Top Cities to Visit in Hunan Province
Last updated by wendysong at 4/11/2016; Destinations: Changsha,Yueyang,Zhangjiajie
Hunan Province is named by its location to the south of Lake Dongting (???), at the south-central China. An important tributary of the Yangtze, the Xiang River (??), runs through the province. Hence Hunan is also shortly known as Xiang (?).
Situated in the southern, Hunan has a humid, subtropical climate. Rainy year-round here and unbearably hot in summertime, thus the best time to travel is autumn and early winter, September to November. The prime perks of a Hunan travel include various ethnic cultures, jaw-dropping Zhangjiajie landform and backward rural lives, also a daredevil tryout on Hunan cuisine, aka Xiang Cai (??). Below are top destinations in Hunan Province.
The provincial capital Changsha (??) is the biggest city and a gateway to the province. The city covers a vast plain land of 11,819 square kilometers (4,563 sq mi) at the lower reaches of the Xiang River. Its population is 7,044,118 by the year 2010.
Back in history, Changsha made it as an important political and agricultural center in the Chu State (??) during the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476BC). It became the state’s capital in the early stage of the Han Dynasty (206BC – 220AD). Its growth on to a big city followed in years. In the North Song Dynasty, Yuelu Academy was established and made the city a cultural center. Its standing as a birthplace of new ideas lasted from the late Qing Dynasty to the Republic of China. Noted as an important stage of Mao Zedong's conversion to communism, Changsha was the battle field to several battles in the Sino-Japanese War of 1937–1945.
Highlights of a Changsha tour will introduce you into China’s long history and far-reaching cultures. Changsha is very hot from late spring to late autumn and the best time to travel is autumn and early winter.
Means to enter Changsha City ranges from long distance buses, flights and high speed train. Train is the first choice for hopping between provinces. High speed train from Guilin to Changsha is available from 2013, making the whole trip less than 4 hours. At Changsha Huanghua International Airport (????????, CSX), there are 7 international air routes (2013), mostly from Asian countries and no much discount airfare year-round.
Top Attractions in Changsha
10km away from the city of Changsha, there is Mountain Yuelu (???), an example of the coexistence of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism cultures. Located on the mountain, Yuelu Academy is the most-known representative site of Confucianism. Yuelu academy (????) grew out of a humble temple book chamber back in the late Tang Dynasty. In the North Song Dynasty (976AD), prefecture official Zhu Dong rebuilt and extended the school yard and named it officially. Neo-Confucianism was preached and studied at the academy after it reached the academic summit. At the academy, you will learn about the education system and approach of the Ancient China.
The construction style is also worthy learning, too. It takes up 21,000 sq.meters and is in a Qing-Dynasty style. The main buildings are the Grand Gate, Second Gate, Lecture Hall, Half-Learning Study (???), Teaching-and-Learning Study (???), Hundred-Springs Chamber (???), Royal Library (???), Xiang River Scripture-Editing Hall (?????) and Temple of Confucius (??). Every part of the academy is joined at the hip, showing the grandeur and integrity that are essential to Chinese constructions. All the buildings are subdivided into five functions: teaching, book storage, worshiping, gardens and memorial.
Visiting time: 1-2 hours
Entrance Fee: 50RMB/Person (Free for teachers, students and parents of the freshmen of Hunan University)
Open: 7:30AM-6:00PM (Summer); 8:00AM-5:30PM (Winter)
Address: Mountain Yuelu, Changsha City, Hunan
Contact: +86 0731-88822352
How to Get There: Bus Tourism One, Lishan Express, Bus No.106, 132 and 305 to Yuelushan Nan.
Orange Island Park
As a newly-opened attraction, Orange Island Park ((?????) may not have that much historical diggings. However, it is a great place for friends and families on a weekend. The park is situated on Orange Island, one of the many sandbars at the downstream basin of the Xiang River. The island faces Changsha city at the east and Mountain Yuelu at the west. The long band-shaped island it is the world’s biggest inland sandbar, covering up to 91.64 hectares.
