The Avatar Mountains. That is how Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is being promoted across China and around the world.
Giant sandstone pinnacles rise skyward from the valley floor, some up to 200m tall with tufts of evergreen shrubs clinching to their narrow summits.
Thousands of these striking monoliths are eroded into the earth like a towering stone forest. Their powerful beauty is contrasted by its remote inaccessibility.
This is a place of awe and humility. Somewhere that one would think had never had human eyes laid upon them. It is easy to see the comparison between Zhangjiajie’s mountains and those of the mythical Pandora.
Buried deep in the Hunan province, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, part of the greater Wulingyuan Scenic Area, holds the esteemed title of being China’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The unique geological formations that have formed over the aeons are almost unparalleled in their magnificence. It is little wonder that tourist development now sees the area attract millions of visitors every year.
Unfortunately this level of tourism has become unsustainable, and it is not just from becoming overcrowded or failure to implement beneficial resources.
Tragically, it is the type of people arriving that is ruining Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, and no one there seems to care.
China’s biggest visitor numbers in almost every location comes from domestic tourists. With a population of 1.4 billion people and a booming economy, more and more locals are in a position to travel and explore their own country, and abroad.
China has an unrivalled list of incredible and unique attractions that deserve both our attention and preservation. Many of us who travel are given an appreciation of nature and an education in why it is important to protect it.
Sadly this does not seem to be the case with China’s own tourists.
From the moment we had arrived in the town of Wulingyuan, on the edge of the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, it was apparent that this was an immensely popular destination.
Huge hotels were being constructed on every street, trying to match the occupancy rates expected in the coming years. Dozens of enormous tour buses dropped off hordes of tourists, who haphazardly followed their guides around, directed by a flag and megaphone.
We ducked and weaved through the crowds to the new visitor’s centre, where we were relieved of 255RMB, the equivalent of US$40, for entry to the park. Quite a high price that we believed went into the conservation of the area.
We asked for a map and were instead directed to a large billboard. On this we noticed two cable cars and an elevator that were aimed at making the access to the park easier for those unable (or too lazy) to hike themselves.
Of course these were not included in our entry ticket and would cost more to use. They also failed to mention that the cable cars were not running at the time of our visit.
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is different to many of the other national parks in China – the entry ticket actually lasts for four days (now only 3 days) instead of the typical one, and here bus transport is included in the price.
After our initial experience boarding one of these buses, we are glad we weren’t forced to pay more for the privilege. As soon as the doors opened, huge crowds of tourists surged forward, crushing each other and nearly trampling an elderly lady who was trying to disembark.
The level of care from the locals was non-existent. All they were concerned with was getting a seat, so that they didn’t have to stand for the 10-minute journey to the McDonald’s restaurant in the park.
Luckily for us, once we reached our first stop in Zhangjiajie National Park, the Golden Whip Brook, most of the crowds stayed on the bus, instead opting to take the elevator to the top.
The pleasant walk along the river’s edge was gorgeous. The sandstone and quartz monoliths peeked over the surrounding cliffs, standing tall like upright javelins. An unsigned path led up into the forest and we followed it enthusiastically.
After a steady and steep hour-long climb we reached the top, where our efforts were rewarded with some of the most spectacular views we have ever laid eyes on. High above the valley floor, we were near level with the pinnacles’ summits.
More than a few moments passed as we caught our breath from the steep ascent and marvelled at the astounding beauty all around us.
Unfortunately this is also where we rejoined the crowds. Shrill voices echoed across Zhangjiajie National Forest Park as group leaders squawked into megaphones.
Clusters of people in matching hats clapped and screamed in unison, trying to identify their own voice amongst the hundreds of other claps and screams bouncing off of the sandstone.
The illusion of being in Pandora was gone.
Foolishly we remained in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park until sunset, expecting to catch a bus to town afterwards. The lighting and views were impeccable, but we were shocked afterwards when we were told no buses would take us to the bottom.
Instead we were told to either stay on the mountain or take the elevator down. We protested, saying we didn’t have money for the overpriced elevator and that we would prefer to walk down. “No walking – only elevator,” was the only response.
Our options were to scrounge through our pockets to gather the 72RMB each for the two-minute elevator ride, or spend the night on the mountain. Busloads of staff headed down the mountain, but they would not allow us to join them.
