Why visit Zhangjiajie?
Zhangjiajie offers some of China’s most beautiful natural sites. Located in the northwest part of the province of Hunan, the town of Zhangjiajie has two key attractions: the Wulingyuan area that includes the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park and the Tianzishan mountains.
The Zhangjiajie National Forest Park has a concentration of quartzite-sandstone formations found nowhere else in the world. Some 243 peaks and more than 3000 karst pinnacles and spires dominate the scenery in this Unesco-protected park. The area is sometimes referred to as the “Avatar mountains” due to the resemblance with the scenery of that Avatar movie which it inspired.
Tianmen mountain is located near the city center and features the longest cablecar in the world with a total length of 7,455 metres (24,459 ft.) and ascent of 1,279 metres (4,196 ft.) The highest gradient is an unusual 37 degrees. It also features a cliff path along the top of the mountain as well as a glass bridge.
Once considered a remote area, Zhangjiajie is surrounded by mountains, making access difficult. The area is not served by high-speed trains (other than to Changsha) and many of the direct trains from major cities will take a long time. This article tries to list the best alternatives to get to or from Zhangjiajie from other important tourist destinations.
Guilin – Zhangjiaje
Many travelers choose to visit Guilin just before or after Zhangjiajie. However there are no direct trains between Guilin and Zhangjiajie. There are two ways to do this route, by transiting trough Changsha or through Liuzhou.
There are a few options through Changsha.
– You can take the bullet train (G1504 or G1506) to the Changsha south station later in the afternoon, get on the subway to the Changsha railway station then take train T8322 to arrive on the same day at Zhangjiajie, just before 23h.
– You can take the overnight train (K9031) from Guilin to Zhangjiajie. As this train departs at 20h36, you can leave Guilin later such as Z336 or Z6. These Z trains also arrive at the Changsha station so no transfer is necessary.
The second alternative is though Liuzhou, which is cheaper and faster. You can leave Guilin late in the day and take the bullet train to Liuzhou (a little over one hour). In Liuzhou (20 minutes) you take one of the overnight trains. Unlike the Changsha option, you get a full day in Guilin.
Xi’An – Zhangjiajie ( or suggest to take flight)
There is one T train per day connecting these two cities in 16 to 18 hours and the times are very inconvenient. Instead, we suggest an indirect route via Luoyang. There are many trains from Xi’An to Luoyang. Between Luoyang and Zhangjiajie, there is one good overnight train leaving from the Guanlin station at 21h03. So you can leave Xi’an at the end of the day to make this connection or take a train in early afternoon and take some time to visit the Luoyang Longmen caves which are not very far from the train stations. There is a short taxi ride between the Luoyang Longmen station and the Guanlin station. The Xi’An-Luoyang Longmen train is about 1.5 hours.
Chengdu – Zhangjiajie
There is no direct train between Chengdu and Zhangjiajie. The best route is to take an overnight train from Chengdu to Huaihua, followed by a short train from Huaihua to Zhangjiajie so that one can arrive in Zhangjiajie by lunchtime.
In the other direction the same strategy applies. The best trains from Huaihua to Chendgu leave late in the evening (after 22h) so it is possible to take a train from Zhangjiajie in late afternoon and have a full day to visit the Tianmen mountain area which is close to the Zhangjiajie train station.
Many travelers choose this route and stop for a day or two in Huaihua in order to visit Fenghuang (short bus ride).
Huangshan – Zhangjiajie
Many travelers who are hikers and enjoy scenery wish to visit these two national parks. While there is no direct train between these cities, there are two good indirect itineraries.
The first alternative is to travel through Changsha. Train G1397 departs from Huangshan north at 10h22 and arrives at the Changsha south station four hours later. You then take the subway for 30 minute to the Changsha station to ride T8322 that arrives in Zhangjiajie late in the evening. In the other direction, you do the same by taking the first train from Zhangjiajie to Changsha where you have plenty of time to explore around Changsha before taking the train to Huangshan in late afternoon.
The second alternative is to transit through Shangrao to get to Changsha. The advantage of this route is that there are many more trains. There are many G trains all day long between Huangshan and Shangrao. This train is just 45 minutes to one hour. Then the train between Shangrao and Changsha is just 2h45 to 3 hours. There are also a lot of trains between Shangrao and Changsha. So this route is more flexible than going directly from Huangshan to Changsha with only 2 trains per day.
Traveling from big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai or Hangzhou
Generally most direct trains to Zhangjiajie from cities such as Beijing or Shanghai take a very long time. But most of these cities have a bullet train to Changsha where it is possible to catch a 4.5 to 5.5-hour train to Zhangjiajie. You need to take a subway to change station in Changsha as bullet trains arrive at the Changsha north railway station while the trains to Zhangjiajie depart from the Changsha railway station.
There are bullet trains to Changsha from Beijing (5.5 to 6.5 hours), Shanghai (4.5 to 5.5 hours) and Hangzhou (3.5 to 5.5 hours).
Updated March 2019