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Zhangjiajie Tianmenshan Furongzhen Fenghuang Tour - 8 Days

Destination: Zhangjiajieㄛ Tianmenshanㄛ Furongzhenㄛ Fenghuang
Duration: Eight Day
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Transportation: Vehicle
Best Travel Time:All Year
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The province of Hunan is known best to most Chinese first and foremost the birthplace of Chairman Mao. Thousands of pilgrims still flock to his memorial in the city of Shaoshan to pay their respects to their National Hero. Most Western visitors however come to the region for very different reasons. This trip offers you a chance to explore this region of 65 million people, taking in a stunning national park, local villages and an abundance of sporting activities in some of China*s most unspoilt nature spots. 
Full price of this tour (per person in US$):
Price Price Instruction
US$1600/persons 1600USD/Person

Day 1 : Zhangjiajie
The National Park at Zhangjiajie is now most famously known as the inspiration for James Cameron's award winning Avatar, and it is obvious why 每 this is one of the most stunning natural beauty spots throughout the whole of China. The National Park of Wulingyuan, which encompasses both Zhangjiajie and Tianmenshan, is a real life natural history museum. A visit to this site will allow you to explore, amongst others, the history of Chinese medicine, the cuisine of Hunan and will even touch on religion thanks to the Buddhist temple at Tianmenshan.

Upon arrival at the airport you will be met by a guide and transferred to the hotel. 


Day 2 : Zhangjiajie (B)
You will need to get up early for today's trip where you will be transferred to the main entrance of Zhangjiajie (about 30km/20miles from the hotel). You will start off by visiting the Yellow Stone Village (which reaches 1048 metres in height), from which you will be able to discover the first treasure of Zhangjiajie and one of the most famous in the region - The Five Fingers Peak.

Don't be put off the by the crowds which may greet you upon arrival. It is possible to find areas of the park which are hidden away from the megaphones, the red-capped groups of local tourists posing for endless photos in strange stances whilst always holding their hand in the &V for victory' shape, which is not just particular to the Chinese but all across Asia and something which you should see as humorous.

As the local tourists don't tend to spend too long at each spot you will quickly be able to admire in peace the phenomenal spectacular of the largest concentration of karst rock formations in the world. The peaks shoot up from the thick vegetation which covers around 90% of the park like sword blades. A few waterfalls and limestone caves here and there really finish off this picturesque scene as clouds roll in to give the impression that the mountain peaks are floating in the air. Even though the weather can be a little more unpredictable in the winter months, the dusting of snow on the mountain peaks only adds to the park's natural beauty.

Keen gardeners will be in their element, with a few thousand different species to be found in the park alone including the extremely rare lobster flower (literal translation) which changes colour several times a day.

Lunch will be in a restaurant near the main entrance which serves a number of local specialities. Hunan makes up one of the 8 main types of Chinese cuisine: Xiangcai or chilli is often the base to most dishes, so make sure that you make it well known if you do not like your food hot. It is said that the locals love spicy food so much that when they travel, no matter where they go or what they eat, their food has to be accompanied by chillies that are spicy enough to have come directly from the fires of hell!

Your day will continue with a stroll along the Golden Whip Stream, giving you another angle from which you can view the amazing karst peaks. From here they appear to shoot up into the sky like giant natural skyscrapers. Adored by the Chinese, the peaks have been given a number of different poetic names, including the tallest which stands at 400 metres and is known as the Magical Eagle Protecting the Whip.

The water in the stream is clear, the air pure and the site very well maintained. It is a real treat for those who have been stuck in China's megacities for the first leg of their tour. The wildlife in the park is extremely varied and you may be lucky enough to spot a panther, a bear or a pangolin (an anteater like mammal) all of which inhabit the 350km2 national park. You may even stumble upon groups of monkeys which some (misadvised or well-intentioned) tourists like to feed, but we urge you to not follow their counterproductive example and leave the animals well alone!

You walk will last around 2 hours and will end at the Suoxi Valley Nature Reserve, from where you will be able to take either a tourist tram or go on foot to the Ten Mile Gallery.

You will head back to the village of Zhangjiajie where you will spend the night.


