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How to Plan a Beijing and Zhangjiajie Tour 2024

Written by CarperUpdated May. 20, 2024

Beijing, as China's number one international hub, is most often the first stop on a China tour. It boasts rich historical and cultural heritages along with the cream of traditional Chinese cuisine.

Zhangjiajie is famous for its natural wonders and stunning scenery. Numerous visitors pay this provincial destination a visit to see its strange and breathtakingly beautiful rock formations, which played their part in inspiring Avatar's Pandora.

If you are seeking to experience both historical sites and natural beauty, look no further than a tour that includes both Beijing and Zhangjiajie.

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1. How to Get from Beijing to Zhangjiajie

Travel between Beijing and Zhangjiajie

Zhangjiajie is located about 1,500 kilometers (900 miles) from Beijing in Hunan province in south central China. Traveling by plane is the most convenient and quickest form of transportation between the two cities.

By airplane (recommended): There are daily direct flights from Beijing to Zhangjiajie, taking about 3 hours. Since flights are generally scheduled in the evening, you could make the most of a full day in Beijing before heading out to Zhangjiajie.

By train: Direct trains travel between Beijing and Zhangjiajie, normally taking about 11 hours.

Insider tips: If you can't take a direct flight to Zhangjiajie from Beijing, consider flying to Changsha first, as this could save you considerable time and hassle. Changsha is the capital city of Hunan province and the flight takes approximately 3 hours. Afterward, take a high-speed train (about 2–3 hours) to Zhangjiajie.

2. How Many Days to Spend in Beijing and Zhangjiajie

For first-time visitors, we recommend spending at least 3 days in Beijing to visit the key attractions, such as the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and Tiananmen Square.

  • You should not miss out on the Great Wall during your first visit to China. The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall could be visited by cable cars and has a flatter profile, making it best for families with children. The Jinshanling section of the Great Wall is less visited but has stunning scenery, which would be suitable for couples having romantic moments.
  • The Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and Tiananmen Square are all located in urban areas, which could be leisurely visited in one day.
  • If you are interested in ancient architecture or traditional cuisine, spend more days in Beijing to visit the Summer Palace, Shicha Lake Park, and Jingshan Park, or take a food tour in the hutongs.

Regarding Zhangjiajie, you should stay for 3–5 days to fully appreciate its highlights, including Zhangjiajie National Forest Park (home to Avatar Hallelujah Mountain), Tianmen Mountain, and Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon with its glass bridge.

  • Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is quite large at about 48 square km (19 square miles) and needs at least one full day to appreciate its essence. Spending 3 days there to fully appreciate its beauty is highly recommended.
  • Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon has the world's tallest and longest glass bridge, and it needs 1 day to be enjoyed leisurely. Signing up to do the world's highest bungee jump or zipline is also an amazing opportunity.
  • You would need 1 day to visit Tianmen Mountain too. It is a must-see as it reaches a sheer 1,500 meters (5,000 feet) in height on one side with glass skywalks, and you could walk up the 999 steps forming its 'stairway to heaven' (the ascent to 'Heaven's Gate' could also be done by escalator).
  • Enhance your trip by visiting a local tea garden in Wulingyuan, a charming town adjacent to the national park. Taking a biking tour would be perfect for active travelers.

Insider tips: We suggest spending one day each visiting Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon and Tianmen Mountain since there are often long queues to enter and it takes hours to fully appreciate them. Save Tianmen Mountain for your departure day because you could reach both a train station and an airport within an hour from the base of the mountain.

If you have more days to spare, you could continue your adventure easily from Zhangjiajie to Chengdu to try a spicy hot pot and see giant pandas, to Dali for the serene Erhai Lake (or Er Lake) and colorful nature, or to Guilin for ink-painting-like landscapes.

Below are two itineraries for inspiration:

Itinerary 1) 6-Day Beijing and Zhangjiajie Essence Tour

  • Day 1: Beijing arrival
  • Day 2: The Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square
  • Day 3: The Great Wall at Mutianyu in Beijing and fly to Zhangjiajie
  • Day 4: Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
  • Day 5: Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon with its glass bridge
  • Day 6: Tianmen Mountain and departure

This time-smart itinerary is suitable for visitors with limited time who only wish to efficiently admire the essence of Beijing and Zhangjiajie.

During your time in Beijing, immerse yourself in the historical ambiance that merges with modernity, marvel at the grandness of the Great Wall, and walk on it to appreciate the scale of this man-made wonder.

Zhangjiajie awaits you with its stunning scenery and peculiar landscape. Appreciate Avatar Hallelujah Mountain, which helped to inspire Avatar's floating rocks, step on the world's highest glass bridge to show your bravery, and walk up the stairway to Heaven's Gate to witness the magnificence of Tianmen Mountain (Heaven's Gate Mountain).

Itinerary 2) 10-Day Beijing and Zhangjiajie Leisure Tour

  • Day 1: Beijing arrival
  • Day 2: A city walking tour including the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square
  • Day 3: The Great Wall at Mutianyu in Beijing and fly to Zhangjiajie
  • Day 4: The Summer Palace and a food tour with a cultural experience in the Beijing hutongs
  • Day 5: Fly to Zhangjiajie
  • Days 6–7: Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
  • Day 8: Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon with its glass bridge
  • Day 9: A biking tour into the non-touristy area for hidden gems
  • Day 10: Tianmen Mountain and departure

This itinerary is more relaxed with more special experiences, making it perfect for active and explorative visitors looking for a leisurely vacation.

