Two of the most famous Chinese national parks are in Zhangjiajie and Huangshan (the Yellow Mountains). Which is best for you to visit? You could perhaps make a decision in 2 minutes with our initial summaries, or read to the end for a Zhangjiajie vs Yellow Mountains comparison of the main travel aspects.
For expert advice, without reading and comparing, just tell your requirements, and we will help you plan a trip according to your interests.
Zhangjiajie or the Yellow Mountains: Summary
Both Zhangjiajie and the Yellow Mountains offer natural wonders and great hiking, but one big difference is in the side attractions: Zhangjiajie has record-breaking high-up experiences whereas the Yellow Mountains has traditional ancient Chinese villages and architecture set in idyllic countryside.
Which is better for you depends on you and your interests. You may decide to visit both Zhangjiajie and the Yellow Mountains.
Zhangjiajie is best for exciting mountain experiences. If you particularly want to see the "Avatar mountains" then Zhangjiajie is for you.
The Yellow Mountains are good for both extensive hiking and leisurely sightseeing. It is probably better for older people and for families with small children.
|Recommended Days||3-4 Days||3-5 Days|
|Best Time to Visit||April to November (winter scenery is excellent too)||April to November|
|Activities||Trekking the mountain paths, photography, gazing out over the swirling mists and island-like peaks, getting up before dawn to see the sunrise||Mountain hiking, photography, record-breaking high-up experiences|
|Tour Cost||210 USD/day||230 USD/day|
|Travel Comfort||Good, although mountain hotels are more basic||Challenging at times|
|Suited to Whom||Relaxing holiday seekers, photographers, hikers, all ages||People who seek adventure, photographers, hikers|
|Definitely Not Suited To||Not applicable||Small children, people who have difficulty walking, people who can’t endure queuing|
We Recommend These Travelers Choose the Yellow Mountains:
- First-time travelers: We suggest you choose the Yellow Mountains over Zhangjiajie because it is an ancient Chinese cultural center destination and less challenging.
- Seniors or people who are not good at walking: Convenient transportation is available in the park.
- Families with young children
- Those seeking relaxation and comfort: there are better transportation facilities, hotels, etcetera in the Yellow Mountains.
- Winter travelers: Many say that the winter scenery is the best. Trams and monorail makes the going doable.
- Those traveling via Hong Kong, there are fast bullet trains connecting Hong Kong with Huangshan (about 9 hours including Shenzhen transfer).
Decided to choose the Yellow Mountains? See our most popular Yellow Mountains tours.
We Recommend These Travelers Choose Zhangjiajie:
- Adventure lovers: there are many steep drops, glass cliffside skywalks, the tallest and fastest outdoor elevator, and the longest cable car with a 70+degree incline.
- Avatar fans: If you were inspired by the mountains of Pandora in Avatar, this is the closest you’ll find to them on Earth.
- Serious mountain hikers: Zhangjiajie National Forest has gorgeous steep hiking trails up and down mountains with or without steps.
- Those who aren't easily travel-sick and don’t suffer from vertigo: There are many winding roads and steep drops!
See the best Zhangjiajie itineraries for more inspiration.
These Travelers May Consider Visiting Both:
- Nature and adventure lovers
- People who want to see the most beautiful places in China
- Those whose travel time is longer than 7 days
Zhangjiajie vs the Yellow Mountains: Detailed Comparison
If you still want more info, we’ve compared Zhangjiajie and the Yellow Mountains for: 1. popularity, 2. things to do / activities, 3. weather / best time to visit, 4. travel comfort, 5. travel cost 6. ease of getting there, 7. walking difficulty, and 8. food.
For Chinese, the Yellow Mountains are the Number 1 Mountain and a symbol of China. About 3.3 million people visited in 2016. Internationally, the Yellow Mountains are still more popular than Zhangjiajie with its aggregate attractions including its villagess ranking higher on major travel sites.
Zhangjiajie became internationally famous following Avatar in 2009. The pinnacles inspired the movie's setting. Though for centuries the Chinese have regarded the Yellow Mountain scenery as the best, recently Zhangjiajie is al the rage. During the last 4 years, there have been long queues for the top Zhangjiajie attractions.
