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Feet throbbing, calves burning and hamstrings tighter than ever before but very, very satisfied with a great day backpacking. Today, and yesterday for that matter, I walked about 10km around Zhangjiajie National Park in Hunan Province, China, otherwise known as the ‘Avatar Mountains’ and it is spectacular.

avatar mountains china

This was my 3rd UNESCO site in China that week so I’m feeling pretty lucky to be honest although the pain I’m currently in from all that hiking is perhaps my payment in stead. This one though, you have to earn it. Not easy to get to the area of China, and then A LOT of hiking when you’re there. No pain no gain, right?

zhangjajie national park china

We arrived from Guilin on the night train, then found a dingy cheap hotel near to the park. From there we set off super early in the morning and we were the first people in the park, so we had the whole place to ourselves. I’d massively recommend you guys do the same, especially if it’s summer high season, since Avatar was launched this place has gone mad. So mornings are your best shot.

avatar mountains in china

The area is absolutely HUGE, and people spend days and days coming back. For me, with my low attention span, we came for two days. Solid hiking every day. We decided to ignore the cable cars as much as we could and hike everywhere, super difficult but an amazing experience. Don’t try to ‘do it’ in a day, there is simply too many awesome things to see and do, it’s honestly one of the best places I’ve ever visited, so two days as an absolute minimum in my opinion.


zhangjiajie mountains



Since the humongous success of the Avatar movie, the park has been renamed the ‘Avatar Hallelujah Mountains’ and the tacky Chinese gift stores are rammed full of avatar merchandise. They’ve even commissioned a replica of one of the dragon/bird creatures who appears to have crashed into the cliff!

And due to everyone not being physically fit enough to clamber amongst the gorgeous mountains, you can pay twenty bucks and be carried around, madness but true, check it out…


avatar mountains china

If you go for 2 days, which I’d recommend, you really have to be careful about selecting your route or you’ll spend all day backtracking, or worse – getting lost. Maps are available outside for 5RMB ($0.80) and ask advice about routes from your English speaking hostel.

Bring some snacks and enough water for lunch because sometimes it’s tough to find places to buy (reasonably priced) food, and you could be hours deep into a trek when hunger strikes. I’m not one for carrying a bag full of stuff on my day trips, but this is one exception, oh and leave the flipflops at home – this place needs proper footwear. Sneakers are fine, hiking boots would be a winner, but I never travel with those personally. Also, make sure you’re leaving the park by 6pm when the parks buses stop.


Oh, and if you’re stuck about which place to see – the World’s First Natural Bridge (its official name) has the coolest scenery of all, so don’t miss out on that, this is it below – breathtaking! Any questions, let me know – if off to bed, and it’s only 8.45pm! Knackered!




How much does it cost to enter Zhangjiajie?

245 RMB ($39) or 160 RMB ($25) for student’s under 24 for a 2 day pass. There are various trams, elevators and cable cars spread through the huge park, each charging between 40-70RMB ($6-$11 to use).

avatar china
Taking the Avatar a little too far!

How many days should I spend in Zhangjiajie park?

I spent two full days and by body had had enough! It’s tough hiking, with lots of hills. One day certainly isn’t enough, 2 is good but if you’re feeling adventurous there are 7 day tickets available, just bring some icepacks for the evenings!


How do I get to  Zhangjiajie park

You can take a taxi from Zhangjiajie city for about $15, or from Wuling Yuan you can walk. You can get there, from the rest of China, via Guilin, Changsa or Chengdu. If you’re taking trains, head to Changsa, Guangzhou or Kunming and from there they have local trains to Zhangjiajie.

Where should I sleep at Zhangjiajie?

That’s a question which no blog or guidebook really answer well so let me clear it up. You want to sleep in Zhangjiajie village ideally (known as Wuling Yuan), unless budget isn’t an issue then Zhangjiajie city is fine, but it’s quite far from the park. Also, you can stay in the park but it’s quite expensive and you don’t have any options to explore the town or choose different places to eat.