Orange Island was made famous by Chairman Mao. When he was young, he used to swim back and forth between the island and Changsha City. The island was kind of like a meditation place or debate hall for him and his fellows. After the founding of New China, he returned to the spot where he used to seek for answers of China’s future in thoughts and books, and wrote down a Song Ci (??), “Ooze the Spring of the Garden-Changsha” («???·??»).
Five major parts consist the park: Heaven-Asking Tower (???), Baimi Fountain (????), Sand Park (????), Art Sculpture Section and Firework Events. The Heaven-Asking Tower is said to be Mao’s favorite viewing spot. The fountain spurts water up to a height of a 30-storey building, making a grand scene that is viewable from the island and city. Locals take the Sand Park as camping site on holidays and there are indoor and outdoor sport centers. You will see a sculpture of the young Chairman Mao at the Art Sculpture Section. Firework show is on every Saturday night from 1st May to 31st October every year.
Visiting time: 1-2 hours
Entrance Fee: Free (Speed boat to get on the island is 20RMB/Person)
Open: All Day
Address: 2, Juzizhoutou, Yuelu District, Changsha, Hunan
Contact: +86 0731-88886529
How to Get There: Subway Route 2 to Juzizhou Station; Bus No.603 to Fubuhe Lukou Station and walk 620m
Hunan Provincial Museum
Covering an area of 51,000 square meters, Hunan Provincial Museum (??????) was firstly built in the early 1950’s. Rich with history and content, the museum is a good place for learning.
The Collection of Han Tomb at Mawangdui is the most famous collection of the museum. Back in the 1970’s in Mawangdui County, east of Changsha City, archaeologists unearthed the family tombs of Li Cang (??). He was the prime minister of Changsha State of the West Han Dynasty. The body of his wife was found dipped in 80 liter of liquid that still remains a mystery to scientists. Her body looks just fresh and most of connective tissues are even very much bouncy.
Other historical relics content bronze wares back to the Shang Zhou Dynasty (1600BC - 256BC), art crafts in the Chu Dynasty (1042BC - 423BC), porcelain works from various dynasties, calligraphy works and paintings, and modern cultural relics. If you want to learn about the history of the Chu State or dig the mysterious of the Mawangdui Tombs, the museum is a right place to go. Give yourself a relaxing side trip to the nearby Martyr's Park after the learning.
The museum sends out 5,000 free tickets every day. Get in the line at the entrance to get your own ticket but be there early on Fridays if you want to visit on weekend. Online reservation is available at its official website.
Visiting time: 1 hour
Entrance Fee: Free
Open: 9:00AM - 5:00PM from Tuesday to Sunday; No entry after 4:15PM (Closes on Mondays, Chinese New Year Eve and Chinese Spring Festival)
Address: 50, Dongfeng Road, Kaifu District, Changsha, Hunan
Contact: +86 0731-84535566-8605 (Information Office)
How to Get There: Bus No 112, 113, 131, 136, 146, 150, 302, 303, 704 and 901
Aside from the Yuelu Academy, Mountain Yuelu (???) is a wholesome spot for sightseeing and trekking. It is located on the west bank of the Xiang River, 20 minutes by car. Rising up to 300 meters (984 ft.), it is a peak of the 72 main peaks of the Hengshan Mountain Range (????).
The major attractions that you will see on the mountain include: Yuelu Academy (????), Aiwan Pavilion (???), Lushan Temple (???), Yunlu Taoist Temple (???), the Former Xinmin lnstitute (??????), swaying forest, tranquil lakes and some martyr memorials. Yuelu Academy attracts many for its rich history and cultures.
Hidden inside the maple grove, Aiwan Pavilion gives you amazing views of the maple tress turning colorful in autumn. The pavilion is named and known for the famous poet Du Mu, who wrote down “I stop my coach at maple woods to gaze my fill; frost-bitten leaves look redder than early spring flowers. (???????,???????)”
Lushan Temple and Yunlu Taosit Temple are good example of the harmony of two different religions.
Lushan Temple has a proud history of 1,700 years and an evidence of some rapid changes in the Buddhism world. Today visitors can get a taste of the temple as well as a taste of delicious Buddhist vegetarian food at its cafeteria. Standing at the top of Mountain Yuelu, Taoists take Yunlu Taoist Temple as one of the 23rd Halcyon Land. It was built firstly in the Ming Dynasty (1478), destroyed twice in the late Ming Dynasty and the early Qing Dynasty and rebuilt and extended in the Qing Dynasty (1863).
