Travel Destinations: Wulingyuan and Zhangjiajie, Hunan Province, China
Imagine amid misty subtropical forests rise 243 peaks. These peaks are surrounded by more than 3000 karst upthrusts, a concentration not seen anywhere else in the world. Then complete the picture with serene waterfalls, limestone caves and tranquil rivers. Think this is just a fantasy? No, this is the area known as Wulingyuan Scenic Area, a region on northwest Hunan Province in China which encompasses the localities of Zhangjiajie, Tianzishan and Suoxiyu.
Out of these localities, Zhangjiajie is the perhaps the best known and most Chinese people refer to these areas by this name alone. In 1990, UNESCO declared this beautiful area a World Heritage Site. Here you will find three minority groups – the Tujia, the Miao and the Bai.
Close to Zhangjiajie village is Huangshizhai. Rising to a height of 1048m above sea level, this is the highest peak closest to the village. It is a two hour hike to the top of the 3878 steps, but if you want to cheat, you can always opt to take a cable car up for Y52.
Tianzi Peak (Tianzi Shan) is located in the northern part of the reserve and very popular with tourists. Again, you can either hike to the top or else take a cable car for Y48.
There are organised tours to the park and to Jiutian Cave (Jiutian Dong). These trips usually include a rafting trip (piaolu) or else you can just go on the rafting trip. If you want to do the white water rafting trips, these can be made available northwest of Zhangjiajie near the Hubei border, but you will have to make sure that the equipment and the transport gets there yourself.
Although the rivers are generally pretty calm, the scenery will leave you breathless. Rafting generally lasts for about two hours, but it will take you roughly the same time to get to the launch area.
Zhangjiajie Airport is 4km southwest of Zhangjiajie city, about 40km from the park itself. Although there are flights to other cities in China including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Changsha, Chongqing and Xi’an, there are frequent delays and cancellations so be prepared.
There are minibuses that collect passengers up from the front of the park and drops you off at Zhangjiajie village. There are also buses from the long-distance bus station in the village to Tianzishan, Changsha (11 hours), Fenghuang (four hours), and Shanghai (20 hours). The train station is about 8km southeast of the village but tickets should be brought well in advance.