Skip to Content

4-Day Zhangjiajie Avatar mountains experience for luxury lovers

Guest contributor Agness Walewinder has lived in China off and on since 2011, exploring extensively most corners of the country. Here, she shares her travel tips for a luxury visit to the fairytale Avatar mountains, Zhangjiajie.


Zhangjiajie is a real hidden treasure for everyone who loves mountains, nature and, above all, hiking.

This little town is located in Hunan province, China, and its mountains are well-known for being featured in one of the biggest movie hits ever – Avatar.

Yes, the world of Pandora is absolutely real, and you can see it live in Zhangjiaji. It’s one of the most interesting and best places to visit in China!

Avatar Mountains, Zhangjiajie
Don’t these Zhangjiajie Avatar mountains take your breath away?

Avatar mountains, Zhangjiajie

Ideally, you should allocate four days to visiting Zhangjiajie for the best Avatar mountains travel experience.

This will give you ample time to fully explore the Zhangjiajie mountains, as well as the city and its surroundings.

Visiting the Avatar Mountains, Zhangjiajie. in luxury

Day 1: Explore Changsha

Silk Factory Garden in Changsha
Changsha is known for its silk textiles, embroidery and lacquerware

The best place to kick off your Zhangjiajie travel adventure is Changsha, the capital of Hunan province.

Located on the Xiang River, the city is located some 300 miles from Zhangjiajie.

Check in at the InterContinental Changsha or the Sheraton Changsha – they have everything you need to enjoy your stay in the city.

Both hotels offer top-notch customer service, a private guide, car with a driver, spa with Chinese massages, as well as traditional goodies served throughout the day.

Zhangjiajie Avatar mountains visit
Start your Zhangjiajie mountains adventure in the lovely city of Changsha

You’re in China.

So go Chinese and begin your day with a Chinese breakfast at the hotel.

Baozi (Chinese dumplings) and congee (rice porridge) with a bowl of fruit could be a great option. Don’t forget to try some Chinese tea or coffee, both very aromatic and strong.

Steamed baozi (Chinese dumplings) - a great Chinese breakfast treat!
Steamed baozi (Chinese dumplings) – a great Chinese breakfast treat!

Then take a cab to the hot springs in the city center. If you don’t feel like going on your own, book a tour with a guide at your hotel.

The hot springs will relax you and prepare your muscles for hiking in Zhangjiajie later on.

Now go for a stroll around the city center.

There are plenty of street performances where you’ll see local women wearing traditional Hunan clothes, dancing and singing mountain songs.

These performances take place daily and you can have a chat with the dancers afterwards.

Tujia women (part of the Tujia ethnic group) in traditional dress in Zhangjiajie
Tujia women (part of the Tujia ethnic group) in traditional dress in Zhangjiajie, Hunan Province (Credit: Filipe Fortes)

Changsha city center is also filled with small souvenir shops so you can buy a few gifts for back home too.

Finish off your day with dinner at the Golden Sun Restaurant.

It’s a glamorous place offering top Chinese dishes cooked by the best chefs in this part of the country.

I highly recommend you try the crispy sesame duck fried in peanut oil, served with plum sauce.

“Golden duck” is served in small pieces with grilled veggies and a bowl of rice.

Day 2: Travel to Zhangjiajie

On the second day of your 4-day Zhangjiajie itinerary, take a taxi to Changsha Airport, where you’ll fly straight to Zhangjiajie.

Where to stay in Zhangjiajie?

There are several top hotels to choose from in the city, such as the Zhangjiajie Pullman Hotel and Zhangjiajie Sunshine Hotel.

Again, all offer what you’d normally expect from a 5-star hotel.

Where to stay in Zhangjiajie? The Zhangjiajie Pullman is a good hotel
Zhangjiajie has several luxury hotels (Credit: Zhangjiajie Pullman Hotel)

You’ll have the entire rest of the day to explore the city.

You can go shopping. Or you might want to rent bikes to cycle around.

Whatever you decide to do, don’t forget to pack your camera as the city scenes, against the backdrop of the Avatar mountains, are worth capturing.

Just be sure to get an early night, because the next day you’re going to be exploring the National Forest Park with a guide booked through your hotel – and you’ll want lots of energy for this!

Pssst! Want to do a Yangtze River cruise in China? It’s one of the best river cruises you can do (read next!)

Day 3: Visit Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

Avatar mountains, Zhangjiajie
Visiting the Zhangjiajie “Avatar Mountains” is a wondrous experience!

No words can quite describe what it’s like to hike through the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park.

The Avatar forest park is part of the huge Wulingyuan Scenic Area (an area larger than 100 square miles).

Stuffed with more than 3,000 rocky pillars rising up between deep ravines, Wulingyuan was designated China’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Hallelujah Mountains in Zhangjiajie
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site

But I can tell you the Zhangjiajie National Park landscape of giant sandstone pillars sprouting thick green foliage is amazing.

Many are more than 600 feet high!

Do keep an eye on your belongings though, as the wild monkeys like pinching things.

Photos of these unique stone columns inspired the floating Hallelujah Mountains in the Avatar film by James Cameron.

In particular, the Southern Sky Column – which rises 3,544 feet high – caught the attention of the movie producer and his production team.

In 2010, the Chinese renamed this column the “Avatar Hallelujah Mountain” after the highest-grossing film of all time.

