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A 3-day trip in Hunan province

Updated: Aug 31, 2018 Print

Transit passengers from 51 countries including the US and Canada can spend up to 72 hours in Hunan province without a visa. This visa-free policy allow foreigners from these 51 countries with visas and plane tickets to a third country to transit through Hunan province for a visa-free stay of up to 72 hours.

Located in the south central part of the Chinese mainland, Hunan province has long been known for its natural beauty. It is surrounded by mountains on the east, west, and south, and by the Yangtze River on the north. Its mixture of mountains and water makes it one of the most beautiful provinces in China. For thousands of years, the region has been a major center of agriculture, growing rice, tea, and oranges.

Hunan has a humid, subtropical climate. The monsoon rain falls mostly in April, May, and June. July and August are uncomfortably hot and humid. The best travel time is fall, when the temperature is cooler and the rainfall lighter. Low temperatures in winter are usually above freezing, with daily highs around 10 C.

With abundant natural resources, the province covers 210,000 square kilometers. It is adjacent to Jiangxi province in the east, Chongqing municipality and Guizhou province in the west, Guangdong province and Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region in the south, and Hubei province in the north. The province has a total population of 64,400,700. It is multiethnic, with Miao, Dong, and Yao being the largest minorities. Their unique cultures and ethnic customs attract numerous visitors every year.

The products here include Xiang embroidery, one of China's four famous embroideries, with high artistic value. With 200 years of history, the chrysanthemum stone carvings of Liuyang are remarkable achievements. Liuyang city is known for its fireworks, which draw spectators from all over the country.

Transit passengers from 51 countries including the US, Canada and all members of the EU can spend up to 72 hours in Hunan province without a visa. This visa-free policy allows foreigners from the 51 countries with visas and plane tickets to a third country to transit through Changsha, capital of Hunan. Below is a suggested itinerary for a 3-day trip.

Day One: Miraculous nature

On your first day, Tianmen Mountain in Zhangjiajie city is the best choice to take in the beauties of nature. After taking a four-hour coach tour from Changsha Huanghua International Airport, you can appreciate the scenery from a resort set high in the mountains.

Tianmen Mountain provides one of the most representative natural panoramas in Zhangjiajie. It not only attracts people by its unique geographic landforms but is also well known for its cultural connotations and man-made sites. It is reputed to be the No 1 "Miraculous Mountain" in Western Hunan.

Here are some spots you mustn't miss in Tianmen Mountain:

Tianmen Mountain Cableway

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Tianmen Mountain Cableway takes visitors to the 1,400-meter mountaintop in 28 minutes. [Photo/tianmenshan.com.cn]

Tianmen Mountain Cableway is the longest alpine passenger cableway in the world. It has a total length of 7,455 meters and an elevation of 1,279 meters. The local gradient from the middle station to the upper one reaches 37 degrees, which is rare throughout the world.

Heaven-linking Avenue

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Twisting mountain road of Tianmen Mountain [Photo/tianmenshan.com.cn]

Heaven-linking Avenue has 99 turns symbolizing that heaven has nine palaces. The avenue runs upward following the natural shape of the mountain like the soaring of a great dragon and also hangs like a jade belt with zigzag turns circling the hills. Heaven-linking Avenue leads directly to the Tianti-celestial ladder which offers spectacular views.

The plank road

The exciting glass skywalk span is regarded as a "road in the sky" in the Tianmen Mountain scenic spot. [Photo/tianmenshan.com.cn]

The ghost-valley plank road has a length of 800 meters, including a 60-meter glass skywalk span, and hangs from the cliff more than 1,400 meters above sea level on the upper side of the Ghost-valley Cave. The road is truly a heart-pounding experience.

Tianmen Mountain Temple

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Tianmen Mountain Temple is the highest Buddhist building in Hunan province. [Photo/tianmenshan.com.cn]

Tianmen Mountain Temple was first built in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907) as a center of Buddhism in western Hunan. The present Tianmen Mountain Temple was rebuilt on the basis of the original site in the official style of the Qing Dynasty (AD 1644-1911). It is located in a mountain hollow with a broad vista.

