Hunan Province's

WULINGYUAN AREA

Global Mark : 13.19

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
4 5 1 2 3 2 4 2

3

11.56

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend Range AVER.
6 100%  (6) 100%  (6) 100%  (6) 10 to 18 14.83


Description :
A mixture of Yangshuo's karsts formations and Kunming's Stone Forest with more than 3,000 narrow sandstone pillars and peaks stretching over 26,000 hectares. 

Comments : Arguably one of the most beautiful area of China, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1992, Wulingyuan is somehow spoiled by the mass tourism that take place everyday but is particularly oppressive during WE.

What to do : Leave your bag at an hotel  (the Cun Lou Binguan charge 5Y a day) and trek the area / Have your photo taken in colorful minorities costumes / Play the stubborn foreigners to avoid paying some extra fees / Join a tour to visit the largest cave in Asia (60Y entrance fee) / Test your luck with the weather /

What you may not like : The entrance fee (60Y + an optional 2Y insurance), only valid for one entry / Other extra fees in a few places / The insistence of the local guides or other singing kids to annoy you on your way / Karaoke where you would expect bird's songs / Sweating too much on the stairs / The traffic jams with the numerous porters / The expensive food at the top (5Y noodle soup, 4Y water) / Having to join a tour to visit the cave / Seeing nothing from the top due to the fogs that hide the peaks most of the time (the best season to visit is autumn) / The humidity during summer /

How long ?  This extensive place would require a minimum of 3/4 days to tour it all. This might not be necessary as you can already make some amazing walks in one day.  An overnight stay inside the park would however be the best way to fully appreciate the sights and will multiply your chances of a weather clear up...

Backpacker's Tips :   Tania Wang, Australia (May 04)
« The entry fee to the National Park is now 160 yuan and the ticket is valid for two days. There are free buses within the park to take you some of the way between the viewing points (although quite a bit of hiking is still needed as road access doesn't cover the whole park). »

Backpacker's Tips : Dom Edmondson, UK (August 03)
« The entrance fee is now Y110 (based on my visit in late July 2002)! the cunning trick of going "through the back door" as detailed in the Lonely Planet cannot be done- I've tried it and it's too steep and overgrown. You'd need climbing equipment or a large machete to do it! What you can do is to visit in good weather (like we did- it was dry in July although officially wet season, and the views were fantastic) and get to the park entrance beyond the village before 6am, drop down onto the river bed, which should be dry, and walk along it past the guardhouse/ticket office for a safe distance and then rejoin the road. Easy.
We slept in our sleeping bags under the stars for two nights cos the weather was good. Make sure you do this vaguely near civilization and bring plenty of water and energy food, such as biscuits. We saw Huangshi Zhai on our first day, Tianzi Shan on the second and did the descent from tianzi shan to the reservoir on the third. The prices are annoying but avoid paying the extra fee for rafting on the lake unless you're really keen, and you'll be able to do it on a shoestring.
» 


How to do it ?
 

Below is a suggested itineraries to see the whole area in a limited time. The tame rafting at Baofen Lake (60Y entrance fee + around 80Y boat fee) was not recommended as worth the price...

First day : If you leave early in the morning, walk to Huangshi Village (2-3 hours). Back at the "crossroads", take the east road to "Over Bridge" (2-3 hours), visit the place (3Y) and then walk to Black Dragon Village and back (less than 2 hours). Spend the night in "Over the Bridge" Village.

Second Day : Take a car to Tianzi Peak (20Y per person) and visit the place (2-3 hours). Take  a car to Helong Park (10Y), visit the place (10Y) and then walk down (2 hours) or take the cable car (37Y). From the bottom, take a car to Shuirao Simen (Y80 per vehicle) or walk 3 hours (not so nice). From there, walk back to the entrance in a around 2 hours nice walk.

Remark : The above (second day) is based on infos provided by locals. Considering the necessity to take cars for some long or boring parts, the foggy weather and/or the beautiful scenery already seen, most travelers choose to go down the same way and then walk a bit along the river toward east.


A few treks...

To Huangshi Village : 2-3 hours round trip, clockwise  (slightly more easy on your lungs, especially with the cable car up for 45Y) or anti-clockwise (slightly kinder for your knees)

A strenuous walk up stairs that should not be your priority during foggy days. At the top, karaoke welcome you, as well as a ticket office to get access to a "viewing" platform. The "village" does not look like one and accommodations are expensive at around 300Y before negotiation. The west road leading to the cable car is however a nice and easy walk with a few acceptable places to stay.

To "Over Bridge" (Tian Xia Di Yi Qiao) : 2-3 hours up, east road

The first part is fairly easy and beautiful as it follows the river and is usually located below the fog. After (take the left stairs), it all depends on the weather and your legs. If you are reasonably fit and lucky, you will find at the top an amazing panorama of karsts peaks as well as a few reasonably priced accommodations. The "over bridge" is not to be missed, even at an additional 3Y...

