Zhangjiajie Overview

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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