to pre-book your tickets as you can’t buy them for the same day, always in advance. Also, be sure to get there in good time to queue up for your time slot. Cameras and bags are not allowed on the bridge so you will have to stow them in the storage space for a small fee, however mobiles are allowed. But don’t forget to keep your passport on you as you will need it to get the tickets and go through to the glass bridge.
Prices: It will cost you about 100 yuan to get a taxi from Zhangjiajie city to Wulinyuan town or 10 yuan by bus at the station. From Wulinyuan town, you will take another bus costing 12 yuan.
Tianmen Mountain Cable car and Heaven’s Gate:
Best to book these in advance too, you have the option of going up the mountain by cable car or bus. I personally opted to go up in one of the world’s longest cable cars, starting in the centre of town. Once up there you can enjoy the cliff side views whilst walking along paths that hug the mountainside. They also host skywalks, glass bottomed paths attached to the cliff side.
Prices: You can buy a ticket to go up the mountain for 151 yuan (with student discount, or around 250 yuan without discount) at the Cable car ticket office. We bought them at 9am that day and the next available time was at 12pm for the cable car up and bus back down. Availability depends on which option/mode of transport you choose.
-If possible, don’t travel during a Chinese national holiday as it will be packed with Chinese tourists and the queues will be massive. (Unfortunately, my friends and I were unable to go on the skywalks because of that very reason.)
-After getting the cable car up to Tianmen mountain, you can the take the 14 or so sets of escalators down to Heaven Gate after . A great gaping hole in the rock formation which has ‘999’ knee-breaking steps down, enough to give anyone vertigo. At one point the step was smaller than my foot!
-From there you can get the bus back down the mountain. A 20 or so minute ride down roads that resemble a dropped noodle from above, with almost 360 degree bends in the cliff side roads, you’re in for one hell of a bus ride!
-When booking, you have the option of 3 choices:
A: Cable car up, bus back down. (What we did, and what I recommend)
B: Bus up, Cable car back down.
C: Bus up, bus back down. (Cheapest)
Where to stay:
If you’re on a budget then you can find some awesome hostels on Hostel World.
We stayed in one called CC Hostel, really cute and cosy, and the owner Victoria has amazing English and was crazy helpful when we got locked in the National Park or lost in a basement at 4am. (Curious, check out my 3 part VLOG, links at the end of this article).
Its takes 10 minutes by taxi to get to the bus station, costing around 7 yuan.
If you have a higher budget then there are stunning hotels and hostels both in Zhangjiajie city or out in the mountains, perfect for a getaway.
Other useful info:
-Food is easy enough to find if you walk about town. Out late? Not a problem, you can get Chinese street BBQ. You should also be sure to try their pineapple on a stick, it looks like a yellow wedge with holes in it, on a wooden stick, and they’re dunked in big jars of water. You will see these amongst other myriad of Chinese street-food style snacks up the mountains, such as corn, chestnuts, black tofu, a Chinese style of flat bread, baozi’s (pronounced b-ow-d-z-a’s). You can buy ‘mian bao’, (pronounced like ‘me-en-b-ow’), a type of steamed bread that is ever so slightly sweet at the bus station for 1 yuan, good for a cheap on-the-go breakfast snack.
-The city of Zhangjiajie, whilst it’s not the biggest, like most Chinese cities is lit up bright and colourful at night with random dancing and performances on the streets; its very fun to walk about and explore, especially once the sun sets.
-Depending on what season you go, the weather will differ and the mountains will either be shrouded in mist, blanketed in snow or hugged by warm hazy rays. Note that if the weather is heavily snowing or icy, the cable car is closed.
Written by Raphaella Ruggiero
Edited by Amy Ruggiero
If you found this useful and want a visual, check out my 3-part daily VLOGS during my experience there.
Click the links below or find me at ‘Ramblella’ on Youtube, feel free to subscribe!