If Avatar was based on a real place it would 100% be Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. It’s one of the main images that inspired us to come to China and it looked just as impressive in person.
We had our first blue sky day in China and what a day for it!! Due to it being off season the park only cost £14 for a 4 day visit – which is a bargain by Chinese standards. We followed the Golden Whip Stream which had fog drifting over the cool clear water. We were basically walking through a canyon and the parks trademark spires shot up from where we stood and pierced the sky above us. We felt rather insignificant compared to our surroundings.
The path cut through forest which was ‘infest’ (according to the signs) with monkeys. They only hung out where the tourists were so they could beg for food with their cute little paws folded in as if to keep warm. Babies with wrinkly little faces mimicked their mums positions and it was lovely and peaceful until they wanted what you were eating and all hell broke loose.
To reach the Yuanjiajie section of the park we had to climb up a relentless set of steps. After de-layering and Craig even taking his top off (what happened to the Chinese winter?!) we hit flat land. Our trail went along the edge of the mountain and had numerous viewpoints along the way. It was one hell of a view; from the forested floor god knows how far below us, quartz-sandstone spires shot up all around us. The skies were crisp and blue and we could see so far away. Spires gradually lost their brightness as they piled behind one another into the distance. Each natural tower had trees casually sitting atop them or clinging onto the edges. It was as if a plateau had hundreds of inverted sink holes.
The main focal point was Hallelujah, a mind blowing pinnacle standing very close to the trail. It rises 1080m above sea level. This area was literally like stepping into Pandora. We could see the whole spire from base to top and the size was insane, a totally mesmerising view. There were three different areas to view Hallelujah from and each gave a different vantage point. I imagine it would look rather magical with the clouds swooping below the peaks, making them look like they were floating. But we can’t complain – much rather sunshine than thick fog.
We passed a huge natural bridge which to the naked eye was quite something, but in every photo it was hard to work out what was going on. It went across two peaks and was 357m above the canyon floor. A path led over the bridge and around a pinnacle offering more superb views and a great picnic spot, the view made up for our shit picnic which included Chinese swiss rolls, unknown broad bean snacks and ‘banana crisps’ which were like banana flavoured wotsits.
The park had multiple shuttle services so we used one to get to the Yangjiajie area of the park and began a hike to Tinabo Mansion. The trail went through a narrow gap in a rock and then got really exciting; metal ladders led steeply down and vertically back up to the ‘mansion’. There were curved metal bars around the ladder to prevent you falling but I don’t think they’d help much. It was fine going up as long as you didn’t look down but Craig found it rather scary. The view from the top was stunning; dozens of pinnacles were layered behind one another. We didn’t stay too long though, after taking a peek over the edge we got major jelly legs. Some young locals were very excited to take a photo with us before we went down and we asked for one back – the girl on the left totally looked like Ugly Betty!!
Couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day!