China (Wulingyuan)

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Zhangjiajie National Forest Park - airpano

Wulingyuan is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Hunan, China. Understand Wulingyuan Scenic Area is comprised of several national parks, the most famous of which is Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, a 243 square mile park full of stunning karst pillars of sandstone,

covered with sub- tropical rainforest. The park is often covered in fog, adding to the mystery but obscuring views.

History

Wulingyuan was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992

Landscape Flora and fauna

Wulingyuan covers 3 natural reserves, and contains over 500 tree species, including dawn redwood, believed extinct until it was re- identified in 1948. There are also giant salamanders, rhesus monkeys, and many bird types

Climate

There is extensive fog in the park at times, and summers are very humid. Temperatures vary greatly between

early morning and late afternoon. In May, mornings can be a temperate 18°C but rapidly reaching 30°C by noon. Get in Wulingyuan is 155 miles northwest of Changsha. The best way to get in is to take transit from Zhangjiajie city . The closest domestic airport is Zhangjiajie Hehua Airport (IATA airport code DYG; formerly named Dayong Airport). A taxi from Zhangjiajie city to Wulingyuan entrance should cost about 100RMB. A 1 hour minibus (20 yuan) goes from the main bus station in Zhangjiajie City to the village of Zhangjiajie Cun, at the entrance to the park. You pay on the bus so there is no need to wait in line at the ticket window. The bus will drop you off

at the main bus station in Zhangjiajie Cun at which point you can either walk about 15 minutes to the entrance of the park, take a public bus for 1RMB or a taxi for 5RMB). The bus station in Zhangjiajie is situated right next to the main train station, next to the McDonalds. To locate the minibuses, head out to the waiting area and keep heading left until you see a large gathering of minibuses. Please note the park has several entrances, the most common ones are Zhangjiajie, described above, and Wulingyuan ( 武陵源 ) Village, further to the northeast, near the BaoFeng Lake. Wulingyuan village can be reached directly from Fenghuang with 2 buses a day at 8.30, 14.30. ¥90.

Warning: Be careful with the taxi drivers in the parking lot. They're probably unwilling to use the meter. They may claim that your destination is very far and attempt to charge you a "parking lot fee". Call your hotel/hostel to find how much the trip should cost and ask them to speak with a taxi driver for you. It should cost only 20-40 RMB total for a trip from the airport to Zhangjiajie city. As of April 2015, the only option available from the ticket office at the main entrance is the comprehensive ticket, which costs ¥248 in the high season and ¥145 in the low season and includes 4 day park pass, free rides on the internal bus system, and some sort of insurance (¥3). Students under 23 Fees/Permits

years with valid student ID (foreign students are required to bring their passports to prove their age) can buy student tickets for 160 in the high season and 80 in the low season (+¥3 insurance). Chinese citizens can also get a discount ticket if you are 60 years old or older. At present, it appears they do not offer the senior discount to foreigners. You need your passport to prove your age. *August 18 2016 as a foreigner, able to get discounted tickets with passport. 7 days admission ticket is 298 yuan, and 193 yuan for students and elders. Get around There are three cable cars in the park (April 2015 NO cablecars are running), ( August 18 2016 at least 2

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park - airpano

of them are running) one near Zhangjiajie Cun that runs for half a mile up to the top of Huang Shi Zhai. The Huang Shi Village Cable Car takes you to some nice mountain top viewpoints, but the only way off the mountain is to walk back down or return on the cable car.

Near the Wulingyuan entrance and Suoxiyu Cun is the Tianzi Mountain Cable Car. Here you access the summit of Tianzi Mountain and walk another half mile to a road to the north. From the road near the top, you can take the free bus. As of March 2015, the Tianzi Mountain cable car was out of use, though nothing in the park indicated this! It will be back in service in October 2015. The third and newest cable car, Yangjiajie, goes from near Xiangzhizi Administrative Station at the bottom to near Wulong Village Administrative Station at the top. It is accessible by vehicle from the Yangjiajie entrance to the park at the northwest. If you try to get to this cable car by bus from the

Zhangjiajie entrance, it suddenly stops at a turnaround and trailhead. From there, you must walk up a stairway about 1/2 mile to another bus stop, where you can catch a minibus down to the the cable car lower station. At the top of the cableway, you can catch the minibus to the Tianzi mountain area, the First Bridge area, and the top of the Elevator. There is also the Bailong Elevator up to the top, from near Suoxiyu Office at the bottom to the First Bridge area. There are three cars to this elevator, but as of March, 2015, only one is running. With only one running, and the Tianzi Cable Car out of service wait time for the elevator can easily be 2-5 hours. The second elevator is expected to be back in service by May 2015, and the third by

October 2015.