Actually pointing and laughing at our protests, they watched as we reluctantly handed over our money to the ticket lady, and then sped off with spare seats to the bottom of the elevator.
Thanks, Zhangjiajie National Park. And for the record, the elevator sucked.
We refused to let the unexpected emptying of our wallets spoil the rest of our time in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, and the next two days were far more secluded.
We stayed in the same area of the national park, but opted to do a lot more hiking on some of the quieter trails. As soon as you step away from the main paths, it feels like you have the entire park to yourself.
The park is massive and you could really utilise every one of the four days by venturing out to different sections. Unfortunately we began to feel one of the 7 curses of long-term travel, and started to get ‘templed out’, as it were, with the views.
The marvellous as the mountains are, there is so much of the same thing we could tolerate. We took a rest day before deciding to head on to Xian.
While Zhangjiajie National Forest Park left us with mixed emotions we are definitely glad we took the detour through Chengyang to check out the ‘Avatar Mountains’.
With the new glass bridge being installed in the coming months, we can only expect that tourist numbers will sky-rocket to an even higher, more unsustainable rate. Such is the way of nature’s best in China, though.
Visit Zhangjiajie National Park before it gets any worse.
Table of Contents
How To Get To Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
The easiest way to get to Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is to fly. For those looking at travelling overland, the train to “Zhangjiajie City” ( 张家界 ) is the best option.
It is not a well-connected line in relation to most of the other major destinations in China, but with a couple of changes you can make your way there with minimal fuss. Check out C-Trip to figure out the best train schedule for you.
If you want to stay in Wulingyuan village ( 武陵源 ), you’ll need to take a bus out there. Once you arrive from the train station, exit the terminal and walk into the bus station on the left.
Walk to the back and show the staff the Chinese characters, or keep an eye out yourself. They will point you in the right direction. The bus should take about 40 minutes, and cost 12 RMB.
Tour vs Going Independently
We did everything on our own, and despite the few issues this was easy enough to do.
However if you’re more interested in going on a private tour with an English-speaking guide, there’s a couple of options now.
It looks like the best one around that you can pre-book is on the massive tour booking platform Get Your Guide, and if we were to head back we’d consider doing their one-day trip.
Where To Stay
When visiting Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, you have a couple of options. You can either stay in Zhangjiajie City, in Wulingyuan village, or inside the park itself.
The city didn’t really appeal to us, and the park seemed expensive (but does come with the added benefit of being able to see sunrise and sunset from inside), so we opted for Wulingyuan.
Qing Man Hotel
We found a great hotel, only a short walk from the entrance gate and the bus station in Wulingyuan. The Qing Man Hotel had only just opened up when we were there (May 2015), and it really was superb.
The owners, Richard and Sarah, speak great English and really went out of their way to make sure we had a wonderful stay. The rooms are comfortable, big and bright, the bathrooms were clean and the wifi worked great. Close to
- Location: From the bus station turn left onto Jundi Road, walk about 400m and the hotel is on the right past Baixi Garden. Opposite the Kaytien National Hotel.
- Phone: +86 744 555 9838
- Price: Private double rooms with ensuite start at 120RMB
Want to book at room at Qing Man Hotel? Book here with booking.com
56 thoughts on “How To Visit Zhangjiajie National Forest Park (The Avatar Mountains)”
I don’t usually comment anywhere, but now I just can’t help myself….it does seem to me that though you’ve been travelling many places for a long time, you still didn’t grasp that China is not “around Asia”, it’s very distinctly the other universe that is only and solely China. And it’s full of contradictions just like anyplace else – buddhism and cruelty, ancient and elegant rituals and spitting, privacy and introversion and yelling in crowds. But China is what China is, and with a population of 1.4 billion and enormous economic power, it doesn’t really need to accommodate itself to any other culture’s expectations.
We lived in China for a year in 2001, mostly hanging out and travelling around, and found every day fascinating. We took our time to sit and observe, and quickly learned to empty our minds and our hearts of any expectations for anything to conform to our assumptions. Clearly plenty of things were aggravating: being illiterate (we could speak some Mandarin but read only a few characters), trying to get information, buying train tickets. And sometimes we ran out of patience, and had to spend a day sitting in a park or a tea house just chilling. And sometimes we wanted to cry with frustration. But travelling to all kinds of places outside the mega-cities, we found people to be helpful, interested and interesting, and generally cheery, though we probably managed inadvertantly to embarrass almost everyone.
