Our tour started to get exciting and adventurous from Day 3, with Tianmen Mountain National Park (天门山国家森林公园) as the first attraction to visit upon arrival at Zhangjiajie (张家界), a whole-morning drive from Fenghuang County.
The highlights of this attraction included:
- Taking a cable car ride to the mountain which takes about 30 minutes, 7km up to an ascent of 1,279m. It is the longest mountain cableway in the world, constructed by a French company, spanning 7,455m from the city center of Zhangjiajie to the ‘Hanging Garden’ on the peak. The 30 minute ride was quite smooth and comfortable, if not for the ear block I experienced as we progressed to higher altitude. Pardon my blurry photos as it was raining cats and dogs that day!
- Challenging ourselves on the Glass Sky Walk (天门山悬空廊-玻璃栈道) – a 60m cliff-hanging walkway at an altitude of 1,430m. Sad to say, or maybe happy to say, depending on how you view it, the Glass Sky Walk was closed that day due to bad rainy weather for safety reasons. One of my elderly tour mates was delighted to hear that it was closed because to be walking on clear glass floor at such a great height was daunting for him. In fact when I saw the photos by other bloggers I was pretty scared and wondered if I had the courage to complete the 60m walk too. But when I was there and caught a glimpse of the walkway it looked really exciting so I was eager to try too. Too bad!
- We took a short hike from the Glass Sky Walk to board an eco-bus near Villa Li Na (李娜别墅) that brought us up to the foot of Tianmen Cave through the 99 Bends. The last highlight here was climbing up 999 steep and narrow steps to Tianmen Cave (天门) – the door-alike cave is a large (30m wide) water-eroded hole between two peaks, like a huge doorway in the cliff face.
The Chinese believed that this cave is a door that links the common world with heaven, hence the Chinese name 天门 meaning “Heavenly Gate”. The steep and narrow steps up to the cave are termed as 天梯 in Chinese, meaning “Heavenly Stairs”. In Chinese culture “999” means “eternal life”, so it is a good sign if you are able to climb up the “Heavenly Stairs” successfully to the “Heavenly Gate”? 😉 Well, I can tell you I did not manage to get to the link to heaven, given my weak stamina. 😛
Despite the rainy weather, it was an enjoyable 3 hours at Tianmen Mountain National Park. Even on the return cable car ride back to the city, it was lovely with the beautiful scenery.
Do note that this national park, 8km south of the Zhangjiajie city is not part of the UNESCO-recognized strangely eroded block-and-obelisk landscapes of Wulingyuan Scenic Area, located north of the city of Zhangjiajie. The landscape here is of limestone formations while the latter is formed from sandstone. Regardless, this national park was really stunning in my eyes and I was glad to have witnessed the fabulous 云海 on the mountain. 🙂