The Avatar Mountains, known locally as Zhangjiajie, was a place that always hovered close to the top of my travel list. But for some reason or other, it world not work out for me to visit. Most recently the stars aligned in my favor and myself and two friends jetted off on the two hour plane ride for a three day hiking trip.
Traveling around China is slightly different to pre-Covid, with having to wear a mask for the duration of the flight and having to fill in a health app on your phone and show a code before being allowed to leave the airport. Once I had jumped through the necessary administrative hoops I was on my way to the hostel for a good night’s sleep before a busy next day.
The first day we walked over to Wulinguan, one of the entrances for the famous Avatar Mountains. Given the early start, the lines were minimal and before we knew it we were going up the mountain on the Bailong Glass Elevator. And what a view it was from up there, like nothing I have ever seen before! Scatterings of mountain tops, all protruding with personality from the ground. Walking around the top of the mountain continue to provide astounding views. It is well organised with a shuttle bus taking you to the various parts of the park, totally necessary given the magnitude. One of the standout parts of the day was the Golden Whip Stream hike which involved hiking next to one of the streams in the park. As you went along you could look up and get a better idea of the scale of the mountains and feel absolute perspective. The sound of the water was soothing along with the slowly setting sun. We had done almost 45,000 steps, a rest was much needed!
We awoke the next day to the sound of rain and to extreme pain in our legs. But we were going to the Grand Canyon to see what was one of the longest glass bridges in the world when it opened. Despite the dreary weather, it did not disappoint. You get some shoe covers for walking on the bridge and then you are on your way. I found myself walking on the panels at first as being able to see the river directly below was a bit frightening. But by the time I got halfway my courage increased and I took some brave baby steps. Once across the bridge we made our way down the canyon and then followed along it (as the rain got progressively heavier).
The final day involved two cable car rides in the Tianmen Mountain area. The cable ride that concluded the day is one of the longest in the world with unforgettable views. I loved the way the paths are the top of the mountain had been constructed as they respected the environment and worked with it as opposed to creating bulky pathways. There were various pathways as well as glass walkways and suspended bridges. Overall very impressive and made for a fun filled day! And last but not least one of the most memorable moments of the few days was seeing Tianmen Cave, literally a giant hole in the mountain with 999 steps leading up to it. The view makes every step worth it!
If you can find a way to squeeze in a long weekend then you need to find your way to Zhangjiajie! Get your nature fill and come back to Shanghai with painful legs but a rested spirit.