This incredibly beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site has been likened to a living version of the smash hit, Avatar. Deep in the Hunan Province, the area has massive quartzite sandstone pillars that are over 2,600 feet tall. The Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is home to more than 3,000 of these towering formations. The park also has blooming flowers, rushing waterfalls, gorgeous peaks and stunning mountains, making it easy to see why the area boast some of the best and most scenic hiking in the world. The town of Zhangjiajie dates back to 221 BC and falls along the Lishui River. There are stone age relics resting in the town, which is set against the picturesque backdrop of the Tianzishan Mountain Ranges. When you visit the Suoxi Valley, in the area you may recognize your surroundings as the area is very popular for filming.
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This freshwater lake is a must-see within the national park. Take a boat tour and learn about the surrounding rock formations. Take a short stroll around the lake and admire its deep green waters and surrounding mountain backdrop. The lake is best reached by a moderate hike through the park and is a great way to view the lush nature along the way.
Connecting two peaks at over 3,000 feet high, the "Bridge Across the Sky" may be the world's tallest natural bridge. Shadowing the valley below, this beautiful sandstone arch stretches over 130 feet long and 30 feet wide. Travelers can scale their way up to the height of this bridge on a precarious-looking stairway to be rewarded at the top with undisrupted scenes of dramatic and far-reaching landscapes.
Perched on the side of a cliff face on Tianmen Mountain, over 4,000 feet high, the glass walkway promises a thrilling walk to all that step foot upon its transparent facade. On a clear day, a vertical drop straight down into the forested canopy can be seen, as well as striking views that stretch out to the horizon. It provides an unforgettable experience as adventurous travelers are met with an extraordinary sensation as though walking amongst the clouds.
Named for the hermit Huangshi who once inhabited the sky-high cliffs, Huangshi Fort is over 3,500 feet above sea level. This is the perfect spot for looking out over the beautiful park and city. From this location, you will be able to see the Treasure Box of Heavenly Books, the Magic Sea-Suppressing Needle, The South Pillar of Heaven, the Golden Tortoise watching the Sea and several other charmingly-named formations.
Tianmen Cave is a mesmerizing natural phenomenon. Also known as "Heaven's Gate", this colossal hole lies at the top of a 999-step stairway like a portal into another world. Formed by centuries of water erosion through a vast limestone wall, the cave is the highest natural arch in the world. The climb to this unique arch offers awe-inspiring views, making it clear as to why the locals once considered Tianmen Cave as the realm of the Gods.
The world's longest cable car makes a 30-minute ascent up to the top of Tianmen Mountain. During the course of the ride, travellers will have enough time to marvel over the spectacular, panoramic scenery as it unfolds below, made up of colorful mountain peaks, mysterious rock formations, vast valleys and the iconic zigzagging Tianmen Mountain Road.
Tianzi means “son of heaven” and was named for a local farmer who led a successful farmer’s revolt. The area is known as the “Monarch of the Peak Forest” for its elevated position and stunning views. Hike to the top of the mountain for an unchallenged view of the lush nature below.
This one-of-a-kind national forest was China’s first established national forest park. Hike through the lush greenery and crane your neck upwards when you try to see the top of one park’s of the 3,000 incredible pillar-like formations. The pillars are a result of erosion over centuries. Explore the dense foliage in the humid climate and look for the “Avatar Hallelujah Mountain,” coined after its appearance in the January 2010 film, Avatar.
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It was as though I had stumbled into another world when I visited the Zhangjiajie Scenic Area in China’s Hunan province.
Photographer Jordan Hammond travels to Zhangjiajie National Park to shoot some of China’s most famous karsts.
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