Huangshan, or Yellow Mountain as it is also known, is China’s most majestic natural destination. Situated in China’s Anhui province, the Huangshan mountain range is one of China’s most famous sights, and is a popular destination for tourists from both within China and abroad. The mountain views have inspired artists and poets from time immemorial, and its craggy slopes have formed the setting and inspiration for films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and James Cameron’s Avatar.
Huangshan City Image: Arne Hückelheim (wikipedia), CC BY-SA 2.0
Huangshan City is the base from which many tourist groups begin their tour of the Huangshan area and its airport has daily flights to large cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, and Guangzhou. It is also the main train and bus hub in the area. Known to most locals as the city of Tunxi, Huangshan City caters primarily to Chinese tourists and has an abundance of relatively generic Chinese hotels, shops, and tour operators. However, Huangshan City is not located particularly close to the attractions of Huangshan, and visitors may wish to find accommodations closer to Yellow Mountain, both to escape the tourist train and for more convenient access to the mountain’s attractions.
The Yellow Mountain rises 1,800 meters above sea level, with gorgeous granite peaks that are truly worthy of their UNESCO World Heritage designation. Most visitors will opt to take the Huangshan cable car directly to the top of the mountain, although particularly intrepid (and fit) hikers may ascend or descend on foot via the well-marked stone paths. Once at the top of Mount Huangshan, there are myriad carved stone paths and staircases through the pines and giant bamboos that lead visitors to sightseeing spots such as rocks in the shapes of monkeys and dragons, as well as viewpoints of the mountain range. One of Huangshan’s most famous sights is the “sea of clouds,” one of China’s most classic sights, especially at sunrise when the sun rises above the blanket of clouds below, illuminating the mountain peaks that tower out of the mists.
Chengkan Ancient Village
Chengkan Ancient Village
Chengkan Ancient Village is one of the most interesting side trips at Yellow Mountain. Chengkan is known for its historical architecture. It has some of the best preserved examples of Ming Dynasty architecture in China. It is also known for its intricate layout that was planned according to the “Eight Diagrams” theory in the classic Chinese book, the I Ching. Its lanes and buildings look like they come straight out of a Chinese epic film, with their heavy wooden gates and doors, “dragon roofs,” red lanterns, and intricately carved latticework. Other traditional villages located close to Huangshan include Xidi and Hongcun, the buildings of which both represent traditional Anhui architecture. Hongcun is a fascinating “water village” with canals that crisscross its streets, and is also famous for being a setting in the film “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”
Hiking in Huangshan is one of the most rewarding ways to explore the mountain, and is made relatively easy by the thousands of granite steps that are carved right into the face of the mountain. Some of these carved steps are said to be 1,500 years old. Hiking can be the best way to glimpse the pristine bamboo forests on the slopes of Huangshan and to escape the crowds. Although the hike up the mountain can be strenuous due to sheer distance, the steps make it much easier to navigate. During the winter, however, the stone steps and paths can become dangerously slippery with ice. Visitors who prefer a shorter walk can hike the many trails around the top of the mountain.
There is ample lodging to be found in Huangshan City, although the city is located quite far from the mountain and can be a bit of a tourist trap. Hotels and inns can also be found in the town of Tangkou, right at the foot of Yellow Mountain, for very reasonable prices, and local taxis can ferry you to and from local attractions. For the most picturesque accommodations, consider staying in one of the ancient villages such as Xidi or Hongcun, where a quiet room in a traditional villa can be one of the best ways to unwind and relax. These also provide a unique glimpse into Chinese culture. On the top of the mountain there are several hotels available, and a night in one of these is recommended if you intend to see the sun rise over Mount Huangshan. Be prepared, however, for higher prices for food and accommodation on top of the mountain, as all supplies have to be carried up the mountain by local porters.
Top image: Chi King (flickr)