Small How-To Guide on Zhangjiajie
For those of you who’ve seen Avatar, you’re probably familiar with the Halleluiah Mountains: The famous floating mountains of Pandora. What you may not know, however, is that the idea for the Halleluiah Mountains came from the equally as stunning Zhangjiajie National Forest Park.
Located in Zhangjiajie, China, this national park is well off the path from the common tourist destinations like Beijing and Shanghai. But if you’re willing to put your adventurer pants on, you will be in for one heck of an experience. Below are a few quick tips for those who decide to visit.
Where to stay:
Unless you are very short on time, do yourself a favor and DO NOT stay inside the national park. I stayed in the national park and I regretted it instantly. Most restaurants tend to be near tourist attractions (which in some cases are on top of mountains).
Unless you’re okay with eating instant noodles every day, the restaurant issue can become a pain real quick. I’ve been told staying in Wulingyuan is a good idea and judging by the map I studied, I’d endorse that suggestion.
I stayed at a hostel called the Tongfu Inn inside the park. It was a nice place to stay but again I recommend you don’t stay inside the park like I did.
Get off the beaten path:
If you are willing to explore a bit and take the road less traveled, you can be in for quite the reward. Chinese tourist tend to stick together in massive hired tour groups that congregate at the major tourist attractions in Zhangjiajie. They also tend to take the easier routes to the major tourist destinations (i.e. the cableways and buses). This means that if you are willing to use the trails and sweat it out up the side of a mountain, you could very likely be rewarded with a trail all to yourself and all the beautiful scenery.
I took this picture between mid-morning to and early afternoon. If you stay away from the cable cars and stick to the trails, it can feel like you’re the only person in the park.
Weather doesn’t care about your feelings:
Zhangjiajie is fairly highup in altitude so unless you want to take a shower outside against your will; I highly recommend you take an umbrella or a rain jacket. While it may not look like rain in the morning, that’s no guarantee you won’t be getting free water samples from the sky in the afternoon.
I was lucky to avoid rain for the most part but I did have a bunch of fog on my last day. It can be a blessing and a curse: it can make for great pictures….if you can see anything.
A little Chinese goes a long way:
Zhangjiajie is famous in China, keyword: CHINA. Most of the tourist will be Chinese and while there is English in the park, a lot of it can be difficult to understand. With that being said, take this as an opportunity to learn some Chinese. It can go a long way toward keeping your trip a destresser and not a distresser.
I took this picture in the train station but it still shows how confusing the English can be in the park.
I can’t say enough how beautiful this place is. If you love hiking and you love nature, this should be a must do on your Chinese bucket list.