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Zhangjiajie: Avatar on Earth


Zhangjiajie is a kingdom of Sandstone Peak Clusters. In this forgotten world, ancient witchcraft, sorcery and primitive tribe dance of Miao and Tujia people still thrive. Top things to do here include hike along the peaks and visit the exotic ethnic villages, explore Huanglong Cave(Yellow Dragon Cave) or stop by the timeworn Fenghuang Ancient Town. Local food is an eccentric blend of Miao, Bai, Tujia and Han influences.


Featuring soaring peaks, serene ethnic villages, deep gorges, inviting caves, impenetrable valleys and crystal-clear steams, Zhangjiajie has inspired and enchanted poets, photographers, painters and adventurers alike. This kingdom made of unparalleled sandstone peak clusters, lives up to the fame of God’s Bonsai. For thousands of years, Tujia , Bai and Miao people have shared this sanctuary with a multitude of wildlife and created splendid culture of their own.

Zhangjiajie is the centerpiece of Wulingyuan, an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Dwelling in northwestern part of Hunan province, it encompasses 398km2 and harbors the most mind-blowing peaks elevated from 300m to 1300m. Among them, the one named as Avatar Hallelujah Mountain, is the super star.


  Top 10 Wonders of Zhangjiajie

Number One Natural Bridge (天下第一桥)

  Sacred Eagle Guides the Whip(神鹰护鞭)

  Fairies Scattering Flowers(仙女散花). This geopark is honored as “the most magic mountain in the world” and “the original version of Chinese landscape painting”.

 West Sea Stone Forest(西海石林), this sandstone peak clusters landform  is constituted by steep, giant, grotesque and densely distributed sandstone peaks covered with thick vegetation

 Old Man Gathering Herbs(采药老人)

 Fairy Views Her Imagine Near Lake(仙女照镜)



Main Scenic Sites of Zhangjiajie World Geopark

1 Mt Tianmenshan

Located 10 km from downtown Zhangjiajie, Mt Tianmenshan derives its name from a natural cave shaped by mountain collapse: Tianmen Cave. Elevated at 1518.6m, Tianmenshan with relative height of over 1300m, is imposing and magnificent.  Tianmenshan Glass Path is a very interesting place: in sunny days, blue sky and white clouds will cast reflections on it, and you will experience the thrilling excitement when tread on it. While in misty days, you can appreciate the bewildering scenery of fairyland. Other scenic sites in Mt Tainmenshan include:


In 1999, air planes flied through Tianmen Cave and in 2007, a French man climbed this cave by hand successfully and created a legend. It measures 131.5 m in height, 57m in width and over 60 m in depth. With a altitude of 1300 meters, it is the highest cave in the world. There are six myths of this cave.

 Guigu Walkway (Ghost Valley Walkway): This 1600 meters long walkway with average altitude of 1400 meters cuts the cliffs in the middle, and snakes its way according to the undulating of terrain. Overlooking the exuberant forest and Karst landform at your foot, you can experience the amazing feeling of touring tropical forest by helicopter here.

Tianmenshan Sightseeing Cableway: 

 Stretching a distance of 7455 meters, this cableway with relative height of 1279 meters is the longest cableway in the world. it is compared to be a rainbow which connect downtown Zhangjiajie and Mt Tianmenshan, a wonder of the world.

Hanging Garden of Mt Tianmenshan: Surrounded by over 40 peaks with average altitude of 1400 meters, Mt Tianmenshan has a 68 k2 karst plateau which is home to thick forest and rare fauna& flora species. Its top belongs to the typical karst terrace landform, covering an area of only 2.2 km2 and sheltering virgin forest, green moss, rare flowers and stalactites formations, thus is compared as a garden in the air.

Tianmenshan Glass Path Along Cliffs: It demands great courage to walk on this 60m long glass path which can rival that of the The Grand Valley in America. This path is made of transparent steel glass, concrete frames and enforced steel glass railing with stainless steel frames, thus, each glass can endure the weight of 1000kg and it is safer than it seems to be.

