2 Days in Zhangjiajie: What to do, what to see and where to stay
Want to visit Zhangjiajie on your next trip to China?
Excellent choice! It is one of the most beautiful national parks in the country.
In order to help you organize your trip, I have prepared a complete guide for you: what to do, what to see, what to visit around, how many days to stay, when to go and where to stay in Zhangjiajie. I’ll tell you everything!
You will see, organizing your stay in Zhangjiajie National Park will be very easy.
What to do and see in Zhangjiajie?
First of all, a little clarification so that you don’t get your brushes tangled up. Zhangjiajie can refer to 2 things:
- Zhangjiajie, the city: this is where you arrive (by plane, train or bus)
- Zhangjiajie National Park, whose main entrance is 40 minutes from town, in Wulingyuan.
Depending on your program, it will be better to spend some nights in the city of zhangjiajie, and others in Wulingyuan, near the entrance to the park. But don’t worry, I explain all this in detail in this guide to Zhangjiajie.
We will therefore start with the list of things to see in Zhangjiajie, with, each time, all the information necessary to organize your visit.
And yes, in addition to the national park, there are also other places to visit in the surrounding area.
Zhangjiajie National Park
Zhangjiajie National Park (张家界国家森林公园 in Chinese, or “Zhangjiajie national forest park” in English) is the main attraction of the Hunan region.
Very popular with Chinese tourists, the site has become world famous for being James Cameron’s inspiration for the dreamlike settings of Pandora , the planet on which the Avatar film story takes place .
It should at least be noted that there are still quite a few Western tourists who come to Zhangjiajie, so absolutely nothing is planned to welcome you if you do not speak Chinese. All the more reason to prepare well for your visit.
The site is divided into 6 sections:
- Yuanjiajie (袁家界): The most touristy, this is where “Avatar Halllelujah Mountain” is, the most famous peak in the park.
- Tianzi Mountain (天子山): One of the highest areas in Zhangjiajie, often shrouded in mist.
- Yangjiajie (杨家界): The steepest part, a lot of steps to climb! This is my favorite section.
- Yellow Stone Village (Huangshi Zhai 黄石寨): Section without too much elevation gain, and lots of monkeys!
- Old House Area (Laowu Chang 老屋场): A still undeveloped section.
- Gold Whip Stream (Jinbian Xi 金鞭溪): Located in the lower part of the park, a riverside promenade.
Zhangjiajie: Prices and means of transport
As the site is huge, the entrance ticket for Zhangjiajie National Park is valid for 4 days and costs 250 yuan (a little over 30€).
Inside the park you will have several means of transport:
- Cable cars (paying in addition to the entrance fee)
- A panoramic lift (paying in addition to the entrance fee)
- A tourist train (paid in addition to the entrance fee)
And yes, in addition to the 250 yuan, you will have to pay again to be able to take the ski lifts (they save you 2-3 hours each time). The ski lifts are to be paid on site, there is a ticket office next to each of them.
To give you an idea of the prices:
- Bailong gondola and panoramic lift cost around 80 yuan one way or 120 yuan return (not necessarily worthwhile, best to do a loop and not go through the same place again!)
- The “Ten Miles Gallery” sightseeing train costs about 40 yuan one way and 55 yuan round trip.
For your visit, I recommend that you spend at least 2 full days in the national park of Zhangjiajie. In 1 day, you really won’t have time to see everything!
2-day itinerary in the national park
So here is an optimized itinerary to visit Zhangjiajie National Park in 2 days.
Small note before starting: there are 2 entrances to access Zhangjiajie National Park:
- Celle de Wulingyuan (la principale)
- And the other, soberly titled “Zhangjiajie National forest park entrance”
I put you a map of the park with the itinerary that I give you at the end of this section.
The best is to sleep in Wulingyuan, to be among the first to enter the park in the morning. There is a lot to visit, so you might as well start not too late.
For your first day, you will therefore enter through the Wulingyuan entrance.
After buying your tickets, you will have to take a bus to get to the Tianzi Mountain Cableway. The hardest part is not crashing a bus.
I’m not going to go there by 4 paths, it’s really a mess at the start to know which one to take. Make sure you don’t miss it.
If you’re not mistaken, it’s good, you’ll be “on track” to follow the visit that I have planned for you.