Day 3 : Zhangjiajie - Furongzhen (B)
Today you will head for one of the most famous attractions in the park and the one that attracts the most tourists 每 The Son of Heaven Mountain (Tianzishan). You will ascend the mountain by cable-car and at the top you will be able to enjoy views of Warrior Taming Horse Rock and the Western Sea which are two of the most stunning mountain formations in the whole park and are really a pleasure to see.

After visiting the Son of Heaven Mountain you will continue on to a spot that is far less visited and can be a little difficult to find because the well surfaced paths soon disappear and the trail leads through heavy forest (don't worry 每 your local tour guide knows the way and will help you through this section) arriving at the viewing point known as One Step To Heaven. Unlike the name suggests this isn't actually just one step to heaven, but more of a metal staircase which leads to a metal viewing platform. From here you can admire 360 degree views of the surrounding peaks, a certainly unforgettable moment but one which is not accessible to all. The viewing platform isn't recommended for those who suffer from vertigo and we suggest that for this trip you wear sturdy shoes.

The incredible mixture and variety of treatments which makes up what we know as Chinese medicine is fascinating and almost endless, but two of the most famous, and which are still very popular today, are acupuncture and pharmacotherapy. The medicinal plants in this region are very well known and you will see a number of small stands selling a variety of traditional types of medication such as ginseng root, small flasks of snake venom and a number of other types of Chinese medicine. You will get the chance to meet with a local &doctor' and your guide will give you an insight into this ancient Chinese ritual.

The Corridor in the Sky is another fantastic view point that you will pass by on the walk back from the One Step to Heaven scenic spot. This tranquil spot is a perfect place to take part in a spot of self-contemplation, and enjoy a well-deserved picnic lunch which we will have here, depending on the weather.

The west part of the Hunan province is well known for having been, like its neighbouring provinces of Guangdong and Hubei, rife with bandits. This region is home to numerous caves that gave refuge to local criminals, as opposed to other parts of China where they were normally used for religious purposes. We will take you to an old wooden house on the mountain top which belonged to a legendary bandit who made this region his home. Today visitors to the house can dress up in bandit costumes and pose for photographs.

Your day will end on a high point with a trip to the scenic spot at the Tianbo Mansions which are reached by a suspended wooden footbridge. It's from here that you get the strongest impression yet of being on the top of a mountain peak. You will descend from the top by taking the Bailong Panoramic Elevator which offers stunning views over the entire National Park.

You will be transferred back to the town of Zhangjiajie, which is close by to Day 4's last stop.


Day 4 : Zhangjiajie - Tianmenshan - Furonzhen (B)
An early morning rise will be followed by a trip to another major attraction in the region: Heavenly Door Mountain or Tianmenshan which we will ascend by way of cable-car. The mountain is still a part of the Wulingyuan national park but it is of a different type to the scenery we have already seen. Unlike the other mountains, Tianmenshan is not really a peak, but rather a whole collection of karst formations that altogether are much more imposing. The journey up to the top lasts around 20 minutes and the views from the cable-car are spectacular. The surrounding rock formations are truly stunning and the mountain itself is almost like a natural cathedral. The top of the formation is over 1500 metres and dominates the whole of this region.

Afterwards you will take a stroll through Ghost Valley along the well signposted path which includes a section of around 60 metres that has been turned into a glass bottomed walkway! The walk is at the top of an 800 metre sheer drop off the edge of a cliff and you will be provided with a pair of ※special shoes§ which are distributed to visitors, especially those who come in a pair of high heels.

You will spot an endless number of red ribbons tied to the branches of nearby trees on which visitors write famous proverbs, declarations of their undying love and other good luck messages. The belief is that because they are so high up and close to the sky, their messages to the Gods will have a better chance of getting there.

Lunch will be at a vegetarian restaurant inside the recently restored Tianmenshan Temple, which has been a centre for Buddhists in western Hunan since the Ming Dynasty.

