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Zhangjiajie National Park’s Avatar Mountains

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is famous around the world for its unique “Avatar Mountains”. The spectacular landscape of thousands of giant pinnacles were the prototypes of the floating mountains in the Avatar movie.

Come to visit Zhangjiajie National Forest Park which holds the esteemed title of being China’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site and get ready to be amazed by a karst landscape of enormous beauty, with rocky pinnacles rising from a coverlet of dense sub-tropical vegetation.

The Avatar Mountains

If you’ve seen the movie Avatar, you may remember the “floating mountains”. These mountains are huge column peaks that float in a magnetic field. Do you believe that these mountains truly exist in the real world?

James Cameron got the idea of the floating mountains in the movie “Avatar” from the Zhangjiajie mountains in Hunan province.

The most famous Hallelujah Mountain in Pandora’s world was inspired by a vertical pinnacle originally called “South Sky Pillar” or “Heavenly Pillar” in Yuanjiajie Scenic Area of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. On January 25, 2010, the towering peak was renamed Avatar Hallelujah Mountain.

The "South Sky Pillar" is one of 3,000 vertical pillars in Wulingyuan National Forest Park. It is 1074 meters above sea level, with a vertical height of about 150 meters. It is unique in that it is narrower at the bottom and wider at the top.

If you visit Zhangjiajie National Forest Park on a cloudy day, you will see the amazing views of the Avatar Mountains. The clouds will drift through the vertical pinnacles making the mountains appear as if they are floating!It is easy to see the comparison between Zhangjiajie’s mountains and those of the mythical Pandora.

The Formation of The Avatar Mountains

Zhangjiajie landform is a unique type of sandstone landform, which is composed of quartz sandstone as the parent rock and formed by the forces of water erosion, gravity collapse, weathering, and so on.

The Avatar Mountains are made of sandstone quartz, which is very dense in the center, but flaky on the outside. Because of this, chunks of rock slowly break away leaving towering column peaks.

How to Get to Avatar Mountains

Avatar Mountains are in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park which is a part of the greater Wulingyuan Scenic Area, about 30km outside of the city of Zhangjiajie (ZJJ).

Get to Zhangjiajie

Zhangjiajie is located in the northwest of Hunan Province, over 1,000 kilometers from both Shanghai and Beijing. You can get to Zhangjiajie city by air or train.

There are direct flights getting from Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Changsha, Chengdu, Chongqing, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Kunming, Nanjing, Hangzhou, etc. to Zhangjiajie Hehua Airport. If there is no direct flight from your departure city, Changsha (the capital of Hunan province) is the best place to transfer.

You can also take a train to Zhangjiajie. There is a limited number of direct trains from China's major tourist cities including Beijing (23 hours), Shanghai (20 hours), Xi'an (10 hours), Yichang (5 hours), and Changsha (4 hours) to Zhangjiajie.

Get to Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

On arrival at Zhangjiajie city, you can take a taxi to get to Zhangjiajie Wulingyuan National Forest Park directly. It takes about one hour and costs CNY 200. Besides, you can take a taxi from Zhangjiajie Hehua International Airport or Zhangjiajie Train Station to Zhangjiajie Central Bus Station from where take a bus to Wulingyuan town, next to the main park entrance.

See more detailed information abouthow to get to Zhangjiajie National Forest Park.

How to Visit Avatar Mountains

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is very big. You should give yourself two full days at least in the park.

The national park offers a lot of hiking trails with stunning scenery. If you’re not much of a hiker, Zhangjiajie offers cable cars and a giant elevator.

The most popular sections of the park are Yuanjiajie, Tianzi Mountain, and Golden Whip Stream.

  • Yuanjiajieis the highlight of your Avatar tour. The floating mountains in Avatar originated from this area and you will see the famous “Hallelujah Mountain”.
  • Tianzi Mountainis the best place to admire the stone forest. The Tianzi Mountain cable car is an unforgettable journey that will bring you as close as possible to the mountains.
  • Golden Whip Streamoffers an easy and pleasant walk. You can get some mountain views while walking too from the valley. The sandstone and quartz monoliths peeked over the surrounding cliffs, standing tall like upright javelins.

Here is a 2-day tour itinerary for your reference:

Day 1: Tianzi Mountain and Yuanjiajie

In the morning, go to visit Tianzi Mountain. Take a cable car up to Tianzi Mountain, and you will see large areas of grotesque peaks thrusting up.

Have lunch at a local restaurant or McDonald's on the top of the mountain.

In the afternoon, ride a public shuttle bus to Yuanjiajie Scenic Area, whose mountains are said to be the inspiration for Avatar's Hallelujah Mountain. In the evening, get down the mountain by taking Bailong Elevator.

Day 2: Huangshi Village and Golden Whip Brook

First, you’ll take the cable car to Huangshi Village which is 1080m above sea level. It is called the most beautiful viewing platform in Wulingyuan. Later, explore the highlighted part of Golden Whip Brook, winding across mountains and valleys. It is famous for its pristine water, its verdant mountains, its steep cliffs, and its serene valley.

If you want to enjoy more different scenery in Zhangjiajie, you are suggested to spend one day visitingYellow Dragon Caveto see its 10,000 stalagmites and stalactites with colorful lights andZhangjiajie Glass Bridgein Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon which is the world’s longest and highest glass bridge and spend another one (almost) full day to exploreTianmen Mountainin Zhangjiajie downtown.

The Best Time to Visit Avatar Mountains

The main issue with Zhangjiajie is that your experience really depends on the weather. The best time to travel in Zhangjiajie is from April to October each year, especially in April and October when Zhangjiajie presents the most beautiful scenery.

You may see “floating mountains” after rain. But if the weather is too bad with very heavy clouds, it might be possible to see nothing.

See the detailed information aboutthe best time to visit Zhangjiajie.

Where to Stay to Visit Avatar Mountains

The first thing you need to know is that there is no accommodation available in the forest park scenic area and it is not permitted to camp in the park.

The best place to stay when visiting Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is Wulingyuan town next to the main park entrance of the scenic area. It is about 10 minutes’ driving distance.

There are many accommodation options in Wulingyuan, from budget hostels to luxury international hotels. Recommended hotels are Crowne Plaza, Pullman Hotel, and Santo Domingo.

Tips for Visiting Avatar Mountains in Zhangjiajie

1. Make sure you get a map of the park at the hotel and ask about the best itinerary for your visit.

2. As for packing, make sure to bring a small daypack with a large water bottle and plenty of snacks.

3. If you have the choice don’t plan your visit on national holidays and weekends. This place is very popular and gets very crowded during these times.

4. The park is very big and the information in English inside the park is very scarce. If you want to save time and have a better visit to Zhangjiajie, you’d better have a guide.

5. The park tickets last for three or four days. Keep your ticket well.

6. In addition to amazing scenery, Zhangjiajie also has a ton of monkeys. Be sure to watch your food closely.

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