Introducing Wǔlíngyuán & Zhāngjiājiè
Rising sublimely from the misty subtropical forest of northwest Húnán are 243 peaks surrounded by over 3000 karst upthrusts, a concentration not seen elsewhere in the world. The picture is completed by waterfalls, limestone caves (including Asia’s largest chamber) and rivers suitable for organised rafting trips. Nearly two dozen rare species of flora and fauna call the region home and botanists delight in the 3000-odd plant species within the park. Even amateur wildlife spotters may get a gander at a clouded leopard or a pangolin.
Known as the Wulingyuan Scenic Area (Wǔlíngyuán Fēngjǐngqū; www.zhangjiajie.com.cn), the region encompasses the localities of Zhāngjiājiè, Tiānzǐshān and Suǒxīyù. Zhāngjiājiè is the best known, and many Chinese refer to this area by that name. Recognised by Unesco in 1990 as a World Heritage Site, Wǔlíngyuán is home to three minority peoples: Tujia, Miao and Bai.
Several towns give access to Wǔlíngyuán, but the most popular ones are Zhangjiajie city (Zhāngjiājiè shì) and Zhangjiajie village (Zhāngjiājiè cūn). The city is near the railway line, while the village is situated nearly 600m above sea level in the Wǔlíng foothills, surrounded by sheer cliffs and vertical rock outcrops.
A staggering fee of Y245 (students Y165), good for two days with extension, plus an insurance fee of Y3, must be paid at the Zhāngjiājiè forest reserve’s main entrance just past the village. Admission to other sights within the park can be additional. Chinese maps showing walking trails (only some of them with sites marked in English) are on sale in Zhangjiajie city and village.