Zhangjiajie

The mist glides across hundreds of towering sandstone pillars topped by trees before plunging down into the green-swathed ravines below. A verbose description of Zhangjiajie's (Zhāngjiājiè, 张家界) scenery will never quite do the place justice; perhaps this is why the area is such a popular filming and tourist destination. Lying on the border of Hunan, the main draw is the Wulingyuan Scenic Area (Wǔlíngyuán, 武陵源), which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992 and is made up of the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park (Zhāngjiājiè Guójiā Sēnlín Gōngyuán, 张家界国家森林公园), Suoxi Valley (Suǒxī Yù, 索溪峪), Tianzi Shan (Tiānzǐ Shān, 天子山) range and Baofeng Lake (Bǎofēng Hú, 宝峰湖). Avid hikers and nature lovers flock to Zhangjiajie explore the mountains, caves and forests of the area; travelers often trek up to Huangshi Village get the best view of one of China's most famed landscapes.

While Zhangjiajie is most known for its unusual sandstone pillars, its caves with their numerous stalactites, underground cataracts and rock formations are also impressive: Yellow Dragon Cave and Dragon King Cave (Lóngwáng Dòng, 龙王洞) are both worth a visit. The wildlife in the National Forest Park is one of the main draws: giant salamanders, rhesus monkeys and golden pheasants are among the usual suspects you might stumble upon, especially when walking along the ever-photogenic Golden Whip Brook. And if you are not the hiking type, access to many of the mountains and caves has been made easier with paved paths and even a new glass elevator that hoists you smoothly to the top of one of the peaks without you even breaking a sweat. Sixty percent of the city's 1.5 million person strong population are Tujia, Miao and Bai minorities giving the area a unique cultural feel. Take some time to properly explore this unusual place, if for no other reason than to return home with the necessary "China scenic" photos.

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Zhangjaijie village is cheaper than staying in the city and is closer to the stuff that you want to see and do anyways—specifically nature, outdoorsy activities. There are some budget places by the bus station (qìchēzhàn, 汽车站), but, although it's not super cheap, you won't have difficulty finding accommodations and there are a lot of hotels in the scenic area. Keep in mind that prices typically go up on weekends. There are plenty of different options for accomodations, based on your specific needs. Within the area, there are high-end resorts like the Qinhe Jinjiang International Hotel or there are homely hostels like the Zhangjiajie Tuniu Youth Inn. If you want to be close to the National Park, the Xiangdian International Hotel and the Pipaxi Hotel are at the park's doorstep and provide breathtaking views and a refreshing environment. Or, if you prefer to have a getaway not surrounded by nature, there are plenty of places to stay close to the Henhua Airport, such as Chentian Hotel, which is at the base of the Tianmen Shan (Tiānmén Shān, 天门山).

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As for food, Zhangjiajie features ethnically-unique province cuisines. The Hunan cuisine is particularly known for its spicy and distinct flavors, so visitors beware of chili-imbued dishes. If "stinky tofu" doesn't excite your taste buds, try lamb leg braised in soy sauce, spicy chicken, salted fish and Linwu duck (Línwǔ , 临武鸭).

The Tujia minority have excellent smoked meat dishes including smoked pork, salted lamb and salted beef. The pumpkin soup is a treat. If you have adventurous tastes, you will enjoy the variety of flavors with everything from pickled vegetables, sour fish and sour corn mash, and even rice tofu and spicy fish. Just walk along Chongwen Lu (Chóngwén Lù, 崇文路) or Tianmen Lu  (Tiānmén Lù, 天门路) with plenty of restaurants found on each. The Hongge Restaurant (Hónggē Cānguǎn, 洪哥餐馆), Red Lotus Tujia Special Flavor Restaurant (Hónglián Tǔjiā Tèsè Cānguǎn, 红莲土家特色餐馆), and Chongqing Special Hot Pot Restaurant (Chóngqìng Tèsè Huǒguō Diàn, 重庆特色火锅店), just to name a few, all serve up good local fare.

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Getting around Zhangjiajie

Bus

Zhangjiajie Bus Station (Zhāngjiājiè Zhōngxīn Qìchēzhàn, 张家界中心汽车站) is located at the end of Renmin Lu (Rénmín Lù, 人民路). Zhangjiajie Wulingyuan Scenic Area is about 30 km (19 mi) from city area. Every half an hour, the daily pubic bus runs between the city and the scenic area. The trip takes an hour and costs RMB 10 per person.

