Tianmen Cave 天门洞

img 6033 Tianmen Cave 天门洞
Tianmen Cave 天门洞

Probably one of the reasons where people visit Tianmenshan is to be able to see the Tianmen Cave. This is probably the reason why the park was built in the first place. Tianmen Cave is not actually a cave but a hole in the mountain that formed naturally. Since the entire Tianmenshan area is massive limestone deposit, caves naturally form here. In this case a hole in the mountain.

img 5963 Tianmen Cave 天门洞
Taking Tongtian Avenue to the Cave

To get to the “cave”, you need to take a cable car ride halfway down the mountain where you transfer to a bus. The bus will then take you to the cave but not before passing through the 99 turns of Tongtian Avenue 通天大道. The bus will deposit you at the foot of the steps leading up to the “cave”.

The foot of the cave is a wonderful photo opportunity with the hole in the mountain as the background. One opportunity worth waiting for is for sunlight to shine through the hole with mist or smoke illuminating the way.

img 5981 Tianmen Cave 天门洞
Give Up Yet?

Something, I think I’m getting used to here in China, are long flights of stairs. Tianmenshan is no different, to reach the hole visitors will need to climb the Climbing Heaven Stairs 上天梯. The Climbing Heaven Stairs has a total of 999 steps, the number 9 is again referring to the number of palaces in heaven.

From the way the stairs look, it would seem that there would be rest stops with the stairs flattening to let climbers rest, but this is actually an illusion. To my horror, there is no flat surface (unless you count the ones outside the stairs), in those portions, the steps are just wider, from afar, it would give the impression that it is flatter there.

This would mean there would be little space for resting in the relentless climb up towards the hole. With the amount of people climbing up, you do not want to be in the way either. I would just try to catch my breath ever few minutes and continue in my march to the top.

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View of the Cave From the Inside

At one point while I was resting, I saw a elderly lady pass me. I though to myself, “I won’t let an old lady pass me, I need to get there first!”. With renewed vigor, I continued my assault to the mountaintop. At one point, it seemed like the old lady has more vigor than I, maybe she climbs this flight of stairs everyday. Fortunately, her husband seemed to be slowing her down and I reached the top earlier than she did.

I took a while to catch my breath before starting to take in the wonderful scenery from the top. From here, you can see a great view of Zhangjiajie City. One the other side, there seemed to be some development going on but it was still not open to the public when we visited. There were freelance photographers waiting for customers and we wondered whether or not we can earn a few bucks here.

img 6001 Tianmen Cave 天门洞
What's On The Other Side

Surprisingly, the cave was only formed recently, in the 2nd century, a portion of the moutain, then known at Songliang Mountain 嵩梁山, collapsed revealing a huge hole in the mountain. Since then the mountain was renamed Tianmenshan, which means Heaven’s Gate Mountain, obviously the hole is the gate.

In the late 90’s a group of aerial performers, flew a group of planes through the hole. This was part of some publicity stunt which was broadcast throughout China, and thus watched by almost a billion people.

img 6006 Tianmen Cave 天门洞
The Way Down

I still find it amazing how the Chinese managed to package this entire place for tourism. A hole is the mountain is now a major RMB/dollar earner. Anyway, after all the photo taking, we walked back down and took our bus back to the cable car station. I could say that, even if the entrance fee to the park is rather steep, the sights from the cable car, the walk around the mountain and finally the Tianmen Cave, it would seem to be well worth the entrance fee. Who knows, by this time, they have added a couple more attractions to this splendid park.

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  1. Hi; How to visit Tianmen Cave and whom to contact to get an airplane ride through the Cave !!. What is the nearest international airport to the Cave ??. Thank you

  2. hi clay,

    the nearest international airport to tianmen cave will have to be guangzhou baiyun international airport. you can then either take a train to zhangjiajie city or a domestic flight from guangzhou. when in zhangjiajie city, you will surely be bugged by numerous touts, however, you can just take a cable car up to tianmen cave. the cable car station is right at the city quite near the train station, you can’t miss it. unfortunately, you’ll have to be part of the military to be able to fly a plane through the cave.

    i hope this helps.

    thanks for visiting!

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