Zhangjiajie, China: The Stunning Land of Avatar

The famous mountainside glass walkways in Zhangjaijie China. Max Harshorne photos
The famous mountainside glass walkways in Zhangjaijie China. Max Harshorne photos

Zhangjiajie China in Hunan Province is Out of this World

By Gyscha Rendy

Screen Shot 2020 12 04 at 3.07.31 PM
A boat ride in Zhangjiajie. Gyscha Rendy photo.

Go where you feel most alive.

Last night just before I went to bed, as usual, I’d check email and social media only to find Facebook would remind me that this time last year I was hiking alone in Zhangjiajie, China, in the Hunan Province.

It was a spontaneous trip I took after I saw a good friend of mine posted pictures with the backdrop of the floating mountains of Avatar.

Simply magnificent views. I was craving for nature, craving for the peaceful feeling you can only find when you’re by yourself in the mountains.

Driving to Zhangjjajie
View out the bus window while driving to Zhangjiajie, China.

Here, the loudest sound you can hear is only your footsteps, breath, your thoughts, and nature. I thought well, wherever that Avatar mountain is ( later I found out it’s Zhangjiajie National Park), I should go.


Who knew a spontaneous decision to buy a flight ticket to Changsha with a mission to visit Zhangjiajie would take me to a big adventure and journey I’ve never been before.

Quite an Adventure Getting There

It turned out it’s quite an adventure to get to Zhangjiajie. Located in Hunan province, it’s not complicated to get to Zhangjiajie National Park.

You can fly to Zhangjiajie Hehua International Airport from most big cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Changsha, and Shenzhen.

Or, from Changsha airport, take the shuttle bus to Changsha West Bus Station then bus to Wulingyuan/Zhangjiajie.

The bus departs every half an hour from 7 am to 9 pm, just be sure to bring enough cash with you and pack some food and water since the journey to Zhangjiajie will take about four hours.

No WiFi

Wulingyuan District bike guy
Wulingyuan district, Hunan China.

Everything went well until I got off in the wrong city. It was around 6 pm, I remember I didn’t have WIFI, didn’t know anyone or the city and I knew I have to get a cab to get to my hotel before it gets dark.

With my basic Chinese, I started to ask people around and talked to a few taxi drivers, hoping and praying one of them would take me to Wulingyuan.

I was really scared at the time, then this old taxi driver agreed to drive me to Wulingyuan.

After almost an hour of driving surrounded by forest and mountains with no signs of houses, people, or even street lights, I asked my taxi driver again if we’re almost there. He said yes.

Then I started to get really panic when suddenly the car stopped.

The world's tallest elevator goes up the side of a cliff in Zhangjeije, China.
The world’s tallest elevator goes up the side of a cliff in Zhangjiajie, China.

This time my driver explained there’s a little construction happening so we have to wait. After waiting and waiting then continue driving for another hour, finally, we made it to Wulingyuan.

Not gonna lie, I had a lot of imaginations and worst-case scenarios in my head but the truth is…life only sends me the best people.

My driver was a sweet and kind old man, he even called my hotel and made sure the receptionist picked me up at the main street.

Wulingyuan Town

Wulingyuan town: tourists yes, but a pretty authentic town too.
Wulingyuan town: tourists yes, but a pretty authentic town too.
Gyscha Rendy photo.
Gyscha Rendy photo.

Arriving in Wulingyuan town, you’ll find many hotels and restaurants just next to Zhangjiajie National Park.

If you want to experience something different, there are few guesthouses inside Zhangjiajie National Park for visitors who wish to stay closer to nature. Zhangjiajie National Park is open every day from 7 AM to 6 PM.

The entrance fee starts from CNY248/person from March to November and CNY139/person from December to February.

The ticket is valid for 4 days and includes some of the main attractions like Huangshi Village, Yuanjiajie, Golden Whip Stream, Tianzi Mountain and Yangjiajie.

From the main entrance of the park where you can purchase your tickets and get maps, there are several buses that will take you to some spots around the national park.

bridges on the Mountain
One of the many bridges that look down 4500 feet from Mt Tiano in Zhangjiajie. Max Hartshorne photos.

It is stunningly gorgeous, so huge that you’d need more than three days to explore the entire national park.

the pinnacles of Zhangjiejie
The pinnacles of Zhangjiajie
Wulingyuan District Zhangjiajie Hunan China
Getting into the tram that takes you 7 km to the top of the mountain.

Stepping into Zhangjiajie National Park is almost like leaving the real world and going into the world of Avatar. Except we’re not on a mission to find Pandora here, but to unfold the mystery of the Park.

You’ll be greeted by giant vertical pillars, layers of mountains, misty fog blowing over mountains. It’s breathtaking, wild, and mysterious.

Far away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, standing in the middle of nowhere inside the dense forest of Zhangjiajie National Park can make you feel really small. A truly humbling experience to witness how nature works.

Huanglongdong Scenic Area Zhangjiajie
Huanglongdong Scenic Area, Zhangjiajie

Hiking and exploring Zhangjiajie by myself for few days, once again I learned that life always has a funny, strange way to humble, uplift, remind and inspire you.

Life Reminds Us When It’s Time to Go Slow

Just when I thought I could never make it, well life reminds me it’s totally OK to go slow.

Do not try to see the entire mountain, it’s never about the destination, but enjoy the journey.

One step at a time. Do not rush, do not compare yourself with others. You’d never be able to see everything here it’s just too big and it takes too long.

But you’ll be glad for seeing any part of this magnificent awe-inspiring part of China.

Gysha RendyIndonesian author, life enthusiast, and content creator Gysha Rendy fell in love with photography, people, culture, and nature when she was traveling around South East Asia in 2011 then decided to start her own travel page and podcast Flirty and Fabulous.

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