How to visit Avatar mountains in China as DIY trip

Zhangjiajie in China became popular in foreign travellers’ eyes after the movie Avatar. The Hallelujah Mountains in Avatar were inspired by Heavenly Pillar in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. Zhangjiajie is located in the northwest of Hunan Province, over 1,000 kilometres from both Shanghai and Beijing. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park was the first national park in China, established in 1982. They couldn’t have chosen a better site - Zhangjiajie is famous for its 3,000 vertical pillars, each hundreds of meters tall and covered in dense green foliage. These pillars were formed by erosion and draw in over 30 million tourists every year. It's a UNESCO world heritage site in China since 1992. Here is how to visit Avatar mountains as DIY trip.24 avatar mountains 1330123

How to get to Avatar Mountains

There is a limited number of direct trains and flights from China's major tourist cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Xi'an to Zhangjiajie and its Forest Park in China. Despite infrastructure improvement, Zhangjiajie is still a small town surrounded by mountains, with a small airport and no high-speed railway. The fastest way to get to Zhangjiajie is to fly. Zhangjiajie Hehua International Airport (IATA: DYG) is the only airport in the Zhangjiajie. There are regular flights to this airport from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and some other cities of China; still, the number of flights is limited. After your arrival at the airport during the day, take a taxi to the bus station and then go by bus to Wulingyuan town next to the main park entrance. If you arrive late in the evening, buses don’t go there anymore, so the only option would be a taxi. Ask to use a meter or agree about the price in advance using a phone translation app if needed. The price should not be more than 260 Yuan.

Where to stay?

The best place to stay when attending Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, in my opinion, is Wulingyuan town next to the main park entrance. The town is located about 70 kilometres from Zhangjiajie airport. Zhangjiajie Pullman Hotel on Gaoyun Road in Wulingyuan is actually one of the few 5 star hotels in Zhangjiajie and there are not many choices for foreigners to stay in this area. The location of this hotel is good as it's close to the Wulingyuan scenic area. The hotel is nice, well decorated and has a good swimming pool. The staff is friendly and helpful even though not all staff members speak English; they would call someone to help. The room was spacious with a balcony and a comfortable bed. The bathroom has a separate shower and a bathtub. Although the breakfast is mainly catering for the Chinese, it still offered plenty of choices.10 paulmann hotel 133007211 paulmann hotel 133006112 paulmann hotel china 133004913 paulmann hotel 1330067

How to plan your Zhangjiajie National Forest Park visit

To make the most of your time in the park you have to plan in advance. If you have the choice don’t plan your visit on national holidays and on weekends. This place is very popular and gets very crowded during these times. Make sure you get a map of the park at the hotel. It may not be available at the park entrance. Also, ask about the best itinerary for your visit at the hotel. The park is very big and information in English inside the park is very scarce. Remember that there are two park entrances: one next to the city and the other entrance is some 15 minutes bus ride from Wulingyuan bus station. It's much less crowded and offers excellent views from Huangshi village 3,8 kilometres scenic walk. There is a cable car to reach Huangshi.15 planning avatar mountains china 161703

Two day itinerary of the park

1st day
First thing in the morning, take Vuling road by the river to the park entrance.20 avatar mountains 1330076

After you purchase your ticket, go to the entrance next to the ticketing area and scan your finger, then proceed inside. Your ticket is valid for four days, so keep it well. Once inside, you have to walk up the road to where buses pick you up and take you further up the mountain. Pick the right bus because there are several routes available. Take a bus to the Tianzi mountain cable car area where you have to buy a separate ticket for the cable car.21 cableway sign avatar mountains china 155325

Then you get the most beautiful, epic, breathtaking view from the cable car up the mountain. On posters, I have seen Zhangjiajie or Avatar mountains in China mostly pictured in fog which gives a mysterious feel to the scenery.22 avatar mountains 1330086

When I started exploring the place, it was very foggy. When you get to the top of the mountain I could see just some 20 metres ahead. Too little to admire the views. But I was lucky, it cleared out through the day.23 avatar mountains 1330089

Upon arrival, go through the viewing area and take a short bus ride to other viewing platforms of the mountain. Notice a beautiful scenic spot, the Imperial Writing Brush Peaks.24 avatar mountains 1330123If you are hungry there is a McDonald's available.23 MD avatar mountains 1330098

Then go a few hundred metres by foot down the mountain to another bus stop, taking you downhill by quite a long and windy way to the tourist centre where Yuanjiajie scenic area is.24 avatar mountains 133015124avatar mountains 133014225avatar mountains 133019126 avatar mountains 133017427 avatar mountains 133018431 avatar mountains 133020134 avatar mountains china 13545135 avatar mountains china 144908

Go hiking to discover the Pillar of the southern sky. This mountain has inspired the famous ‘Hallelujah Mountains’ seen in the blockbuster movie, Avatar. In January 2010, this mountain was renamed the ‘Avatar Hallelujah Mountain’ by the local government. When you finish the hike, go to the Bailong Elevator waiting line. A ride on this monstrosity built on the side of the cliff costs 72 Yuan. Be prepared to queue. The ride is short and you’ll want to get to the glass window side if you want to see anything. After this, take a bus back to the entrance.

