Amidst the excitement surrounding the upcoming release of the highly anticipated sequel to Avatar, it's easy for fans to forget the awe-inspiring real-world location that brought the fictional planet of Pandora to life. Tucked away in the heart of China, Zhangjiajie stands as a mesmerizing testament to nature's grandeur and served as the primary inspiration and filming location for James Cameron's groundbreaking film.
The Central China paradise
Having been on all news for quite a while back in 2010, Zhangjiajie became all of a sudden a location to be visited not only by Chinese who knew it since Confucio but also by International visitors. I have been there myself in 2014 when mass tourism already arrived but still, the village remained very remote and small, not easily reachable and still with some old accommodations, reminding you what it was life here a few decades ago. This village known in the past as Dayong since 221 BC.
The stunning area where the ''Avatar Mountains'' were recorded for the first science movie by James Cameron is part of Hunan province, northwest of China, called Zhangjiajie. To reach it it takes a couple of hours by flight from Shanghai or a trip via slow train, the bullet train so called in China, with a 12 hours trip from Beijing. It consists of the districts of Wongding, Yulingyuang, and the counties of Cili and Sangzhi.
What to visit
The site is nestled in the Zhangjiajie National forest park, in a designated area in Wulingyuang scenic area, past of Unesco since 1992. Once you reach the areas of the site you have the option to buy the ticket for 3 days and plan an extensive visit of the peaks around the park will take some time. It normally takes 2-3 days to visit the main areas, expect a lot of walking, stairs, peaks, and hidden views. Surely you don't need to be afraid of heights as you'll enjoy some spectacular landscapes from here. The little village is located around 2km from one of the entrances, allowing you to spend some time there before reaching the gate and beginning your hike and exploration of this wonderful area.
When to visit
The months where you can assist with one of the most colorful foliage goes between April till October. During the end of the spring, till the beginning of June, the rainy season will allow you to discover breathtaking landscapes, while towards the beginning of September and October, you will find the peak foliage season. Embracing the tranquility and the substantial change of the leaves' pigments will be an astonishing experience that will remember for a long time.
Why to visit
Being part of the 56 Unesco sites in China shall be already a great reason to spend some days in this area however, for the lovers of excursions and physical challenges you can count around 7.5 km of paths towards the top peaks, leaving to your imagination the unique and flawless scenario you will encounter after this physical challenge.
By Joshua Rasia, Travel & Sports Correspondent at YNBC