Friday, September 22, 2017

Travel Guide: Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

The landscape of Zhangjiajie gained worldwide attention because of the movie 'Avatar', which was shown years ago. When I planned my trip to China, I made sure I visited this beautiful park.


Travel Guide

The park is huge with different sections with walking trails, cable cars, an elevator and a road where buses go to and fro bringing tourists to various parts. It's impossible to cover all the areas in one day; that's why it is better to go to a section per day during your stay.

I explored different parts of the park for three days (the entrance ticket is valid for 4 days), which gave me enough time to cover each section on foot and save me money in the process. There was one time where I took the elevator going up to a view point to save time, and because it was raining hard during that day.

Here are the sections I visited during my trip in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park.

Wulingyuan




This was the first section I went to and was also the most crowded, people came and went, but most took the cable car going up and/or down.



Despite the crowds, I enjoyed the views, and I'd say this was one of the best parts of the park. The stone pillars were more defined and the landscapes beautiful. It comes as no surprise as to why most visitors go here first.


After a couple of days in China, I no longer found it surprising that mountains and parks here are fully modernized and commercialized. There was a McDonald's at the top of Wulingyuan's viewing platform.


It took me around 6-7 hours to finish this loop at a moderate pace, I took plenty of pictures and stops because of the heat. You'll mostly walk on stone steps going up and down, unlike other mountains where you walk on dirt.

The bus ticket to Wulingyuan from Zhangjiajie town costs around CNY 20 per way. The last bus back to Zhangjiajie leaves at around 7PM.

Forest Park Part 1




I wanted to get the most out of the 4 day ticket so I decided to explore another section of the park.


Fewer people went to this part of the park, making it a bit less touristy. You can find some places and times of the day where there are just small groups of people coming and going.


This is also the part of the park where you'll get to see the landscape found in the movie Avatar.



To be honest, the stone and rock formations here were just so-so, compared to those I saw in Wulingyuan. The Lonely Planet guidebooks I saw other travelers read recommended this part, but I'd have to disagree. The other part of the park (the one after this section of the post) and Wulingyuan had better landscapes, in my opinion.

It took another 6 to 7 hours to explore this section of the park, since I was in no rush. This is another section of the park, tell the driver you'd like to alight at Zhangjiajie National Park, which is different from Wulingyuan; the fare costs around CNY 10.

Forest Park Part 2



It began to rain during the last full day I had at the park, but despite the inclement weather, the landscapes were still beautiful. The fog and mist wrapped around the pillars beautifully, creating a different look altogether.


There was a lot of people coming and going in this section as well, it was no surprise because it has one of the best views in the park.


Despite the rain, there were droves of people taking photos and walking around. One of the highlights of this section was the cool natural bridge wrapped in mist.



You can access this part of the park either via Wulingyuan or Zhangjiajie National Park entrance.

It is best to segregate the park into different sections, you can spread them out in three days like I did, or pack two sections in one day, but you'd have to start early to cover a lot of ground within a day.

How to Get to Zhangjiajie National Forest Park


If you're coming from Manila, you have a couple of options as jump-off points which include Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. There are flights from all three cities, if you want to save time. However, you also have the option to travel by land, I would recommend train travel in China, if you want to save money and if you have time. Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou have overnight trains that travel around 24 hours overnight.

Here are some sample schedules:




You can check CTrip for more information about train schedules and availability, and ticket prices.

Best Time to Visit

If you don't want the temperature to be too hot or too cold, the best times to visit are spring and autumn. The season I went to the park was spring; you have to prepare for rain during this time as a drizzle can turn into a downpour and reduce visibility in the mountains.

What to Wear

Depends on the season you go, there could also be differences in the day and nighttime temperatures, depending on the time of year you visit. Wear light clothing but bring a jacket or raincoat during spring.

Budget Guide 

*Everything's in Chinese Yuan

120 - 3 nights at Geographer Hostel
47.5 - 1 night at Peakcap Hostel at Wulingyuan
257 - Food and drinks
261 - Tianmen Mountain ticket
10 - Walk on the glass bridge at Tianmen Mountain
80 - Transportation to Wulingyuan from Zhangjiajie Town
248 - Zhangjiajie National Park ticket (valid for 4 days) and includes the bus inside the park
10 - Bus to park entrance from the town
72 - Elevator ride in the park
222 - Bus ticket to Chongqing from the town                                                                               

1327.5 - Total Expenses for 5 days and 4 nights

*I would recommend Geographer Hostel in Zhangjiajie Town, comfy beds, very detailed and helpful map in English, and the staff spoke good English, making it easier to get information.

*Peakcap Hostel is the ideal place to stay in Wulingyuan because it is only a few minutes walk from the entrance, other than that the accommodation is pretty basic and the Chinese lady receptionist doesn't speak English at all.

*There were cable cars and short train rides to move people from one section to the next. If I remember correctly, the cable car one way is around CNY 80 and the train ride was approximately CNY 50.

If You Have More Time

I spent an extra day in Zhangjiajie to visit Tianmen Mountain, another attraction you can visit during your stay. You can also go to Chongqing and go to the parks around it, or you can explore the city. It has interesting old towns, parks, museums and other places of interest.



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