It’s 7.30 in the morning. When I open the curtains I’m not stunned. I’m not blown away by beauty. I’m the witness of another gray day. Meh.
One week ago my friend arrived to see me in my natural habitat: Shanghai, also called Wonderful Everyday. But ever since her plane landed the weather has been anything but Wonderful Everyday.
See the picture above? Yeah.. That wasn’t exactly my view that morning. In my mind there was only one thing left to do: leave. So I opened my laptop and looked for the place people’d been telling me about: The Yellow mountains (or Huangshan, 黄山). We decided to leave the next morning.
Why you should go to Huangshan
Visiting Huangshan turned out to be the best choice we made that week. For me it was all the peace and quiet I’d dreamed of during living in the World’s largest city for almost a year. For her it was the China she’d come to see. Huangshan is amazing. It’s easy to reach, there are plenty of hiking options for all levels. Around every corner there will be another fantastic view waiting for you. If you’re a worshiper of sunrises and sunsets: they are fantastic once you find the right spot. That’s not surprising, since Huangshan is also known as the ‘King of all the Mountains’ and is famous for it’s Four Wonders: the oddly-figured pines and rocks, the seas of clouds, and the hot springs.
How to get there
Let’s get one thing straight: There is the city called Huangshan. And there is the Yellow Mountains Scenic area, also called Huangshan. Talk about confusing..
TRAIN OR PLANE: First, you need to get to the city. It’s fairly easy to get there: just a 4-hour high speed train ride or a 1,5-hour flight away from Shanghai (Hongqiao), both options cost around $50 one-way. From the airport or train station in Huangshan city, there are frequent buses running to the Scenic Area. This takes about 1,5 hours. Thereafter, there will be a bus waiting to take you up to the cable car.
LONG DISTANCE BUS: If you want to go cheaper, or include Hangzhou in a somewhat longer trip, there is a third option: the long distance bus (6,5 hours, $25). Be aware: at the time of our trip they only departed once a day, so you might wanna book your ticket in advance. Those buses will take you straight to the Scenic Area.
TIPS: Use Ctrip to reserve your ticket. Take the train early in the morning, but not too early: the Hongqiao stations are immense, you might need about an hour there to find the ticket office and the correct gate, and get some snacks. We took the train at 8.30 and arrived at the top of the mountain at 3pm. It was perfect. We still had some hours to hike our way up to the hotel and enjoy the views before the sun began to set.
Where to stay
For the first night I recommend staying on top of the mountain. Although there are few hotels to pick from and they’re pricier, it’s the only way to watch the sunset and sunrise. They are basic, but you pay for their location. We stayed in Huangshan Beihai Hotel, from which most of the viewpoints are easily accessible.
You can spend your second night in Tunxi Old Street, in the center of Huangshan city. Old Street International Youth Hostel was definitely a good option. This street is home to little old style Chinese shops, selling the famous Huangshan tea, calligraphy materials and lots of fresh spices. To find a good Chinese restaurant is not hard and people are very friendly. Spending just an evening and morning here is perfect.
Good to know
SUNSET and SUNRISE: Ask the reception desk at your hotel what the best place is to watch it, as it differs per location and time of the year. Extra tip: We walked around a little more to scout places for sunrise watching and found a perfect small piece of viewpoint, with NO other people there but us. Feels a little more fairytale-like than cramping up on a rock plateau with 50 other spectators.
HOT SPRINGS: You can find the hot springs just at the south exit from the mountains (in Tangkou). From there, it’s still about 1,5 hours to Huangshan city center. If you’ll spend the night in Huangshan, make sure to check the exact times of the last bus leaving, it will be quite early: around the end of the afternoon. The entrance fee of the hot springs is pretty high (about ¥300), but it’s beautiful. They just have this whole day visit fee, so keep in mind that it might not be worth going there for just a quick dip. To have more time there, find a hotel in Tangkou.
MORE: It’s easy to extend your trip. Good options are visiting some of the idyllic little villages around the area, and/or making a one-day stop in Hanghzou on your way back to Shanghai.
So, whenever you feel like you need some greens and fresh air: You’ll find the beauty of Huangshan just around the corner, waiting for you.