China: Guizhou

Huangguoshu, China: Experience the world's largest waterfall cluster

Updated 5th July 2018
(CNN) — Compared with its neighbors -- Jiuzhaigou National Park in Sichuan and Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in Hunan -- China's Huangguoshu National Park is relatively off-the-radar for international travelers.
Especially when you take into account it's home to the world's largest waterfall cluster.
Located in Guizhou province, Huangguoshu became one of China's first officially recognized national parks in 1982. It's also the earliest recorded waterfall in Chinese literature, the country's largest waterfall and one of the largest waterfalls in Asia.
China Huangguoshu largest waterfall cluster Guizhou
Huangguoshu has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in China.
VCG/Getty Images AsiaPac/VCG via Getty Images
However, when Huangguoshu first applied for UNESCO World Heritage status in the 1990s, its application was rejected because of its low forest cover rate, poor ecological environment and an artificial Banbian Street that many felt was simply unattractive.
Over the past two decades, however, Huangguoshu officials have pushed hard to change all that. In 2017, they renewed plans to apply for UNESCO World Natural Heritage status, aiming for a 2020 nomination.
With a focus on sustainable tourism, the forest cover rate of the park has been boosted from less than 15% to 43.5%. At key scenic sites within the park, coverage has increased from 20% in 1992 to a whopping 73% in 2015.
As for that unattractive street? Banbian was relocated, a seven-year process that wrapped up in 2013.
Whether or not it will succeed in its application, one thing's for sure. Huangguoshu has slowly risen to become one of the most popular destinations in China for domestic travel.

Know before you go

Huangguoshu Grand Valley Hotel Resort Waterfall view
China's Huangguoshu National Park is home to the world's largest waterfall cluster.
courtesy Huangguoshu Grand Valley Hotel Resort
Spanning a staggering 163 square kilometers, Huangguoshu National Park can be intimidating for a first-time traveler.
As the park's centerpiece, the main Huangguoshu Waterfall is a 83-meter-wide and 67-meter-high wonder. But the name Huangguoshu actually refers to a group of 18 waterfalls. The total width of the combined waterfalls is 101 meters.
And then there's the 134-meter-long Water Curtain Cave, with windows and halls, behind the main waterfall.
Rhinoceros Pool, meanwhile, is an 11-meter-deep plunge pool underneath the main falls.
Doupotang -- about two kilometers upstream -- is another star attraction. It's the widest waterfall in the cluster.

Viewing points

Huangguoshu Grand Valley Hotel Resort Waterfall view
Huangguoshu Grand Valley Hotel is the only resort within the national park.
courtesy Huangguoshu Grand Valley Hotel Resort
To get the best views -- and hear the deafening roar -- of the main waterfall, visitors should visit Wang Shui Ting, the viewing platform by Rhinoceros Pool.
Guan Pu Ting offers the best vantage point for those looking for panoramic views of multiple waterfalls.
Huangguoshu Grand Valley Hotel Resort is the only hotel within the National Park. It offers great views of the main waterfall.

Other sights within Huangguoshu National Park

Tianxing Bridge, some six kilometers downstream from the main waterfall, is another scenic area inside the national park.
Known for its diverse landscapes -- from aquatic stone forests to lakes and karst caves, it's often compared to a natural penjing garden, the Chinese version of Japanese bonsai.

Practical tips

Summer, when the waterfalls are in full flow, is peak season for Huangguoshu.
You can feasibly tackle it within a day but we recommend taking two days so you can visit all the major park sites.
Tickets cost RMB180 ($27) per person from March to October and RMB 160 ($24) from November to February. Each entrance ticket allows access to all scenic areas and is valid for two days.
A tour bus ferries people between various scenic areas inside the park. A two-day pass costs RMB50 ($8).
An escalator transports people between the downhill and uphill sections of the Huangguoshu Scenic Area. It's RMB50 ($8) per return trip and RMB30 ($5) for a single ride.
Visitors are recommended to take the escalator uphill and walk downhill to enjoy a different view. There's also a ropeway within the Tianxing Bridge Scenic Area, which costs RMB10 ($1.5) per ride.
It's best to book tickets in advance online. Kuai Xing Man You is one of the official one-stop online platforms where travelers can purchase everything from entrance tickets to transportation to accommodation, though it's in Mandarin only. For English-language options, Ctrip is a popular Chinese booking site.
The closest airport to Huangguoshu National Park is Anshun Huangguoshu Airport, which services direct flights from several major Chinese cities including Beijing and Shanghai. The waterfalls are about 45 kilometers away from the airport.