 << Discover the fog of Wulingyuan...


Where to stay ?  

Prices varies according to the season, the day of the week (avoid WE) and the location :

  • Expensive  : Huangshi Village / Helong Park / Suoxiyu Town

  • Affordable : Zhangjiajie Village / Park base / Over the bridge / Tianzi Peak

Zhangjiajie village : outside but more choice and somehow better rooms

  • Cui Lou Bing Guan (5712185), the last hotel on the left before the gate (but another one was in construction) / Nice & comfortable Dbl with good attached bath 240 but maybe off to 100 ! / HW 19:30 to 21:30 / Bag service for 5Y per day (free to guests) /Go there for the best deal in town after negotiation, the nice view from the terrace, the relative quietness

  • Yin Yuan Shan Zhuang (571 2088), opposite the Zhangjiajie Hotel (smelly Dbl with bath 120 or 150) / Dorm with shower 30 (2,3 or 4) / Dbl with shower 200 but maybe down to 100 / HW 24 hrs /Go there for the cheapest bed with attached bathroom, the clean rooms / What you may not like : the basic furniture, the size of the rooms

  • Qing Yan Shan (5712 248), on the right after the Xiangdian Mountain Inn (Dbl 300Y) / Dbl with tiny bathroom 200 but maybe down to 100 / HW 24 hrs if enough people, in bucket otherwise /Go there for the correct rooms, the "silence" sign on the wall, the relative isolation from the crowd

  • Xiang Fan Tie Lu Liao Yang Yuan (0744 5712 236), on the left after the previous one, "Tielu" logo on the wall / Dorm without bath 20(4) / Dbl with shower 120 / Bad toilets / Acceptable shower / HW 19:30 to 23 /Go there for the cheapest bed in town, the acceptable cleanliness, the correct rooms

Park Base : conveniently inside...

  • The first guesthouse on the left offers bed in smelly Dbl with basic bathroom for 50.

  •  Zhang Jia Jie Shan Zhuang (5712078), 10mn walk west toward the cable car, a bit off the road inside the bamboo forest, / Basic dorm without bath 30(3) / Not so nice Dbl with bath 280 / HW evening

At "Over Bridge" : Below places have HW in the evening only

  • Tao Yun (0744 5712279), a "luxury" place that cater for the package tourists and offer comfortable rooms with some great views (ask to see the Sgl with balcony) / All the rooms are overpriced at more than 400Y but we managed to stay in a Dbl with tiny bathroom for 100Y... So test your negotiation skills...

  • Heping Fandian (5712 546), opposite the above / Bed in smelly Dbl with or without dirty bathroom 50 or 25

  • Longdian JiuLou, the first white house in the "second part" of the village / Bed in clean Trpl with bathroom Y20

  • Jia Bing Lou (5712 594), the white house before the "fancy" restaurant in the "third part" of the village / Bed in small apartment composed of two Dbl, a living room and a bathroom 40Y / A good place to stay in you are with friends but noisy otherwise...

  • Si Zhou Jiu Lou (5712 627), 5mn walk from the bridge and the noisy part of the village / Clean Dbl with tiny bathroom 80Y / Some view from the rooms upstairs

 
Cuilou Guesthouse cuilou binguan

Yinyuan Mountain Villa

yinyuan shanzhuang

Qingyanshan Guesthouse

qingyanshan binguan

Xiangfan Railway Sanatorium

xiangfan tielu liaoyangyuan

Zhangjiajie Mountain Villa

zhangjiajie shanzhuang

Peace Hotel

heping fandian

Jia bing lou Guesthouse

jia bing lou


Bus Schedules : From Zhangjiajie City       

To Price Type Duration Time Nb Freq.
Changsha 50/84 ordi/sleep 8 7/17,18 1/2 na
Village 5 ordi 1 6 to 18 a lot 40mn

Trains  << Click there


The trip to Sanjiang (Chengyang) :
 
Train No 473 at 22:47 / N & SSSSS / Y32 seat + 44Y upgrade to sleeper (incl. 10Y service charge) / 10 hrs

From the village, the last bus to the city (bus station) is leaving at 18pm. From Jiefang Lu, the last public bus to the train station leaves at 18:30. After, you will have to rely on less regular minibus (2Y).

We were not sure whether to go to Kaili in Guizhou Province or straight to Guangxi so we bought our ticket a few hours before departure only. No sleeper of course but we were told we could upgrade the ticket once in the train. It proved indeed possible, but only from 2am. Before that, we were offered to wait in the restaurant wagon, a much more comfortable alternative to the crowded hard seat wagons... People who wake up early (or did not get sleepers) will be able to catch beautiful rice terraces and minorities villages' scenery between the numerous tunnels...

Update (Jan 01) : the train No1473 is now leaving at 8:24am and arrive in Sanjiang at 17:46. This remains the only alternative to reach Sanjiang by train. A good news from the scenery point of view... See trains schedules for more details.

See also trip from Changsha to Wulingyuan...