Lose yourself in the natural wonderland of Southern China’s Zhangjiajie, a vast area of lush parks and landscapes filled with fresh air and awe-inspiring scenery.



This tailor-made tour to Hunan Province in Southern China is a treat for nature lovers and florophiles alike and immerses you in the spectacular natural scenery and spellbinding landscape vistas of Wulingyuan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with spectacular national parks.

Ideal for active travelers, the tour also includes a day of adventurous activity with the opportunity to kayak around the Mendong River, ending at the Liusha Waterfall where you can sample freshly caught crab from the rock pools all around.

The awe-inspiring tour also takes you on a two-hour trek around some of the famous trails and tracks of Hunan, such as the Zuolong Gorge and around the ’Son of Heaven Mountain’, also known as Tianzishan to locals, as well as spending considerable time in the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, reputed to have been the inspiration for the fantasy world Pandora in the 2009 movie Avatar.

The province is also home to the H’mong people, iconic and easily recognized from their colorful and fascinating attire, and you will have ample opportunity to observe and interact with these fascinating people during your time in Fenghuang and the small village of Dehang.

Each of our itineraries can be tailored to your requirements, allowing us to create the perfect holiday just for you. Contact us with your holiday ideas, no matter how big or small, and our destination based teams will start planning a unique and personalized trip.

The Backyard Travel Team,


Visit the breathtaking karst mountain formations of Wulingyuan National Park
Observe the indigenous H’mong hill tribes as they go about their daily lives
Take a rafting adventure along the Mendong River, stopping to swim under one of the many waterfalls or in one of the limestone caves
Sample fresh crab caught in the pool under the spectacular Liusha Waterfall

Daily Itinerary

Daily Itinerary

  • Start
  • Day 1: Zhangjiajie

    Welcome to China’s middle kingdom and the birthplace of Chairman Mao! Upon arrival at Zhangiajie airport you will be met by your local guide and transferred to your hotel. As your arrival time may vary, your first day is free to enjoy at your leisure around Zhangjiajie. Located in the Northwest of Hunan province in Southern China, Zhangjiajie actually translates to ‘Zhang family homeland’. Zhang is a common name in China, but the name is historically linked to Zhang Liang, a Han general and one of the Three Heroes of the early Han Dynasty, who made the area a home for his family.

    Located within Wulingyuan District, the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is recognized as China’s first national forest park, covering 11,900 acres and is now famously known as the inspiration for James Cameron’s award-winning movie Avatar. The park is one of the most stunning natural beauty spots in all of China and is a real life natural history museum.

    After you arrive at your hotel you’ll have the opportunity to explore the local neighborhood which has been authentically renovated in a traditional style. There are plenty of delightful local restaurants to visit - be sure to ask your guide for a top recommendation!

  • Day 2: Zhangjiajie

    Day two begins with an early rise and breakfast before being transferred to the main entrance of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, a ride which will take approximately 40 minutes. Your day in the park will start with a visit to the Yellow Stone Village, which is 1,048 meters above sea level. The village is the perfect viewpoint from which to gaze over the natural treasures of Zhangjiajie, such as the ‘Needle Peak’, ‘Southern Gate to Heaven’, ‘Precious Box’ and the famous ‘Five Fingers Peak’.

    As you would expect, as beautiful as this area is, it has become a popular destination to visit. A vast landscape however, it is no problem to find areas of the park which are hidden away from other groups to enjoy the spectacular scenery in peace and your well-informed guide will ensure you have a genuine experience away from the throngs of visitors.

    The Zhangjiajie National Forest Park contains the largest concentration of karst rock formations in the world. The peaks shoot up from the thick vegetation which covers approximately 90% of the park, while waterfalls and limestone caves dot the picturesque wonderland.

    Depending on the time of year and season you visit, you may be lucky enough to see clouds engulf the peaks, creating the illusion that the tips of the karsts are floating on air. Or, if you travel in winter, you might even see a dusting of snow on the peaks, adding to the charm and beauty of the natural wonder.

