Revisit the inspiration for ‘Avatar’s’ Pandora with a trip up the world’s tallest outside elevator

Famous for its towering, columnar karst formations, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in Hunan, China bears a remarkable resemblance to the floating landscape of the alien world Pandora, which stars in the film.

The 326-meter-high glass bailong elevator was built on a cliff in the national park and offers a breathtaking view of the karst formations.

The Bailong Elevator consists of three double-decker lifts, each of which can carry up to 46 visitors up the mountain in less than two minutes per trip.

It serves as an easy gateway to some of the park’s main attractions, including the Golden Whip Stream, Tianzi Mountain and the view of the Southern Pillar of Heaven, later renamed “Hallelujah Mountain” in honor of the floating “Avatar” director James Cameron became mountains.

Alternatively, visitors can hike up the mountain, which takes approximately 2.5 hours.

The lift was completed in 2002 at a high price of 180 million RMB (27 million USD) and was not always celebrated. Local experts and scientists initially criticized the project, saying the construction of the bailong elevator, which began in 1999, damaged the natural landscape.

About 18 years after it opened, the Bailong Elevator remains one of the hottest attractions in the park. It carried up to 18,000 tourists every day before the Covid-19 outbreak.

After weeks of lockdown, Zhangjiajie reopened in March this year.

Despite the pandemic, RMB 104 million (USD 15 million) were grossed in the first three quarters of 2020 – but this is still a 67.82% decrease from the previous year.

Jin Xin, executive vice president and executive secretary of Zhangjiajie, told China’s National Business Daily that daily visitor numbers have rebounded to 70% of pre-Covid numbers.

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