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David Cameroon's new Avatar movie is due to soon come out. The 2009 movie, Avatar, was the largest box office success in history (unadjusted for inflation) and it captured the imagination of people all around the world. Pandora with its floating mountains was actually inspired by a real landscape - the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in China. The Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is famous for its many pillar-like formations that can appear to hang in the air.

The Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is located in China's Hunan and was China's first national forest park when it was established in 1982. It is a land dominated by dense forests, pillar-like rock formations, caves, deep canyons, and deep ravines. The forest park is in turn part of the much larger Wulingyuan Scenic Area.


Zhangjiajie - The Other-Worldly Inspiration For Avatar

The park's pillars are not made of limestone as is normally the case around the world. Instead, they are the product of physical rather than chemical erosion over the eons. Much of the erosion has been driven by expanding ice in the winter and the plants growing in them.

  • Size: 4,810 ha (11,900 acres)

One of the park's most notable pillars is the 1,080-meter (or 3,540-foot) Southern Sky Column. In honor of the movie, Avatar, it was officially renamed "Avatar Hallelujah Mountain" (spelled 阿凡达-哈利路亚山 in Chinese).

The region has been UNESCO World Heritage Listed since 1992

The foliage around the park is very dense, and the weather remains moist all through the year. Visitors can sense being in the mystical world of Pandora.

The top attractions in the forest park are the easy-to-access Yuanjiajie, Tianzi Mountain, and Gold Whip Stream. More off-the-beaten-pass scenic areas include Yellow Stone Village and Old House Area. China is a massive country full of amazing and underrated places to visit.

Related: 20 Thoughts Every Foreigner Has When They Visit China For The First Time

Zhangjiajie's Record-Breaking Tourist Infrastructure

Today the Zhangjiajie National Forest is a major attraction, and it has a number of facilities for visitors. The Bailong Elevator (literally hundred dragons sky lift) is the world's tallest outdoor lift rising to 326 meters or 1,070 feet. It has three separate glass elevators and each can hold up to 50 people.

  • Elevator: 326 meters or 1,070 feet (The World's Tallest Outdoor Elevator)

Another major attraction is the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge over the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon. The bridge opened in 2016 and is both the longest and highest pedestrian glass bridge in the world. Its deck is completely made of transparent glass and at its center is the highest bungee jumping platform in the world. Visitors can also zip line off the bridge as well.

Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge:

  • Height: 300 meters or 980 feet
  • Length: 430 meters or 1,410 feet
  • Bungee Jumping: The Highest In The World

There are also three cable cars in the park - the Tianzi Mountain Cable Car, Yangjiajie cable car, and the Huangshizhai cable car.

China famously has a lot of people and this is one of its main attractions - so expect large crowds when visiting. Expect 2-hour queues for the 2-minute ride on the Bailong during busy times (or just take the 1-1.5 hour hike up instead).

Related: Visa-Free: Planning A Trip To China's Tropical Island Of Hainan

4-Day Zhangjiajie Tour

There are plenty of tours of Zhangjiajie and the surrounding region to choose from. There are photography tours and seven-day tours of the wider region. A 4-day Zhangjiajie tour listed on China Highlights explores the best of the famous national park without having to worry about navigating China by oneself.

The tour visits the massive glass bridge and Avatar's Hallelujah Mountain. Guests take the world's longest cable car ride to Tianmen mountain top and enjoy a relaxing boat ride at the crystal-clear Baofeng Lake.

  • Price: From $719 Per Person (Based On A Tour For 2 People)

The price varies depending on the number of participants, time of year, and the hotel chosen. The tour includes an English-speaking tour guide, hotels, some meals, and a price air-conditioned business car.

Another major attraction in China is the Yungang Grottoes where one can see a massive number of ancient Buddha statues of a time gone by. China is an ancient country with a bewildering number of archeological, historical, and natural attractions to discover that few people outside of China know about.