Zhangjiajie National Park in the Hunan Province of China was definitely one place we were most excited to see when we were planning our trip. The views in this park are incredible, truly something out of this planet! It’s no wonder James Cameron chose to base his world here, well more specifically the Hallelujah Avatar mountains. Travelling around China can be stressful at times so learn from our mistakes and what we did best with these 11 tips.
1. You should stay close to one of the park entrances and not in Zhangjiajie city itself, unless you want to catch a 40 min to one hour bus ride to and from the park each day. Booking.com has some great hotel and hostel options and make sure you book through Quidco or Ebates to get cash back on your accommodation. We earn cashback on all our travels and online purchases through both Quidco and Ebates. Sign up here and grab $10 towards your next nights accommodation or purchase.
2. Tianmen mountain is not included in this park nor is it close to there. Many people we talked to (as well as us before we did more research), thought that Tianmen mountain and it’s glass walkways were included in Zhangjiajie National Park. While Tianmen mountain is in Zhangjiajie city, they are completely separate attractions with separate entrance fees. More info on this park here. I would recommend seeing Tianmen Mountain first and then Zhangjiajie National Park – save the best for last!
3. Purchase the Chinese map for 10 CNY even though the vendors will try make you buy the English one. The Chinese map is much easier to understand therefore finding your way around is more simple, it’s hand drawn so makes a great keepsake and does have the names written in English.
4. The Entrance fee is 245 CNY per person unless you’re a student (160 CNY) and is valid for up to 4 days. You get a card (also a great keepsake) which stores your thumbprint on it and that’s how you get in each entrance.
5. There are multiple ways to enter the park so you can choose which entrance you want to stay by and enter through. Each entrance has its own pros and cons:
* Yangjiajie Ticket Station.
This is the entrance we chose purely because that’s where our hotel was closest to. We would highly recommend this hotel – Ethnic Wooden House – they have very lovely hosts, it’s a 10 min walk to the entrance and a super pretty place to stay! While this is a good entrance if you prefer to miss the crowds, it makes getting to the major attractions a little bit harder. It takes roughly 2 hours to get from this entrance round to Wujiayu Ticket Station. The area is still being built up so the roads are very very bumpy but the hotels that are there so far are beautiful and you can tell this will be a great place once it’s finished.
* Luogota Ticket Station.
This does make for a good entrance and definitely worth visiting so you can see this area but you would need to either hike or use the cable cars to not limit yourself to this side of the park. Bus rides from here to Wujiayu Ticket Station cost 10 CNY. There is accommodation close to this entrance.
* Tianzi Mountain Ticket Station.
I’m not 100% sure whether or not you can get accommodation around here. We didn’t go to this entrance but from what we’ve heard it’s not one of the main ones.
* Zimugang Ticket Station.
I don’t think it’s possible to stay close to here and the only way to get to this entrance is either by private car or by taxi from Luogota entrance (150 CNY)
* Wujiayu Ticket Station.
This is by far the best entrance in terms of accessing everything however can also be very crowded. There is a small city here with lots of accommodation close to the park. From here it is very easy to see most of the park or to organise transport to the Luogota Ticket Station.
6. Be careful carrying food around the park, especially in plastic bags as we saw quite a few bags of food get stolen from unsuspecting tourists by crazed monkeys – they hunt in packs! Food in a proper bag should be fine just watch where you have a snack!
7. It is possible to camp in this park however because there are wild monkeys, we would recommend setting up your tent close to the stores as there tend to be less wildlife in these areas.
8. There is a Grand Canyon in this area with a glass bottom bridge which is supposed to be really amazing. This costs extra and doesn’t seem to be within the confines of the park. Neither is the Yellow Dragon Cave (100 CNY) or the Baofeng Lake (96 CNY).
9. Due to the size of the park, buses are provided to help you get around. The buses inside the park are all included in the entrance fee. The buses between the different entrances are not. Last buses heading out to the exit, leave between 6pm and 6.15pm.
10. There are 3 cable cars in the park and the Bailong Elevator. As well as being very scenic and having great views, these make it much easier to get around the park if you have limited time or can’t do too much hiking. They are not included in the entrance fee however and so you need to pay extra if you want to go on them:
– Yangjiajie Cableway 76 CNY One way 147 CNY Round trip – this is beautiful and the newest cable car.
– Golden Rock Village Cable car 65 CNY one way 118 CNY round trip – if you have limited money I would skip this one.
– Tianzi Mountain Cableway 72 CNY one way 140 CNY round trip – if you can only go on one cable, go on this one! It is breathtaking!
– Bailong Elevator 72 CNY one way 144 CNY round trip – we have heard this is not worth the money as you can wait in line for hours and the elevator takes a matter of seconds.
11. The bus to Luogota Ticket Station from Wujiayu Ticket Station is not caught from the entrance. Look for the little blue symbol with a car and a bus on the Chinese map and catch it from there. Maybe a 10-12 minute walk from the entrance. This is the bus station for this area.
Best way to see this park.
In our opinion this is the way we would view this park so as to appreciate all of the sights and leave the best for last.
I would stay near Wujiayu station, bus to Luogota station and bus around/hike that area. Then the next day enter in at Wujiayu station and see the sights you can see from there without having to take any cable cars. The third day I would again enter at Wujiayu Station, take the Tianzi mountain cableway up and hike/view everything you can see, including going all the way around to Yuanjiajie (this is where the avatar movie was filmed/based on). Then either hike down, bus back and take the cable car down or take the Yangjiajie cable car and bus back to your hotel. 4th day do anything you’ve missed or go see the attractions that cost extra
Getting to Zhangjiajie National Park
Obviously this depends on where you are coming from. We came from Chengdu so will give instructions from there however we are fairly certain you can fly into Zhangjiajie city from most airports around China.
Firstly we caught the bullet train from Chengdu South Train Station to Yichang South Train Station. This costs 258.5 CNY per person for a second class seat. Second class was still really nice and had very comfortable adjustable seats, First class has wider seats with more leg room. There are many trains leaving throughout the morning from 6.30am onwards. We caught ours at 9.11am and arrived between 3 and 4pm. Book the day before and don’t forget your passport!
You can not get to Zhangjiajie in one day as the earliest you will arrive in Yichang is 1.50pm and the only Train to Zhangjiajie leaves at 1.13pm so book a night or two in Yichang and explore the 3 dams and massive Buddha close to this city.
The train from Yichang to Zhangjiajie was not quite as much fun. This was not a bullet Train but the very old regular train. We chose hard seat as it’s only a short journey of 4 & a half hours and hard sleeper and soft sleeper were more expensive and less appealing. Hard seat means hard! These seats are almost vertical and can not be adjusted – luckily our carriage wasn’t crowded so we could spread out. This cost us 43.5 CNY per person.
I would recommend spending a couple nights in Zhangjiajie city and exploring Tianmen Mountain before heading out to the National Park. If you just want to head straight there, the last bus out towards the entrances is at 6.30pm so you have to be quick. When you exit the train station head out towards the left. The bus station is to the right of the McDonald’s. No need to line up for tickets, just pay the 10-11 CNY fare on the bus.