We visited Zhangjiajie mostly because we thought a giant forest must be beautiful, and that’s about all we knew about it before we arrived. It was full of domestic tourists, though clearly not as many as you found there, we found some kind of odd place to stay within the park, we travelled around by hitching rides on motorbikes and taking busses, and took lots of walks and had ridiculous conversations with Chinese tourists, and managed to find something vegetarian to eat in the most unlikely places. When we left the park after 3 days, we found a bus to Zhangjiajie City and found a small hotel, and spent the rest of the day buying train tickets out the next day. That evening we found ourselves drinking tea with a bunch of Chinese men who were thrilled to discover that my partner played their version of chess. Yes, in between there were megaphones and wonderful views and rivers and trees and the Oxygen Bar and people littering and spitting and wanting to have their picture taken with us. I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.
And I also noted that you mention the atrocious Chinese occupation of Tibet…this is one of my pet peeves. I myself have lived and now live in (an)other country which occupies and exploits large other populations, ruins their economies, disrespects their cultures, tortures and murders for political crap power-hungry reasons. Just like some country’s multi-national corporation has ruined a corner of Zhangjiajie by sticking a McDonald’s there. Do any of us live in countries that don’t engage in those very behaviors, but are just better in shifting much of the blame onto economic rather than political powers? Maybe the gentleman from Sweden who left a comment is lucky enough to live in a country that doesn’t rape and murder under the guise of development. And Tibet, when China occupied it, wasn’t some Shangra-la of happy buddhists, but a feudal theocracy which you undoubtedly wouldn’t have been happy with either…..
Hi Su, thank you for your comment. If you had been following us for a long time you would know we travel slow and spend a lot in different countries. China was a hard country for us to travel. Personally we were on an overlanding mission and should have left the country earlier than we did. The time we entered China we had been on the road from more than a year and half full time. We travelled China from the west to the east over a period of 4 months, moving daily. We didn’t recognise it then but we were burnt out. Every country does have their faults and I know a lot of them are trying to change and improve on their ways. The Chinese people have been through hard times and now many people have found new money and some still not. We are so glad you found China fascinating? As we did. Now we have left the country and reflected, we enjoyed a our time there. Just when we were there we saw a lot of negative and concentrated on that. It was hard to see how the Tibetans and Uyghur people were being treated. We spent a lot of time in these area and they were our favourite times in China. Where did you travel? You would have seen a lot of place being there a year. 🙂
I am a local 4 hours from ZJJ . It is fun to read your article and comments.
We also hate the overpriced elevator, large crowds and long waiting time.
but as a different culture and nation, people are different. In general, most of our people are nice and welcoming.
My friend and I plan to visit zjj in early August. Hope we will enjoy the trip.
Hi, I did the Tianmen mountain today and can certainly identify with your observations regarding Chinese tourists.
I’m in two minds about going to the Hallelujah mountains park though. It’s pretty misty weather and the thought of queuing again like I did today for 2 hours to get on and to get off the place is somewhat putting me off. I’m assuming it’ll be just as bad there at Avatar mountains. I don’t have the energy for a 4 hour hike unfortunately.
Dear Alysha and Jarrid:
In all honesty: you are making a big mistake. Maybe we went to two different parks. In the park I went, there were no Chinese tourist and non-Chinese tourists. We were all just tourist. I couldn´t pinpoint at anything based on nationality. I saw tourists from all over behaving like me. Of course, you are both different, since you have been given an appreciation of nature and an education in why it is important to protect it. Chinese tourists were not.
On the other hand, I can only speak for myself, I´m incapable of assessing China´s tourists. I appreciate nature, I love it, and I am a tourist and I damage it and I push too. I was there in the park, being part of the crowd! Of course, you are different, and people like me, with lesser education, annoy you. I am sorry. However, you are making an obvious mistake: I am not Chinese, your text should read: Chinese tourist and this other fellow Eitan of unknown nationality were not given an education. You have every right to feel annoyed. You were there in the park, but the problem was the presence of Chinese tourists, and me. I don´t know how you traveled to the park, but I took a plane from far away, trains, buses, stayed in a hotel, ate, and had a big impact on the environment.
Everyone was having such a great time at the park! We were all fascinated by nature. I would even dare to say, completely unconscious of nationalities. We all lived for the park! Nevertheless, I was a bit selfish and did shove myself to catch the best views. I appreciate that you took your time to notice everything that I could have done better. But please don’t single out the Chinese, I’m guilty as charged.