Tianmenshan attracts a growing number of visitors who come in search of an adrenaline rush in the form of extreme sports. Famous visitors include the French &Spiderman' Alain Robert, who in 2007 climbed 200 metres up a sheer cliff face, and the American base- jumper Jeb Corliss, who in October 2011 took part in the world's first Wingsuit Championship, jumping from the highest point of 800 metres. More recently, French &Rollerman' Jean-Yves Blondeau took on the endless bends, hurtling down from the top of Tianmenshan at more than 100 km per hour.

In a less exciting but still extreme fashion, Jin Songjie and Chen Kecai (two Chinese men from the North-Easterly Heilongjiang province) beat the world record for standing encased in ice when they stood for 2 hours in transparent boxes outside in the middle of winter. There must be something in the water here in Tianmenshan.

We will then return to Zhangjiajie and from there travel onwards to Furongzhen (the Hibiscus Town), a small town home to the Tujia Minority. This settlement is full of charm, and is a far cry from the more tourist-filled centres frequented by Western travellers.

Today there are around 8 million Tujia people who come mainly from this region (the western part of Hunan) and Hubei province just to the north. You can see here in Furongzhen houses built on stilts alongside a river and next to a mountain which are the main architectural interest of the town, although perhaps better examples can be found in Fenghuang. The Tujia people are particularly fond of dancing and singing, notably the ※Waving Arms Dance§ and a dance called ※Maogusi§.

Although the new town has little of interest, the old town is fascinating. It is built on cliffs and carved in two by beautiful waterfalls which fall into the adjacent river. The main road slowly slopes down towards the little harbour where children bathe in the evening while the older residents wash their clothes in the river. It really provides a true atmosphere of village living!

We will then retire to the hotel for the night.


Day 5 : Furongzhen - Jishou (B)
We have a sporty day ahead of us with rafting in the morning and walking in the afternoon, as such bring hardy shoes. We will set off for Hani Palace (around an hour away from Furongzhen) where the Mengdong river pier can be found. From here we will embark on around 2 hours of rafting over a distance of 17 kilometres, a journey which includes over 150 bends 每 an entirely unnecessary statistic provided by the local authorities, but that could be just a question of perspective! You will navigate on crystal-clear water and pass by several waterfalls and limestone caves where you can make short stops and even go for a swim.

After lunch we will set off for the Zuolong Gorges, located just half an hour from Furongzhen. It is amongst these narrow gorges that you will start your walk, which should take around 2 hours. You will be fully immersed in nature: crystal water, small waterfalls, fresh air, luxurious vegetation and very few people - creating a calming environment. Along a part of the route there will be metal chains for you to hold onto as well as metal steps, wooden boards of tree trunks embedded in the rock. The walk ends in Dazhai village where you will make a stop at a hostel constructed from wood, whose wall is still adorned with a portrait of Chairman Mao surrounded by candles as if he were a God, much like in most houses in Hunan. It very much depends on how you look at it, but it seems as if this symbol that speaks so much of the lasting influence of the old dictator is omnipresent.

You will continue your day with the discovery of the Red Stone Forest, which opened its doors at the end of 2011 and is still almost unknown to the western general public. The site is completely set apart from everything else that there is to see in the region and is a truly original experience. Before the economic importance of this geological park was stressed by the local authorities, the site was often visited by the Tujia people and some of them have now become tour guides, sharing their knowledge of the local area and culture.

The various carbonated rock formations of the region change from a purplish red when the weather is fine to a brownish red when it rains. Millions of years of erosion have given the rocks sometimes shocking evocative shapes which the Tujia, following the example of the Han (the majority ethnic group of China), have renamed according to their myths and popular beliefs. A symbol-hunt is put on for the children, who will have to find, amongst other things the ※Hands together in prayer§, ※Pangu's coffin§ and other uniquely named formations of the site that will be explained to you by your local guide.

Small rivers, lakes and narrow corridors formed by the rocks decorate the route which in addition to being a good introduction to Tujia culture is a pleasant two hour walk through interesting surroundings.

We will leave for Jishou (around 90 minutes away) and spend the night in the ※old town§.


Day 6: Jishou - Dehang - Fenghuang (B)
We will set off in the morning for Dehang, around 40 minutes from Jishou. You will pass close to one of the longest suspension bridges in the world (more than 1.1km/0.7 miles long). This modern infrastructure project has become the pride of the local authorities and has considerably reduced the journey time to the burgeoning Megalopolis of Chongqing.