Day Two: Cultural tour of unique nations

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Fenghuang Ancient City [Photo/fhzf.gov.cn]

After walking through the glass skywalk span on the 1,400-meter cliff, you may want to find inner calmness in Fenghuang Ancient Town. You can get there from Tianmen Mountain by a two-hour train or a three-hour coach.

Fenghuang Ancient Town is exceptionally well-preserved and harbors unique ethnic languages, customs, and arts as well as many distinctive structures of Ming and Qing styles.

The ancient town was built in 1704, and has 300 years of history. It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative List on March 28, 2008 in the cultural category. The town is placed in a mountain setting, incorporating the natural flow of water into the city layout. Over half of the city's population belongs to the Miao or Tujia minorities.

The carefully laid red rock town walls, the stately and lofty town towers, the palace-style halls and residence and the delicate quadrangles as well as the civilian residences of various national styles are distributed along both sides of the streets.

There are over 200 ancient residential buildings in the ancient town zone, some 20  streets of various sizes, 10 ancient lanes and alleys, as well as ancient town walls, town gate towers, leaping rocks, wells, rainbow bridges, temples of literature and poetry, and ancestral temples, all of which are well preserved in their original states.

Day Three: Changsha cityscape

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Night view of the Xiangjiang River Scenic Belt [Photo/en.changsha.gov.cn]

The cityscape is recommended as the last day of your stay as Changsha. The city is known as the Culture City of East Asia, the City of Media Arts and an International Gourmet City. The Xiangjiang River Scenic Belt is the best place for you to take in a bird's-eye view of the city.

Located at the Xiangjiang Avenue of Changsha city, the Xiangjiang River Scenic Belt stretches from south Heishipu Bridge to the north of the Moon Island. Built in 1995, it comprises many exercise squares, greenbelts and historic landscapes with integrated functions like flood protection, sightseeing, tourism, relaxation and fitness.

The scenic belt mainly features recreational corridors and sculptures, supplemented by such supporting facilities as small squares, landscape sketches, and lighting in different forms. Various kinds of trees and shrubs are found in the belt, presenting a harmonious landscape alongside the Xiangjiang River.

Taking a long walk along the river you will come to Tianxin Pavilion Park, one of the most well-preserved ancient cities. It presents landmarks such as the Tianxin Ancient Pavilion and ancient wall. The park is ranked as one of Changsha's Four Great Ancient Historic Sites, a China famous historic culture pavilion and a national AAAA tourist attraction. Tianxin Pavilion Park was built in 1924 for the protection of the Ancient Tianxin Pavilion. It has over 400 years of history while the Ancient Wall has existed for more than 2,200 years.

Depart from Tianxin Pavilion, walking towards to the center stretch of the Xiangjiang River, and you will reach the historic Orange Island Park. It was a favorite leisure site of Chairman Mao Zedong. As a young man he enjoyed spending summer afternoons with friends swimming in the river, a spirit of youth that is captured wonderfully in his well-known poem Qin Yuan Chun-Changsha. The island has a large granite bust of the young Mao.

After those explorations you can take a taxi or Metro Line 2 to have a good meal in Pozi Street.

Food tips:

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Huogongdian Restaurant [Photo/changsha.gov.cn]

Hunan's cuisine has a unique flavor. Nearly every dish tastes hot and delicious. The locals can guide you to their many favorite peppery foods. 

If you want to taste the traditional snacks in Changsha, Pozi Street is a must-visit place. You will find what you want in the Huogongdian (Temple of Fire-god) Restaurant.

It is famous for having the most authentic Hunan snacks and attracting almost all visitors to Changsha. The restaurant has become a combination of folk and food culture. Here, both local and visiting food lovers can find everything for a complete Hunan dining experience from Changsha-style stinky tofu to red braised pork and ciba (a glutinous rice dish).

Bars to try:

How about having a drink after the full schedule? The famous West Jiefang Road is a perfect place to enjoy an evening out.

SOHO bar, the most popular bar in Changsha, has a post-industrial and neoclassicism decoration style, European and American music, and a selling point of unique cocktails. Karaoke and TV are also available if you want some private space to have fun.

Margaret bar is the oldest bar in Changsha. It has a typical Nordic style and is a posh and quiet place to have a drink; its M2 bar, popular with foreigners, has great performances and colorful cocktails.


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