Ultimate Zhangjiajie Guide: Everything You Need To Know
Zhangjiajie is world renound for its beauty, and chances are if you’re heading to China, you’re looking into visiting this wonderful city. This UNESCO World Heritage site has thousands of acres of stunning scenery and wildlife that you could spend months exploring. However, if you just want to see the most famous sites and areas, you can defiantly fit it into three full days here.
The main attractions in the city are:
Glass bridge over the grand canyon
Stairway to Heaven
Avatar Hallelujah mountains
World's longest cable car
This extensive list may seem like a lot to fit into three days but in this post I’m going to tell you how to.
Zhangjiajie can basically be categorised into three main areas and I’d recommend you spend one day in each of them:
1. Tiananmen mountain area
Here you will find the worlds longest cable car, Tiananmen mountain, glass walkway and the stairway to heaven
2. Zhangjiajie National Park
Here you’ll find the Avatar Hallelujah mountains
3.Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon
Here you’ll find the glass bridge
Day 1: Tianmen mountain
Tiananmen mountain is located about 30km outside of the city. However, about a 2km walk from the train and bus station in the city is the ticket booth and cable car. The first car up to the mountain leaves at around 7am and queues will form quickly after this time. If you arrive here after around 11am, you’ll spend most of your day queueing up to buy tickets and then again for the cable car up. One ticket is 258 Yuan and includes the cable car ride up and then bus ride back down again. You can buy a ticket from the ticket booths just inside the entrance to the complex. You’ll need your passport and cash (unless you have a UnionPay card or WeChat pay).
Once you’ve got your ticket, head to the entrance and begin queuing up for the cable car. I got in the queue at 8am and it was already an hour long by there so I can’t stress enough the importance of arriving early. Each cable car fits in eight people and the journey takes 22 minutes to reach the summit. The route is stunning and takes you right through the city and up into the mountains.
When you reach the top you’ll have the option to either take the east route, or the west route. You’ll only be able to fit on in during the day and both sides are virtually identical, apart from the East route is a lot quieter.
this is the route I recommend you take:
1.Take the cable car up, from the lowest station to the top station.
2. Upon getting off, walk straight ahead through the tunnel until you arrive at a lift.
3. Take the lift up to the 2nd (top) floor and explore the first viewpoint - Heavenly Platform.
4. After this, follow the signs for the aerial way station to Tiamenshen Temple.
5. A ticket costs 32 Yuan for a single journey. This cable car is much more exciting than the first as it is open air and your legs are left to dangle above the tree tops.
6. After the 6 minute journey, get off and spend the next hour exploring Tiamenshen Temple - an old buddhist temple and one of the highest in the world!
7. Next, follow the signs for the East route. This loop takes about an hour to complete and takes you through numerous viewpoints.
8. About 30 minutes into your walk, Spend 5 Yuan on buying a pair of the little shoe slippers to allow you to walk along the glass walkway. The walkway is about 50m long and is made entirely of glass - allowing you to look down at the 200m drop below you.
9. At the end of the route you’ll come to the elevator. This goes up and down, however, your ticket only allows you to travel one way. Once you’ve reached the bottom you’ll understand why its better to go down than up. The ride on the elevator, or should i say elevators seen as theres 4 of them taking nearly fifteen minutes to go down! will take you to the top of the stairway to heaven.
10. Walk down the stairway to heaven. Be sure to smile at the many tourists walking upwards, exhausted (and seriously regretting not reading this blog ;) )
11. After you’ve taken that perfect Instagram selfie at the bottom, take one of the little green shuttle buses back down the mountain. The route runs down the ’99 Bends’ and certainly isn’t for anyone who gets car sick easily.
12. Get off the bus at the car park then transfer to the other bus (just follow the other Chinese tourists) that will take you right back to the ticket booth and lower cable car station in the city.
This entire route cost me just under 300 Yuan and took me eight hours from start to finish ( 8am-4pm).
Day 2: Zhangjiajie National Park: Avatar Hallelujah Mountains
The national park is a little different from Tiananmen mountain as its located about 40km outside of the city and can only be accessed by public bus or taxi. There are two entrances to the park, both with their own bus that runs directly there. To see the Avatar mountains I recommend taking the following route:
1. Leave your hostel/hostel and head towards the Zhangjiajie central bus station. Its just at the side if the McDonalds and a five minute walk from the train station
2.Armed with either an online or paper map of the park, ask one of the attendants to show you to the correct bus for the entrance. The staff spoke pretty good English are seemed use to tourists asking them the same few questions. The buses don’t have numbers and are only written in Chinese which makes it hard to get on the correct one on your own.
3. The bus costs 12 Yuan (single journey) and you just pay the man on board. The first bus leaves at 7am and subsequent ones depart every 15 minutes after that.
4. After the 40-60 minute bus journey, you’ll arrive at the entrance. This entrance is generally quieter and you probably won’t have to queue up for that long. A ticket is 258 Yuan and is valid for four consecutive days so if you have more time in the city you can visit another area within the park at no extra cost.
5. Once inside, follow the signs for the Golden Whip Stream route and follow the flat path for around an hour.
6. You’ll reach some steps that are signposted for the Avatar mountains. Take the route upwards. The route is very tough and involves climbing flights of stairs none stop for just over an hour.
7. When you reach the top be sure to take photos of the viewpoint as it gets VERY crowded the further on you walk due to the Chinese guided tours taking the bus up just to see the hallelujah mountain.
8. From here onwards, just follow the path right round. It takes about 1-2 hours to see all the viewpoints and its generally very flat.
9. When you reach the end of the trail, catch the shuttle bus. The shuttle busses are free of charge around the park.
10. The shuttle bus runs directly though to the other main area of the park - the Tianzi mountain area. This is the highest area of the park and the views are stunning. If you’re tired of waking, take the cable car down. I went on a lot of cable cars while in China and I can defiantly say that The views on this cable car are by far the best. It takes you right through the clouds and ends up at the bottom of the park.
11. Alternatively, if you’re feeling up for another trek, you can walk down the path. The route is, once again, stunning, but will take you about 1.5-2 hours to reach the summit. Bare in mind that the final bus back to Zhangjiajie leaves at 7pm…
12. From here walk down the one way street for 10-15 minutes until you come to the Wulingyuan bus terminal. This is the second entrance/exit that i mentioned earlier in the post. a single journey costs 20 Yuan this time and takes about 1.5 hours to reach the Zhangjiajie bus terminal where you started your day.
Day 3: Grand Canyon & Glass Bridge
The glass bridge in Zhangjiajie is the longest in the world. For many Chinese citizens, it is the main attraction when they visit the city. Whenever I told a local I was visiting, the first thing they mentioned was the glass bridge and how scary it was!
Getting to the glass bridge is the hardest out of all the areas in the city. You can either take a private cab (which most hostels/hostels offer for around £30) or take the public bus. If you want to go by bus you’ll need to get on the same bus you got on yesterday towards Zhangjiajie national park, and then transfer at the bus terminal to get on the route towards the grand canyon.
As I said before, the glass bridge is very popular and I’d recommend booking a ticket online before you go although you only need to do this maybe one or two days before you visit, it doesn’t have to be months in advance. Another point to mention is that the bridge is subject to closing with no notice due to bad weather so check the forecast before you plan to go!