Many other roads go across the park, and many hiking trails go in between those. It is possible to avoid every cable-car/lift/mini-train by one of the paved paths nearby (1 to 2.5h). There are 2 free bus routes in the park. One that essentially services the valleys (big purple buses), and one that does the tops (smaller brown buses) to connect these 2 routes one must walk up the mountain, take a cable car, or the elevator. Last buses are at 7pm (confirm before making plans to hike in darkness). On a large number of the popular paths, including ones that climb the mountains, you can pay to be taken in a sedan chair (carried) for all or sections of the path. There are signs in Chinese with prices.

In case of heavy rainfall, some roads/paths may be closed. On the 27th June 2016, the road going to the Bailong elevator was cut by the river just after the Natural Gallery mini- train. Moreover, the Golden Whip Stream path and the trail going to Yaozizai was closed a few hundred meters after the Zhangjiajie entrance without notification. There are two main ticketing gates, one at Zhangjiajie (West side often also referred to as sēnlín gōngyuán) and one at Wulingyuan (East Side). From each of those gates there are buses that take you up to the actual park entrance for free. There are official minibuses that can also transport you from one entrance to the other for 10RMB (30 minute ride). For example, if you are

near the Wulingyuan entrance, go to the main bus stop ( 汽车站 qìchē zhàn ask specifically for 张家界森林公园 Zhāngjiājiè sēnlín gōngyuán (often abbreviated to just sēnlín gōngyuán) Note: Buses running between entrances and within the park are limited during the tourist low season. As of April 2015, the buses in and often do not speak English. To understand better where these places are, a few different kinds of maps can be found on the official governmental site . This map is better than any of the official government maps. Zhangjiajie Map . Do

 Hiking The main highlight is following

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park - airpano

the many paths through the stunning sandstone landscape. It can be quite daunting at times, so the above mentioned cable cars help. The park is enormous and there is no way you can see it all, even in two days, so it's important to plan ahead and know which areas you want to visit. The

signage in the park is not always adequate, so buy a map from a vendor in the village before you go in (be carefull some maps contain path inaccuracies. some maps are in both Chinese and English). It's a good idea to use the free bus network within the park to get from one hiking area to another.  Kongzhong Tianyuan . This garden sits on an outcropping surrounded by slender peaks  Xianren Qiao ( Bridge of the Immortals ). This spectacular, narrow rock bridge is over a deep chasm, with no railings. Access to the bridge is blocked by barbed wire, but some daredevils choose to walk over it anyway. There are several amazing look-out points you can walk to

nearby, including Great Viewing Platform , Emperor's Throne , and Cock-Pecking .  First Bridge of the World ( 天下第 一 桥 - Tian Xia Di Yi Qiao ). This is a natural rock bridge similar to Xianren Qiao, but with guard rails that make it much safer to walk across. The bridge itself is really just a minor part of the incredible panoramic views to be seen along this short and easy trail. The area surrounding this bridge is known informally as the Avatar Mountains, and possibly the most touristed part of the park. Not to be missed.  Heavenly Pillar , ( Near First Bridge of the World ). Sold as Hallelujah Mountain from the Avatar movie. Part of the Avatar Mountains

 Tianzi Mountain . The highest area in the park at 3,450 feet can be reached by taking a cable car or one can climb up a 3,878 step stairway. ¥67 one-way on the cable car.  Yupi Feng , ( Tianzi mountain summit ). These thin, spiky columns hundreds of feet high are featured on stamps and resemble calligraphy letters  10 Mile Natural Gallery . Contrary to the name this is 5.8km long walk up a valley with gentle gradient and good views. There is also monorail mini train that follows the path. Turning right past the end of the train leads you into the climb up Tianzi Mountain. The mini train looks actually shorter (~2km) than what the signs claim (trying, by the way, to sell

you the train...): it only took us 20 minutes to go down this easy path. ¥62 one- way on the train.  Yaozizai ( Yaozi Village ). Unlike the other attraction points with nice scenery this area is much less crowded. You may hardly encounter a few people here for hours of hiking. This area can be reached from either ends of the Golden Whip Stream path. There is also a turn to the Yaozizai area near Zicao Pool at the Golden Whip Stream path. The section of path from the natural flyover (Heavenly Bridge) to the 4 streams end of Golden Whip stream is apparently closed as of June 2014.  Golden Whip Stream ( Jinbian Brook ). This famous stream begins near the Zhangjiajie village park

entrance and continues for several kilometres through the park. There is a walking path along the length of the stream, from where you can look up at the karsts all around you. At around the halfway point (200 meters before Zicao Pool) you will come to a restaurant/souvenir shop. At this point there is a bridge across the stream, which leads to a different trail (about 4.5 km) through the Shadao Gully. The second half of the Shadao Gully trail is a steep flight of steps, but it leads to one of the most beautiful areas of the park. At the top of the staircase is a road with frequent buses that can take you to the First Bridge of the World (to the right) or to Xianren Qiao (to the left) and many other places. There is also

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park - airpano

Zhongtian International Youth Hostel (Yuanjiajie) just 50 m to the right along the road (see Lodging below). If you continue along the Golden Whip Stream c. 200 m after Zicao Pool you will come to "Meeting of Thousands of Ways" attraction point. Here you can turn to another trail

which eventually leads you to the following attraction points with great views: Back Garden, Enchanting Terrace, First Bridge of the World (see below). After another 2 km of walking the Golden Whip Stream path ends by a bus station with souvenir shops and food outlets. From here you can take a bus to the lower stations of Bailong elevator (¥72 adult one-way), sightseeing mini-train, Tianzi Mountain cable car(¥67 adult one-way) and also to the Wulingyuan park entrance.  Sadao Gully , ( One end is on Golden Whip Stream Path. There is also a track that connects the YHA to this path ). A narrower more intimate version of Golden Whip Stream that sees almost no tourists. A great place

to find some quiet walking.