The 3,544 foot-high Avatar Hallejulah Mountain
The pinnacle that started the Avatar buzz – the 3,544 foot-high Avatar Hallejulah Mountain

You’ll pay a quick visit to the mist-shrouded Golden Whip Stream, a clear ribbon of water running through what is called “The Most Beautiful Valley in the World.”

You’ll also stop at Huangshi Village and Natural Gallery, a small village that can only be reached on foot or by cable car.

At 3,500 feet above sea level, it has incredible viewing platforms overlooking the pillar-like rock formations.

If time and your energy level allow, continue on to explore the Tianzi Mountains.

These mountains are also characterized by old, towering sandstone pillars and well-known by locals for its breath-taking scenery.

The Tianzi Mountains are blanketed in fog after it rains
The Tianzi Mountains are blanketed in fog after it rains

Don’t worry about admission fees for all these sightseeing spots as they’ll be included in your guide price.

A fine way to end this day is with dinner at Zhangjiajie Hua Mei Lou, a charming restaurant made of bamboo where you can enjoy delicious fish and bacon dishes.

Day 4: Cruise to the Yellow Dragon Cave

A boat cruise on Baofeng Lake is one of the best things to do in Zhangjiajie.
Baofeng Lake is surrounded by tree-covered mountains, ribboned with waterfalls

Today is all about the boat cruise on Baofeng Lake and exploring Yellow Dragon Cave.

Baofeng Lake is a few miles away from the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park.

The boat cruise is very relaxing. It’s another of the incredible things to do in Zhangjiajie – you’ll see waterfalls and reflections of the mountains in the water.

Inside the Yellow Dragon Cave, marvel at its enormous caverns and magical stalagmites and stalactites.

The Yellow Dragon Cave is lit up by colorful lights.
The Yellow Dragon Cave is lit up by colorful lights

As this will be your last Zhangjiajie Avatar mountains travel day, don’t forget to visit the famous Charming Xiangxi Theater to see colorful folk performances that will give you a brief introduction to the culture of Zhangjiajie.

Day 5: See Fenghuang (Optional)

If you wish to travel more around the area, on your fifth day you can move to Fenghuang – an ancient Chinese town frozen in time, located about 125 miles away.

It’s not a far distance away, but you’ll end up in a completely different world than the world of Pandora you just experienced in Zhangjiajie.

Best time to visit Zhangjiajie:

April through November (from spring to fall) is the best time to visit Zhangjiajie.

April is particularly pleasant. Temperatures range between 60 and 70 degrees F, and the mountains are green and luxuriant.

July is the hottest month, with temps hitting the 90s.

October is another great month to travel to Zhangjiajie – the weather is cooler and the leaves start to turn red at the end of the month.

More Zhangjiajie travel information

Check out these China travel guides on Amazon. (As an Amazon associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.)

Experience more of Asia!

Read our essential posts on:

Thailand | From Bangkok’s gilded temples to Phang Nga Bay’s dream islands, check out the bucket list places to visit in Thailand.

Myanmar | Best expat bar? Where to shop? Why could dentists make a great living? Discover 25 fun and useful Yangon travel tips and facts.

Japan | Is Osaka worth visiting? You bet! There are many reasons to go, including its great food and cool Bunraku puppets.


Photo credits: 5, 8, 9 Agness Walewinder


About the author:

Agness Walewinder is co-founder of the adventure travel blog, eTramping. She’s visited more than 68 countries and currently calls Gdansk, Poland, home.

Francis Dolarhyde

Sunday 23rd of May 2021

Zhangjiajie is one of the most spectecular places in the world. We've taken some drone videos there.

Janice and George

Sunday 23rd of May 2021

Zhangjiajie would be a great place for drone video footage! Thanks for sharing :-).

Emily

Saturday 15th of September 2018

OMG, I am absolutely dying to see Zhangjiajie! Thanks for such an informative guide, this is such helpful information in helping me plan out my own trip. These photos are pretty epic too, that landscape is just incredible!!

Janice and George

Monday 17th of September 2018

Wishing you the best in getting to visit Zhangjiajie :-). Thanks for commenting...

Irene Levine

Friday 2nd of September 2016

I fell in love with China (and congee) during our visit there about a year ago. I'd love to visit Zhangjiajie. Reading about it on your blog was the next best thing to being there.

Agness

Saturday 3rd of September 2016

I fell in love with morning congee as well!

Janice and George

Saturday 3rd of September 2016

We've tried congee - not too keen on it. Maybe it's an acquired taste? But the crispy duck sounds mouthwatering...

Shikha

Friday 2nd of September 2016

I loved this post because as Agness has just mentioned here, it's not an area everyone knows about and I hadn't heard of it at all until reading this post. The Baofeng boat cruise looks like something out of a fairytale! And that crispy duck sounds amazing!

Janice and George

Friday 2nd of September 2016

We were not familiar with Zhangjiajie until seeing Agness' post either. We were so intrigued we did some extra Googling to learn more about this UNESCO site - we'd love to visit Zhangjiajie for ourselves :-).

Agness

Friday 2nd of September 2016

Thank you Janice and George for giving me this opportunity to share my Zhangjiajie experience with you and your readers. This is one of the hidden spots of China not everyone knows about, but it's absolutely worth exploring. Being there is like being in a different world. Absolutely great feeling! :)

Janice and George

Friday 2nd of September 2016

Thank you Agness for sharing your tips for visiting Zhangjiajie in luxury! It sounds like a wonderful part of China to explore and just the kind of place we like - a little soft adventure hiking through incredibly scenic mountains combined with a deluxe hotel to bed down in afterwards) :-).