Others

Tianzishan and Yangjiajie Environmentally-friendly car: RMB 15/person

Ten-mile Corridor Sightseeing Tram: RMB 23/person (one-way), RMB 33/person (return)

Tianzishan Cableway: RMB 52/person (one-way)

Bailong Elevator: RMB 56/person

Huangshizhai Cableway: 48 RMB/person (one-way), RMB 92/person (return)

To and from Zhangjiajie 

Air

Zhangjiajie Lotus Airport (Zhāngjiājiè Héhuā Jīchǎng, 张家界荷花机场) lies in Lotus Village (Héhuā Cūn, 荷花村), Yongding District, 5 km (3 mi) from the city area. Currently Zhangjiajie Lotus Airport serves more than 20 domestic destinations; however, aside from Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Changsha, other cities don't have daily flights. And the flight timetable changes often so make sure to check flight times at a local ticket office.

Train

Zhangjiajie
has a wide train network. It connects Beijing-Guangzhou railway via its Shi-Chang line. Now Zhangjiajie Railway Station (Zhāngjiājiè Huǒchēzhàn, 张家界火车站) serves more than 10 cities in China. Moreover, Zhangjiajie is the origin stop for trains heading Guangzhou and Changsha.

If you only want to visit Zhangjiajie, then don't take line N569 from Changsha to Zhangjiajie, because this line will pass places like Jishou and Huaihua in a roundabout way. If you want to see ancient Phoenix Town, you can take this train and get off at Jishou station.
 

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Aside from hiking up peaks in the park or meandering along the creek's edge, Zhangjiajie has multiple souvenirs for visitors to acquire within the park and the city. The Tujia woven baskets (Tǔjiāzú téngzhì zhúlán, 土家族藤制竹篮) are a wise buy for all tourists, usually costing about RMB 20. Huilong Lu (Huìlóng Lù, 汇龙路) is the spot to find these ethnic baskets, but any of the markets will most likely have them available. The local bamboo and wood hand crafts also make for interesting souvenirs, if you are able to bring them into your country.

Also being sold are different kinds of artwork, from embroidery to drawn pictures, typically done by the ethnic women of the area. Besides handmade decor, the fragrant tea products in the Wulingyuan area are quite good, too, varying in many unique flavors. Other local specialties to try include dried meat, reishi mushroom (língzhī, 灵芝), which is a an exclusive to the area and used mainly for nutritional and medicinal purposes, and kiwifruit (míhóutáo, 猕猴桃).

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Zhangjiajie city was originally named 'Dayong' and has historical records going back as far as 221 BC. The name Zhangjiajie was assigned in 1994 in order to draw attention to the area after being designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. The Zhangjiajie region covers an area of 91,563 sq km (35,353 sq mi) and is made up of two districts, Wulingyuan and Yongding (Yǒngding, 永定), and two counties, Sangzhi (Sāngzhí, 桑植) and Cili (Cílì, 慈利). The region was at one time heavily under Korean influence, both because of investment and tourism, however, more recently, visitors are flocking in by the thousands from around China and other Asian countries. International tourists are still in the minority, but the number continues to grow.

Tourism is big business in Zhangjiajie, millions of tourists flock to take in this small slice of natural paradise every year. As you'd expect, Chinese tourists are catered for quite nicely, but foreign travelers will probably find little of interest to see or do outside the obvious nature-related attractions. Unless you fancy vocalizing to synthesized versions of "Hotel California" or "Take Me Home Country Road" at one of the many well-established karaoke bars (KTV) around the area, the entertainment in the Zhangjiajie area is more down-to-earth and traditional compared to other larger cities. There are various theatres around that perform live shows, usually done in a traditional theme, keeping alive the culture of the ethnic miniority groups residing in Zhangjiajie.

Festivals and Events

In the evening of the 25th day of the 6th lunar month the Bai minority people celebrate their Torch Festival (Huǒbǎ Jié, 火把节). When night falls, the Bai will leave their houses, light torches and converge at a central meeting place where they will pray for their safety and health for the year to come. Other interesting festivals occur at different intervals throughout the year, the Tujia ethnic group celebrate the new year three times a year, in June, October and at the regular time as with the rest of China. Sometime at around the middle of February, unwed youths will begin courting rituals involving ear piercing, marriage proposals made by go-betweens and elaborate ceremonies concerned with cooking and furniture making.

Hunan guide | Zhangjiajie attractions
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Zhangjiajie attractions

The entire length of the Yellow Dragon Cave (Huánglóng Dòng, 黄龙洞) is about 12 km (7.5 mi) and it has four distinct levels. The cave's massive size houses both dry caves and watery caves, including two "palaces," eight "halls" and 96 "corridors." It's sure to satisfy any avid spelunker, plus the colors from the rock formations are truly a sight to see. Stalactites and stalagmites fill the..

Huangshi Village (Huángshí Zhài, 黄石寨), the name of which means " Yellow Lion Village..

Golden Whip Brook (Jīnbiān Xī, 金鞭溪) is located inside the Wulingyuan Scenic Area (Wǔlíng Yuán, 武陵源)..

A beautifully preserved riverside town in southwest Hunan, Fenghuang (Fènghuáng Xiàn, 凤凰县), or..

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