The distance between the old charming city of Fenghuang and the mountain village of Zhangjiajie was only 230 km which made it the smallest step of our trip in China. However it took us the whole afternoon to reach Zhangjiajie! We have to say that transportation does not tally at all the needs of foreign travelers. We took a bus to Zhangjiajie which took hours to reach the city, even when using what looked like a brand new highway. In Zhangjiajie city, you are still 30 km away from the Zhangjiajie Park, so we took a bus to Zhangjiajie village just at the entrance of the park. It took us more than one hour to reach the village… There, the night was quickly falling, so we looked for a hotel to stay as fast as possible. We found a dingy hotel for 80 Y, but the bed was good and there was a hot shower. All night, the rain fell. And the next day we woke up in the middle of misty mountains. Very mystic but not very appealing for hiking!
We took this day to relax and the next day it did not rain so we went for the ascension of a mountain. However the clouds waited for us on the top and we could not see clearly around. So disappointing!
So we went down and walked along a beautiful path called the Golden Whip Stream which follows a stream during 6 km and enables to watch the rocks from below. Overall that day we walked 18 km!
The day after, we went for another walk up to the rocks. After 2 hours climbing steps, we reached the place where we overlook the rocks. Actually Zhangjiajie Park is known for these rocks that look like Avatar mountains from the Avatar movie. It was breathtaking!
Some parts of the path were packed with Chinese tourists, but when we walked away a few meters from the main path we were alone !
Overall we had a good experience in the Park. It would have been much better without the clouds, but it seems that the Park is usually under the mist. What surprised us is the touristic infrastructure. At the entrance, we felt like entering a big amusement park, with all the tourists and the gates. The park itself it totally developed for tourism. All the paths are paved, there are free shuttles buses running to different parts of the park and cable cars, there is even a KFC in the middle, but also a glass elevator built directly on the cliff and which is 330 m high…! For sure you would not see that in the European National Parks! The advantage for us is that Chinese tourists are packed in areas within a few minutes from these places, which make the rest of the park quite empty. But we will always remember the feeling we had when we arrived on the top of a cliff after climbing stairs alone for two hours like we were going to the heart of nature, and find thousands of Chinese tourists on the top which had come there by cable car and this big KFC!
The entrance ticket of the park (yes there is one) is also crazy expensive: 250 Y (37 USD) but hopefully you can use it for 4 days. We felt that natural parks and all other kind of attractions are expensive in China, maybe because of they are already filled in their full capacity with Chinese tourists and putting a high price prevents them from getting even more crowds…