Nevertheless, I’m surprised that you found everything so expensive. How much is a ticket to Avatar, followed by your everyday western consumption-pollution fun? I reckon that like me, Chinese, American, Norwegian, and Indian tourists were delighted to be there, thankful for the opportunity and more than happy to pay. Contrary to you, I found the park wonderfully organized. Though, I did notice that Brits, Argentineans, Ugandans, Japanese, and Germans occupied space and produced garbage. I saw Australian, Brazilian and Russian tourist eat and laugh too. We could discuss for hours what we Australian, European and American tourists do. After all, we have the biggest environmental footprint on earth! Please believe me: America and Europe are full buildings, highways, hotels and shops. You wouldn’t believe the crowds one finds all across Europe!
I hope we can agree on something. We tourists from all over the world must improve our behavior, regardless of where we come from. Saying otherwise is a mistake.
Dear Alysha and Jarred, I have to say that you absolutely nailed it on every front. I have traveled through national parks from Africa to the Middle East and this park had the most spectacular views that I’ve ever seen.
Eitan – I apologize but you’re wrong. I would love to say that you’re right but you’re not. I can assure you that when Americans, Brits or South Africans are in. National Parks, they tend to behave themselves in a manner consistent to their environment (generally speaking). I have seen disrespectful Europeans on many places but unfortunately this experience showed me that the Chinese take the cake. And they were Chinese tourists – you’re being completely disingenuous if you didn’t notice it – in fact that’s part of the actual attraction ironically – I can’t believe that the rest of the world hasn’t descended upon this unique location. But the smoking, pushing, garbage throwing, burping, spitting, shoving, bumping and just over the top loud tourists at every stop ruined it for me. And I usually love city-life. I could hear the loud speakers a mile away every time it to close to one of the major lookout locations. And like the hosts of this blog, it is getting worse with the glass floors and advertising – and general gaudyness that is being objected into the towns. But that’s what is making the tourist industry presumably him in this new economy.
Well articulated guys. I’ll be reading more of your stuff.
We tourists from all over the world must improve our behavior, regardless of where we come from. Saying otherwise is a mistake. Agreed!
If you think Chinese people are disrespectful to the environment you should visit Bali. It’s a brilliant showcase of what Western tourists are doing to our planet. So instead of preaching other people, we should all first look inside our own yards!
I can’t speak for parts of Bali like Kuta as a spent most of my time in Canggu, but I participated in a weekly beach clean up organized by an English/American duo, and almost entirely attended by westerners. No locals as far as I can remember.
I’m sure some of the people who hang out in kuta may not respect the environment but I’m sure nothing could compare to what the locals do to their own country.
Indonesia is the second biggest ocean plastic polluter after China. Every corner of the island is covered in plastic. Every river, every valley you can find plastic. I know this as I drove over most of the island, the parts that aren’t heavily visited by westerners. So To insinuate this is because of us is totally inaccurate. On the ferry to nusa penida I watched as a local finished his coke bottle, burp and then threw it in the sea. This is unthinkable in the UK and people would give them an earful if they dared do something like that in our country. A French group who witnessed looked just as unimpressed.
We are lucky enough to be from a part of the world where we have a lifestyle and wealth that allows us to think about and pay for these things. Unfortunately being sustainable is a luxury and I don’t really blame Chinese and Indonesians for not caring as much as we do about the environment given they have more pressing struggles and pockets than we do. But westerners are not the cause of the plastic problem in a country like Indonesia. It is most definitely the locals, despite how beautiful their culture otherwise is.
Sorry to inform you but Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area is not China’s first Unesco site. It is just China’s first national forest park. It was declared world heritage site in 1992, much later than Beijing or Xi’an (that were inscribed in 1987).
Great article. I would recommend getting there first thing in the morning or during the colder months to avoid the huge crowds. The only problem with the colder months is that it can be very foggy and visibility is practically zero! Pretty much all of China’s domestic tourist attractions are unbelievably crowded, despite the relatively high local entry cost.
Thank you for your information Mike. We appreciate it. 🙂
You guys nailed it and I kept laughing through most of the article. I love the fact that you share your opinion no matter how it might be interpreted. ZJJ is on the bucket list living here for sure but like some of the comments above it may take a bit to get here so I keep putting it off. I think you may have pushed me to do it sooner though, when it’s cold, as most know here how much the Chinese as a whole hate that and something tells me that should chisel the megaphones down Hahahah.
