The name Huangshan is much abused and misused. This article is about Huangshan Scenic Area – otherwise known as Mount Huangshan. Its fame is such that almost everything in the area has adopted the same name. Most confusingly, the nearest big town, Tunxi has re-branded itself as Huangshan City or, often, just Huangshan. Without care, you will find that your train to Huangshan takes you to a different town to your Huangshan hotel and that neither is in the Huangshan Scenic Area.
Huangshan itself does not have good transportation links. Moreover accommodation (and everything else!) within the scenic area is expensive. Consequently most travelers stop in either Tangkou or Tunxi for the nights before and after a visit to Huangshan. Assuming you go back to the same hotel you will be able to leave the bulk of your luggage with them and only take a day pack up the mountain.
Huangshan is a granite massif consisting of 36 separate peaks, rising above 1,800 m. Famous throughout Chinese artistic history, Huangshan represents the typical mountain in Chinese paintings. Frequently shrouded in mist, the many peaks appear to float on clouds and have very fanciful names such as 18 Arhats Worshipping the South Sea, Lotus Flower Peak, Celestial Capital, Paint Brush, etc.
HOW TO GET THERE
The main entrance to Huangshan is the southern one near Tangkou however it is some distance from here to the paths on the mountain. You cannot enter by taxi: only the National Express shuttle buses are allowed into the scenic area. You can walk in, but it is better to save your energy for the mountain. Shuttle buses go from Tangkou to either Mercy Light Temple for the Yuping (aka Jade Screen) Cable Car or to Yungu (aka Cloud Valley or Yungu New) Cable Car. Buses leave approximately every 20 minutes, cost ¥19 and take around 20 minutes. The peaks are only really accessible by the eastern path (2.5 hours up and 1.5 hours down). The western path takes 9 hours and all of the peaks are closed there. STRONGLY ADVISED TO USE EASTERN PATH ONLY.
From the lower cable car stations you can either walk to the top or use the cable car. Cable car tickets can generally be purchased 6:30 to 16:30 but hours may be extended occasionally.
There is also an entrance and cable car in the north at Taiping from Songgu Nunnery near the bottom of the valley up to Purple Cloud Peak.
WHAT TO SEE AND WHAT TO DO THERE
Many walk Huangshan in a single day. Typically one would start early from Tangkou (or very early from Tunxi) and take the shuttle bus to Yungu cable car and then use the cable car to the top. From the top station walk anti-clockwise via Black Tiger Pine, Dawn Pavilion, Cloud-dispelling Pavilion, Flying-over Rock and Bright Top to Yuping (Jade Screen) cable car station and then take the cable car and shuttle bus back to Tangkou. Hiking the mountain like this in one day requires some fitness but is quite feasible for most. The fit can reasonably add on some detours as well – see the two day itinerary for suggestions.
Starting from Yungu cable car and ending at Yuping has the advantage that there is slightly more down hill than up but the difference is not great so the opposite order is quite reasonable.
For those with a bit more time and money a two day itinerary is very worthwhile – particularly if you doubt your fitness! It will allow seeing more of the area without time pressure and also allow you to enjoy sunset and sunrise. It is best to plan where you will sleep on the mountain. Yungu Cable way delivers you near to Beihai and Shilin hotels. Yuping Cable way delivers you near to Yupinglou Hotel. Taiping Cable way delivers you near to Cloud Dispelling Hotel.
With the extra time you can easily detour to Lotus Peak, Lion Peak, Beginning to Believe Peak and White Goose Ridge. If time and energy permit, you can also consider:
Fairy-walking Bridge. Peace and quiet (a rarity in China) and stunning scenery.
The first ring/loop north of Xihai Grand Canyon. As of 2013 it is not possible to continue all the way around Xihai Grand Canyon.
Forgo one of the cable cars in favour of walking. From the Yuping Cable Car/Mercy Light Temple entrance the “Western Steps” lead up for about 14km over spectacular terrain. Allow 6-7 hours for the ascent. From the Yungu Cable Car carpark the ascent by the “Eastern Steps” is easier, taking as little as 2-3 hours. If you choose to descend by the Eastern Steps you can extend the hike by including the Nine Dragon Waterfall area (Jiulongpu) for an additional charge.
Those who are very unfit should consider forgoing the walk from one cable car to the other. Instead, catch a cable car up, walk around as much or as little as you want and then take the same cable car back. The cable car trips are breathtaking on their own and the areas around the top stations are well worth a look.
The maps attached to the right are probably the best you will find. Print them out and take them with you.
On Huangshan, many tourists choose to stay overnight at one of several hotels in the Beihai region of the mountain to watch the sunset and sunrise.
Beihai Hotel. Expensive hotel, and we were only offered dormitory style rooms. OK buffet restaurant but quite expensive. On the mountain top near the Shilin Hotel, about 1km from Yungu Cablecar station. Also has small tents where you get an airmatress, a filthy sleeping bag and an extra blanket, but no pillows, and there are no facilities, except for a public toilet, if you want a shower you can get one for extra money. 200-2000.
Xihai Hotel. Fairly expensive hotel although it is well maintained and comfortable. Excellent location situated between the Beihai and Pai Yun Lou hotels. The Chinese restaurant is good as is the buffet breakfast. Rooms facing the front have a decent view while those in back have none. Compared to most of the other hotels on the mountain, Xihai is very nice. 1200-2000 RMB.
Baiyun Hotel. Expensive hotel, but well equipped modern rooms and a central location from which to walk. About 3km walking (lots of steps) from either Yungu cablecar station or Yuping cablecar station. Food court nearby or breakfast 70RMB. 200-2000 RMB.
Yupinglou Hotel. Expensive hotel, but well equipped modern rooms. Restaurant. Only about 500 metres from the top of the Yuping Cableway though still lots of steps. Great views over the surrounding mountains and valleys. 200-2000.
Shilin Hotel. Also has a bunkhouse with very primitive facilities. On the mountain top near the Beihai Hotel, about 1km from Yungu Cablecar station. ¥200-2,000 for doubles, ¥150-200 for dorms.
Other hotels on the mountain top. For completeness, the following hotels are also shown on the area map and you can probably find them through directories:- 1. Cloud Dispelling Hotel. 2. Dormitory style hotel next to the meteorology centre with the white dome that you can see from most areas of the mouuntain top. 3. Pai Yun Lou hotel near the TaiPing cableway looks ok.
It is possible to camp on the top of the mountain for around ¥180. However, conditions involve tightly-packed camping that is on concrete flooring and the mist is so heavy that most wake up cold and wet. Dorm beds in a relatively clean place cost ¥200, which may be a better option.