Stone footpath in Wulingyuan Scenic and Historiy Interest Area

Gloomy forests and divine mountains


It is foggy and it rains occasionally. I wander through dense forest. On the left and right immense sandstone pillars reaching to the clouds. I can make up some peaks, but most times a dense veil of cloud blocks the view. It looks gloomy, but atmospheric. I could be in an exciting scene of a Grimm fairy tale. But no wolf emerges from the thicket, and no old woman wants me any harm. I am in the west of the Chinese province of Hunan. The place has already inspired the creators of the animation film Avatar.

The national park Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area is located near the village of Zhangjiajie and has experienced a huge boom in tourism. The park, however, has been developed to the smallest detail. Shuttle buses drive visitors to the starting points for their hikes. Visitor will be able to admire the untouched nature only from cobbled paths. It is not allowed to leave the roads. In addition, the inclined visitor can also avoid the steps to the top by cableways or elevators. I have decided for the arduous ascent. Thousands of steps led me to the summit. It was challenging and sweaty. And what awaited me on top of the summit? A beautiful view and McDonalds.


Together with the Tianmen Mountain, the region has an unforgettable nature. The mountain reaches an altitude of 1518m and has a huge plateau instead of a single outstanding peak. The huge cave can be seen from town. It was the origin for the heavenly culture and inspiration for many stories. The plateau houses as well a temple from the Ming Dynasty, which sometimes is called “the Temple of Heaven”. Several paths surround the cliff. Glass-bottom walks offer an unobstructed view into the depths. I am witness of several funny scenes on this walkway, as many visitors are scared. They never let go of the railing or press themselves close to the mountain wall. Fear is written in big letters on their forehead. I drive up the mountain by cable car and escape the noise of several Chinese travel groups quickly. The mountain as a network of trails, which I am not allowed to leave. I am fascinated by the construction work that gave this mountain this new face and asked myself how it looked like in times of the Ming Dynasty. How did people climb the mountain in former times? I can find no signs of old trails. Nowadays, escalators built into the mountain, cableways and winding roads offer a comfortable ascent for everyone. As I walk through ancient forests, I encounter workers with heavy material loads on their shoulders. The development is not over yet. Investors are pushing ahead with further expansion.