Depart your central Zhangjiajie hotel by private, air-conditioned vehicle, and journey northward to Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. On route, hear about this protected region, China’s first national forest park, and part of the larger Zhangjiajie Sandstone Peak Forest Park, classified as a UNESCO Global Geopark in 2004.
Consisting of towering sandstone pillars framed by lush forests, mountains, lakes, caves, and waterfalls, the park and its adjoining scenic areas feature in many Chinese classic landscape paintings. The pillars also inspired the ‘Hallelujah Mountains’ of 2010 movie Avatar, lending them the ‘Avatar Mountains' nickname.
On arrival, enjoy time to take in the otherworldly pillars. Numbering about 3,000, with many over 656 feet (200 meters) high, the forest-dotted, dream-like peaks rise from jungle and canyons and seem to ‘float’ in clouds. As you explore, learn how the pinnacles — while looking like limestone karst formations — have formed through centuries of natural erosion caused by plant life and expanding winter ice.
Next, head for the Yuanjiajie Scenic Area and ride the Bailong Elevator, the world’s highest outdoor elevator, up a massive cliff to enjoy even more stunning scenery.
At the top, gaze over the high peaks and valleys, and visit what’s called the ‘Avatar Hallelujah’ Mountain and No.1 Bridge under Heaven, a natural rock bridge stretched between two pinnacles 1,171 feet (357 meters) in the air.
After a simple Chinese lunch, take the shuttle bus to Tianzi Mountain, a neighboring scenic area famed for its breathtaking views of stone peaks, cliffs, and deep gorges. Here, visit the Helong Park cultural beauty spot and drink in the West Sea — a misty swathe of greenery-coated peaks — and Imperial Brush Peak, whose pinnacles resemble Chinese writing brushes.
After descending by cable car, return to Zhangjiajie where your trip finishes with a hotel drop-off.