3 Day Zhangjiajie Travel Itinerary

Avatar is my favorite movie by far. Ever since it came out in 2009 I’ve been patiently waiting for the second one to be released. While in China though, I actually got to live out part of the movie by visiting Zhangjiajie. The rocky cliffs here were the inspiration behind ‘Hallelujah Mountain,’ and some of the other scenery on Pandora.

For me, a 3-day visit was perfect. My friend and I went to the Yellow Dragon Cave in Wulingyuan, hiked through part of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, and walked across the famous glass bridge at Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon. If you have time to stay for a fourth day, I suggest going to Tianmen Mountain and seeing ‘Heaven's Gate.’ Although if you go on the 7000 stair hike we did, getting out of bed the next day gets a lot harder...

Read more: Tips for Your First Trip to China

Day 1 – Yellow Dragon Cave in Wulingyuan

Wulingyuan is a little town near Zhangjiajie with a massive cave system

Wulingyuan is a little town near Zhangjiajie with a massive cave system

Morning

  • Arrived in Zhangjiajie hungry and exhausted. Our 12-hour bus ride ended up taking 9 hours longer than expected
  • Ordered a basket of buns and two hot bowls of red bean porridge at a nearby restaurant
  • Bought a pair of fuzzy gloves at a nearby grocery store. The winter chill in Northern China was not something I’d considered while packing…
  • Caught a local bus to Wulingyuan
  • Checked into our hotel

Afternoon

  • Ate at a hot pot restaurant next door for lunch
  • Took a bus to the Yellow Dragon Cave. If you stay in Wulingyuan like us, you can catch bus #1 from the main street in town
  • Explored the grounds around the cave before going on the 2-hour tour inside

Evening

  • Headed back to the main part of Wulingyuan
  • Stopped at a grocery store and stocked up on some yummy Chinese snacks
  • Went back to our hotel and crashed before even eating dinner

Read more: Best Chinese Snacks to Try

 

What went well:

The Winter months in China are typically the low season for tourism. Visiting Zhangjiajie and Wulingyuan in December meant a half-price hotel room, cheaper entry fares, and no crowds!

What I wish we’d done differently:

Packed warmer clothes. Since we didn’t know we’d be making a side trip up North, neither of us packed anything thicker than a light jacket. This left me layering up on t-shirts till the point Yuting joked I looked like a giant meatball.

Day 2 – Zhangjiajie National Forest Park 

These adorable little monkeys were the best surprise of our time in Zhangjiajie

These adorable little monkeys were the best surprise of our time in Zhangjiajie

Morning

  • Ate wonton soup and noodles for breakfast
  • Stopped at a bakery nearby and loaded up on more treats haha
  • Made our way by foot to the Wujiayu ticket station (marked by the large temple at the end of the street)
  • Bought our tickets and got on one of the shuttles outside (these run constantly throughout the park in both directions, and it’s up to you to decide which stops to get off at)

Afternoon

  • Began hiking from the beginning of the 'sightseeing train' tracks, to the top of Tianzi Mountain area (had no idea how many stairs we were about to encounter)
  • Ran into a little pack of monkeys! A lady here was selling peanuts for people to feed them, and we couldn’t help but buy a bag ourselves
  • Stopped at every possible viewpoint for an even ‘better’ picture. Reached the top after about 2.5 hours
  • Caught a shuttle and headed to the Avatar shooting site. Here we hiked again and saw the ‘First Natural Bridge Under Heaven,’ and ‘Hallelujah Mountain’

Evening 

  • Took the Bailong elevator down and got on a shuttle heading out of the park
  • Ate a nice dinner back on the main street of Wulingyuan where Yuting and I drank enough corn juice for 4 people hehe
  • Stopped at the grocery store on the way back to our hotel and sampled one of everything from the candy selection

 

What went well:

The monkeys were a great surprise! While I’d seen wild ones before, this was my first time getting to feed them up close. If we threw peanuts to distract the bigger monkeys, the baby ones were able to sneak up and snatch a nut out of our hands.

What I wish we’d done differently: 

Riding the Bailong elevator was kind of a waste of money. Half of the ride down was a view of concrete walls as it went inside the hillside. If you have some extra time, check out a cable car instead.

Day 3 – Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon and Glass Bridge

Spend a day of your Zhangjiajie trip checking out the famous glass bridge and canyon below

Spend a day of your Zhangjiajie trip checking out the famous glass bridge and canyon below

Morning

  • More wonton soup and a cup of hot soy milk for breakfast at Kiong Shi Noodles
  • Rode to the canyon in a ride arranged for us by our hotel
  • Arrived in a dusty parking lot where visitors catch a shuttle to the actual entrance

Afternoon

  • Walked across the world’s highest and longest glass bridge! The staff here make guests wear little booties over their shoes to keep the glass clean
  • Began the trek down into the canyon (after yesterday’s hike we weren’t excited to see more stairs…)
  • Ran into a slide part-way down we could take to the bottom
  • Found a waterfall at the base of the canyon and stopped for a yogurt break
  • Walked the trail and caught a free ferry boat to the exit of the park

Evening 

  • Rode the bus back to the Wulingyuan and met a friend of Yuting’s for fish hot pot
  • Took a nighttime walk through town (the streets in Wulingyuan are decoratively lit and very lively at night – plenty to do here)
  • Bought fresh cakes from the grocery store for our long trip back to Shenzhen in the morning

 

What went well:

The slide at the canyon definitely saved us. Our legs were burning from the day before and we needed a good break. The slide not only got us to the bottom, but was also a lot of fun! Yuting and I raced down and forced the slower people in front of us to go faster. Hehe :p 

What I wish we’d done differently:

With more time and money, one more day would've been well spent. We weren't quite able to make it over to Tianmen Mountain, but if you're able to then don't hesitate. The famous 'Heaven's Gate' is there, as well as a 4700 ft. high skywalk.

Read more: Applying for a Chinese Tourist Visa

 

Planning a trip to Zhangjiajie?

Let me know what you're most excited for in the comments below!