Yangjiajie village & Zhangjiajie national park
Our next leg was the most exciting. Not only were we taking our first overnight sleeper train (well for the boys anyway) but we were also on our way to our first National Park, Zhangjiajie. Known for it’s outstanding natural beauty and where inspiration for Pandora (from the movie avatar) was created.
The pictures were stunning and we were so excited to see the landscape for ourselves.
However, there was a slight problem. We had read, re-read and triple read the information and it was still making no sense to us. The internet and guide books just kept contracting themselves and the names! oh… don’t get me started – they all had VERY similar names. So much that I only realised on day 2 that I had been reading about the wrong mountain!! arghhh..
Still, by the time we left we were a lot clearer and vowed to make sure that you didn’t make the same mistakes as us!! So, this blog will list the details of our journey to and around the area and I’ll write a separate blog about getting around the Zhangjiajie national park with kids.
How to get there
We have opted to travel by train through china and so took our first overnight sleeper from Chengdu to Zhangjiajie with a changeover (& subsequent delay) in huaihua.
It was our longest train journey – 20 hours (making it 23 hours with the delay!)
When we did arrive in Zhangjiajie we were arriving late in the afternoon and knew we had a transfer time of 1 hour to reach our hostel. Therefore, we (thankfully) opted to book a transfer RMB 180 with our hostel.
Getting to Yangjiajie
Is 1 hour drive (1 ½ hours by local bus) on VERY bumpy unmade roads to reach this area.
The transfer with our chalet was o.k. as he did his best to avoid pot holes, cars, scooters, animals, people etc… so was bareable. But our journey back by local bus was pretty shaky!!
The return journey we had more time so opted to take the local bus from the main turn. Our hostel gave us a lift to the town and we climbed on board a little shuttle bus. The cost was RMB 13 per person. Kids pay the same prices as they are taking up a seat.
The bus journey was about an hour and a half, of which 60% was very bumpy. The bus driver did his best but avoiding the giant potholes was impossible. It definitely wasn’t an enjoyable journey. Unfortunately Ethan felt a little travel sick but the rest of us were ok.
We even enjoyed a car wash at the end, much to the boys delight!
Where to stay
Now, this is where things get a bit complicated… we chose to stay close to ONE OF the National Park Entrance in Yangjiajie (note 2 letters are different & this is just ONE of the park entrances… I will explain more in my other blog!!).
This area is also known as ‘part of’ Zhangiajie Forest Park. This is NOT Zhangjiajie city, but is 1 hour drive away as mentioned above.
However, the state of the roads means that it is very quiet and not visited by the large tour groups so queues are much better at this gate and moreover less crowded… well – until you reach the top that is! There is a road under construction which looks like a motorway directly to the area so I imagine things will change in a few years!
We stay at a lovely family run hotel called Yangjiajie Inn. It was situated about a 15 minute walk from the national park entrance. The hotel owners will happily give you a lift to and from this each morning and when you are done. However, we walked back both days and it was fine.
The area we were in didn’t have a village. The nearest one (where the main bus stop was situated & where you will find the nearest ATM machine) was 10 minutes drive up the road.
Again, the hostel were very helpful in offering to take you there if you needed. Or there were a couple of bikes you could hire/borrow. There are 2 mini shops near the entrance with a handful of snack items and 1 restaurant that we could see.
There wasn’t much to see or do other than exploring the national park… which is what we were there to do.
Where to eat?
Our hostel had a restaurant which served up a good selection of chinese food. There appeared to be a couple of other hotels around our area but none which had ‘restaurant’ signs and the only one we saw was near the entrance of the national park. Therefore, we just ate in each night. The prices were reasonable with several options and nice vegetarian dishes. We loved the beef and potatoes plus green beans and aubergine! Big portions 😋
Also, their breakfast was mainly chinese and was expensive for what it was so I’d recommend you bring some food with you as there are no supermarkets in the local area, just 2 small shops. We just grabbed some fruit and snacks from the shop or stall on the mountain.
You will find a few stalls and abundance of eateries. There are even more (including KFC and McDonald’s) near the Hallaleugh Mountains. However, the same can’t be said for day 2 when we visited the Golden Whip Stream and Huangshi Village. There were very few eateries/snack stalls here so come prepared!
Note: there is lots of walking so bring plenty of water, although you don’t struggle to find a stall selling drinks.
Zhangjiajie national park area
The Zhangjiajie National Park is famous for the absolutely stunning views and iconic karsts which stand proudly within the area. The walkways are well established and the area is set up for the hoards of tourists who visit every day.
But unlike other national parks this one is so big it requires shuttle buses (included in the ticket price) to ferry you from each of the scenic points. The longest bus ride we were on took nearly 45 minutes on very windy roads! So don’t assume you can walk everywhere.
We visited at the height of summer and to say the area was busy was an understatement. However, we did make it a little easier on ourselves by staying in Yuanjiajie area so that we didn’t have to deal with big early morning queues. There were pros and cons in this.
Please see my separate blog post to try and explain the set up of the Zhangjiajie national park. Everything we read before we got there was very confusing. And just to be clear… it’s not any less confusing when you arrive!!
It’s a truly stunning area though with lots of scenic views. I’m glad we visited but wish I’d been a little more organised and brought plenty of snacks with us!
Note: as I mentioned there’s no ATM nearby so make sure you bring enough money for accommodation, food and park tickets!