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Hunan Travel Guide - How to Plan a Trip to Hunan

Written by Kelly PangUpdated Jul. 21, 2021

Hunan is a populous inland province in southeast China. Hunan has been planted with hibiscus plants since ancient times, so it is also known as "Furong Country". It covers an area of 211.8 million square kilometers, or 2.2% of China's land area, and ranks 10th in size among China's provinces and regions. The total population of the province is over 68 million.

Its capital and largest city is Changsha. Tourists focus on the natural park areas around Zhangjiajie (Hallelujah Mountain, the Glass Bridge, etc.), Fenghuang Ancient Town is of interest, and the big metropolis of Changsha is easy to reach.

  • Chinese: 湖南 Húnán /hoo-nan/ 'Lake South'
  • Hunanese: Hunanese can't pronounce 'h', so Hunan is "Funan" locally!
  • Hunan population: 64 million
  • Hunan area: 210,000 sq km (80,000 sq mi)

Highlights of Hunan

1. Zhangjiajie with its "Avatar Mountains"

The scenery of Zhangjiajie National Forest ParkThe rock spires of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

If you enjoy awesome geology and national parks, then Zhangjiajie National Forest Park with its tall rock spires reaching up like fingers to the sky is among China's best.

How the thousands of spires were formed is still a mystery. Made of quartzite, the same silicon material as hard, durable Pyrex glass, many are over 200 meters (660 ft) in height.

  • Halleluyah Mountain is most famous internationally, renamed after the movie "Avatar" helped to put Zhangjiajie on the world travel map.
  • The 'Heaven Under First Bridge' rock bridge (Tianxia Diyi Qiao) is the park's next biggest highlight. The arch is 300 m (980 ft) high, one of the tallest natural bridges in the world.
  • The Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge is where you can walk on the world's longest and highest glass-bottomed bridge (430 m (1,400 ft) long, 300 m high), suspended between two mountains in the canyon.

2. Fenghuang Ancient Town

There are numerous ancient towns in Hunan, where you can sightsee, shop, and dine in a traditional setting. Fenghuang Ancient Town about 180 km (110 mi), or 4 hours by road southwest from Zhangjiajie is the best. It is a timeless town hemmed by rolling mountains and watered by the smoothy flowing Tuo River.

Hunan's Ethnic Heritage

Miao womanA Miao woman living near Fenghuang.

Hunan is a multi-ethnic province with several Chinese ethnic minorities.

Shanjiang Miao Village, in a valley near Fenghuang, is the place to encounter Miao architecture, costumes, and customs. You can watch Miao traditional festivals full of singing, music, and dancing;such as the Lusheng Festival. The Miao are 3% of Hunan's population.

In Zhangjiajie, you'll meet the Tujia people, who live in wooden houses on stilts and cry at weddings. They are 4% of Hunan's population.

Hunan History

Hunan Province is also known for its important role in modern Chinese history, because many influential people were born in the province, including Mao Zedong (leader of the People's Republic of China from 1949 to 1976).

Historical Attractions

Hunan Provincial Museum in Changsha provides visitors with a clear knowledge of the profound history of the province with its rich collections, such as the Mawangtui Tomb of the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) and the bronze creations of the preceding Shang and Zhou dynasties.

Yuelu Academy, also in Changsha was one of the first four "universities" in China. You can enjoy seeing it while walking in Yuelu Park.

Chairman Mao's Hometown: Among Chinese, Mao's former residence in Shaoshan is quite famous. The Mao ancestral memorial is there as well, an hour west of Changsha.

Hunan cuisine

Hunan Cuisine

Hunan food is also called Xiang cuisine, one of China's Eight Great Cuisines. It features rich, creamy, moist, and fragrant dishes, combined with a generous use of chili and vinegar. The chili heat is equivalent to that of Sichuan cuisine, without the numbing peppercorn taste. Duck cooked in the Hunan style is a recommended meal for a warm summer night.

Hunan Travel Essentials

Zhangjiajie Misty peaks in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park are more likely to be seen in April and May after rains.

When to Go to Hunan

The midde seasons are generally recommended, as Hunan is hot and wet in summer and cold with some snow in the winter. Fall is drier than spring, with fine autumnal hues in Zhangjiajie's national park.

How to Go to Hunan

Most tourists arrive in Hunan via a bullet train or the medium-sized airports. Changsha is both relatively untouristy and relatively advanced and modern. It is China down to earth. You can use the city's airport and bullet trains to access Hunan's highlights.

Changsha South Station that connects the Beijing–Guangzhou–Shenzhen–Hong Kong High-Speed Railway and the Shanghai–Kunming High-Speed Railway is the major hub station for bullet trains.

For flights, Changsha Huanghua International Airport or Zhangjiajie Hehua International Airport make travel convenient and quick;

Touring Hunan with China Highlights

Touring Zhangjiajie with China HighlightsIt is easier to enjoy Zhangjiajie with China Highlights.

We are one of China's main private, customized tour companies. We can adapt the itinerary of your trip as you wish. To help you enjoy Hunan we have prepared these suggested itineraries.

Contact us directly for a private customized tour of Hunan.

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