Visiting the mountain, you can choose from a cable car or your own feet. The latter alternative takes about 2 hours if you want to see all the attractions therein. Due to its proximity to Changsha City, you will probably see a crowd at the mountain and have to wait long for the cable car. Best time to visit is in autumn and early winter when all the tress change colors.
Visiting time: 2-3 hours
Entrance Fee: Free (Excludes the cable car and entrance fee to Yuelu Academy)
Open: 6:00AM - 11:00PM
Address: 58, Denggao Road, Changsha, Hunan
Contact: +86 0731-88825011
How to Get There: Subway Route 2 to Rongwan Town Station; Bus No.6, 12, 18, 63, 303, 309, 312, 314, 315.
The world-famous tourism city Zhangjiajie (???) is situated at the northwest part of Hunan Province, upstream of the Li River (??) and at the heart of Wuling Mountain Range. It was originally a small town named Dayong (???) and made it us a city due to the thriving tourism. Quartz sandstone peak forest landform is a blessing to the city and amazing landscapes are presented to the world in a rough, wild and non-artificial way.
Over 77% of Zhangjiajie’s population is made up of minorities groups; the Tujia (???), Bai (??) and Miao (??) are the biggest three. Most of them take inhabitant in the mountainous area and live in tribes. Here, you can experience not only the wonderful landscape but get a peek into the realities of the minorities’ life.
The climate in Zhangjiajie is of middle sub-tropics monsoon characters, copious light and rainfall, hot summers and warm winters. Hence, the best travel time for best landscape and comfortable stay is spring and autumn. Anyhow, you will see the soaring peaks donned in snow if you come in the cold winter.
About the transportation, Zhangjiajie Lotus International Airport (?????????, DYG) has international flights to Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and Thailand. Domestic flights from Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Changsha and other 15 cities. 39 train routes can take you to Zhangjiajie, which is probably the most economic transportation. Bus from Guilin takes 10 hours, from Changsha takes about 5 hours and from Guangzhou takes about 13 hours. The driving journey is sometimes bumpy and winding, not good for young kids and elders.
As a matter of fact, the widely-known Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area (????????) is made up of four parts: Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, Yangjiajie Scenic Area (newly found in recent years), Suoxiyu Nature Reserve and Tianzi Mountain. The former twos are in Zhangjiajie City, which makes the city popular among travelers.
Top attractions in Zhangjiajie
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park (?????????) is China’s first national park, enlisted in 1982. And in 2004, it was listed as a UNESCO Global Geopark. The park is one of, and the most important one, of several national parks inside Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area.The park is one-hour away from Zhangjiajie City downtown.
Once you are inside the national park, you will find yourself standing in the world of the movie Avatar (2010). James Francis Cameron, the director of the film and his production team claim that they are inspired by the pillar-shaped formations in Zhangjiajie. And interestingly, Southern Sky Column (1,080 meters or 3,540ft.), the most prominent formation was officially renamed Avatar Hallelujah Mountain" (???-?????).
Highlights of the national park are listed as: Huangshizhai (???,Yellow Stone Stronghold), Golden Whip Brook (???),Yaozizhai (???),Yuanjiajie (???), Wulongzhai (???, Black Dragon Stronghold), Echo Valley (???) and small villages playing home to the Tujia people. At Yuanjiajie, there is an outdoor elevator up to 335 meters (1,099 ft.). The Bailong Elevator, winning 3 Guinness rewards, take cut the 2-hours climbing into 2 minutes scenic lift.
The national park welcomes all the daredevil travelers to relish a once-in-a-lifetime feat. Trekking trails up to the mountain or villages take in staggering views that let you marvel at how powerful and creative the Creator is. The best time to visit the national park is in spring and autumn; summer is good too if you can escape the hottest July and August. For trekking, you need a anti-slippery pair of shoes and a durable trekking cane. If you take the cable car and want to avoid adventures, a good tour guide and a good camera are all you need.
