Everyone wants to go on weekend trips but for the most part, we do not have the time to plan them due to school, tests, or friends. I recently planned and went on a weekend trip to Zhangjiajie (known as the Avatar Hallelujah mountains in James Cameron’s Avatar), and now I am sharing that itinerary with you. From planes to activities to hotels, everything has been planned. All you have to do is book the tickets (using my last article about Trip.com) and go!

Where: Zhangjiajie National Forest Park (Avatar Mountains)

Cost Estimate (RMB): 2,000 on round trip flight + 200/day on the hotel (split by 2 people, so 100 per person) + 400 total on entry tickets (with student ID) + Food and Taxis

Timeframe: Leave Thursday or Friday after classes and return Sunday night

Why: Because you are in China for college and should see more of the country than Shanghai!

Important note: Bring your student ID! You will save hundreds of RMB on tickets. ALWAYS ask for student tickets.

The Trip: 

Hotel Options

Zhangjiajie Shanyu Valley Hotel

Note: Must request a western toilet, otherwise a very nice hotel for a low price with very friendly and helpful owners.

Yueshanju Hostel

You can also do your own research using my last article! There is a Crown Plaza and other higher-cost, resort-style hotels close by as well, but in my opinion, as a college student, they are not worth the money. 

For Thursday Departure:

Thursday: Travel

Shanghai → Zhangjiajie

Flight: PVG (Shanghai Pudong) – DYG (Zhangjiajie)

Take either the 6:10 p.m. or 8:10 p.m. flight out, depending on your class schedule

Zhangjiajie Airport → Hotel

  • Call a taxi using your desired ride-hailing app
  • Recommend sleeping early as tomorrow morning has an early start

Friday: Tianmen Shan

  • Be ready to leave by 10 / 10:30 a.m.
  • Taxi to Tianmen Shan (天门山)
  • Lunch near the ropeway station
  • Explore Tianmen Shan (I recommend walking down the 999 steps instead of going up, but it is up to you)
  • If it is still early, you can explore Baofeng Lake. Check maps and see the driving time. You will need 2-3 hours at the lake.
  • Taxi back to Zhangjiajie area and find dinner
  • Recommend sleeping early as the next morning has an early start

Saturday: Zhangjiajie Hiking

  • Leave the hotel by 9:30 a.m.
  • This day is up to you: you can explore the best parts of the park by walking ~30,000 steps which is what I did, or you can explore them all by taking buses everywhere (included in the ticket) and probably walk less than 10,000 steps. I think hiking is more fun, and you will really see the park but to each their own. Talk to the hotel owner, and they can plan the day for you. Tell them your goals (hiking or bus, or else they will default to bus taking) and then also adjust their plan to turn it into something you think would be fun. 
  • My route was: Hotel Car to bus station → Bus to Tianzi Mountain Cable Car (buy tickets here) → Tianzi mountain → Ten-Mile Gallery → Yuanjiajie → Hallelujah mountains → Bailong Elevator → Golden Whip Stream → Hike out of the park
  • The Tianzi Mountain and Golden Whip Stream were my two favorite parts
  • Get ready to ask directions from anyone and everyone, whether that be tour guides, people in suits directing buses, or even random people. Before you make any turns, it is safer to just ask. I would recommend getting a map from the hotel that is in Chinese and English so you can both read it and point to stuff and say “在哪里?” or “怎么去这里?” (“Zai na li” or “zen me zou qu zhe li” ; “where is this” or “how to I go here”)

Sunday: Grand Canyon Glass Bridge + Baofeng Lake (if time)

  • Leave hotel by 9:30 a.m., leaving luggage at hotel front desk
  • Taxi to Grand Canyon Glass Bridge
  • Explore + Lunch
  • Taxi to Baofeng Lake
  • Taxi back to hotel to get luggage then immediately to airport for flight

Flight: DYG – PVG

Either the 7:20 p.m. or the 9:20 p.m flight both work depending how early you want to get back. This will also affect dinner plans.

For Friday Departure:

Friday: Travel

Shanghai → Zhangjiajie

Flight: PVG (Shanghai Pudong) – DYG (Zhangjiajie)

Take either the 6:10 p.m. or 8:10 p.m. flight out depending on your class schedule

Zhangjiajie Airport → Hotel

  • Call a taxi using your desired ride-hailing app
  • Rest soon as the next morning has an early start

Saturday: Zhangjiajie Hiking

  • Leave the hotel by 9:30 a.m., this is a long day but the best!
  • This day is up to you, you can explore the best parts of the park by walking ~30,000 steps which is what I did, or you can explore them all by taking buses everywhere (included in the ticket) and probably walk less than 10,000 steps. I think hiking is more fun and you will really see the park but to each their own. Talk to the hotel owner and they can plan the day for you. Tell them your goals (hiking or bus, they will default to bus taking) and then also adjust their plan with what you think would be fun. 
  • My route was: Hotel Car to bus station → Bus to Tianzi Mountain Cable Car (buy tickets here) → Tianzi mountain → ten mile gallery → Yuanjiajie → Hallelujah mountains → Bailong Elevator → Golden Whip Stream → Hike out of the park
  • The Tianzi Mountain and Golden Whip Stream were my two favorite parts
  • Get ready to ask directions from anyone and everyone. Tour guides, people in suits directing buses, random people, before you make any turns just ask. Get a map from the hotel that is in Chinese and English so you can both read it and point to stuff and say “在哪里?or 怎么走去这里?(Zai na li or zen me zou qu zhe li ; where is this or how to I go here)

Sunday: Tianmen Shan (look up Tianmen mountain Land Rover commercial)

  • Be ready to leave by 9:30 a.m.
  • Taxi to Tianmen Shan (天门山)
  • Lunch nearby the ropeway station
  • Explore Tianmen Shan (I recommend walking down the 999 steps instead of up but it’s up to you).
  • Taxi back to the hotel to pick up luggage then to the airport

Flight: DYG – PVG

Either the 7:20 p.m. or the 9:20 p.m. flight both work depending how early you want to get back. This will also affect dinner plans.