2 other small notes regarding the buses in the park:
- It can also be a mess on the way back depending on where you are, be careful to take the bus the right way.
- The “drawn” map that you will be given at your hotel is not really to scale, so you may have some surprises :P. So, do not try to do something that can be done by bus on foot by the road, for example.
In the park, here is the route to follow for your first day:
- Start by taking the gondola to Tianzi Mountain
- Once at the top, take the bus
- Short stop at the 1st stop to enjoy the viewpoints
- Take the bus back to “Emperor Peak” and walk around a bit
- Get back on the bus to the Yangjiajie section. Visit of Yangjiajie (about 3h)
- Take the bus to Yuanjiajie section, don’t miss Hallelujah Mountain
- Go back down the Bailong Elevator
- Take the bus back to Wulingyuan entrance.
Overnight in Wulingyuan.
Tips for your Zhangjiajie Itinerary
At the start, for the first bus, ask the people who work for the park which line to take to go to the Tianzi Mountain gondola. Show them on the map where you want to go, they will understand!
Every time you get on a bus, take out your map and show the driver where you want to go. He will tell you yes or no, and you will be fixed. Do the same if you think you’re sure, it costs nothing and you won’t waste time like that.
For this 2nd day in Zhangjiajie National Park, you will start by taking a taxi to the second entrance to the park, “Zhangjiajie national forest park Entrance”. You will have about 30 minutes.
From there, you can go up to the “Yellow Stone Village” section on foot (about 1h30) or by bus + gondola (about 15 minutes). A good solution may be to go up by gondola and then walk back down.
The visit of this section will take approximately 3 hours, in addition to the time of ascent and/or descent. If you choose to walk down, you will have an extra hour.
For the afternoon, you can enjoy a leisurely stroll along the water’s edge in the Golden Whip Stream section. Allow 2 hours of walking to reach the bus station which will take you back to the entrance of Wulingyuan.
If you still have time and feel like it, instead of going back to Wulingyuan, you can stop at the “Ten-Mile Natural Gallery” (on the bus route) to hike a bit more.
There you go, you will have really enjoyed Zhangjiajie National Park in 2 days!
You are then free to spend another extra day there to visit what you did not have time to see.
If you don’t feel like visiting Zhangjiajie National Park on your own, you can opt for a private English-speaking guide (there are no French-speaking guides).
You can book your professional guide directly by clicking here.
Tips for your Zhangjiajie Itinerary:
When visiting Zhangjiajie National Park, watch out for monkeys! There are many, especially in the ” Yellow Stone Village” area.
If you have food with you, be sure to check that there are no monkeys around before taking it out of your bag. They become quite aggressive as soon as they see something to nibble on.
Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon (and the Glass Bridge)
Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon (in Chinese 张家界大峡谷), not to be confused with Zhangjiajie National Park is another tourist site to see around the city of Zhangjiajie (not easy, you have to follow!).
The main attraction of the place is the famous glass bridge over 400 m long. It is really impressive to walk on it observing with the valley more than 300 m below.
You can also visit the Grand Canyon, with these waterfalls and its emerald-colored lake. The visit ends with a short boat trip that will take you back to the exit.
Entrance to the site is quite expensive, around 300 yuan.
Plan a half-day visit (preferably in the morning), the time to go there, to queue and to visit. The visit pairs very well with that of the Grotto of the Yellow Dragon for the afternoon. I talk about it a little further down in this guide.
Tips for your Zhangjiajie Itinerary:
There are daily quotas of tickets sold each day. So go early in the morning! This is even more true if you are accompanied by Chinese friends, who will do better to book in advance (the quotas for Chinese visitors/foreign tourists are separate).
At Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon, it is forbidden to bring your camera or drone. You must leave them in the secure lockers provided for this purpose at the entrance to the site. (don’t worry, it’s very well secured). However, you will have the right to keep your smartphone.
For ladies, it is also forbidden to go there in heels so as not to damage the glass of the bridge. Moreover, they will provide you with cloth overshoes to put on when you arrive.
Tianmen Mountain (Tianmen Shan天门山in Chinese), also called “Tianmen Mountain National Park” is another national park located near the city of Zhangjiajie.