    Floraphiles will be in their element in the park, which has several thousand different species of plant to discover, including the extremely rare ‘Lobster Flower’ which grow in humid and shady places and are known to change color several times a day.

    Lunch will be taken in a restaurant which serves a number of local specialties near the main entrance of the park. Hunan cuisine is one of the eight main varieties of the diverse foods of China and chili is often the base of most dishes in this cuisine. So if you’re not a fan of spicy food, make sure that you tell your guide in advance!Now with a full and happy stomach, your day will continue with a stroll along the Golden Whip Stream, giving you another angle from which to absorb the sight of the astonishing karst summits. The peaks have been given a number of different poetic Chinese names, including the ‘Magical Eagle Protecting the Whip’, which is the tallest of the karsts.

    With stream water babbling alongside you, and pure air filling your lungs as you meander your way around the vast expanse of lush, green land, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is a real treat for those who’ve recently visited one of China’s megacities.

    As well as stunning natural landscapes, the park’s extensive forestation also offers habitat to an abundance of wildlife, and you may be lucky enough to spot a Musk Deer, a bear, an endangered Golden Pheasant or a pangolin (a mammal similar to an anteater), which inhabit thenational park.

    Your entire walk in the park will last around two hours, after which you’ll come to rest at the Suoxi Valley Nature Reserve. From there, you will be able to either take a quick ride on an electric tram, or go on foot along the Ten Mile Gallery, a scenic pathway along the river that’s flanked by karst formations.

    After visiting the gallery, you will then head back to the city of Zhangjiajie, where you will spend the night.

  • Day 3: Zhangjiajie

    After taking breakfast at the hotel, and having donned a pair of sturdy shoes (today involves some light trekking and decent footwear is essential), you will head for one of the most famous attractions in the park ‘The Son of Heaven Mountain’ (Tianzishan). Upon arrival at the vast parkland, you’ll take the scenic ride to the top of the mountain by cable-car and absorb the spectacular vista as you ascend the 1,262m alp. Once at the top, you will be able to enjoy views of Warrior Taming Horse Rock and the Western Sea, which are said to be two of the most stunning mountain formations in China.

    After visiting the Son of Heaven Mountain your expert guide will lead you to a more secluded spot, down a relatively unknown trail to the viewing point known as ‘One Step to Heaven’. The name is slightly misleading, though the step part is somewhat correct - there is indeed a staircase, but instead of taking you to heaven it instead leads to a viewing platform with a divine view. From here you can admire 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains, a truly unforgettable moment. Please note: the viewing platform isn’t recommended for those who suffer from vertigo.

    Once you’ve fully absorbed the splendor and majesty of the natural rock formations all around, you’ll then move on to ‘The Corridor in the Sky’ viewpoint. Along the way you will pass a number of small market stalls selling a variety of traditional medicines such as ginseng root and small flasks of snake venom. You’ll also have the chance to meet with a local ‘doctor’ and your guide will give you an insight into the ancient art of Chinese medicine, which utilizes many of the medicinal plants in the region.‘The Corridor in the Sky’ is another fantastic view point and an extremely tranquil spot. This is the perfect place to take part in a spot of self-contemplation or even meditation, and savor a well-deserved picnic lunch as you take in every last fluttering leaf, twittering bird and majestic rock (weather permitting).

    The western part of the Hunan province is historically notorious for having been, like the neighboring provinces of Guangdong and Hubei, rife with bandits. Whereas in other parts of China caves were usually used for religious purposes, this region is home to numerous caverns that gave refuge to many infamous gangs.

    Satiated by your scenic picnic, your guide will take you to an old wooden house on the mountain top which belonged to a legendary outlaw who made this region his home. The house is now a museum of sorts, where you can dress up in bandit costumes and pose playfully for photographs.