There are hotels and guesthouses inside the park. The prices are, of course, higher than that in Zhangjiajie City. Travelers shall make reservation ahead of time, especially in peak seasons. No camping inside the park, but you can set up your tent at a local household or guesthouse after the owner’s permit.
The entrance fee of the national park is 248RMB/Person, valid within 2 days and includes the buggy cart. Young kids under 3 are free to enter. However, there are some extra fees for the following attractions: cable car at Huangshizhai 50RMB/one-way, 96RMB/round-trip, cable car at Tianzishan 52RMB/one-way, 104RMB/round-trip, Bailong Elevator at Yuanjiajie (56RMB/Person), train ride (30RMB/one-way, 40RMB/round-trip).
Visiting time: 4 hours - 2 days
Entrance Fee: 248RMB/Person (Inclusion details as above)
Open: All Day
Address: Wulingyuan District, Zhangjiajie City, Hunan
Contact: +86 0744-5718811
How to Get There: Zhangjiajie National Forest Park Route from the downtown of Zhangjiajie City
Tianmenshan National Forest Park
Tianmenshan National Forest Park (?????????) is located at the east side of Zhangjiajie. Tianmenshan, or Mountain Tianmen, literally means the gate of the heaven. It gets the name from its legendary shape: back in the Three Kingdom Period (363AD), the Songliang Mountain (???) suddenly ruptured out a gate-shaped hole on the top.
The rupture is 131.5 meters (431 ft) at height, 57 meters (187 ft) at width and 60 meters (197 ft) at depth. In 2004, Frenchman Jean-Yves Blondeau, the famous “Rollerman” rolled down the stretch of Mountain Tianmen with 99 sharp turns. As his bravery indicates, this forest park is for adventurers. With the forest coverage up to 90%, Tianmenshan offers travelers with jungle hiking, rock climbing, long-distance trekking, mountain road cycling and a simply enjoyable cable car journey.
At night, the mountains and forest become a natural setting for the musical show Tianmen Fox Fairy: New Version of Liu Hai Cuts Firewood («????·?????»). A thousand-year-old fox fairy fell in love with a humble woodcutter Liu Hai. And they conquered the obstacles and finally lived happily ever after. The singing part is beautifully presented by over 100 local Tujia girls. Ticket ranges from 880RMB at VIP section to 580RMB and 238RMB at common section.
The best time to come is April to October, but also the peak tourism season with lot of travelers. There is a considerable temperature change during day and night, so a heavy coat is needed. There are two restaurants in the park; it is wise to bring some food and water on your own.
Visiting time: 4-8 hours
Entrance Fee: 258RMB/Person (Including buggy cart inside the park; Valid for one day)
Open: All Day
Address: Yongding District, Zhangjiajie City, Hunan
Contact: +86 0744-8366099
How to Get There: Car driving at the east direction of Zhangjiajie, 30 minutes
Yellow Dragon Cave
36km away from the city, the Yellow Dragon Cave, or Huanglong Dong (???) is a representative karst cave. It covers an underground area of 48 hectares (120 acres), the cave chamber reaches to 15 kilometres (9.3 miles) in length.
Themed as an undersea dragon palace, the enormous cave contains many parts: one hall with numerous limestone formations, 2 underground rivers for boat ride, 3 in-cave lakes, 4 in-cave waterfalls, 13 stone chambers, 98 hallways and scores of limestone peaks, not to mention the stalagmites and pools that are just impossible to count them all.
Inside the cave, you will be amazed to see these subdivided attractions: Ocean-Calming Cudgel (????, the cudgel that the Monkey King used to peace down the roaring sea), All-Ages Cedar (????), Labyrinth (??), Seat of the Dragon King (????), Shooting Rocket (????), the Mountain of Flowers and Fruits (???), Celestial Waterfall (????), Heaven-Blowing Conch (????), Double Gates for Guest-Welcoming , (????), Changes at an Overnight (????), Loessial Highland (????) and other sites up to over 100.
The cave is favourable at all seasons and summer is the best time due to the cool inside. Take a boat trip along the 5-meter deep underground river, it will feel like you are on a festival parade with all the limestones lighten up and flickering on the water surface.