2. Things to Do / Activities
Both Zhangjiajie and the Yellow Mountains offer natural wonders, but the Yellow Mountains and its towns, the countryside, and the city of Huangshan have more variety for sightseeing, shopping, and dining.
Zhangjiajie’s attractions focus on the extreme and adventurous such as "Pandora’s peaks" in the National Forest and more steep drops at Tianmen Mountain and the Glass Bridge.
The Yellow Mountains are more relaxing. Though you could go on strenuous mountain climbing hikes, you can also just relax in hot springs, stay in countryside towns, and take the cableways/monorail to stay at peak hotels.
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3. Weather / Best Time to Visit
Zhangjiajie's weather is warmer, sunnier, and drier overall. However, the higher altitude areas in both areas are easily inclement. Icy paths and freezing temperatures preclude winter hiking for most people.
The Yellow Mountains' weather is pleasanter than Zhangjiajie's in summer but more uncomfortably cold for hiking in winter.
The best months to visit the Yellow Mountains and Zhangjiajie are April through November, and it is better to avoid the busy high tourism month of October. Huangshan can be visited all year round, but Zhangjiajie is poorly suited for winter visiting.
4. Travel Comfort
The infrastructure for travel and tourism is much better in the Yellow Mountains and the city of Huangshan. You have to do a lot more walking around the concrete/stone steps and bussing around winding roads in Zhangjiajie.
The Yellow Mountains region also has better quality hotels, less spicy local food, and varied Chinese and Western food options. Roads are generally better around the Yellow Mountains.
5. Travel Costs
- Zhangjiajie entry fee: about $40 (not including cableways etc. at about $8 a ride)
- Huangshan entry fee: about $40 in peak season, $25 in low season, not including cableways or monorail.
Costs are similarly low in the two destinations at around 200 USD/day for a full-service tour (not including transport there). Generally, the Yellow Mountains area offers better value for money on everything from hotels to transport, restaurants to sights because it is more developed for tourism and frequented. Only the hotels on the peaks are more expensive than in the lowlands.
6. Ease of Getting There
Getting to the Yellow Mountains is easier. Huangshan's Tunxi Airport has more flights than Zhangjiajie Hehua Airport.
A bullet train station in Huangshan allows quick transport, and it is about an hour away from the mountains. Zhangjiajie is more isolated. It won't have a bullet train line until at least 2020. Regular train services are also fewer.
7. Walking Difficulty
The Yellow Mountain attractions require less walking than Zhangjiajie's if you use the transportation facilities. Porters could carry you up also along with your possessions.
The internal transportation to the peaks is better in the Yellow Mountains. There are three cableways and a monorail to provide access from every side. As the Yellow Mountains tourist zone is more compact than Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, you won't need to walk so far between the spectacular views, much less descend and reascend.
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Zhangjiajie food features sour and spicy-hot flavors with some exotic ingredients not usually found in Chinese food.
The Huangshan area features quintessentially Chinese Anhui cuisine that is one of China's Eight Great Traditional Cuisines. Wild mountain and forest ingredients distinguish it. If you don't like heavy spice, you'll probably prefer it.
We Can Help You Tour Zhangjiajie or the Yellow Mountains or Both
Choosing the most suitable destinations is only the very first step. You are still 100 steps away from an enjoyable China tour. We can take all the hassle of researching, comparing, and booking away and turn your ideas into a unique tour itinerary. Just tell us your ideas and we can create a trip for you.
Get inspired by our most popular Yellow Mountains and Zhangjiajie itineraries:
- 4-Day Essence of Zhangjiajie Tour
- Essence of Huangshan Tour: 3 days to see highlights of the Yellow Mountains and its ancient towns.
For both Zhangjiajie and the Yellow Mountains in a nature-packed China tour, we recommend adding Huangshan to China Natural Wonders Discovery: Beijing, Xi'an, Guilin, Zhangjiajie, and Shanghai in 14 days.