Just another side observation that sets my judgmental switch off is the fact that so many of them like to travel to more “civilized” places and have true appreciation for all the courtesies that affords, yet the majority of them are unwilling and choose not to return the gesture. It makes sense of and justifies what the government needs to do to gsd here.
Warmest aloha and thank you for a great review
Zhangjiajie is really beautiful! I did enjoy my trip there in this April and had impressive trip when exploring the Tianmen cave, glass sky walk, Bailong Elevator and of course including the famous Avatar Hallelujah Mountain! ✈✈
Guys, found this article while researching the place and it contains very handy info. However, I found some of your comments about the locals rather offensive. I was surprised by the generalizations and sweeping statements, from people as well traveled as you guys appear to be.
And blaming park management for your lack of planning? “Actually pointing and laughing at our protests”? Seriously?
Rather than soaking in the magnificence of the place, you chose to focus on the rather petty and little things that somehow managed to bother you. How much better would it have been if not for the “hordes” of stupid, uncaring and rude Chinese tourists who make “annoying sounds”! If only they would keep out “this type of people” and let in only sophisticated Western tourists who really care and know how to appreciate the beauty of the place!
Please just try not to forget that you’re guests in a foreign country when traveling. A little humility and respect will go a long way.
Best comment!!! Exactly how I see it. Not only in China but travelling in general. Everything is part of the journey and I´m a visitor in someone elses country and I behave accordingly.
Lived in Beijing for a year . earlier visited Beijing/China many many times for a few weeks every time. My daughter lived there for almost 7 years. She also moved back here for just a few weeks ago. I could choose between applying my western views on everything, getting annoyed about everything (the buses, my Chinese neighbours, a million of little things really) or just take everything for what it was, totally enjoying every day (Almost. Life is still live where ever you are xD) and actually learning a LOT during my time there. Except my Chinese still sucks:)) I loved the crappy little house in the hutongs, my loud and ohhh so friendly neighbours, my shlightly crazy landlady (who also became a very good friend), the sharing of meals with total strangers at the small over crowded local eateries….the list would be endless.
And yes, the Chinese are exceptionally good in taking a piece of stunning nature and making the most of it commercially xD And the crowds can be enormous so planning/researching a bit is a good start.
the link is to my Beijing pages I kept mostly for myself and my mother:)) In Swedish because she doesn´t read or speak English, but didn´t write that much anyways. I didn´t get to travel around China so much so mostly everything Beijing. Still have loads of stuff to upload
All the best,
Thanks for taking the time to read and leaving a comment. In our defence, while it may seem that we were choosing to focus on the negative, or wishing for our own ‘Western ideals’, the truth is we have spent over 3 years backpacking very extensively throughout Asia and for the most part, have nothing but absolutely incredible things to say.
We spent 4 months backpacking through China. We hitchhiked through the Tibetan regions where we saw first hand the oppression that is being forced by the powers that be. We wandered through Xinjiang, a province where the Islamic population is under intense control, almost to the point of genocide. In the rest of the country we took local transport everywhere, without a guide, staying in local guesthouses, eating at local restaurants, spending all of our time with local people. While we are far from being experts on Chinese travel, we have seen our fair share of things, both positive and negative.
This article is based on our experiences in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. For better or worse, this is how we felt during our time there. We don’t wish that they “let in only sophisticated Western tourists”, not by any means. But we also think that if people are disrespecting the environment and the people around them anywhere, whether it’s China or our own country of Australia, it shouldn’t be accepted as just a cultural difference. We showed respect to everybody we met there, locals and tourists alike, even if we didn’t agree with their behaviour.
We had many incredible experiences in China, even though certain elements like what we highlighted in this article were a part of our travels. We’re not going to sugarcoat what we saw on our blog just to be politically correct, when the truth is something different.
It wasn’t our mission to offend anybody, and we’re sorry if that is the case for some who have read this piece, but we stand by what we wrote based on how we were feeling at the time. With over 10 years travelling the world it doesn’t really need to be said that we hate racism, and after re-reading this article 3.5 years after we wrote it, we don’t feel like we described an entire race in a derogatory way.
Thanks very much for your input though, and we will take it into consideration.
