It is the highest outdoor elevator in the world and just looking at it gives you a queasy feeling in your stomach: The 330 meter high Bailong Elevator in China. Would you voluntarily drive it?
First of all: Even if you would never set foot in the Bailong Elevator itself, you should at least get close to it. The landscape all around is so impressively beautiful and unique that you absolutely have to see it.
Here, in the fairytale world of Zhangjiajie National Park in Hunan (China), James Cameron filmed parts of his science fiction blockbuster “Avatar”. The thousands of sandstone pillars, some more than 200 meters high, served as a model for the floating mountains on the moon Pandora in the film.
The steel construction of the Bailong Elevator (“Elevator of the Hundred Dragons”) with a total of three lanes is built on a vertical rock face that is part of a massive plateau. Those who dare to climb the 330 meters in one of the tiny cabins will be rewarded with a rather spectacular view over the national park.
Three meters per second
But the ride itself is an experience in itself: it starts underground. The cabin, which is glazed on three sides, shoots up three meters per second, initially in the dark. And then comes the WOW effect when suddenly the view opens up onto the bizarre-looking outside world of the Wulingyuan Scenic Area, which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1992.
The higher you get, the smaller the tree-like stone pillars beneath you become. And somehow you’re happy when you finally have solid ground under your feet again. After all, the elevator construction is in an area known for earthquakes, and the fact that operations had to be temporarily suspended between 2002 due to safety deficiencies is not particularly reassuring.
The good news for all those who are claustrophobic: Not far away, there is also a cable car that leads to a vantage point. However, it is better not to be afraid of heights…