Legend has it that for as long as they remembered, locals feared the Furong Cave (芙蓉洞), believing it to house evil spirits. Thus, the magnificent mineral formations within were not discovered until 1993, when some brave souls finally decided to light some torches and enter. Within a year, the cave had been converted into a commercial show cave and opened to the public. In the meantime, exploration of the unopened parts of the cave continued, and in 1999, a small statue of the bodhisattva Guanyin was brought in from Chengdu to aid cavers who had hit upon a difficult point in the cave. Soon after they were able to continue their work, and the statue still stands in the cave today, greeting visitors at the bottom of the first descent.
With a total area of 37,000 square meters, depth of 2,700 meters, and maximum heights of 50 meters, the cave holds over 100 different types of mineral formations and small pools that have been forming over the past million years, and visitors today need no special equipment to enter the cave—it's been fitted with user-friendly-ish pathways and handrails and guides who stand at strategic points and speak through small PA systems. Nonetheless, the cave's obligatory loop is nearly two kilometers long and makes for uncomfortable situations during the most crowded of times; it's difficult to stop and enjoy the view when you're on a steep, slippery, stone staircase surrounded by sweaty, shrill-voiced tourists snapping photos of each other, and just when you think you've had enough of the ups and downs and slipping and shoving, you'll probably find yourself at the top of yet another steep hill, confronting the phallic "Origin of Life," so called, claims its accompanying sign, because it "looks like man's special thing." The real special thing at that very spot is the bench where you can rest your bones and watch as the stream of other tourists file on by, stopping to read and then pointing and giggling at the sign, which describes the "Origin of Life" in Chinese, English, French, and Korean.
The most spectacular of the stalagmite formations, such as the Dragon King's Palace, the Thousands of Arrows, and the 21-meter-high Curtain-Like Waterfall are all in the depths of the cave where the humidity is high and the ascents are sudden. While the footpath determines where in the cave visitors can go, many of the formations are right next to or hanging over the path, and it's possible to touch them. Some are chalky and rough; others are smooth; most feel damp, and some in fact are dripping water. The Disneyland-like layout of the path is enhanced by the colored lights that cast a red and green glow onto the formations and the occasionally amusing signage, such as the one marking the exit passageway, bored straight through the mountain, as the Time Warp Tunnel.
The formations in the cave are listed alongside other formations in Yunnan, Guizhou, and Guangxi as part of the South China Karst on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The cave naturally maintains a temperature of 18 degrees Celsius year-round; climbing the stairs inside can be a sweaty experience, so bring water but be forewarned that the only toilets are outside the cave.
Finally, serious thrill seekers can line up to ride on a zip line that spans more than 100 meters across the river dozens of meters below just outside the entrance to the cave.
From Chengdu, take a direct train to Wulong/武隆 (two per day, RMB39 to 183, 8 to 11 hours) or take the high-speed train to Chongqing (RMB100, around 2 hours) and then take the train to Wulong (RMB40/70, around 2 hours). From the Wulong Bus Station (a five-minute walk from the train station), vans running to Furong Cave/芙蓉洞 depart regularly (RMB6/approximately 20 minutes).
Entrance to the cave is RMB120 during peak season (March to October) and RMB65 the remaining months or with a student ID.