Planning to head to Zhangjiajie in April. Can you please advie me if you took a tour around Zhangjiajie National forest. Any recommendations. If not a tour can you advice me on how i shoudl go about planning seeing all places around Zhangjiajie . I have kept aside just a day for Zhangjiajie and another for Tinamen mountain.. Please advice
Hi Mai, we didn’t take a tour. It was easy to explore on your own. A day would be fine. Start early and finish when the park closes and you will be able to see a lot. You can get to the town by train so getting in and out of the area is easy. If you do want to take a tour, I am sure you can find a tour company in town. All the best and have a great time
I actually think the ticket price is quite fair. Visiting all the main sites in Beijing is 60-70 yuan per day and so paying 255 for 4 days is acceptable. However, I didn’t think the lifts or elevators were fairly priced. We misplanned one of our days and ended up having to pay for the elevator ride down too. Bummer! Anyways we made a video with some information you haven’t mentioned here if anyone wants some extra insight on how to plan their trip! Thanks for sharing your experience.
Oh no you guys got stuck too. The elevator is extremely overpriced. When people tell us they are going there, we say afford the elevator. 🙂
We thought the entrance was on the expensive side compared to many other national parks around the world. It is a popular attraction for local tourists and some foreigners. We just hope some of the money is going back into the park and conservation, after all it is a UNESCO site. Glad you got there and had a great experience.
OMG, I am absolutely dying to see these! Thanks for such an informative guide, this is such helpful information in helping me plan out my own trip. These photos are pretty epic too, that landscape is just incredible!!
Hi Emily, thank you so much. Glad you liked the article. It really is a magical place. Have fun planning and definitely don’t miss this place. 🙂
Hi guys. Love the website. I’m planning a trip to this area in February 2018. Hopefully the lower temperatures in spite of it being a holiday time will mean lower crowd numbers. But with that in mind I was wondering what you know about the ability to still get to the main Avatar mountains from the second entrance? We like the idea of getting out of the way of the main trail but still seeing the main attraction.
Thank you so much Michael. We are not to sure about the second entrance. We recommend getting to the national park early and getting in before the crowds. For any information, the people at Qing Man Hotel will be able to help you.
How realistic is it, in your opinion, for someone with a walking disability to visit the mountain. After you get off the (overpriced) elevator, how much strenuous walking is there at the top? I have an old knee injury and it’s very difficult for me to go up and down stairs. Is it worth going to the top if it means just stay near the elevator exit?
Hi jerry, There is a lift that is great for someone with a walking disability. Climbing up and down is steep. Unfortunately it is not cheap. You can take a bus to different areas of the park if you like. Do take walking sticks. There are some areas where it is a bit of a climb (to a view point) but the paths are paved and flat. There is hand rails. Take your time.
Nice adventure. Where have you purchased the entrance tickets of the park? Can you buy this in advance and enter by yourself? There are a lot of tours which are too expensive. I have booked my hotel very close to the entrance on the north east side.
We purchased the tickets at the park. Not too sure if you can purchase them in advance. We didn’t book through any hotels, we just went on our own. That’s great your hotel is near the entrance. The earlier you get there the better. Have a great time
Your comments about local travelers in Zhangjiajie, China (2015 blog) is very offensive! You sounded like the Chinese locals are not worthy of visiting this UNESCO site! Let me remind you, we Chinese have every right to visit our own country; maybe not to your liking, but you do not have to come to any of the fabulous scenic sites in China !
Thanks for the comment. Have a wonderful day 🙂
Wow, now that’s a comment 🙂 I find offensive that asian tourists have zero tolerance for others, will yell to your ears, spit around you, even push you or hit you with their elbows. Lady clipping her nails on the airport while I am sitting next to her??? Gross !!! Don’t tell me I should be ok with that!!!
Here’s the thing about these comments, they are generalizations. I have been living in China for a year and while many of these things do happen, and the observations are true, context is important. We are guests in these peoples country and their culture is very different from ours, from most. You cannot come to another country and tell them that the way they behave is wrong. For example, it is culturally acceptable to spit. It just is. I don’t like it either but I don’t take it personally. I have also seen people clipping their nails on public transportation. It happens, but not everyone behaves that way. You have to learn to ignore things like that. Again, it’s just different. China is REALLY crowded. More crowded than most places you will ever travel. You have to expect to deal with the things that come with travel in a country with 1.4 billion people. I don’t like it, but it comes with the territory. I can honestly say that my experiences here have been great and most people have been welcoming and kind. If you don’t like it you don’t have to come here, but you do have to respect the fact that their way of life is different. It’s a great country with great people. Don’t let a few annoyances cloud your ability to enjoy your time here and have good experiences with the people.