In WulingYuan, there are lots of places to stay including a couple of affiliated YHA members which charge only 45RMB ($7) per bed.


zhangjiajie national park china
Me teetering close to the edge 😛

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19 thoughts on “The Avatar Mountains, China – Zhangjiajie National Park

  1. Pingback: 阿凡达山,中国-张家界国家公园|一步到位4Ward-数字游民指南
  2. I was attracted by your awesome pics four year ago and I had an opportunity to visit the park last week. Just come back here to leave a comment. Thank you.

  3. HAI,please inform your intenry inc yoyur hostel and also cost
    so far I know
    Often called Zhangjiajie, this 243-squaremile(391-sq-km) scenic preserve is a karst landscape of enormous beauty,with rocky pinnacles rising from a coverlet of dense sub-tropical vegetation.
    Wulingyuan covers three natural reserves
    – Zhangjiajie,
    – Tianzi Shan
    – Suoxi Yu (dekat kota Wu LingYuan) –World Natural Heritage-World Geopark-The First National Forest Park of China.
    and contains well over 500 species of tree, including the dawn redwood It is also a haven for fauna, including giant salamanders,rhesus monkeys, and a wide variety of birds.The park is often cloaked in fog, adding atmosphere but obscuring most views. Summers are excessively humid.

    1.Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
    – Huangshizhai
    -Golden whip stream
    -Yuanjiajie – Xianrenqiao (dekat kota Wu LingYuan)
    – Yuanjiajie – Kongzhongtianyuan
    2.Tianzi Mountain(Tianzishan)
    – Tianzishan-Yubifeng
    low Dragon Cave)
    4.Baofenghu(Baofeng Lake) dekat kota Wu LingYuan
    5.Folk Custom Grand Theatre(Zhangjiajie Western Charm Grand Theatre)
    how to arrange the accomodation? leave in one place ZJJ orTainMenshan or Wu LIngshan et

  4. Zhangjiajie is really beautiful! I did enjoy my trip there in this April and had impressive trip when exploring the Tianmen cave, glass sky walk, Bailong Elevator and of course including the famous Avatar Hallelujah Mountain!

  5. Thanks so much for this! I’m planning a trip to Zhangjiajie this June and I was definitely wondering whether I should stay in the village or the park. I happened on your blog a few days ago and it wasn’t until I was trip planning today that I realized you might have hiked Zhangjiajie. Thanks for the info! Now I can go book a hostel without worrying.

  6. We just spent 3 days in the park and absolutely loved it! So gorgeous! We also took a day to spend at Tianmenshan — did you go to that one when you were in the area? Visibility was terrible the day we went but it was still pretty cool!

  7. Hi Johnny! The first time I learned about this place was probably a year ago and I’ve always found it so hard to spell its name. But the last time I went to China I only did Xingping, Guilin and Guangzhou. I haven’t looked up on anything about Zhangjiajie since then…until today when I did a random research on interesting places in China. So glad to find your blog and thanks for the tips (especially on the map).

  8. No doubt how wonderful the movie Avatar is. How i wish I could visit there too. Can’t imagine being there. Hanging in those cliffs are amazing. It’s a good spot to be a subject of one of my painting.

  9. Hello Jo!

    Its always great reading your blogs…but I have a request… can you please post an article about kinda stuff you do other than visiting such places..I mean someone is out for vagabonging and got stuck at a place because of short of money, then what are the options of Jobs, what you do for your living…share your work experience at Thailand and at English teaching Korean camp….

    I am sure enough that your fanclub will be luck to know about –

    1. Have you faced issues with visa..if yes how you made it. Tips for visa interviews. (Its hard for Indians to get tourist visa for USA)

    2. Sharing list of NGOs or places where you can volunteer and work at the same time.

    3. Any experience where you came up with a thought of tearing and throwing away your return ticket.

    4. Tips on Any work, Anywhere.

    I will be really glad to know about all this please…:)

    Thanks and Regards!
    Kshitij Sharma

  10. This place looks absolutely amazing. My boyfriend and I are currently planning a 2 year backpacking trip through Europe and Asia (also hoping to run a travel site that’s in the process of being put together – and your website has been incredibly helpful in our planning process. We are hoping to spend around 6 weeks in China so if you have any recommendations of interesting off the beaten track places please let me know!

  11. It is the first time I hear about this park. What a great place!!! You are hitting some amazing places in China.

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