There is a lot to see and do in this beautiful and unique area in Hunan province. A canyon, the world biggest glass bridge, transparent passageways- but the most stunning of it all are the pillar-like Zhangjiajie sandstone mountains. When the morning fog covers the peaks and wild monkeys climb in the trees the landscape feels otherworldly.
Stay: The Pullman Hotel in Wulingyuan village is a comfortable and convenient accommodation for trips into the national park. They organize airport pick-up, help with all kinds of questions about the park and it’s just ten minute by foot to the park’s southeast entrance.
Do: It can be a bit tricky to understand the different parts of the national park because there are three main areas that are quite far away from each other and the tourist maps are also not too useful. There is the Wulingyuan/Zhangjiajie National Park with the famous mountains, hiking trails and deep green sub-tropical rainforest where the Wulingyuan village is close by. There are purple shuttle buses that take you right from the entrance deeper into the park and stop at several points in the valley. To go up the mountains you have to take one of three cable cars in the park (or walk for one to two hours). Huang Shi (Yellow Stone Village) cable car takes you up to many spectacular viewpoints and marked hiking trails. One challenging but sensational path that starts here leads along Tiantai mountain down thousands of steps to the so-called Ten-Mile Natural Gallery, another scenic area where you can take a mini train to the next shuttle busstop. Similar but maybe even more scenic and breathtaking are the trails on Tianzi Mountain, also acccesible by cable car. The Bailong elevator goes up to another area with stunning views called Yuanjiajie. One of the highlight here is the Tian Xia Di Yi Qiao (First Bridge of the World) a natural narrow rock bridge that connects two cliffs. Nice is also the scenic, easy Golden Whip Stream Trail down in the valley where you might see wild Rhesus monkeys.
Then there is the Tianmen Mountain above Zhangjiajie city. A cable car is going up the famous mountain with a huge hole in the middle, it’s also called Heavenly Peak Pavilion. Here you can do different hikes on spectacular walkways built into the cliffs, go all the way up to the peak to a little temple and take an escalator built into the mountain(!) or a really long and steep staircase to the hole. When going down into the city again you have to take one of many small buses that drive down a winding road with breathtaking curves, driving this street is a highlight on it’s own.
In the third area you find the Zhangjiajie Glass Bridge, which is the world longest and tallest glass bridge, as well as the Grand Canyon. The whole area is full with Chinese tourists who very much enjoy to pose and take selfies on the bridge’s transparent floor. You need to lock your bags and show your passport when buying tickets. After the bridge you can walk down steep steps or take an elevator into the Canyon. A trail winds along turquoise water, green covered cliffs and a waterfall. The nature and scenery is lovely but there are just too many people to really enjoy it. At the end of the path you have to board a small and crowded boat that takes you across a small reservoir back to the car park.
Eat: Better skip the overpriced and bad food in the national park and eat in Wulingyuan village. Here you find most shops and restaurants on the main Wuling road. The big Chinese restaurant called Tang Shi Fu Tu Jia Shi Fu serves huge, cheap and delicious dishes. Many Chinese families eat here and they have a more or less helpful English-translated menu. There are several small bakery-cafes with sweet cakes, a big supermarket and a noodle shop that serves delicious, super cheap but also super spicy soups. Be aware that most food in Hunan province is very spicy!
Getting there: The Zhangjiajie National Park, also called Wulingyuan is located in Hunan province in south-central China. We arrived from Shanghai at the Hehua airport in Zhangjiajie city but stayed in the Wulingyuan village which is about an one hour drive from the city. The village is located directly at the national parks’s southeast entrance. From Wulingyuan we took a small bus to the Canyon bridge, they depart from the main Bus Station on Guihua Road and take about half an hour. A cable car goes up from Zhangjiajie city center to Tianmen mountain, so from Wulingyuan village it takes about an hour to get to the city. We organized a driver via the hotel for the drive from Zhangjiajie city to Wulingyuan and back.