I offer this to anyone traveling to China…a smile and a sense of humor will go a long way.
I’m sorry but I just had to double respond today having just ready steph’s commenta about being a guest in China and accepting the culture. What amazed me more than the unacceptable/acceptable stuff was the fact that I had to show Chinese people the rules that their own government had written in Mandarin in the park – ie- no smoking in certain locations (smokers all round these signs); no feeding the monkeys since they become more aggressive (happened everywhere); no littering; look after your children in certain places (I found myself grabbing a child close to the edge). I used to work at China Telecom and enjoyed my friend and Chinese experiences. I think a little shaming might impress upon people that there is an element where it stops being culturally different and just disrespectful to those enjoying a UNEDCO world heritage sight; the status presumably comes with some protections I’m context if the world, not just Chinese. So if this were a blog about the French alps I might say the same thing… but the blogs commentary is perfectly accurate; and I think that all of these world sites deserve some watermark of decent behavior for all to enjoy.
Enjoyed reading! So no need to rent a car to get around this area and the park? Buses are plentiful? I’m trying to research ways to get there and then how to get around. Debating between this area of China or Guilin. Any opinions or advice would be much appreciated!
No not at all. There is a train that goes directly there. Well near by then you get shuffled onto a bus to get to the town. At the entrance of the National Park there is a bus that takes you around the park. Personally it was nice to see Zhangjiajie National Park but there was a lot more to do in Gulin area. Yangshuo is so close and that is a beautiful area also. HAve a great time. 🙂
Thank you for sharing this – I will need to adjust my expectations accordingly!
I really appreciate all of your honest information here. We are going in a week and this is very helpful to know.
Thanks Taiss. Hope you had a blast. 🙂
This is the third time I am in China but the first for Zhangjiajie area. I started in Lijiang and they have the exact same issue. I know, not surprising but I found the level of not giving a crap appalling. I went to the Fox Fairy Show at Tianmen mountain and was horrified by the lack of care the audience showed. The whole theater (which I am told holds a couple thousand?) was talking, yelling, screaming, and on their phone the first half of the show. This is NOT a cheap show to watch! Then at the end, before it was even complete everyone started talking and walking out again. I felt really bad for the actors, such disrespect. I am now in Wulingyuan and am having the same issues you wrote about in your story. I cringe every time I hear someone spit up a giant ball of…. anyways. Then I see parents holding their kids to urinate and defecate in the lakes, rivers, etc. It really bothers me, I know it was so bad with the tourists coming to Wyoming National Park the river water is no longer safe to drink. I don’t know if that was just because of the Asian tourists or not, but 15 years ago we could drink the water at the base of the waterfalls. 10 years ago, they told us the water was no longer safe to drink when we went back. Not that the water in China has been safe to drink for a long time… sorry for the long post. I saw your story and loved knowing someone else understood my frustration.
Hi Shelby, sorry about the late reply. It is sad. We get where you are coming from. This country has such amazing beauty and only a tiny portion appreciate it, the reach don’t respect it. Hopefully in the future this changes. The nature is so beautiful here and it would be sad to let that all go. Happy travels
OH WOW!! It’s changed so much since I was there in 2011! When I was there, there were tourists of course, but not that bad really. There were even times on some of the walks that we were the only ones in sight! Especially the hike below, lots of times we were on our own. There was no mcdonalds then. We spent 2 full days at Zhangjiajie and then spend a full day at Tianmenshan National Park, took the worlds longest cable car, walked along the plank road ( which has since become the glass plank walkway). It was an incredible experience and fortunately not marred for us by mass tourism.
Regardless, I can’t imagine any number of tourists being able to take away from the stunning beauty of the place. I’m glad we got there when we did though!!
If you ever get the chance, try to visit Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong.. particularily in fall ( late October) when the leaves are changing color. Another one of my most favorite parks in China.. was there in 2014.
