Updated: Feb 18
Huangshan (literally “Yellow Mountain”) named not for its color but for the eighth-century Yellow Emperor (Huangdi) who, according to one legend, ascended to heaven from its dramatic peaks.
The mountain range whose scenery, including striking granite peaks, stunning sunsets, clouds and mist, and strangely shaped pine trees have been immortalized in countless backdrops of Chinese ink scrolls. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990.
Due to the mountainous weather is it said that Huangshan is 50% of the time shrouded in thick fog. Therefore, your best bet is to allocate at least 2 days for exploring and hiking Huangshan to maximize your chances of clear weather.
When we arrived on the mountain on the first day, there was a slight fog, but as the day progressed, it got thicker and it was impossible and unwise to do any hiking. However, the next day it was perfect blue skies! If you are coming to watch the sunrise and sunset, it makes perfect sense to stay a night or maybe 2? Best option will be to stay in one of the peak hotels, that way you could ascend to any sunrise view point within 10-15 minutes!
Where to Stay
There are 3 hotels on the peak of Huangshan,
BeiHai Hotel (try to stay here)
I realize the best site to reserve any China Hotel is through trip.com. Most of the hotels allow only 30 days advance bookings so, only try 1 month before your travel dates or you will be fooled into thinking they are all booked out! Since there are only 3 hotels on the peak, they can get rather full. Don't expect a gourmet restaurant or cozy boutique hotel feel but more of basic accommodation with less than desirable food and at expensive prices, by China standard! But when you see the how your food and bottled water is brought up, it totally justifies the prices!
The routes to any peaks in Huangshan involves climbing countless steps, ascent and descent. Don't underestimate the traffic as troops of tourist and also workers share the narrow trail with you, tour guides with megaphones interrupt the stillness of the mountainside and it is extremely annoying!
In wet conditions, steps could be slippery and always allocate enough time for light, especially in foggy conditions, autumn and winter days as it can get dark as early as 5pm.
The are 3 cable cars leading to the top of the mountain, Yungu, Yuping, and Taiping.
There can be long queues especially during peak periods.
The one way price is: 105 yuan per person one way.
Note: The cable cars will be out of service in turn for a month during winter times for maintenance. Pay attention to the notices published on the official website if they want to visit in winter.
Which Route to Take
Surely it will depend on how much time and how fit and willing you are to explore the sights! Although I wanted to go to Fairy-Walking Bridge, but we were pressed for time and therefore had to skip it and we did Route 1 instead.
Route 1 had many magnificent peaks such as the Bright Top Peak, Flying Over Rock, Shark...etc.
Sunrise at Bright Peak, was a sea of people instead of clouds. Do go there at least 15minutes before actual sunrise if you want to secure a good place to capture that glorious moment when the sun peeks out from the horizon. It is truly fantastic and one of those moments when you are freezing your butt off but the explosion of colors simply melts your heart and then, the rays from the sun slowly warms you up!
What to Pack
Depending on which time of the year you come, but when we visited Huangshan in early November, the mornings dipped below 0c. You need to come prepared with jacket and gloves, wooly hats especially if you are planning to catch the sunrise!
Make sure you have your full winter gear with you in autumn and winter.
In summer or spring too, would be best to have a jacket as the weather on the peak is highly extreme.
Xu Xiake, a noted Chinese geologist in the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644), who visited the Yellow Mountains twice, left his praise in this quote:
You don't need to see any more mountains after seeing 'the Five Mountains', and you don't need to see the other four mountains after seeing Huangshan.