Home Top News Zhangjiajie: A land of other-worldly terrain

Zhangjiajie: A land of other-worldly terrain

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By Justine Irish D. Tabile, Reporter

IN THE northwestern part of Hunan Province in China, there is a city known for its natural landscapes — tall sandstone pillars and mountains and deep canyons, all surrounded by greenery.

The city, Zhangjiajie, is home to the first national forest park in China which also happens to be a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site.

The Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, part of the Wulingyuan Scenic Area, is home to over 3,000 quartzite sandstone pillars with heights that can reach over 200 meters, according to multinational travel service provider Trip.com.

These pillars, whose features resulted from years of erosion and weathering, were the inspiration behind the other-worldly floating mountains of James Cameron’s science-fiction movie Avatar.

In fact, one of the sandstone pillars had been named Avatar Hallelujah Mountain in honor of the film. This is the name of the floating mountains in the movie.

Aside from the pillars, the park is also known for its 7.5-kilometer Golden Whip Stream, where the protected Chinese giant salamanders make their home. The stream, which boasts crystal-clear water, is named after one of Zhangjiajie’s 10 Wonders, the 350-meter-high Golden Whip Rock.

A VIEW FROM ABOVE THE CLOUDSBut if a visitor goes to the park on a rainy day, as this writer did, they might have a hard time seeing the tall pillars from the ground as most of them will be covered by fog. Which emphasizes the importance of Huangshi Village, the largest natural viewing deck of the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park.

With an elevation of over 1,000 meters, Huangshi Village, also known as Yellow Stone Village, is where visitors can have a scenic view of the park even as it is enveloped in seas of clouds and mist.

Aside from the view, visitors will also be welcomed by wild animals, including wild monkeys, sometimes with their babies, who just hang around the area.

Once visitors arrive at the top through a cable car, they can walk along the loop road to appreciate the scenic view. There are two routes that visitors can take: the small loop, which will take around 50 minutes to traverse, and the large loop, which takes around two hours.

CABLE CARS AND ESCALATORSZhangjiajie is not only known for its “floating mountains” but also for its highest mountain — Tianmen Mountain.

Located south of the city, the mountain has an elevation of around 1,500 meters. To get to its top, tourists have to ride one of the world’s longest cableways, the Tianmen Shan Cable Car, which is over seven kilometers long.

From the cable car, passengers can see the 99 bends of Tongtian Avenue and Zhangjiajie’s second national forest.

Visitors who have a problem with heights can opt to get to the top of the mountain through a shorter cable car trip, and by taking tunnel escalators to the mountaintop.

The Tianmen Mountain Escalators are among the world’s longest mountain escalators. Divided into 12 segments, they start at the foot of the mountain and end at the mountaintop.

AIRPLANES AND SKYWALKSOne of the highlights of a visit to the mountain is seeing its natural karst arch called the Tianmen Cave, or “Gateway to Heaven.” It is a natural archway located at the top of a 999-step stairway.

The cave’s opening is among the highest natural arches in the world and garnered global attention when an aerobatic pilot, Peter Besenyei, flew through in 1999, the first pilot to fly an airplane through a natural cave. 

Today the cave is known for wingsuit flying and is the site of a wingsuit performance competition.

Tianmen Mountain also has several glass skywalks built along the cliffside: the Eastern and Western Lines of the Tianmen Mountain Glass Skywalk, and the Coiled Dragon Cliff Glass Skywalk which is the longest of the three. The 100-meter glass bridge hugging the mountain is just 1.6 meters wide. 

Looking down at the bottom of the bridge, one will be able to see the 99-Bend Road, but taking pictures in the area is a bit hard during peak hours as guides usher the guests to walk faster.

With its height, Tianmen Mountain is also where locals pray to deities and tie ribbons around the tree branches as offerings.

Between the otherworldly floating mountains and the majestic Tianmen, one can feel very close to Heaven when visiting Zhangjiajie.

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