After a quick flight from Beijing to Tunxi head to Huangshan, or Yellow Mountain in the southern Anhui province in eastern China. Prepare to have your breath swept away as you step in to Huangshan Village, a UNESCO World Heritage site with more than 140 ancient, well preserved houses from the Ming and Qing dynasties. It’s where today’s artists and photographers flank the banks of the water to capture the scenery that has captivated hearts for centuries. The water’s reflection of the homes and the hills behind is simply awe inspiring.
In the village, you might recognize a cinematic scene from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, where the woman bound from one well-worn rooftop to the next. You too will want to take flight at this site.
Floating on a cultural cloud nine; grab a cable car up to Yellow Mountain, now known as the Avatar Mountain as it was James Cameron’s inspiration came from for his big blockbuster. You can easily see why.
Twenty minutes in to your cable ride, you jump out for the night. Pack light as the remaining journey to your hotel involves 45 minutes on foot up and down serious and scenic ascents, trekking with bags in tow.
You can hire a porter to carry you and or your luggage up, which seems silly until 30 minutes into the trip. Yet wiry porters pass quickly with poles carrying stacks of dishes and towels. Everything on the mountain, from furniture to forks and dishes, is porter transported on a daily basis to the hotels above.
A UNESCO World cultural and natural heritage site, Yellow Mountain is one of China’s most visited sites in the country and is the sister park to America’s Yosemite. The mountains were carved out of glaciers and have been the subject of many photographers, painters and artists. Give yourself two overnights to capture several scenic points reachable on foot.
Hit Beginning to Believe Peak, Flower Scattering Valley and Lion’s Peak. The landscape changes quickly as mists roll in and out hiding and illuminating crystal like peaks reaching 1,000 meters (3,250 feet).
Post trek at the hotel, enjoy local Huizhou cuisine; one of the eight celebrated cuisines in China with its braised, steamed and smoked dishes. Accommodations at the top are simple and very rustic. The luxury lies in the landscape.
Once down the mountain, visit Bao’s Family Garden, once the largest privately owned garden in China. You’ll be blown away by the many types of bonsais in this Hui style garden. Then slip in to Tang Yue Village to see the Tang Yue Archways, seven stone memorial arches, three built in Ming and four in the Qing Dynasty. Each archway is placed in order of loyalty inclusive of women’s charity and chastity and each is attached to a story.
Before heading back to town, drop in to Chengkan Village, famous for its Ming and Qing architecture. Keep cameras handy as it’s a photo flip book of old world moments of fisherman up to their necks with nets, buffalo roaming freely on the streets and beautiful babies with caring grandparents by their side. For more information go to www.cnto.org
Zhangjiajie is another area noted for its Avatar inspiration. Just a few hours flight from one of China’s key cities, Zhangjiajie is located in the Hunan province of south-central China. Home to China’s first national forest park, this eco-savvy area is filled with stunning scenic vistas, endless natural beauty and multiple UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Arrive in to Zhangjiajie Hehua Airport (DYG) and check in to Hotel Pullman Zhangjiajie. Start your exploring at Yellow Stone Village (Huangshizhai Village), a mountainous area within Zhangjiajie National Forest Park with sightseeing platforms and cliffs overlooking sandstone peaks at an elevation of 1,080 meters (3,543 feet).
Take in the beauty of Golden Whip Stream, within the Wulingyuan Scenic area of the park. Dense forest and jutting peaks surround the stream. Visit Xibu Street, an area where typical Zhangjiajie architecture and folk life is displayed through performances and music by the locals.
The Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon is an area filled with waterfalls, rock formations and a large granite slide that will send you right back to the base of the canyon. The “glass bridge project” is in the planning stages at the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon and will span more than 1,200 feet and boast the highest bungee jumping experience.
Trekkers, hike the Baofeng Lake area where you are welcomed by macaque monkeys on your way to a Buddhist temple. Local Tujia people sing to boaters passing by. You can capture the local culture in the evening where traditional dancing, singing and Chinese acrobatics are capped off in an outdoor courtyard with a bonfire finale.
There are many peak experiences to be had in the region. Ascend Tianzi Mountain via a 40-minute cable car ride. Mt. Tianzi is noted for its peak forests, splendid vistas of jagged rock formations, misty clouds and cascading waterfalls. The Tianzi Mountain cable car transports visitors down the Ten-Mile Gallery in the Suoxi Valley Scenic Spot, where.the mountains look like an outdoor sculpture garden.
Be sure to head out to Tianmen Mountain from the downtown rail station to take in the world’s longest mountain cable car to Tianmen’s summit, which features the highest peaks in Zhangjiajie. As you travel up in the cable car, see the “Highway to Heaven,” which makes 99 serpentine turns heading toward Tianmen Cave, the natural mountain-penetrating Karst cave with the highest elevation in the world. Red Bull recently hosted the first-ever World Wingsuit League Grand Prix here.
You won’t miss the buzz of Beijing or any city with all of the beauty and adrenaline pumping, peak experiences available in Zhangjiajie.
For more information visit the Zhangjiajie Tourism Board at www.zhangjiajietourism.com