24 Hours in Huangshan

WHS#547 | Huangshan | Tourist Map | Travel Guide | Photo & Video | News Update

Commonly known as the most beautiful mountain in China, Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) has lured visitors for centuries. Legions have traveled to see its fabled sunrise and sea of clouds, which have inspired more classical painting and poetry than you could ever care to know. Despite the millions of tourists who flock here every year – as well as the handful of hotels and overpriced snack stalls which have sprung up to accommodate them – the park itself remains miraculously unspoilt. Fifty kilometers of immaculate, hand-carved stone steps criss-cross the mountain like a snakes and ladders board, leading you through caverns, to the top of peaks, to the edge of stomach-churning precipices and past peaceful environs of gurgling brooks and stoical Huangshan pines, hanging impossibly from sheer cliff faces. Although disturbed by crowds at various rest-stops and shrieks from the summit’s only full-time residents – Tibetan macaques – expect a climactic ascent to arguably the most stunning view in China.

Getting there
There are several buses daily from the Shanghai South bus station, taking around six hours, with the earliest leaving at dawn (RMB135). Beware though, buying a ticket to Huangshan doesn’t always get you to the mountain – some stop at Tunxi (Huangshan’s town), where you’ll have to get a minibus to the mountain and a taxi to the main park entrance. If you don’t mind spending an extra night, a slow train leaves Shanghai Main Train Station (number K8419) in the evening and arrives in Tunxi around 9am (around RMB200). To return, there is a train and multiple buses daily.

What to do
It’s fairly expensive to get into the park (RMB200, concessions available). From the main gate, choose between a gentle 7km hike to the summit, or, for those short of time, breath or patience, a cable car instead (RMB80). Once up top, figure out where west is, find yourself a secluded spot and hunker down for the sunset. For sunrise, Guangming Peak probably has the best vantage point, but you’ll have to fight it out with the hundreds of other spectators for an unobstructed view. Descending the western steps (and alas, the crowds) takes you past Huangshan’s finest scenery, and the multiple detours are all worthwhile. Whatever you do, don’t miss the incredible ascent to Tiandu Peak.

Eat and drink
You’re on a mountain summit, so choice is limited. For the hike up and down, be sure to pack some high-energy food and a lot of water. Up top, you can either brave the hotel restaurant fare or enjoy instant noodles and snacks.

Where to stay
Up top, there are several options but none stands out. The Shanzhuang next to Guangming Peak is a good bet, with a night in an 8-bed dorm without toilet, costing RMB100. It’s far from luxurious, but you only need it until 3am. If you need comfort, there are also more expensive options available, such as the Beihai Hotel which has doubles for RMB500 and up.

This is one of China’s busiest tourist attractions so try to visit during the week or off-season to minimize crowds, and consider booking ahead to avoid a freezing night outdoors. Take plenty of cash, a good set of walking shoes and some warm clothes for the evening. And don’t forget your camera or you’ll regret it!

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