Tongtian Road: 

Tongtian road with 99 abrupt turns is famed as the number one road in the world. Covering a distance of 10.77 km, it zigzags its way from 200 meters to 1300 meters above sea level, flanked by precipitous cliffs and deep valleys.

2 Huangshi Zai( Yellow Stone Village, 黄石寨) : the centerpiece of Zhangjiajie


Encompassing 16.5 hectare, Huangshi Zai with altitude of over 1200 meters is a terrace area bordering steep cliffs. Boasting the most concentrated natural wonders, it forms the centerpiece of this world geopark.  Six Wonders Pavilion is built for one to take in the six wonders of Huangshi Zai: precipitous mountains, crystal waterscapes,grotesque stones, amazing sea of clouds, exuberant forests, precious and rare animals. Standing on this pavilion, you can have a birds’ eye view. You can visit this site by cable car or hiking.( it will last 5 hours) 


Stone Book & Treasure Box(天书宝匣):Huangshi Zai( Yellow Stone Village, 黄石寨) has the most concentrative wonderful scenic sites in this geopark

 Sky Bridge's Pier Columns(天桥遗墩)

 Five Fingers Peaks(五指峰)

 Buddha Greeting Guests(摘星台罗汉迎宾)



3 Mt Tianzishan(天子山)

 The 67 km2 Mt Tianzishan is located at northern area of Wulingyuan, boasting numerous steep peaks and four wonders: mist, moonlight, evening glow and snow.  Immortal Bridge is a must-see. Standing on this bridge and overlook the valley, you will see the deep valleys at your feet and the striking scenery will make your head dizzy. Main scenic sites include:


 Immoral Bridge:It is 26 m in length, 1.5 m in width and over 1 meter in thickness, with average height of 70 meters. This natural bridge flies across two cliffs, hidden among the forest and flowers at two ends. At the east end of this bridge, there is a natural stone path.

 Shentanwan is famous for the red moon:During sunny nights after long rain in middle month of spring or summer you can see Helong Park bathed in red moonlight in Mt Tianzishan, this stunning scene will last for over a hour.

 Shentangwan, also famous for the voices which resembles armies in war

 Hanging Field(空中田园):On top of one cliff, there is a 3 hectare field over 1000 m above sea level.




Shentangwan, a deep valley with a pool enfolded by steep cliffs in four sides, is a mysterious site, a green maze. There is only one way leads to it, a stone path whose narrow steps just allow one foot. it is misty all year around, haunted by chilly wind. It will freak you out to have a glimpse of it from above. And due to the air flow, this site produces a voice resembling armies in war.

Yubifeng Peak(Emperor Pen Peak御笔峰): This is photographers and painters’ favorite site.

4 Yuanjiajie(袁家界)

Situated at north ridge of Shandao Gulley,the1200 hectare Yuanjiajie enfolded by cliffs is a giant and flat quartzite mountain accessible by three approaches. Yuanjiajie with average altitude of 1074 meters comprises towering peaks, deep valleys and thick vegetation. Number One Bridge, the over 20 meters long natural stone bridge lies between two giant peaks with relative height of 350 meters, is quite impressive

5 Gold Whip Stream(金鞭溪)

The 7.5 km long Jinbian Stream is famed as the most beautiful stream in the world, lined by giant trees and towering peaks, it will take about 3 hours’ round trip to tour this site. You will cross your roads with monkeys here. Scenic sites include A Cross of Four Streams(水绕四门), Gold Whip Rock,etc.

6 Yaozi Zai(鹞子寨): A perfect sightseeing terrace

Located at the northwest area of this geopark, the 1500 meters high yaozi zai and echoes Huangshizai黄石寨and is famous for its steepness as well as fantastic scenery. Atop of Yaozizai lies a flat 60000 m2 terrace enfolded by steep cliffs in four sides, it is a perfect sightseeing site. Huangshizai, yangjiajie and yaozizai form a triangle area. There is only one path leads to it.

