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Everything You Need To Know About Visiting Zhangjiajie, The Real-Life Forest That Inspired Avatar

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, China

Fans of Avatar might be familiar with Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, the place that inspired the Hallelujah Mountains we see in the show. Beyond being the inspiration behind the blockbuster movie, the national park is also a place filled with nature and history.

If you think the Supertrees at Gardens by the Bay, Singapore’s own Avatar-looking attraction, are a sight to behold, wait till you see what Zhangjiajie National Forest Park has in store for you.

What to know before going to Zhangjiajie National Forest Park?

Image credit: via Instagram

Zhangjiajie National Forest is part of the bigger Wulingyuan Scenic Area, a UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. It also consists of 3 other parts: Yuanjiajie, Tianzi Mountain, and Yanjiajie.

You’d need to purchase a ticket to enter Wulingyuan Scenic Area, which costs around S$42.35. A day trip is definitely not enough if you want to cover everything. Thankfully, each ticket is valid for 4 days, which gives you sufficient time to explore the entire area. But if your only goal is to visit the Hallelujah Mountains, waste no time and head straight to Zhangjiajie National Forest.

Image credit: @africa_fact_zone via Instagram

This is the place that inspired the Hallelujah Mountains, or the “floating mountains” in Avatar. James Cameron, the film director, visited the mountains at Zhangjiajie National Forest and used it as inspiration when designing Pandora, a fictional universe in the movie.

Ever since then, Zhangjiajie National Forest boomed in popularity and the mountains were renamed “Hallelujah Mountains” in honour of the show. However, even before the release of Avatar, Zhangjiajie National Forest has always been popular among locals. It was not uncommon to see mountains from the forest being depicted in paintings and poetry.

What to do in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park?

Image credit: @_samuel972_ via Instagram

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park spans 48.15sqkm and is home to plenty of natural attractions, including hiking trails, waterfalls, farmhouse restaurants run by the locals themselves, as well as the iconic tianxiadiyiqiao, where many choose to walk the bridge as a symbol of good luck while couples lock love locks.

Image credit: @aliceqlc via Instagram 

Outdoorsy folks would be glad to know that there are a few hiking trails that you can embark on at Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, ranging from shorter ones you can finish under 2 hours to more intense hikes that can take up to 9 hours. A popular route here is the Golden Whip to Avatar Mountain trail, a 6.3km-long route that takes about 2.5 hours to complete.

You might even be able to spot a few cheeky  monkeys if you’re lucky.
Image adapted from: @globe_en_poche and @sozeey via Instagram

The route follows the Golden Whip Stream that runs through the national park. It’s a moderate hike as you’ll be walking on paved pathways – but there are monkeys running amok, so remember to take care of your belongings.

Image credit: @everesta_life_behind_bars via Instagram

Besides that, you can also visit Huangshizhai, a village up on the mountains. It’s accessible by the Huangshi Village Cableway and is the largest natural viewing deck of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park.

When is the best time to travel to Zhangjiajie?

Image adapted from: @ekaterina__terehova via Instagram

There isn’t a “best time” to visit Zhangjiajie National Park per se, as the weather remains constant all-year-round. That said, it’s recommended to visit during April or October as the weather is pretty cool at slightly over 20°C. Additionally, this is when the natural landscape is said to be at its best.

On the other hand, you might want to avoid travelling during these holiday seasons:

  • Spring Festival, which takes place during Chinese New Year
  • May Day – Known as the “Golden Week” where workers are given a week off to spend time with their families.
  • National Day – A one-week holiday where many citizens travel domestically around China.
  • School holidays

This is when the prices of attractions, hotels, food, transportation, and tour guide services increase due to high demand.

Pro tip: Visit during the winter season – December to February – where the mountains are covered in snow. This is when there’s the least number of tourists. Prices are also slightly lower than usual.

How to get to Zhangjiajie National Forest Park?

Image credit: ​@kahleiajosephson via Instagram

To get to Zhangjiajia National Forest Park, you’ll first have to get to Zhangjiajie, a city in Henan Province that’s situated 320 km away from the capital, Changsha. You can get a connecting flight from Singapore to Zhangjiajie Hehua International Airport, with a transit in Beijing or Shanghai. The total will take approximately 10 hours and 45 minutes long.

Alternatively, another option would be via train via Zhangjiajie Railway Station – this is a suitable option for those who are visiting other parts of China first such as Changsha or Jishou. The train rides will take a couple of hours depending on where you’re coming from.

Start planning your trip to Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

Whether or not you’re an Avatar fan, the landscapes of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park makes it a destination you should visit at least once in your life. And while you’re there, visit the other parts of Wulingyuan Scenic Area, which has attractions like a scenic glass bridge and cliff-hanging walkway for daredevils.

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
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8C8M+4WC, Wulingyuan District, Zhangjiajie, Hunan, China, 427403

For more articles on places to go in China:

Cover image adapted from:  @_samuel972_ via Instagram, via Instagram, @aliceqlc via Instagram