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The World's Tallest Outdoor Elevator Takes Riders Through the Mountains That Inspired 'Avatar'

Michele Debczak
The ultimate elevator ride.
The ultimate elevator ride. / undefined undefined/Getty Images
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The landscape of the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in the Hunan Province of China is straight out of a sci-fi movie. The sandstone pillars that tower over the forest are said to have inspired the floating Hallelujah Mountains in James Cameron's Avatar (2009). You can't ride a mountain banshee around the area, but there is another spectacular way to soak in the sights. The park is home to a 1070-foot elevator, the tallest outdoor elevator in the world.

According to Atlas Obscura, the Bailong Elevator (or the Hundred Dragons Elevator) has been giving rides to the public since 2002. The lift actually consists of three double-decker elevators, each of which can hold around 50 people. As the cars make their ascent, riders are treated to a one-of-a-kind view of the park through the glass panels. It takes the mechanism just one minute and 32 seconds to complete the trip.

The bottom half of the Bailong Elevator is embedded in a quartz sandstone cliff face, and the upper 565 feet runs through an exposed steel shaft. In addition to being the tallest outdoor elevator on Earth, it also holds world records for being the tallest double-decker sightseeing elevator and the fastest passenger elevator with the biggest weight capacity.

It may be the tallest structure of its kind, but there are longer lifts without the panoramic views. At AngloGold Ashanti's Mponeng Gold Mine in South Africa, the elevator drops 7490 feet into the Earth, which is more than twice the height of the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai.

Many conservationists have criticized the construction of such a massive structure in a protected national park. There are some benefits to having the elevator around, however; visitors can now see the forest in one day, which reduces the need for infrastructure on the site to accommodate overnight guests. If you can't make it to the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park (or you can't stomach the dizzying ride), you can see the Bailong Elevator in action in the video below.


[h/t Atlas Obscura]

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