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World's highest outdoor lift: China's gigantic elevator zips tourists up cliff that inspired Avatar


Towering more than 1,000 feet up the cliff face that inspired the landscape of the blockbuster film ‘Avatar’, the world’s highest outdoor lift whisks brave tourists to breath-taking views.

The three double-decker elevators in central China’s Zhangjiajie Forest Park zip up the cliff in just 88 seconds, a speedy attraction as domestic tourism slowly recovers in China after the coronavirus forced strict travel measures and lockdowns earlier this year.

It delivers tourists to the top of the sandstone rock face that inspired the fictional jungle moon of Pandora — home to the blue-hued Na’vi people — of the 2009 James Cameron smash hit.

An aerial view of the Bailong or 'Hundred Dragons' lift in Zhangjiajie, southern China

This picture taken on November 13 shows an aerial view of the Bailong or ‘Hundred Dragons’ lift in Zhangjiajie, southern China

The three double-decker elevators zip up Zhangjiajie's renowned sandstone pillars, inspiration for Avatar, in just 88 seconds

The three double-decker elevators zip up Zhangjiajie’s renowned sandstone pillars, inspiration for Avatar, in just 88 seconds

The site is believed to have inspired the Hallelujah or 'floating mountains' on the fictional jungle moon of Pandora in Avatar

The site is believed to have inspired the Hallelujah or ‘floating mountains’ on the fictional jungle moon of Pandora in Avatar

‘One of the main reasons we came is that the site inspired Avatar,’ said Qiao Ke, 45, who travelled to the lift with his family.

‘The film really made an impression on us. And it really is beautiful here.’

‘Its geological structure is very suited to using elevators as a means of transport, so we made this Bailong Elevator’, explained Liu Jie, the director of the company managing the lift, whose name means ‘Hundred Dragons’.

‘Before, there was only a cable car with limited capacity, so tourists had to wait a long time,’ Liu added.

The alternative was to brave a three-hour climb up on foot.

‘It’s super-fast,’ pensioner Jin Shihao told AFP after completing the ride, which costs 129 yuan (£15, $19) for a return ticket.

The incredible observation lift, which is taller than The Shard, can transport visitors to the top of a 1,070-foot-tall cliff

The incredible observation lift, which is taller than The Shard, can transport visitors to the top of a 1,070-foot-tall cliff

The towering structure is composed of three separate glass elevators, each of which can carry up to 50 people at a time

The towering structure is composed of three separate glass elevators, each of which can carry up to 50 people at a time

According to reports, the 120million yuan (13.7million) project claims to be the highest and heaviest outdoor lift in the world

According to reports, the 120million yuan (13.7million) project claims to be the highest and heaviest outdoor lift in the world

Around 8,000 tourists take the lift every day. However, numbers are still significantly down from an average of 14,000 before the pandemic.

The incredible Bailong Sky Lift, which is taller than The Shard, can transport visitors to the top of a 1,070-foot-tall cliff (362 metres) from its foot in less two minutes.

According to Chinese state newspaper People’s Daily Online, the 120million yuan (13.7million) project claims to be the highest and heaviest outdoor lift in the world.

To top that, it has set three Guinness World Records: the world’s tallest full-exposure outdoor lift, the world’s tallest double-deck sightseeing lift and the world’s fastest passenger lift with biggest carrying capacity, according to the same article.

The structure comprises three separate glass elevators, each of which can carry up to 50 people at a time.

This means, up to 1,400 tourists get to experience the stomach-churning ride which offers sweeping views across Zhangjiajie’s renowned sandstone pillars, thought by some to be the inspiration of the Hallelujah or ‘floating mountains’ in Avatar.

Located in China's Zhangjiajie Forest Park, the world's highest outdoor lift carries tourists up the cliff face that inspired the landscape for the movie "Avatar"

Located in China’s Zhangjiajie Forest Park, the world’s highest outdoor lift carries tourists up the cliff face that inspired the landscape for the movie “Avatar”

Around 8,000 tourists are taking the lift every day now, compared to an average of 14,000 before the coronavirus pandemic

Around 8,000 tourists are taking the lift every day now, compared to an average of 14,000 before the coronavirus pandemic

Fans of the 2009 James Cameron smash hit flock to the park to see the inspiration of the fictional jungle moon of Pandora

Fans of the 2009 James Cameron smash hit flock to the park to see the inspiration of the fictional jungle moon of Pandora

Construction of the lift began in 1999 and finished three years later.

Service was reportedly halted temporarily due to safety concerns shortly after its opening.

But the lift reopened in 2003 and now has a cult following from tourists keen to experience one of the most terrifying rides in the world.

Those whose fear of heights prohibits them from taking the lift can instead take a two-and-a-half-hour walk up the valley.

The Zhangjiajie, a 3,670-square-mile forest park in Hunan Province, also has a vertigo-inducing glass-bottomed bridge.

The breath-taking bridge, which stretches a quarter-of-a-mile above a 980-foot-deep canyon, was the longest see-through walkway in the world when it opened in 2016.

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