Visiting time: 1-2 hours
Entrance Fee: 100RMB/Person (Including the boat trip)
Open: 8:00AM-4:00PM; 7:00AM-6:00PM on the National Day
Address:Zhangqing Main Road, Wulingyuan District, Zhangjiajie, Hunan
Contact: +86 0731-5618489
How to Get There: Tourist Route from the city center
Also known as Baling(??), people call Yueyang (??) as the Pearl of Lake Dongting. It is on the southern shore of Lake Dongting, at the northeastern corner of Hunan province. Footage of the city is 14,896 sq. km (5,751 sq mi) and has 9 official administration districts.
As its written history, the earlies years of Yueyang date back to 3,000 years ago. In the Three Kingdoms period, it was prefecture called Hanchang (210AD). It became the military prefecture in the Song Dynasty (960-1279) and one of the trading opens that were forced to be open in the Qing Dynasty (1899). Today Yueyang impresses the world with fast-growing economics and well-preserved historical charms.
Yueyang lies in the eastern subtropics monsoon climate region and it is hot and damp year-round. Spring and autumn are the best time to come. A trip to Yueyang is a chance to learn the profound history and appreciate the natural landscape.
To enter Yueyang, you can choose either the train or buses. Airport construction was reported to start in 2014. Driving from Guilin, it will take about 9 hours and almost the same by train. High speed train from Guangzhou takes about 3 hours and a half. The easiest way is to transmit via Changsha, it only takes 33 minutes by high speed train to get to Yueyang.
Top attractions in Yueyang
The landmark of Yueyang City,Yueyang Tower (???) crowns to the Three Great Towers of Jiangnan (with other twos being Pavilion of Prince Teng in Nanchang and Yellow Crane Tower in Wuhan). The tower is standing at the shore of Lake Dongting, at the west gateway of the city. The total height is 20 meters (66 ft) and built in a unique four-pillar, three-storey style.
The original version of the tower was established in the Three Kingdoms Period (220AD). At that time, Lu Su (??), the chief commander in chief of the Wu Kingdom, was dispatched here to fortify the military front and train the water force. At the spot where Lake Dongting joins the Yangtze River, he ordered to build up this tower as an inspection and command center.
The tower’s extension in the Tang Dynasty came with a fairytale. The chief craftsmen, Li Luban, was having a hard time designing the tower by the order of the governor Zhang Yue (??). One day, an elder passed by his house and asked what was bothering him. Li explained his problem and the elder gave him a bag full with numbered wood logs and pieces, like toys for the kids. Li rigged up all the pieces and it was a totally perfect model for the tower. His and his team started the construction and shortly the Yueyang Tower was finished. When Li tried to find the elder and express his gratefulness, the elder was nowhere to find.
Its literary associations has a great credit for the tower’s reputation. At the invitation of his friend, the renowned Song poet Fan Zhongyan (???) put his lofty sentiments into the famous piece Yueyanglou Ji (????, Memorial to Yueyang Tower).
When you are standing at the tower, best in spring and autumn, you will see waters of Lake Dongting and the Yangtze merging while soaking in the historical far reaching.
Visiting time: 1-2 hours
Entrance Fee: 80RMB/Person
Open: 6:30AM - 9:00PM
Address: 60, Dongting Bei Road, Yueyanglou District, Yueyang, Hunan
Contact: +86 0730-3261222
How to Get There: Tourist Line 2, Tourist Line 15, Bus No.10, 19, 21, 22, 23, 31 and 50
Lake Dongting (???) is one of the Great Five Freshwater Lakes in China and an important throughput lake at the waist bank of the Yangtze River. The lake is formed by the wash of the Yangtze, so its size changes depends on the flow of the Yangtze. During July–September period, flooding water from the Yangtze increases the lake greatly: from 2,820 sq.km to 20,000 sq.km.
Lake Dongting is far-flung in Chinese culture as the origin place of Chinese Dragon Boat Racing (???). It is a great event in respect to the great poet Qu Yuan who died in the Miluo River that flows into Lake Dongting. The lake is also home to the endangered Finless Porpoise (??).
The lake is at its best from summer to early winter. In summer, you can watch dragon boat racing on the Chinese Dragon Boat Festival (normally falling in early July). In autumn, you will feel your heart wide open with the swiftly and gladly blowing wind. Birds migrating is an interesting highlight of a winter travel.