2nd day

First, go to the bus station to take a bus ride to the second park entrance. Just ask the hotel staff to write the name of the destination for you.36 avatar mountains china 100352

When you get to the second park entrance, take a tour bus to the cable car to get up to the Huangshi village and then take almost 4 kilometre walk around to see the gorgeous views of the mountains.37 avatar mountains china 11413241 avatar mountains china 12003842 avatar mountains china 12112443 avatar mountains china 12121444 avatar mountains china 12273845 avatar mountains china 12475346 avatar mountains china 124856

After getting down from Huangshi village scenic walk you can take a walk along the river in Golden Whip stream scenic area. Gold Whip Stream is a brook at the foot of the mountain. It is about 7,5 km (4,5 miles) long, about two hours’ walk. It is an easy and relaxing walk along the stream.47 avatar mountains china 14574948 avatar mountains china 155058

At the end of this walk, buses are waiting for you to take you back to the park entrance.49 avatar mountains china 162605There are many more stunning mountains in China. My dream is one day to get on the top of the awesome Huangshan, also known as Yellow Mountain. Read more of my tips for visiting China clicking this link. Want to see more of China? Check this China travel guide!
Have you been to China and Zhangjiajie National Forest Park? Share your impressions in the comments section.

Zhangjiajie in China became popular in foreign travellers’ eyes after the movie Avatar. The Hallelujah Mountains in Avatar were inspired by Heavenly Pillar in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. Here is how to visit Avatar mountains as DIY trip. #China #Travel #Avatar #traveltips #traveling #travelling #Zhangjiajie

  • Published by Anita on 11 November 2017

    Author: Anita Sāne

    Anita 03 18

    About the author
    Anita is a part-time traveller, passionate photographer and a retired career woman from Latvia, 
    travelling mostly solo for more than 15 years. She is a skilled travel planner who plans and executes her travels by herself. Anita wants to show you how to travel the world and open your mind to new experiences. Follow her on FacebookInstagramPinterestTwitter and Bloglovin.


    Did you know that the Hallelujah Mountains in Avatar were inspired by Heavenly Pillar of Zhangjiajie, China? Here is how to visit Avatar mountains as DIY trip. By @thesanetravel #Avatar #Zhangjiajie #visitAvatarmountains #visitChina #travelphotography


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    Great, the Chinese landscape still has something very unique. Thanks for sharing, I like your article. I will visit you often.
    John Gabriel
    Zhangjiajie is absolutely stunning. One of the best places in China I’ve ever been. My wife is Chinese, so we stayed at a private inn (客栈) in Wulingyuan. Then, we stayed in a cabin on top of the mountain owned by a Chinese minority group (少数民族). It was amazing to get up at sunrise and the whole park was completely quiet and peaceful.

    It’s indeed jarring to walk through this amazing landscape and find a McDonald’s at the top.

    Highly recommend the walkway built into the side of the mountain. One of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced.

    A warning to those with bad knees - there are thousands and thousands of stairs. One of my knees was in serious pain on the way down and I had to hire men who carry people up and down in a chair like you are some sort of royalty. That was actually terrifying. These men work incredibly hard and don’t have an ounce of fat on their scrawny bodies. But they are strong.

    Great, the Chinese landscape still has something of its own. Thanks for sharing, I love your post.
    Thanks for your sharing. I have also set up the avatar I want. Wish you a good day, continue to share useful information for everyone in the future.
    #tonosdellamada mp3

    so goood picture
    This is the wonderful guide to Avatar mountains. Thank you so much buddy
    The images of the Avatar mountain trip are beautiful
    I've had these mountains on my list for a long time! I fell in love with them long before the movie "Avatar" and I'm so glad I found your post to learn more about them. I always see beautiful photos, but hardly ever see a blog post dedicated to them. It's great to have your insights for a future visit. Seeing these in person must have been incredible--the mountains are spectacular!!
    Oh my this looks absolutly stunning! How amazing!

    Cheers from Stockholm Sweden :)

    I have been in awe of this landscape from the first time I saw photos of it. Thanks for this great itinerary. It's high on our must visit list.
    Hey! Would you mind if I share your blog with my twitter group?There's a lot of folks that I think would really appreciate your content.Please let me know. Cheers
    How far it is from ganzhou jiangxi???
    This is definitely a spot on my bucket list! The fog does make it look a bit more magical, though it's great that it cleared up a bit for you, too!
    That looks absolutely stunning (and wow, McDonalds really do get everywhere! :P) - I'd love to visit there. Thanks for the info!
    It's so funny seeing the photo of Macca's in amongst all the amazing photos of the pillars.
    OMG, I am absolutely dying to see these! Thanks for such an informative guide, this is such helpful information in helping me plan out my own trip. These photos are pretty epic too, that landscape is just incredible!!
    This is such an interesting post and I am getting to know ore read about this place for first time. Beautiful pics. I would love to visit this place

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