Hunan Province lies in the mountainous south of China, with a population of 72 million. Hunan is quickly becoming a popular new tourist destination because of its beautiful scenery, cultural heritage and tradition, as well as its expanding modern cities and exciting attractions. Read on for some of the region’s unmissable sites.
1 – Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park is best known for being the inspiration behind the landscape in Avatar, the 2009 James Cameron film. The dramatic rock formations and the almost mythological mist that surrounds them truly are a thing of beauty.
2 – Changsha City
If quiet scenic mountains aren’t for you, then head to the bright lights of Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province. Less well-known outside of China, hidden gem Changsha has over 7 million residents and a history dating back over 3,000 years. We recommend taking a walk down the city’s bustling streets and hunting down some delicious Hunan rice noodles, a popular dish in the Province.
3 – Tianxin Pavilion
Tianxin Pavilion is a spectacular choice for those looking to discover the ancient and traditional side of Hunan. The Pavilion has over 400 years of historical significance and is one of the few remaining symbols of the old city of Changsha. Located at the top of Longfu Mountain, the tallest point in Changsha, it is regarded as a ‘lucky treasured land’.
4 – Fenghuang Ancient Town
If you are looking for a slice of classic China or an unforgettable spot for photos, then Fenghuang Ancient Town is the place to visit. The former frontier town, famous for its unique architecture and enchanting scenery, was built by its residents in the Ming dynasty as a riverside settlement. With its winding alleys and waterways, it’s no surprise it has been famed as the Venice of Hunan.
5 – The Zhangjiajie glass bridge and Grand Canyon
The Zhangjiajie glass bridge and Grand Canyon are based in the Wulingyuan Scenic Area. The bridge is 430 meters long and hovers right over the Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon. It boasts dramatic views across the landscape and, if you are brave enough to look down, a fantastic bird’s-eye view directly into the Canyon. It’s a great way to understand how stunning the scenery of Hunan is.
6 – Tianmen Mountain
Tianmen Mountain, meaning “Heaven’s Gate”, can be found in the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. The famous natural opening at the top of a stairway, seen below, is where it gets its name. If you want to reach the top you will, however, have to climb the 999 steps – worth it for the breath-taking view, we promise. The mountain’s cableway is claimed as the longest cableway in the world, with a total length of 7,455m and an ascent of 1,279m.
7 – Sky Walk
If you are afraid of heights you may want to miss this attraction out; found around Tianmen Mountain this 4,600ft high glass walkway is over 100 meters long. If you are one for heights, then you simply have to include it in your trip to Hunan. The walkway wraps around the mountains and provides some staggering views – just remember to bring your camera.
8 – Orange Island / Mao’s Statue
Orange Island in Changsha is a great place to dive deeper into Hunan’s history. The main attraction to see here is the giant statue of the young Mao Zedong, founder of the People‘s Republic of China. Standing at 32 meters tall and made from 800 tons of granite, the statue depicts a young Chairman Mao, who as a student in Changsha used to swim out to the Island.
9 – Yuelu Mountain
Yuelu Mountain is located on the west bank of the Xiang River in Changsha. Its highest point, Yunlu Peak, is over 987ft high and possesses outstanding natural surroundings. Across the mountains’ landscape can be found a collection of different scenic spots and sites to visit, such as the Yunlu Palace, Aiwan Pavilion, Qingfeng Gorge, Lushan Temple, and the White Crane Spring.
10 – Changsha Museum and The Meixihu International Culture and Art Centre
Where better to learn more about the culture and art of Hunan, than the Changsha Museum and the Meixihu International Culture and Art Centre. Take in both buildings’ architecture and a thorough look at the art, ceramics and exhibits that provide a greater understanding of Hunan.
11 – Yellow Dragon Cave
Searching for something a bit different? Why not visit the Yellow Dragon Cave in Zhangjiajie. The cave is over 100,000m2 and is home to a reservoir, multiple rivers, waterfalls and thirteen gorges. Throughout Yellow Dragon Cave you will be met with huge stalagmites and stalactites, all illuminated by colourful lighting, further adding to the magic of the place. It’s the perfect spot to get some unusual travel photos.
12 – Bailong Elevator
Yet another sight in Hunan for the brave, the Bailong Elevator is a glass elevator built into the side of a huge cliff in the Wulingyuan area of Zhangjiajie. It is the world’s highest and fastest fully exposed outdoor elevator and reaches a speed of 3 meters per second. It’s a wonderful opportunity to get an exceptional view of the Zhangjiajie park while experiencing some remarkable engineering.
13 – Hunan Provincial Museum (Changsha)
The Hunan Provincial Museum is another prodigious museum that we recommend you visit. Built in 1951, it holds a collection of over 180,000 objects and artefacts. From bronze statues to eighteenth-century paintings, and even items found in the tombs of the Marquis of Dai, the Hunan Provincial Museum has a vast collection to stir your curiosity.
14 – Xuefeng Mountain
The Xuefeng Mountain lies in the heart of Hunan, where much of the landscape is made up of farming terraces, which add character to the mountainous terrain. Recently the team at Trails China created the country’s first world-class hiking trail across the Xuefeng mountains, making it a perfect destination for adventure and hiking enthusiasts.
15 – Taohuayuan Cultural and Scenic Park
Looking for impressive scenery and landscapes? Look no further, Taohuayuan is a real treasure. Described in the 5th-century poetry by Tao Yuanming ‘The Peach Blossom Spring’, a poem about an ethereal utopia, Taohuayuan is famous throughout China as a place of beauty. Be sure to visit in the spring, like Tao Yuanming, to ensure you see the peach blossoms in full bloom.
That wraps up this list of top sites and destinations to visit in Hunan Province. Make sure to plan a visit around these astonishing attractions to get the most out of your trip.