    Your day will end on a literal high with a trip to a scenic spot at the Tianbo Mansions which can be reached by crossing a suspended wooden footbridge. This viewpoint provides the feeling of being on the top of the world. Although it’s possible to return to the main entrance on foot, the journey is time-consuming, so you will descend from the peak by taking the Bailong Panoramic Elevator which again provides stunning views over the entire National Park.

    You will then be transferred back to your hotel in Zhangjiajie, where you’ll get some well-earned rest. If you’d like to visit a local restaurant, feel free to ask your guide who’ll be glad to give you the details of a nearby eatery.

  • Day 4: Zhangjiajie - Tianmenshan - Furonzhen

    Day four will begin with an early morning rise and breakfast, followed by a trip to another major attraction in the region: ‘Heavenly Door Mountain’, also known as Tianmenshan by locals, which you will ascend by cable-car. The mountain is a part of the Wulingyuan National Park, but its scenery is different that you will have seen over the past few days

    Unlike the other mounts, Tianmenshan is a not a mountain per se, but rather a whole collection of karst formations, that combined together are a truly spectacular sight. The journey up to the top lasts around 20 minutes and the views from the cable-car are nothing short of outstanding. The rock formations all around are stunning and the mountain itself is akin to a natural cathedral. The top of the formation is more than 1,500m above sea level and dominates the entire region.

    After the cable-car ride, you will take a stroll through the intriguingly named ‘Ghost Valley’, along a safe and secure path which includes a 60-meter section that has been turned into a glass-bottomed walkway. The walkway is at the top of an 800-meter sheer drop, positioned on the edge of a cliff. While on the walkway, you will be provided with a pair of special shoes which are distributed to visitors to protect the glass from being marked.

    Throughout your time atop the Heavenly Door Mountain, you will spot an endless number of red ribbons tied to the branches of nearby trees on which visitors write anything from good luck messages, to their prayers or declarations of their undying love. Many believe that because the trees are so close to the the heavens, their messages to the gods will have a better chance being seen.

    Around midday you will be treated to lunch at a vegetarian restaurant inside the recently restored Tianmenshan Temple. The temple has been a spiritual pilgrimage site for Buddhists in Western Hunan since the days of the Ming Dynasty.

    In recent years, Tianmenshan has begun attracting a growing number of extreme thrill-seeking visitors, who come in search of the ultimate adrenaline rush. In 2007, the French ‘Spiderman’ Alain Robert climbed 200 meters up a sheer cliff face, and then in 2011, American base-jumper Jeb Corliss jumped from an 800 meter-high platform.

    After visiting Tianmenshan you will then return to Zhangjiajie before travelling onwards to Furongzhen (also known as ‘Hibiscus Town’), a small town which is home to the Tujia hill tribe. This settlement is full of charm, and is a far cry from the bustling cities of China.

    Approximately eight million Tujia people hail from Western Hunan and the Hubei Province just to the north. In Furongzhen you can see many houses built on stilts alongside a river and next to a mountain, and are the main architectural interests of the town.

    Although the new town development contains little of interest, the old town is thoroughly fascinating. Built on the sides of the cliff and flanked by beautiful waterfall which tumbles into the adjacent river, the town is a delightful sight any time of year. The main road away from the village winds down towards the harbor where children bathe in the evening while older residents wash their clothes in the river. The village truly provides a unique taste of local life!You will then retire to the hotel for the night, to get plenty of rest in preparation for tomorrow’s activities.

  • Day 5: Furonzhen - Jishou

    There’s plenty of activity in store today, with rafting in the morning and some light trekking (which will require sturdy shoes) in the afternoon. After a hearty breakfast you will set off for Hani Palace, which is a one-hour drive from Furongzhen, where the Mengdong River pier can be found.