Visiting time: 1-2 hours
Entrance Fee: Free (Excluding the boat trip and entrance fee to Junshan Island)
Open: All Day
Address: Lake Dongting, Dongtinghu District, Yueyang, Hunan
How to Get There: Drive to the east of Yueyang City
Junshan Island (???) is an ideal spot to view Lake Dongting, thanks to its location right at the heart of the lake. Views of the majestic Yueyang Tower is traversed by vision. Covering nearly 1 sq.km, the island towers up 72 peaks. It is claimed to be the 11th Halcyon Land in Taoism.
According to written historical documents, there were originally 36 pavilions, 48 temples, 5 water wells and 4 towers on the island, which were all destroyed in the Ming and the period of the Republic of China, Nowadays, major attractions that are renovated include: Tomb of the Double Princesses(???), Memorial Temple of Xiang Princess(???)?Well of Liu Yi (???), Letter-Passing Pavilion(???), Recitation Pavilion(???), Wine-Fragrance Pavilion(???), Yangyao Stronghold (???), Dragon Well(???) and Flying-from-Afar Bell (???) and etc.
Summer and autumn travels to the island are highly recommended, partly for the comfortable weather and more for the amazing views. Local specialty tea, Junshan Yin Zhen, or Junshan Silver Needles(????) hits the market after the Tomb-Sweeping Festival (in early April). It is also a hard-to-miss highlight for a Junshan Island visit at that period of time.
Visiting time: 2-4 hours
Entrance Fee: 140RMB/Adult, 70RMB/Kids above 1.1-meter-tall, free for kids under 1.1 meters and elder people (excluding the boat trip)
Open: 7:00AM-6:30PM (Summer); 7:00AM-6:00PM (Winter)
Address: Lake Dongting, Dongtinghu District, Yueyang, Hunan
Contact: +86 0730-8258816
How to Get There: Bus No.51 to Junshan Island Station
Fenghuang Town (??) is an administrative part of Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture. It is located at the west corner of Hunan Province, borders Jishou City at the north and faces Guangxi at the south. The Fenghuang that people talk the most is referred to the ancient town at the bank of the Tuojiang River, aka Phoenix Ancient Town.
As documented in history, the town was firstly built in 300 years ago. Today as walking in the town, you can observe distinctive architectural remains of Ming and Qing styles. Its back lies against the mountain, makes way for incorporating the natural flow of waters into town layout. Huilongge Ancient Street serves as the pivot line and it connects small streets and alleys, as well as buildings of all kinds.
The town was added to he UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on March 28, 2008 in the Cultural category. Before that, it was thought as the most beautiful town in China by New Zealand writer Alley Rewi. In China, most people know it from the modern author Shen Congwen (???), who was born and raised in Fenghuang and used the town and its cultures as the setting for its famous novel Border Town («??»). Therefore, following the literatures is the main theme of a Fenghuang visit.
The ancient town presents its admirers with a whole package known as Fenghuang Nite Sites. The embodies: The Former Residence of Shen Congwen(?????), the Former Residence of Xiong Xiling(?????), Yang’s Family Temple (????), City Tower at the East Gate(????), Boating in the Tuojiang River(????), Temple of Longevity(???), Chongde Courtyard (???), the Former Residence of Chen Baozhen(?????) and Rainbow Bridge (??).
No flight or train to enter Fenghuang Ancient Town, you can do that only by long distance bus. Jishou City and Changsha City are the best transmits.
Peak tourism season comes from April to September and you’d better plan your trip in a time gap to avoid the crowds. As small as it is, it takes only a couple of hours to cover the town but one day is needed if you want to explore it more and deeper. If you plan on staying overnight, do make your reservation one week ahead of time. It rains a lot, so bring an umbrella and walk slowly on the bluestone roads.
Visiting time: 3 hours - 2 days
Entrance Fee: 148RMB/Adult, 20RMB/Student (Boat trip in the Tuojiang River is 10RMB/Person)
Open: All Day
Address: Fenghuang County, Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture
How to Get There: Transmit via Changsha takes 6 hours, 50 minutes from Jishou City, 4 hours from Zhangjiajie, 7 hours from Yueyang