Try out a traditional cultural experience in Beijing, such as tie-dyeing, kite-making, or Buddhist text-tracing with your family, to feel the weight of history with your hands.

One of the best ways to appreciate Zhangjiajie's beauty is by taking a biking tour (choosing a scooter or a private car is also an option). Imagine seeing the amazing beauty of new scenery at every turn, and discovering stunning views that few tourists have seen.

Recommended Beijing and Zhangjiajie Extended Tours:

3. Where to Stay in Beijing and Zhangjiajie

During your time in Beijing, we recommend staying in the central area of the city for convenience. Qianmen Street and Wangfujing are great options as they are close to the main attractions, such as the Forbidden City, and offer a lot of shopping and eating options and convenient transportation.

Read more on The 11 Best Beijing Neighborhoods to Stay In.

Compared to Beijing, decent hotels in Zhangjiajie are primarily centered in two areas: the downtown district and Wulingyuan town.

For a well-rounded experience with convenient options, we suggest spending most of your time in Wulingyuan and staying in downtown Zhangjiajie for no more than one night for transit purposes.

Discover more insights on Where to Stay in Zhangjiajie: the Best Places to Stay.

4. The Best Time to Visit Beijing and Zhangjiajie

The Great Wall in autumnThe Great Wall in autumn

The best time to visit Beijing and Zhangjiajie is from September to November for optimum weather and scenery.

In Beijing, most attractions are cultural sites, making sightseeing there barely affected by weather conditions. The Great Wall is particularly beautiful in autumn though, with its red-leaf backdrop, offering a great hiking experience.

See more on The Best (and Worst) Times to Visit Beijing.

Zhangjiajie boasts stunning natural attractions year-round.

The best time to visit depends on your preferences: witness the breathtaking cloud and mist landscapes in spring, immerse yourself in lush summer forests, relish the colorful autumn scenery, or explore the snow-covered silver world in winter.

For more detailed information, see The Best Times to Visit Zhangjiajie.

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in autumnZhangjiajie National Forest Park in autumn

Both cities are very crowded during the summer vacation (July and August), the National Day holiday (October 1st to 7th), and the Labor Day holiday (May 1st to 3rd). Make sure to book as early as possible if you plan to visit during these periods.

5. How Much Does It Cost for a Visit to Beijing and Zhangjiajie?

Travel costs in Beijing are a little more expensive than in Zhangjiajie.

The most obvious difference is reflected in the price of hotels, while prices of food, attraction tickets, cultural experiences, etc. are not much different.

  • A decent 4-star hotel in Beijing costs about 120 USD per night in July but only about 95 USD per night in Zhangjiajie (it may cost a lot more during the Chinese public holidays).
  • Costs of entrance tickets for attractions range from 5 to 50 USD – for example, tickets for the Forbidden City are about 8 USD per person – and about 32 USD per person for Zhangjiajie National Forest Park.
  • Experiences like cooking or drawing classes cost about 30 to 70 USD per person.
  • Direct flights between Beijing and Zhangjiajie typically cost between 120 to 200 USD for an economy-class ticket.

Typically, a private tour of Beijing and Zhangjiajie would cost 250 USD per person per day. These prices include English-speaking guided touring, stays in 4-star hotels, entrance tickets to attractions, domestic airfares, and private transfers, guaranteeing you a hassle-free travel experience.

Children under 10 years old could enjoy discounts ranging from 30% to 50%. Contact us as soon as possible to book your tour in advance and benefit from an early bird discount.

6. What to Eat in Beijing and Zhangjiajie

In Beijing, an international megacity, you need not worry about dining options. You could enjoy a variety of traditional Chinese dishes as well as international cuisines that cater to your preferences.

The local dishes you should try in Beijing are Beijing roast duck (Peking duck), Jingjiang rousi, and the donkey burger.

See the Top 10 Beijing Foods You Must Try.

Zhangjiajie's cuisine leans toward spiciness. The most popular dishes are sanxiaguo (a type of hot pot) and steamed ham. If spicy food is not your thing, most hotels offer Western food options.

See more about Zhangjiajie Food and Recommended Restaurants.

Should You Book a Private Tour or Travel Independently?

Take a private tour to visit beijing and zhangjiajieOur guide can help you beat the crowds and enjoy the tour at your own pace.

In both Beijing and Zhangjiajie, we suggest you book a private tour service instead of making independent travel arrangements.

Beijing, as the capital of China, offers a lot of convenience for foreigners, such as English signs on public transportation and maps in English in scenic spots. It shouldn't pose a problem to travel there on your own.

However, the problem is that the attractions are scattered around and it is time-consuming to travel between them, especially if you go to the Great Wall, which is not accessible by public transportation.

Another problem is that the attractions in Beijing are rich in history and culture. Without a professional guide, you would not gain so much from the experience — just an outsider's impression and some snapshots.

In Zhangjiajie, the biggest issues are the language barrier and huge crowds. Without a local guide traveling with you, you may waste time getting lost and waiting behind Chinese tourist groups.

Therefore, the best way to visit Beijing and Zhangjiajie is to take a private tour to make sure you have the best experience. Our experienced guides know how to make the most of your time and would create a flexible tour based on your interests and requirements.

See how our planning and guiding make touring smooth and fulfilling:

We aim to provide you with the best travel experience possible.

Contact us and we would be with you every step of the way on your Beijing and Zhangjiajie trip, helping you get over any difficulties you encounter and eliminating potential problems at the planning stage.

You may want to inquire about one of our customizable tour designs as a starting point:

Start planning your tailor-made tour with 1-1 help from our travel advisors. Create Your Trip

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