    This will be your launch point for your two-hour rafting adventure over a distance of 17 kilometers - a journey which takes you around 150 bends and curves. Along the way, you’ll drift along crystal-clear water and pass several waterfalls and limestone caves, where you can make short stops for photos and in summer you might even be tempted to go for a swim!After lunch at a local restaurant you will set off for the Zuolong Gorges, located just half an hour’s drive from Furongzhen. Your two-hour adventure walk will begin amongst the narrow gorges and limestone crags that make up the scenic path that runs along a freshwater river. Along your way you will feel the essence of nature with every step as you come across small waterfalls, inhale the fresh air, and are at one with the luscious vegetation, combining to create a soothing and peaceful environment.

    Along sections of the route there are metal chains to steady yourself as well as metal steps and wooden boards embedded in the rock to step on. The walk comes to an end in Dazhai Village, where you will make a stop at a house constructed entirely from wood, whose wall is still adorned with a portrait of Chairman Mao surrounded by candles, much like you would find in many of the houses in Hunan.

    From Dazai, you will then set off to discover the Red Stone Forest, which opened for the public at the end of 2011, and remains largely off the radar of foreign visitors. A 20-square-km area, the scenic site is located far from everything else in the region, giving you the feel of being totally immersed in nature. Before the park was opened to the public by the local authorities, the forest was often visited by the Tujia people, some of whom have now become expert tour guides, sharing their knowledge of the local area and culture with visitors.

    The various rock formations of the region are renowned for changing from a purplish-red color 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 people have renamed over time according to their myths and beliefs. Your guide will provide you with the challenge of identifying some of the formations throughout your visit, such as the ‘Hands Together in Prayer’, ‘Pangu’s Coffin’ and other uniquely named formations of the site - a fun activity for both young and old!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’ drive) and spend the night in the ‘old town’. In the evening you will be free to wander around the town at your leisure, discovering the nooks and crannies of this fascinating place and intriguing culture.

  • Day 6: Jishou - Dehang - Fenghuang

    Day six begins with breakfast, before setting off for Dehang, which lies approximately a 40-minute drive from Jishou. Your route to Dehang will take you past one of the longest suspension bridges in the world, the Aizhai Bridge (more than 1.1km long). This modern infrastructure project has become the pride of the local authorities and has considerably reduced the journey time to the flourishing Chongqing Municipality to Changsha from four hours to less than one.

    Welcome to the land of the H’mong, one of the largest hill tribes in China and Southeast Asia. The H’mong are thought to now number approximately nine million in China alone, and can be found in the Yunnan, Guizhou and Hunan Provinces. One principal characteristic of the H’mong which makes them easily identifiable is the incredible range and diversity of their clothing, which is a mixture of batik and silver finery.

    Dehang is a labyrinth of paved streets filled with wooden houses, surrounded by giant karsts. It’s very common to see local people wearing traditional H’mong clothing around the village, and the locals still utilize the wells next to the old arched bridges for their everyday needs.

    While in Dehang you will have the opportunity to walk to the summit of one of the highest hills in the area, which takes about an hour to climb, and provides spectacular views. Well worth the ascent, once you arrive at the summit you’ll enjoy a pause to soak in the incredible panorama of the region around Dehang and its surrounding karst formations.

    After descending from the peak, your route will take you alongside a babbling brook that weaves around nearby paddy fields where the convivial H’mong people go about their daily chores. The philosophy of ‘retirement’ being almost non-existent in China, and especially in the rural areas it’s possible to see people of advanced years working into their old age.

    Your hour-long walk will lead you to the spectacular Liusha Waterfall. At 216 meters high, it is considered by many to be the biggest in China and spectacularly crashes into a pool bordered by the majestic karst hills, giving an amphitheater effect, with the waterfall center stage.

    You’ll then have the chance to marvel at the enchanting natural wonder as you enjoy a delightful picnic (weather permitting). You can even try a crab skewer, made from the delicious crustaceans that inhabit the river. Satisfied and with a full stomach, you’ll then return to the village and set off for Fenghuang by car, which will take around two hours to reach (depending on traffic), where you will spend the night in a traditional guesthouse.