That sounds lovely. Definitely has changed a lot. It was amazing starring at the tall pinnacles. Unfortunately we missed Jiuzhaigou because our visas ran out and we had to head to Hong Kong. We hope in the future to get there. We have’t heard of Huanglong. We will look that up. Thank you for the tips. 🙂
I was there in 2007 during March and it was pretty quiet. Even so, I also found it bizarre that stalls there sold fake bird whistles so that tourists could make bird sounds while walking through the forest, even though the forest was full of natural bird sounds. Things like this did take away the experience somewhat, but as the authors said, once you leave the main trails you literally have the park to yourself.
As for scenery, it’s one of few places that have literally made my jaw drop. The others being the karst in Laos, and Canyonlands in Utah. It really is up there with the best in the world. Insane.
Worth a visit, but stay in the park if possible (we stayed at a friendly youth hostel), and definitely get a map to visit the quieter trails.
P.S. I don’t think the authors were being racist at all, they were simply telling their experience from their own perspective, which is going to relate to most of their western travellers audience. The park might be in China, but the park and it’s wildlife are not China’s to wreck, and outstanding places of beauty should be preserved no matter where they’re situated. Numbers need to be limited and infrastructure needs to be in place if these areas are to be preserved.
just a small tip for the cheap travellers.
If you are in bangkok before going to China..go to khao san Road and buy a student card.
It gives you very big reductions everywhere in China:)
Great tip Bran! We actually used our PADI dive cards everywhere we went, and it worked most of the time 😉
Could you please tell me what is PADI dive cards? how can I get it if i travel there?
Hi Henry, you receive this card when you do your scuba diving courses. There are two major dive organisations in the world. They are PADI and SSI. You can get certified with these organisations through dive companies who do the training courses. When you travel you take you diving cards with you and show other diving companies so you can go diving with that company and rent their gear. Hope this helps.
Excellent post, I am going there in September this year. I want to trek for 2 days inside the park. Can you tell me which other trails did you go (apart from Golden Whip Stream Trail) and how much time it took approximately. It seems to be a huge area and planning is difficult for just 2 days. Did you go to Tianzi mountain area as well?
We didn’t go to Tianzi Mountain. We just couldn’t justify the extra price. Can’t remember exactly what other trails we did, but we just wandered around. Get a map and pick whatever looks good. Also ask Richard and Sarah and Qing Man Hotel. They will be able to help you out 🙂
I just came across your post and couldn’t (unfortunately) agree more. Two weeks ago I went to Zhangjiajie and spent there 5 days because the weather wasn’t very good. I loved the park, the nature was one of the most beautiful I have ever seen, and to be hones I would place Jurassic Park there instead of Avatar 🙂 I was expecting a dinosaur every time I walked through the jungle style park. And every time I was trying to enjoy myself in this beautiful peaceful place, some Chinese people were trying the power of echo of this park. Annoying, rude and disrespectful! I’ve been living in China for three years, and I have been trying to understand this over 5000 years old country, but seriously how come fengshui, zen and ying and yang come from here when people litter, spit and s*it everywhere they go? They have such a beautiful country and nature and I wish they realize that it will not last forever if they don’t take care of it….
Sorry for the long comment, I just finally found someone who has the same feelings about these places and Chinese tourists…
“but seriously how come fengshui, zen and ying and yang come from here when people litter, spit and s*it everywhere they go?”
I laughed so hard at this comment. We have had the exact same thoughts all throughout China! It is a shame to see how they treat each other, and their own country. It makes it hard for us to want to ever go back. Thanks for reading, Danka.
Thanks so much for a great post! We’ve been wanting to get out to Zhangjiajie ever since we’ve been here in China. But as you said, it’s not the most convenient to get to…and we would need more than just a couple days off. So we are planning to head there next spring when our teaching contracts are up.
Living here in China, we share your frustrations about the differences between how we were raised to appreciate nature and the environment. It saddens us so much when we travel to such beautiful places here in China (or even around town) and see the lack of respect and care for the environment – and nature in general. Thanks for the heads up about traveling to this National Park – now we know what we are in for and can plan accordingly.
Cheers to both of you and happy travels!
– Liz & Josh
In our opinion it is still worth visiting. That is just how it is everywhere in China (as I am sure you guys know). Thanks for reading Liz.
This is so disappointing, yet, unfortunately, not surprising. I plan on visiting Zhangjiajie later this year, as I feel I can’t leave China without checking it out. But at least now I’ll have realistic expectations.
You’ll still love it there. Just do lots of breathing exercises and stay away from the main trails 😉