Brief on Huangshan
The mountain range, consisting of some 70 peaks over 1,000 meters, winds across Anhui Province.
Known as Yishan in ancient texts, the mountain range took on its present name during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD), most likely in honor of Huang Di, the father of the Chinese people in legend. Over time, its trails have come to be furnished with stone stairways.
At the very beginning, during the policy of opening up, former Chairman Deng Xiaoping climbed the mountain and said, "Huangshan is a good place where tourism can prosper. You must boast about it and make it known to the world." The mountain entered a new chapter of development shortly after.
Huangshan was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.
Depending on your stamina and tolerance for crowds, there are several ways to tackle Huangshan. There are three cable car lines which connect peaks and are also linked by well-maintained trails. Otherwise, hikers have two basic choices of paths: Eastern and Western Steps. The former is the easier of the two while the latter the more scenic and rugged.
We suggest visitors take the west canyon trails, starting from the side where the Taiping cable car station is located. It is amazing, the views there are more spectacular and its mostly downhill. Also it is virtually crowdless.
Regardless of which path you take, you will find yourself in scores of rocks, trees and scenic outlooks. They are usually named after some creature or figure they resemble.
One notable example is Welcoming Pine (Yingke Song), one may instantly find in countless images on silk, paper and porcelain. The pine, reputed to be some 800 years old, stands by the Western Steps with branches outspread like arms, greeting all new arrivals.
Admission to Huangshan is 200 yuan and one-way cable car tickets are 80 yuan.
Bright Summit Peak
The crowning glory of Huangshan is the rough circle of peaks, Purple Cloud Peak, Pine Forest Peak and Bright Summit Peak. At an elevation of 1,840 meters, Bright Summit Peak (Guangmingding), the second highest in Huangshan, is now the highest peak to which visitors may ascend. The highest, Purple Cloud Peak, has been closed due to ecological protection concerns.
The area can either be part of a long day's hike or an overnight destination. Though we do not recommend you drink excessively on the trail or carve a message in he mountainside, we do recommend you join the masses in viewing the sunrise from one of the peaks.
The area overlooking Beihai (Northern Sea) is especially lovely. It is well worth braving the morning chill.
It also provides great views of Cloud Sea and its neighboring, peaks including the Celestial Capital Peak, Lotus Flower Peak and Jade Screen Peak.
Getting there: The Western Steps will get you to the access trail. You can also approach from the north, via the trails coming from the direction of Beihai and the Eastern Steps
Another symbolic feature that one should not miss while visiting Huangshan is its hot springs (wenquan). The springs maintain a steaming temperature of 42 C year round. Guests may bathe in the healing waters, which are purported to cure arthritis and skin problems.
However, do not expect gorgeous natural mountain pools. The waters have been channeled into functional pools in a bathhouse next to the hotels. There are a number of other places to stay, and many find it a quieter and more pleasant option than spending the night in Tangkou.
Getting there: Visitors can reach the springs area by road from Tangkou. Buses and taxis operate regularly between the town and the Hot Springs.
Open: 8 am-11 pm (bathhouse)
Cost: 50 yuan for communal bath
For many who hope to experience peaceful rural China after seeing so many big cities, Hongcun, a picturesque village located in Yixian County near the mountain area, is the best choice.
Hongcun Village, listed as World Cultural Heritage Site, has a long history of over 900 years and was built in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127 AD). The village is full of primitive simplicity and elegance. It formed the remarkable Hui Culture character with exquisite three carvings architecture and cultural scenery.
Within the village, lots of locals offer accommodations. It is quite an experience to stay in a traditional home wood paneled rooms and four-post beds beside a half-moon pool.
We suggest you stay if you can, because from 7 am to 6 pm, the place is jam packed with tourists and art students. However, walking around Hongcun in early morning or late evening is something else. You can catch a glimpse of how life was during years past.
Cost: 80 yuan. A pass, available at the entrance, is valid for one week and is good for multiple entries.
There are several areas on and around Huangshan in which to spend the night. The Behai Hotel is one of several hotels on the mountains, good for a hot meal and a warm bed after a day of hiking. Aside from the expensive hotel in the mountains, the more comfortable are in Tangkou, a town that serves as the departure spot for most tours.
The Tangkou hotels cost about 400 yuan per night.
The area around Huangshan enjoys a mild climate with four distinct seasons: cool falls, snowy winters, pleasant springs and humid summers. It rains a lot, mostly from May to September. As you ascend, the temperature may drop significantly.
The best time to visit is spring or fall, when the weather is moderate and the humidity and heat are minimal.