  • Day 7: Fenghuang

    On the penultimate day of your tour you’ll begin with a hearty breakfast, followed by a tour around Fenghuang. The town is an attraction in itself and is inhabited by a mixture of people from the Tujia and H’mong hill tribes, some of whom reside in wooden houses on stilts erected alongside the Tuo River.

    Fenghuang is also known as ‘Phoenix Town’ as, according to legend, two phoenixes flew over the region, that were so enamored with Fenghuang’s beauty that they decided to stay and make the town their home. The Tuo River provides sustenance for the town as well as a place to do laundry and it’s common to see men fishing while local women do their laundry along the riverbanks. Fenghuang is flush with cobbled streets to explore and stroll around. Take a walk away from the beaten path and soak up the real life of the quaint town as you smell the overpowering waft of spices drifting from restaurants, taste the famous candied peanuts, cracked by oversized hammers akin to those found in Japanese Manga comics, or sample the local delicacy of dried pork.

    Your morning will be dedicated to visiting the city’s major sights: the city’s ochre-colored walls; the North Gate Tower; the Rainbow Bridge; and the Three Kings Temple, which looms over the city, and its panoramic views from where the layout of the town can be fully understood.

    In the afternoon you’ll be free to stroll around the town at your own leisure, somewhat of a traditional pastime here in Fenghuang, or plant yourself down somewhere and people watch the day away. This will also be your last opportunity to shop for gifts or souvenirs in the small shops that dot the town.

    On your final evening, you can take in the atmosphere in the bar district, and perhaps even try your hand at one of China’s favorite past-times - karaoke, or ask your guide for their recommendation of a delicious restaurant at which to eat and reflect back on what was an amazing adventure to the miraculous natural wonderland of Hunan Province.

    The night will be spent in a traditional guesthouse.

  • Day 8: Fenghuang - Zhangjiajie

    After breakfast at the guesthouse, you’ll take a chauffeur-driven 220km ride to Zhangjaijie Airport to catch an onward flight. The drive time is approximately six hours, depending on traffic.

All of our Tours can be Tailored, Just Ask!

Tour Details

All of our itineraries can be tailored to your requirements, allowing us to create the perfect holiday just for you. Contact us with your holiday ideas, no matter how big or small, and we’ll start planning your unique personalized trip!

Tour prices are a guideline only, and are based on two persons travelling together, sharing a double or twin room in luxury accommodation. Each tour price and can be adjusted depending on budget, activities included and standard of accommodation desired.

Tour and airfare prices include all applicable taxes and are subject to change without prior notice until services are booked.

You, your holiday and booking direct: Backyard Travel are on the ground year-round in Asia, which means you are booking direct with a local travel company, allowing you to save on the cost of your holiday. Our tailor-made tours are designed by local Travel Specialists who investigate every aspect of the trip themselves, giving you a unique view of each destination.

 Included in this Backyard Travel tour:

Accommodation with daily breakfast at selected hotels
Private tours, transfers and all services as mentioned in the itinerary
Services of a private driver and air-conditioned vehicles
Service of English speaking guides in every location
Entrance fees for all mentioned sights visited
Meals as mentioned in the itinerary

 Not included in this Backyard Travel tour:

Domestic and international flights
Departure taxes if applicable
Meals other than those mentioned in the itinerary
Early check-in and late check-out at hotels
Personal expenses (such as laundry, telephone, drinks, etc.)
Tips for guides and drivers
Personal travel insurance
Visa fees (contact us for further information)

Why Backyard Travel?

Our experienced travel specialists possess years of local insider knowledge, because they live here.
We have offices in all of our destinations in asia, fully staffed and open all year-round.
With backyard travel you are booking direct, allowing you to save and benefit local residents.

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With in-country travel specialists based all over the continent, our advantage lies in having local expertise to create unique bespoke tours. Whether you're looking to cruise down Asia's tranquil rivers, bike the peaceful rural roads, or eat at bustling night markets, Backyard Travel can plan your ideal trip based on your personal preferences. Send us a message about your ideas, and we'll get back to you promptly with suggestions for the path you choose.



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