7 Tujia Costoms Park (土家风情园)

It is a perfect site to experience the most original flavor Tujia people ’s culture in a comprehensive way. You can see the ancient architecture, unique costume, entertainment activities of Tujia ethnic group here.


zhangjiajie tujia custom park
zhangjiajie tujia customs park


8 Summer Pleasure: Drifting along Maoyan River(茅岩河)

Maoyan River is 60km from Zhangjiajie city, is famous for the drifting since 1986. The whole drifting includes Jiutian Cave adventure. ( Jiutian Cave covers an area of 2.5million m2, is the biggest cave in Asia. It comprises three layers, more than 30 halls, 3 underground rivers, 12 waterfalls and natural bridge. This karst cave is an international adventure base.) You will pass the ancient villages and relics scatter along the green mountain and crystal rivers. It will take one day.


9 Bailong Elevator

It is the highest and fastest sightseeing elevator with the largest load in the world. it is also the only travel tool from “A Cross of Four Streams” to Yuanjiajie. With a speed of 3m/second, one can reach the top within 1′58″.

10 Jiangya Hot Spring Resort

It is the first and the only antique half outdoor hot spring resort in Zhangjiajie. Indoor and outdoor spa pools of over 20 kinds are constructed. It is catered to various needs include business and holiday.  

11 Huanglong Cave(Yellow Dragon Cave, 黄龙洞)

Huanglong Cave boasts grand scale, complete karst cave landform types and enticing beauty, thus is a must-see in this geopark. This 100,000m2 cave is 7.5 km long and 140m high, sheltering two dry caves and two wet caves inside. This cave is also home to 2 rivers, 3 pools, four waterfalls, 13 halls and 98 galleries. Blessed with massive scale stalactites with the most diversified shapes, it is reputed as a rare karst cave in the world by experts. 


Sea Suppressing Needle in Huanglong Cave: one of the top ten wonders in this geopark

12 Charming Xiangxi Theater

Established in 2001, it is the most ancient and impressive theater in Zhangjiajie. Due to its distinctive and original flavor shows and performances, it enjoys high reputation in China as well as East Asia such as Japan and Korea.


 Charming Xiangxi Theater

Charming Xiangxi Theater: a Must-See Site

 The Opera Tianmen Fox Fairy(天门狐仙)



Four Myths of Zhangjiajie World Geopark

1 In Shengtanwan(神堂湾), you will hear the voice resembling armies in war.

2 During sunny nights after long rain in middle month of spring or summer you can see Helong Park bathed in red moonlight in Mt Tianzishan, this stunning scene will last for over a hour.

3 When climb Jinbian Stream in autumn, you will find your shadow will turn from one to two, two to three, and these three shadows will always follow you.

4 Among Shentanwan(神堂湾) and Helong Park(贺龙公园), there is a stone embedded between an over 200m high stone column’s two peaks, which will spark once per year.


Travel Tips

1 Best travel season: April to October (April and October are two best travel months)

2 Peak Season: Spring Festival (around end of January and early February, summer holiday (around July), National Holiday (October). The fees of accommodation, dinning, travel will rise from 50% to 100% during peak season.

3 Recommendation sites of different seasons:



Spring: Gold Whip Stream(金鞭溪)、Ten Li Gallery(十里画廊)、Yellow Dragon Cave(黄龙洞)、Baofeng Peak Lake(宝峰湖)和Mt Tianzishan(天子山);

Summer: Mt Tianzishan(天子山),Gold Whip Stream(金鞭溪),Baofeng Peak Lake(宝峰湖),Yuanjiajie(袁家界),Mengdao River Drifting,Maoyan River Drifting;

 Autumn: Mt Tianzishan(天子山),Yuanjiajie(袁家界),Gold Whip Stream(金鞭溪),Phoenix Ancient City凤凰古城. Mt Tianzishan after rain is especially splendid; you can see the sea of clouds here. Xihai(West Sea) boasts thousands of stone peak, and it is a marvelous scene to see these peaks among mist.

