Zhangjiajie National Park: 30 Photos That Will Make You Pack Your Bags and Go

Jessica Peterson

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, China
my-avatarIf you ever wanted to live inside a Maxfield Parrish painting, then book the next flight to China. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is simply one of the most ethereal places on Earth.

These staggering karst spires inspired the film “Avatar” and you have to see them in person to see why. (I may or may not have turned myself into an Avatar a few years ago.)

For details on how to get there, where to stay, and how to get around, see my post, Climbing Avatar Mountain. In my last post, you saw the mountains from a breathtaking canyon below. However, these photos are the view from the top of Tianzi Mountain.

The sprawling park has a ton of lookouts, each more unbelievable than the last. My favorite part? The wild and mischievous macaques, of course! If you’ve ever been around these monkeys, you know how kleptomaniacal they are. It was fun to watch them steal food from the unsuspecting tourists. They roam the park freely, and if you ask me, have the best monkey gig in the world. I watched them for hours, navigating the peaks, grooming and playing.

Other notable park features are Bailong Elevator, the world’s highest and heaviest outdoor elevator at 1,070 feet. There’s also a natural land bridge, which I photographed but did not traverse due to the tourist crowding.

Learn more about all these attractions at China Highlights, which I recommend for photography tours or a complete tour package if you don’t want to navigate on your own.

Be sure to read my 7 Things You Need to Know About China Travel. Stay tuned for a photography guide to shooting landscapes including some little-known Photoshop tips. I’m also working on a travel film. Check out my last travel film, The Sound of Iceland.

>> READ NEXT:  Review: Kauri Villa, New Zealand

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Is Zhangjiajie National Forest Park on your bucket list?

Jessica Peterson
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Jessica Peterson

Jessica Peterson is a travel filmmaker, photographer, and journalist. She released her first documentary film about indigenous culture on Guam in 2016, after having lived nearly 7 years on the Pacific island. Jessica is currently on the Great American Roadtrip in her Airstream trailer.
Jessica Peterson
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  • it looks magical! Great pics – I want to visit! I was all over mainland China, but didn’t make it here. I loved the Guilin area

  • Vilma

    Gorgeos! Great tips before going on China vacation!

  • Grace Wooller

    Wow this is amazing! Totally has changed the way I view China- so much more than the Great Wall of China!! You are right- I just want to pack my bags and go! Thanks for sharing

  • Ravenous Travellers

    You have some amazing pictures it looks incredible!! So many people just think of the Great Wall, but China is so vast and there are so many cool things to see. Thanks for sharing hope we make it one day!

  • Mel

    You are right, those photos do make me want to go to Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. Those spires are gorgeous — I love karst landscapes, and this one is extra amazing. The monkeys are pretty cute, too! And I do love all the photos of people.

  • I can see why Avatar would have been inspired by this. Such a beautiful setting and truly like out of this world. The monkeys look really cheeky indeed! You as an Avatar? I thought that was straight from the movie! Well done on the paint.

    • Ha ha. That’s a totally Photoshopped pic of me, but I love that it looks like paint!

  • wow!! The whole place and the lanscapes seem to be from another world! Loved every single of your pictures. I hope one day I can visit China, this place will be on my bucket list for sure. And the Bailong Elevator must be such an experience!
    Thanks for sharing 😉

  • Rashmi & Chalukya

    We are great fan of Avatar and would definitely wanna visit and see these stunning karst spires and see them in person. They are bewitching indeed. And that picture of lift looks astounding, looks like one incredible man made creation. China had never been on list but looks like need to add now 🙂

  • Sonia Sahni

    Yes yes…the place wants to make my pack my bags and go! I have never been to China…but each time I thought of , I always thought of the great wall and Xian. This is a new picture…beautiful natural structures. I also want to see the rainbow mountain. You have put China back on my list of must go countries!

  • Carlinn

    I cant seem to get my mind around the scale of these! Its so beautiful! I have definitely always wanted to visit and these photos have just inspired me even more. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  • Gareth Thompson

    I couldn’t have chosen a more apt word than ethereal for Zhangjiajie and it really isn’t difficult to see why somewhere so cinematic could be inspiration for a movie. Your shots are fantastic, I really do envy your photography skills. Indeed, they were so good that they kind of gave me vertigo! I’m actually not living to far away from here at the minute and will certainly try to make the voyage up there before too long