Other attractions in the area (Wulinguan side), about a 10 yuan taxi-ride away (Negotiate with the driver) include:  Baofeng Hu (Lake) , ( Southern end of Baofeng road, can take the number 2 bus from the Wulingyuan Entrance ¥1 ). This pristine artificial lake has boat trips, additional hiking trails, and occasionally traditional performances of the Tujia minority which is native to the area. ¥98 (includes boat trip).  Huanglong Dong ( Yellow Dragon Cave ). The longest cave in Asia, lit up in technicolor the way only the chinese could manage. When you

enter, you will walk about 10 minutes to a short boat ride through the cave's river that will take you to your landing point. You will then walk for about 1.5-2hours back to where you started. The walk is very safe, the steps are only a short depth rather than high and hard to climb. If it is raining, bring an umbrella or rain jacket as the water dripping into the cave will be much greater! ¥100 + ¥15 for Labyrinth section.

Other attractions in Zhangjiajie City:

 Tianmen Mountain , ( Cable car is located near the bus and train stations ). 8am-6pm. The table top

mountain 4,982 feet can be reached by taking the world's

longest cable car (7,455m). The cable car runs from Zhangjiajie city over a few small hills to center station halfway up. You cannot get off on the way up to the summit, but on the way down you get out here to catch a bus to the hole in the mountain. The infrastructure on the summit is excellent, there are cliff face walkways around the mountain (about 7km for a full loop of the top), including a section of 60m glass walkway, an elevator to take you from a tunnel connected to the cable car station to the Heavenly Peak Pavilion, a chairlift connecting the Tianmenshan temple with the Heavenly Peak Pavilion, and there is currently an escalator being built to take you

from the mountain top to near the top of the hole in the mountain stairs.

Eat

Warning: The restaurants inside Zhangjiajie National Forest Park may present menus printed with ridiculous tourist prices (for example, 388 RMB = 55 USD for a whole chicken dish). However, you can try to bargain. After some heated insistence, we were able to get more than 50% off the menu prices. It's better to save your appetite (and money) for the string of restaurants located outside the park entrance, which still offer expensive food, however, the items above 100 RMB are often locally sourced/hunted

Wulingyuan-Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, China

ingredients. Cheaper food can usually be ordered from the menu.  McDonalds , ( Tianzi Mountain Summit and Bridge of the world ). For a truly cultural experience one can visit the golden arches with a large dine in restaurant on the Tianzi Mountain summit, or a small

takeaway shop in the carpark for First Bridge of the world.

A lot of food stalls in the park offer bowls of fried potato, tofu, corn, noodles etc at about double the price you would normally expect to pay (¥10 for a small bowl of fried potatoes) In Zhangjiajie Cun lots of little restaurants have exotic wildlife on display in cages outside - which turn out to constitute the menu. You can have turtle, snake, toad and a huge variety of interesting and obscure fish and shellfish. Definitely interesting. It has been suggested some of these are endangered species, however. The Giant Chinese Salamander, for example, is crtitically endagered, yet was on display at several restaurants in the area.

In Wulingyuan town there are a large number of restaurants and streets stalls including Hunan BBQ (pick your skewers of meat and vege and they cook them for you) Note that Wulingyuan is in Hunan province, a region known for its spicy cuisine.  E-Pino Bakery , next to bus station in Zhangjiejie city ( From the bus station main entrance, walk away from the train station, it has large windows and a large sign ). Above average bakery with sweet and savoury treats. Good to stock up on food for a picnic before heading into the park as there are not many restaurants or snack stalls once inside. Sit in or takeaway. Hot drinks 8-15RMB. Tasty muffins, 10RMB. 5- 20RMB.

Sleep

There are hotels in both the main villages, Zhangjiajie Cun and Suoxiyu Cun, and there are simple inns throughout the reserve.  Qing Man Hotel , Jundi Road, Wulingyuan, Zhangjiajie ( From the bus station turn left onto Jundi Road, walk about 400m and the hotel is on the right past Baixi Garden. Opposite the Kaytien National Hotel ), ☎ +86 744 555 9838. Newly built hotel, opened in May 2015. The owners Richard and Sarah speak excellent English and make you feel at home from the moment you arrive. Can offer detailed information for the national park and for onward travel. Rooms are bright and tastefully

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