As we approach Dehang the karst formation hills become ever more imposing as nature catches your attention. Welcome to the land of the Miao, one of the best known minorities in China and South-East Asia. They number around 9 million and are to be found within China in Yunnan, Guizhou and Hunan provinces. They are split into a complicated system of sub-divisions: Red Miao, Black Miao, Hmongs found in Laos and Vietnam who split into White Miao and Green Miao, the Short Skirt Miao, the Long Skirt Miao and so on# The principal characteristic of the Miao is the incredible range and diversity of their clothing, a mixture of batik and silver finery amongst other things, which they also sell in reproduction to the outside world.

Once in Dehang you will find that it is a little labyrinth of paved streets filled with wooden houses and surrounded by giant karst formation hills, and has been such a maze since the main square was redesigned for practical and logistical reasons. The elderly inhabitants wear traditional Miao clothing and the locals still use the wells which are next to old arched bridges. You will follow the train tracks towards one of the highest hills in the area, and begin your walk towards the summit. It takes about an hour to climb the stairs to the top, which at the time seems interminable but does provide spectacular views. Once there we will take a short calming pause to take in the incredible panorama encompassing Dehang and its surrounding karst formation hills.

Once we have come back down, the route will continue alongside a brook snaking along next to paddy fields where the ever welcoming Miao people are going about their business. Retirement being almost non-existent in China, you can see people of advanced years working into their old age, particularly in the countryside, and if you see any individual struggling don't hesitate to offer your help.

You will be rewarded for your efforts (around an hour walk depending on your speed) upon arrival at the Liusha Waterfall. At 216m high, it is considered to be the biggest in China, as are many other waterfalls across the country depending on who you're listening to! The waterfall spectacularly drops into a pool bordered by the majestic karst hills, giving the impression of being inside a natural stadium, but of course without the spectators.

If weather permits you can enjoy a picnic next to the waterfall, a truly enchanting setting, and you can even try a crab skewer, made from the catch which inhabit the river. We will then return to the village and set off for Fenghuang, taking around 2 hours to cover the 80km/50 miles depending on the traffic.

We will spend the night in one of Fenghuang's traditional hostels.


Day 7: Fenghuang (B)
The other main attraction in the region is the town of Fenghuang and the Zhangjiajie national park, inhabited by a mixture of people from the Tujia and Miao minorities whose wooden houses on stilts are alongside the river Tuo. Fenghuang means ※Phoenix town§, and according to legend this name comes from two phoenixes that flew over the region and were so enamoured with its beauty that they decided to stay. Typically canoes idly meander along the river and visitors relax on its banks, while local women do their laundry in its waters and the men even fish. Even though the town is popular with Chinese tourists, there are still some cobbled streets where you can take a walk away from the crowds and see hairdressers conducting their business, smell the overpowering mixture of spices coming from traditional restaurants, taste the famous candied peanuts, cracked beforehand by humongous hammers akin to those found in Japanese manga comics. For the more adventurous amongst the group, there are always the local delicacies of dried pork, or even rat.

Your morning will be dedicated to visiting the city's major sights: the city walls, noticeable for their ochre colour contrasting against the blanket of green surrounding countryside; the North Gate Tower; the famous Rainbow Bridge; the house of Shen Chongwen, a celebrated writer who was influential in 20th century Chinese literature; and the Three Kings Temple which dominates the city and from where the layout of the town can be fully taken in.

Lunch will be followed by a free afternoon to take a stroll around the town, somewhat of a traditional pastime here in Fenghuang. This will also be your final opportunity to shop for gifts or souvenirs in the many small modern and older shops of the town.

In the evening if you have a strong desire to become more au fait with the habits of the younger Chinese generations then you can take in the atmosphere in the bar district, and perhaps even try your hand at karaoke.

The night will be spent in a traditional hostel.


Day 8 : Fenghuang - Zhangjiajie Departure (B)
Journey back to Zhangjiajie airport (around 200km/125 miles away, taking approximately 6 hours depending on traffic).


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