Tianmen Mountain is above all famous for 3 things:
- The “Gate of Heaven” (Tianmen 天门, Heaven’s Door in English), also called Tianmen Cave (“Tianmen Grotto”): it is a giant natural arch in the mountain
- The staircase of paradise (Stairway to Heaven in English) and its 999 steps which lead to the door of paradise
- Its Skywalks (glass or not), clinging to the mountain: you walk with more than 1400 m of emptiness under your feet!
But that’s not all!
To get there, you will also have the option of taking the longest cable car in the world (7455m long), which starts from the heart of the city of Zhangjiajie to take you to Tianmen mountain. The view is breathtaking.
The “road with 99 bends ” which leads to the mountain also offers magnificent views. The good news is that you will have the option of taking the gondola and going by road, one on the way there and the other on the way back.
And since you are in China, there is also a temple to visit at the top of the mountain.
Here is now all the practical information for visiting Tianmen Mountain:
The first thing to do is go and buy your ticket, at the cable car departure level. There are 3 types of tickets:
- Ticket A: Ascent by gondola and descent by bus
- Ticket B: Ascent by bus and descent by gondola
- Ticket C: Ascent and descent by bus
The ticket offices open at 8 am, I advise you to be there a little before (ideally 30 minutes) to be among the first to buy your ticket, because there are quotas.
Tickets A and B are the ones that leave the fastest, so if you want to take the gondola, don’t wait too long in the morning.
For your ascent or descent (or both) by bus, if you want to take pictures, I recommend that you stand on the right side of the bus during the ascent, and on the left side during the descent.
One last thing about the bus: if you get motion sickness, bring a vomit bag, because it’s pretty violent:P.
Back to tickets:
The most optimized in terms of visit time is undoubtedly the A ticket, it is the one that allows you to take the fastest route to visit the park, avoiding the queue. You won’t need to climb the 999 steps of the Stairway to Heaven (or take the escalators).
Here is the route to do with ticket A:
- Take the gondola to the top
- Visit the upper part of the park (the Skywalks, the temple etc.)
- Go down to “La Porte du Paradis” with the escalators (it’s a series of 7 escalators for about 200m of difference in altitude!)
- Descend the 999 steps of “The staircase of Paradise”. As it is really very steep, you can also take the escalators
- Take the 99 bends road by minibus to return to the park entrance.
- Return to Zhangjiajie city by shuttle bus.
For B and C tickets, the route is as follows:
- Take the shuttle (departure next to the ticket office) to reach the entrance to Tianmen Mountain Park
- Continue with the minibus to climb the 99 bends route
- Climb the 999 steps “The Staircase of Paradise”, or take the escalators
- Take the series of 7 escalators to reach the upper part of the park
- Visit the upper part of the park (the Skywalks, the temple etc.)
- Go back down by gondola if ticket B, otherwise take the path in the opposite direction!
There you go, no matter which ticket you choose, you’ll have a great day at Tianmen Mountain. In order to make the most of it, I advise you to make the visit before that of the Zhangjiajie National Park, in order to go crescendo in the beauty of the landscapes.
- Admission price: 258 yuan
- Tianmen Mountain Tour Duration: Full Day
As in Zhangjiajie National Park, everything is in Chinese, and nothing has been thought of for tourists who do not speak the language. If you don’t feel like visiting Tianmen Mountain alone, you can click here to book the services of a private English-speaking guide.
The Yellow Dragon Cave
The Yellow Dragon Cave (Huang Long Dong 黄龙洞 in Chinese, Yellow Dragon Cave in English) is one of the largest caves in China. It is also one of the most visited. You will really feel very small in its rooms, the largest of which reaches a ceiling height of 140 m.
Like all Chinese caves (I am thinking in particular of the Reed Flute Cave in Guilin for example), the place is decorated with colored lights. I warn you, it’s a bit like Disneyland, so don’t expect to visit a classic cave.
You will end the visit with a short boat trip inside the cave.
- Visiting time of the Yellow Dragon Cave: 2 hours
- Entrance fee: around 100 yuan.
Tips for your Zhangjiajie Itinerary
There are quite a few steps to go up/down (almost 1000 I think) and it’s sometimes a bit slippery. So bring comfortable shoes.
Baofeng Lake (宝峰湖 in Chinese, Baofeng lake in English) is located south of Wulingyuan, about ten minutes by taxi or bus.