4 With annual temperature of 16.8℃, Zhangjiajie is blessed with pleasant weather all year around. Check the weather forecast beforehand, since it rains a lot here, especially in July, be careful of the slippery paths. The best travel time is one or two hours after the rain, when the mountains play seek and hide with mists, a fairyland it is. It snows in winter here sometimes, wear warm coat. 

5 Zhangjiajie is home to China's ethnic minorities Tujia, Bai and Miao,which take up about 70 percent of local population. Their art, culture and lifestyles are different from Han Chinese. Show respect local customs is advised.

6 The Peach Blossom Land and Meng Dong River are excellent scenic spots in addition to the majestic stone forest. In Zhangjiajie, it is very easy to start from here and go to the Three Gorges and beautiful city of Guilin, where also famous for great karst scenery.

7 The roads leading to Zhangjiajie World Geopark is winding and abrupt, prepare medicine.

8 It is mountainous inside of this geopark, take cable car of hiking according to your own situation.

9 Located in the mountainous area of middle China, the facilities are not so advanced compared to coastal area.




Further Reading: Legend of Zhangjiajie

A legend goes that in ancient times Zhangjiajia was called Green Stone Hill, without any family surnamed Zhang resided. It was all about Zhang Liang, a good official from the Han Dynasty. Liu Bang, a Han Emperor, got the throne and killed many good men. Zhang, knowing he would also be assassinated by Liu, was in search for place to hide and to live a hermit style life. He found that few place was suitable for a tranquil life in central and northern China. At that time, Hun was invading the northwest, chaos were almost everywhere and fierce beasts were roaming in countryside. Zhang thought that the southeast, being regarded as the barbaric place then, but it was good to be stayed! He had traveled to many places and finally reached Green Stone Hill, "A fairyland," he exclaimed. He decided to stay here for the rest of his life. It is said that Zhang Liang would like to plant seven gingko trees around the hill in order to make the scenery much better and isolating himself from outside environment. Later, the trees had grown up, very big, like seven giant umbrellas. Many years had passed, imperial cadre Zhang Wanchong and his family on boarded eight sedans and traveled here. When Zhang Wanchong saw the seven giant trees on the hill, a bad idea had been appearing in his mind. He wanted the Green Stone Hill to be his own country. He hired an artisan to carve seven giant Chinese characters, which each on each tree trunk - "指挥使张万冲界" (The Sovereign State of Military Commander Zhang Wanchong). Zhang expelled all other people who were not of his family from the hill.

One day, a hunter, also surnamed Zhang, passed here and saw yellow tears flowing down from the seven gingko trees. He was puzzled, but he realized after seeing the seven big characters. He was so angry and he changed the characters to be his name. Local people applauded the action. However, Zhang Wanchong sent 300 troops to drive the people out of the village and wanted residents to use their blood to dye those seven characters. During emergency, brilliant light flashed on the trunks, branches were breaking and then the trunks sprinkled yellowish water, rapidly flowing to Zhang Wanchong's forces. They all perished in nearby river. Locals gave praises to the seven ginkgo trees. The Green Stone Hill belonged to all people surnamed Zhang. "人间仙境张家界" (Ren Jian Xian Jing Zhang Jia Jie, which means "Zhang Family Village the Paradise on Earth") appeared as seven golden characters on the trees. Zhangjiajie has become the new name instead of Green Stone Hill. 

Phoenix City :(Fenghuang Ancient Town)

Phoenix City: Zhangjiajie

Phoenix City: Zhangjiajie

Phoenix City: Zhangjiajie

Phoenix City: Zhangjiajie

 Author: Sophia   Posted on July 12, 2012


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