The Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in Hunan, China is famed for its towering, pillar-like karst formations, and bears a remarkable resemblance to the floating landscape of alien-world Pandora, which plays a starring role in the movie.
The 326-meter-tall glass Bailong Elevator was built onto the side of a cliff in the national park and offers stunning views of the karst formations.
It consists of three double-decker lifts, each of which can transport as many as 46 visitors up the mountain in less than two minutes per trip.
The elevator serves as gateway to some of the main attractions of the park including Golden Whip Stream, Tianzi Mountain and views of the Southern Pillar of Heaven — which was later renamed “Hallelujah Mountain” in honor of “Avatar” director James Cameron’s floating mountains.
Alternatively, visitors can hike up the mountain, which takes about 2.5 hours.
Completed in 2002 with a hefty price tag of RMB 180 million ($26 million), the lift hasn’t always been celebrated. Local experts and scholars initially criticized the project, saying construction of the Bailong Elevator, which began in 1999, damaged the natural scenery.
Some 20 years after its opening, the Bailong Elevator has proven to be one of the hottest attractions in the park, carrying more than 60 million tourists in the last two decades.
This feature was first published in 2020. It was updated in September 2022.