Nature can offer unique emotions and the so called Floating Mountains, within the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in China, have certainly this power.
Often hidden in an ocean of clouds and mist, these immense karstic pillars (literally thousands of monoliths) covered with vegetation, also known as Avatar Mountains, seem to challenge the gravity pull.
Whether you observe it from top-down or bottom-up, you will perceive a different spatio-temporal dimension.
From the top, you will feel suspended in the air.
From the bottom, you will feel surrounded by rocky giants almost touching the sky.
Avatar Film Location
If you have the perception to be in a movie, it is no coincidence. Generally known with their traditional names, these mountains were renamed after the worldwide success of James Cameron’s movie Avatar, since they inspired the floating Hallelujah Mountains of Pandora. The most famous rocky pillar, previously called Southern Sky Column, was officially renamed Avatar Halleluyah Mountain.
The Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, the first national park in China and UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992, is located in the south-central province of Hunan.
Together with Suoxiyu Nature Reserve, Tianzi Mountain Natural Reserve and Yangjiajie Nature Reserve, it is part of the Wulingyuan Scenic Area.
Yuanjiajie Scenic Area
If you want to get straight to the heart of the Avatar Mountains, the most scenic quartz-sandstone peaks are concentrated in the Yuanjiajie area. Located in the northern part of the park, you can easily access it from the entrance close to Wulingyuan village. This is the most popular and crowded place of the park.
Yuanjiajie is a mountain platform surrounded by breathtaking scenaries made of wildlife, astonishing nature, streams and waterfalls, canyons and all around something like 3000 stone peaks up to 400 meters high (1300 ft). But it is so wide that you can also find incredible spots away from the most crowded locations.
You can get there taking the Bailong Elevator (or Hundred Dragon Elevator), a 335 meter high glass elevator built along a rocky cliff, that offers stunning views on this surreal landscape of stone peaks, vegetation, clouds and sky. It can be very crowded and the wait can be very long.
Cable cars will bring you to the most panoramic and astonishing viewpoints, that you can usually reach also through walks of different levels.
The First Bridge of the World is a natural stone bridge connecting 2 pillars, that, together with the circle path going around the mountain, makes you feel walking in the emptiness.
Backyard Garden offers a variety of landscapes: a flat garden on a platform rock surrounded by severe picks, intense vegetation, deep valleys and empty space all around. And then the famous Southern Sky Column, also called the Pillar Between Heaven and Earth (and it is clear why!), known now as Avatar Hallelujah Mountain. You can get there crossing a suspension bridge, close to the First Bridge of the World. When the white mist wraps the rocky part just under the top of this monolith, you perfectly understand why it inspired the movie’s floating mountains.
Yellow Stone Stronghold (Huangshizhai) is another spot offering stunning sceneries, like the famous Five Fingers Peak, and an open view of the most breathtaking natural beauties of the whole Wulingyuan Scenic Area, such as Tianzi Mountain and Avatar Hallelujah Mountain.
Golden Whip Stream Scenic Area is connected to Huangshi by a cable car. This valley offers wonderful natural landscapes. You will enjoy the stream, the waterfalls, the intense vegetation and the wildlife all embraced by the rocky monoliths.
From Yuanjiajie you can easily move to other amazing panoramic settings and places of interest close to the park’s borders, such as Tianzi Mountain and Yangjiajie.
Yangjiajie, recently developed and less crowded than Yuanjiajie, can be reached by a cable car. These scenic areas offer not only steep mountains and rocky pillars of heaven, but also deep valleys, plain areas and extraordinary sights from the canyons and the mesas.
In the surroundings, Zhangjiajie Canyon hosts the scenic Glass Bridge, which is the longest and highest glass bridge in the world (you should check if it is open, if you want to visit it).
Tianmmen Mountain National Forest is also a must if you are visitng Zhangjiajie area.
How to Get There
The Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is located in the south-central province of Hunan.
Zhangjiajie city is connected through inner flights and direct trains to the main tourist cities in China. This area was not easy to reach and visit, but due to its increasing popularity, transport routes are improving and developing, so as the accomodation facilities. It is certainly easier than before to plan your trip by yourself, even if it is probably better to find an organized tour.
You need some time to visit the park, the floating mountains and the surroundings. You can find good hotels both in downtown Zhangjiajie and in Wulingyuan village, which is very close to the entrance of the National Forest Park.
For your stay, we recommend one of our top hotels in the area, the Jinjiang Inn.
When to Visit the Avatar Mountains and the Park
Late spring and summer are good periods to go and visit the Zhangjiajie National Park and the Floating Mountains, especially if you look for warm weather and you’like to watch the show of the pillars in the mist.
Autumn is absolutely the best, being cooler and drier (and generally less crowded), and the foliage colors make the landscape even more breathtaking. It is better to avoid winter time.
We listed just a small number of the stunning sceneries you can enjoy in the Zhangjiajie area.
If you want to directly experience this incredible and almost unreal landscape, if you want to perceive a different spatio-temporal dimension, if you want to feel part of a science fiction movie in the real life, you must visit the floating Avatar mountains in the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in China and live your daydream.