If you have seen Avatar – famous American blockbuster directed by James Cameron – you probably held your breath seeing Pandora’s floating mountains and wished you could be there. You can, they are real, in China at Zhangjiajie. Even among Chinese, you will find some who have never heard of Zhangjiajie, so it is not surprising that most foreign travelers who visit China miss this attraction.
Ok, the mountains do not float above the ground, but they do rocket to the sky, and on a foggy day you can’t tell if they touch the earth. I have visited Zhangjiajie by a chance, together with my fellow teachers in Chinese high school. I was shocked as much by the sights as for the lack of tourists. Despite its natural beauty, and being listed as UNESCO World Heritage site, Zhangjiajie, foreign travelers are rare.
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is a place where you can visit fantastic Pandora, without the need for space travel, and stay in the park for a few days. Trekking through spectacular scenery does not have to end in the evening. You can stay overnight, either out in the forest or in a cheap hostel, within its boundaries. The entrance ticket (at the time of my visit it was RMB248 which is about $40 ) enables you to step into the park through the main gate for three days, but tickets are not checked on the exit. It means that once in you can freely explore every corner for as long as you like as long as you don’t try to reenter after 3 days.
Free eco shuttle buses are available throughout the park. Although I don’t understand how one could call them eco (they are old and certainly not eco-friendly in terms of emissions), but it’s worth taking a ride. Firstly, it’s much quicker to cover vast terrain. Secondly, it’s a mad ride, best compared to the roller-coaster.
Apart from multiple sandstone rocks and a variety of trees, plants, and animals, you’ll get to experience something more unique – being some kind of a rock star (you don’t have to play guitar, don’t worry). Imagine going to a tourist attraction and suddenly becoming a tourist attraction. Chinese people would love to take a photo with the beautiful scenery as much as with you. Actually, you’ll be running away from Chinese teenage girls by the end of the day.
There are not many places on this planet such as this one. I have not been to a place that took my breath away for longer than ZhangJiaJie yet and the bar has been set high. Despite my utmost efforts to tell everyone around, it’s still a place somewhat off-the-path. What stops you from going there?
Find out what happened to me when I visited Zhangjiajie and how I travel the world for less than $25 per day at eTramping.