On the lake, you can take a 30-minute boat ride, and if you’re lucky, young people in traditional Tujia ethnic costumes will perform one or two songs as your boat passes by.
There is also the Baofeng waterfall to see on the site.
Entrance fee including mini cruise: around 100 yuan.
Tips for your Zhangjiajie Itinerary
The landscapes are pretty, but it’s not the best site in the area. To do if you really have time, or if the weather is not very nice, instead of Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon for example.
What to do around Zhangjiajie
In addition to the things to do around Zhangjiajie City that I introduced to you above, here are the 2 best places to visit in Hunan Province near Zhangjiajie.
Visit Fenghuang, the city of the Phoenix
If you want to visit Hunan during your trip to China and have more than 4 days in the Zhangjiajie area, I recommend you to go to Fenghuang (凤凰), one of the most beautiful old towns in China.
I won’t hide it from you, it’s extremely touristy, but it’s still magnificent, especially at night, once everything is lit up.
Recommended visit time for Fenghuang: 1 or 2 nights on site.
- Day 1: visit at the end of the day/night
- Day 2: take a walk again with the morning light and an excursion around
For all the information you need to visit Fenghuang, read my article: How to Visit Fenghuang: The Ultimate Guide.
Visit Furong Old Town
Furong is also an old small village (in the same style as Fenghuang, but much smaller) located about 2 hours by bus from Zhangjiajie.
The particularity of this village is the very beautiful waterfall that flows in the middle.
Recommended visit time for Furong: 1 or 2 nights on site.
- Day 1: visit at the end of the day and at night (no need to spend the day there, arriving around 4:30-5am is sufficient)
- Day 2: visit of the surrounding tourist sites for this 2nd day
I give you all the information to organize your stay in Furong in my article: How to visit Furong?
How many days to visit Zhangjiajie?
Spending 2 full days in Zhangjiajie is a minimum, it will at least allow you to visit Zhangjiajie National Park well.
But, with so much to do around, I recommend spending 4 days in Zhangjiajie on your trip to China. If you have time, you can also stay longer in the Hunan region and include the tours I mentioned in the “what to do around Zhangjiajie” section.
Here are routes for each duration:
Visit Zhangjiajie in 2 days
With 2 full days in Zhangjiajie, you will have plenty of time to visit Zhangjiajie National Park. This is the option to choose if you have little time.
I gave you the complete itinerary a little earlier, in the paragraph on organizing your visit to Zhangjiajie National Park.
As I told you, the most convenient is to sleep in Wulingyuan every night, except maybe the last, if you have an early morning flight/train. In this case, it is better to sleep in Zhangjiajie City on the last night.
I give you the list of the best accommodations just after.
Visit Zhangjiajie in 3 or 4 days
In 3 or 4 full days in Zhangjiajie, you will be able to visit the other major attractions that I tell you about in this guide. It is best to organize your program as follows:
- Day 0: Arrive and stay in Zhangjiajie City
- Day 1: Tianmen Mountain. Sleep in Zhangjiajie (city)
- Day 2: Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon in the morning (glass bridge) and Huanglong Cave in the afternoon. Sleep in Wulingyuan
- Day 3: Zhangjiajie National Park. Sleep in Wulingyuan
- Day 4: Zhangjiajie National Park. Sleep in Wulingyuan or Zhangjiajie (more convenient if your flight/train is early in the morning)
If you only have 3 days, delete day 1 or 2.
And if you have more time (6 days, a week, or more) you can add, in addition to the 4-day program mentioned above:
- 2 days in Furong (1 night on site)
- 2 or 3 days in Fenghuang (1 or 2 nights on site)
Enough to spend more than a week in the superb region of Hunan, near Zhangjiajie.
Accommodation in Zhangjiajie
As I told you in the article, during your stay in Zhangjiajie, you will have the choice of sleeping:
- Dans la ville de Zhangjiajie
- In Wulingyuan, near the entrance to the National Park
I therefore suggest the best places to stay in both cases.
Accommodation in Zhangjiajie (city)
Accommodation in Zhangjiajie is the best choice for visiting Tianmen Mountain. This allows you to be close to the starting point of the excursion.
