Getting closer to heaven on a Porsche adventure

The road to the top of Tianmen Mountain in the Hunan province of south central China isn’t short of a hairpin bend. The Tianmen Shan Big Gate, as the road is called, has 99 of them along its 11km ascent. It’s something of paradise for drivers on a Porsche adventure, from the foot of the mountain to its peak. It is with good reason that the name Tianmen translates as ‘Heaven’s Gate Mountain’. When you arrive at the summit and gaze back down, the road looks like a white dragon resting on a green mountain. But there is another thrill awaiting nearby in the shape of a narrow bridge that clings to the side of the mountain.

Hairpin bends in the mountains of Hunan
Switchback roads and verdant green slopes: the majestic peaks of Hunan

The bridge of highs

Everywhere you look on Tianman Mountain, it seems, there are opportunities for your nerves to be tested. After powering up jaw-dropping mountain passes, Porsche enthusiasts can raise their adrenaline levels even further. Look up and there’s a white bridge disappearing into the clouds. The steel cable bridge appears to float across the canyon, supported by a series of limestone pillars that seem like a natural part of the environment. The Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge crosses the rugged gorges at a height of up to 300m. Its glass floor giving you memorable views of the gorge below – but it’s not a place for the feint-hearted. If you’re brave enough to look up, you’ll be rewarded with views across this incredible landscape. The glass walkway stretches 430 metres, one side to the other, across a sea of lush greenery and craggy rock. We observe it while mostly enveloped in a thick veil of mist, but it does little to quell the heart-pounding exhilaration you feel as you take in the view across the canyon. 

A glass-floored suspension bridge crosses the dense woodland
Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon Glass Bridge: the longest, highest glass suspension bridge in the world

This thrilling experience that you’ll encounter on this Porsche adventure was masterminded by Israeli architect Haim Dotan. The bridge is made up of precisely 99 plates, each six metres wide, constructed from three-ply glass. Perhaps unsurprisingly, when it opened in 2016 it took the title of longest and tallest glass-bottomed bridge in the world. While it is for foot traffic only, it didn’t stop a fully-occupied limousine driving across the length of its delicate-looking span at its opening. Shortly afterwards, the bridge became the site for the world’s highest bungee jump and has also provided an eye-catching backdrop as a catwalk for fashion shows – although high heels are out of the question for tourists strolling across today.

Inspiration for a Hollywood blockbuster

If at some point you feel like you are walking through a real-life scene from the Hollywood movie Avatar then you can be forgiven. The film’s director, James Cameron, found inspiration for it here. The impressive craggy rocks of the Zhangjiajie National Park are a model for the floating mountains on the planet of Pandora from the movie. These unique quartzite sandstone formations seem like something from another world, towering over 200 metres into the sky, like giant rock fingers. This area was covered by the ocean around 380 million years ago and, over time, water and wind washed over the landscape to leave this miracle of nature behind. 

Sandstone columns in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
The other-worldly sandstone ‘Avatar mountains’ of Zhangjiajie National Forest Park

Travelling in China is an intoxicating experience. A whole continent packed into one country, one of infinite variety and rich in natural treasures. Tianmen Mountain is just one leg of a journey through the Middle Kingdom that modern-day Porsche adventurer seekers can drink in as part of the Porsche Travel Experience China. A place that can endlessly stimulate. A place to get the synapses firing. 

This story is part of the 25 Years of Porsche Travel Experience anniversary series. We take you on a virtual world tour around the globe – with a new, fascinating episode each week. Click here to read all stories.

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