Saturday, July 13, 2024

Bucket List: Avatar Mountain, Heaven’s Gate in Zhangjiajie, China


Bucket List: Avatar Mountain, Heaven’s Gate in Zhangjiajie, China


How do you feel about this story?


With the new year comes a new set of bucket list destinations.

For those looking for a magical one not too far away, consider Zhangjiajie, in Hunan province, central China, the site of one of James Cameron’s inspirations for the floating mountains of Pandora in the 2010 blockbuster film “Avatar.” There, you can see misty mountains, towering pillars of sandstone and quartz, and an opening in the rock the locals refer to as Heaven’s Gate.

Nine hundred ninety-nine steps lead to what the locals call Heaven’s Gate in the mystical mountains.

To get there, fly Guangzhou via Cebu Pacific, and from there, take a domestic flight to Zhangjiajie, although if you’d rather take a Cebu Pacific flight to the more popular Shanghai, a domestic flight will get you to Zhangjiajie as well.

Travel Warehouse Inc. in partnership with UOS China can take you there, as this is one of those trips where you will definitely need a well-planned, detailed itinerary, and a travel guide. You’ll be hard pressed to find English speakers anywhere, since even hotel receptionists speak no English.

The highlight of the visit is Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, part of the larger Wulingyuan Scenic Area. In 1992, the area was recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site.

Take the Bailong elevator—translated as One Hundred Dragons Elevator— that is reportedly the highest in the world, built into a cliff that climbs up to over a thousand feet into the sky in about a minute and a half. It opens its doors to the astounding site of the quartz and sandstone pillars. One of them is named Avatar Hallelujah Mountain, an homage to the film, and it is spectacular.

Avatar Mountains – The sandstone and quartz pillars of Zhangjiajie were some of the inspirations for the film “Avatar.”

Elsewhere in the park, a glass-bottomed bridge, one of the world’s longest and highest, hangs above a canyon. Definitely not for those afraid of heights, but in the shoe covers they make you put over your footwear, you can glide across the glass and feel like you’re sky walking.

One of the world’s longest and highest glass-bottomed bridges hangs above a canyon.

More relaxing is a cruise down the green Baofeng Lake, surrounded by mountains, with rock formations in the shape of animals. Close by is a waterfall gushing down a cliff.

Tranquil Baofeng Lake is the color of jade.

On another day, take a cable car up Tianmen mountain, one of the longest passenger cableways in the world. Looking down, one sees the Heaven Linking Avenue that twists and turns 99 times as it leads to the holy Tianmen cave, or Heaven’s Gate.

The natural portal through the mountain can be reached by walking up 999 steps —the number 9 is a lucky number, as you may have figured out— on foot, which the locals say is a stairway to heaven.

Make sure to leave enough time to watch the shows in Zhangjiajie.

Cultural show at Zhangjiajie.

The indoor show that plays out stories and legends that weave the cultural tapestry of the city is held at the Charming Xiangxi Theater, the oldest theater in Zhangjiajie. It includes fire and drums, flying daggers and acrobatics, and song and dance that delight the thousands of people that fill up the theater night after night.

Meanwhile, the outdoor show is a spectacle of light and sound with over 600 performers, and a set that includes houses built into the mountainside. The silhouettes of the actual Tianmen mountain and other peaks serve as its magnificent backdrop. A perfect way to wind down your trip.

For travel deals, check out its website at Travel Warehouse Inc. can be reached at [email protected] or +63-2-8687-2490 to 92.