- Xiao Wu ding Inn: Very well located 5 minutes walk from the cable cars for Tianmen mountain. Double room from 15 euros per night. It’s simple, you won’t find as well placed and cheaper! This is the best choice close to the gondola.
- Zhangjiajie Art Hotel: Located 15 minutes walk from the train station and 5 minutes by taxi from the departure of the cable cars for Tianmen mountain. It’s quiet, away from road noise and the rooms are tastefully decorated. It is my favorite for its price / performance ratio.
- Dao Bia Inn: Located a little away from the city, this is a very nice little design hotel. The staff is really super friendly and the owner will do everything to help you. Possibility of a free shuttle to and from the airport. From 60 per night. Breakfast is excellent.
Accommodation in Wulingyuan
For the days when you visit Zhangjiajie National Park, it is best to sleep in the town of Wulingyuan, close to the park entrance.
Here are the 2 best hotels, depending on your budget:
- Wulingyuantuniu Youth Hostel: Very well located near the park entrance, the staff is lovely. Bed in dormitory from 5 euros per night, double room from 15 euros. This is the best hostel. Perfect for small budgets.
- Yinshe Guesthouse : This is my favorite hotel and the best choice in the area. The rooms are great and it’s perfectly located, right next to the entrance to Zhangjiajie National Park. Double room from €27 per night. It is my favorite for its exceptional performance / price ratio.
How to get to Zhangjiajie
Here’s how to get to Zhangjiajie from major Chinese cities. Flying is by far the best solution in most cases.
- By plane: 2h30
- By train: 24 hours or go to Changsha, the nearest major city to Zhangjiajie (about 6 hours by express train). Then see Changhsha-Zhangjiajie
Shanghai – Zhangjiajie
- By plane: 2h50
- By train: You have to go to Changsha, the closest big city to Zhangjiajie (about 5 hours by express train). Then see Changhsha-Zhangjiajie
Xi’an – Zhangjiajie
- By plane: 1h30
- By train: 6 p.m. or You have to go through Changsha (about 5.5 hours by express train). Then see Changhsha-Zhangjiajie
Guangzhou – Zhangjiajie
- By plane: 1h40
- By train: 2 p.m. by night train. Can be a good economic alternative (cheap transport + no hotel to pay)
Guilin – Zhangjiajie
- By plane: 5h50 minimum (flight with stopover)
- By train: 13h total: Do Guilin-Liuzhou (1h10) then Liuzhou Zhangjiajie by night train (12h)
Kunming – Zhangjiajie
- By plane: 1h45
- By train: 7-8pm by direct train or You have to go through Changsha (about 5h30 by express train). Then see Changhsha-Zhangjiajie
Chengdu – Zhangjiajie
- By plane: 1h30
- By train: – Really difficult, to forget!
Wuhan – Zhangjiajie
- By plane: 1h30 (3 flights/week)
- By train: 10h by direct train, or you have to go to Changsha, only 1h30 by express train. Then see Changhsha-Zhangjiajie
Changsha – Zhangjiajie
- By plane: 4h30 minimum (flight with stopover)
- En train: 5h
- By bus: 4.5 hours from Changsha West Bus Station
Tips for your Zhangjiajie Itinerary
To book your internal flights in China as well as your train tickets, I recommend that you go through Trip.com. It is the most serious site while being the least expensive. This is the one I use all the time for my trips to China.
I advise you to bookmark this page!
When to Visit Zhangjiajie
The ideal time to visit Zhangjiajie National Park will mainly depend on what you want to see. The park is sublime in all seasons.
April to June: this is the ideal time to discover Zhangjiajie in the mist. The atmosphere is truly magical. Avoid Chinese national holidays (May 1-3).
July August: as you can imagine, it’s the high tourist season, so there are a lot of people. It is hot and humid, T-shirts and shorts are essential, even if you risk visiting in the rain.
September to Mid November: the weather is still very mild, it rains less than in summer and spring: This is the ideal season if you want to visit with good weather. Some trees take on the colors of fall.
Mid-November to March: If you want to see Zhangjiajie in the snow, this is the time to go. On the other hand, it can be very cold, and the wind does not help matters. It is also the low tourist season: Fewer people, and the entrance to the park is half price.
So, how many days do you plan to visit Zhangjiajie and the national park?
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