South-central China : Anhui : Huangshan
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.
Jagged granite peaks clothed in uniquely shaped pine trees create a spectacular landscape of great interest to artists and photographers. The development of walking tracks and cable cars makes this landscape accessible to most active travelers.
Flora and fauna
Over 1,450 kinds of plant are found within the Park. The most spectacular tree is the unique Pinus huangshanensis which grows precariously clinging to rock faces. Many of the trees have names such as the Welcoming Guest and the Seeing-off Guest Pines. Carpinus, Cornus, Enkianthus, Fraxinus, Rhododendron and Weigelia are some of the species of flowering tree to be seen. 470 species of animals have been recorded. The most frequently seen ground animals are squirrels and small skinks.
Cold at night, (think: 1,800 m above sea level). Dangerously slippery ice on paths in winter.
The nearest domestic airport is at Tunxi, about an hour drive from the base of the mountain, the flight to Shanghai Hongqiao is less than one hour. Taxi from the airport to Laojie in downtown Tunxi is ¥20.
The nearest station is at the town of Tunxi, but the station is actually called Huangshan. There is an overnight train from Shanghai that takes about 13 hours, which is far longer than a direct bus, but it does save a night at a hotel, so it is a popular option.
Frequent direct buses run from Shanghai and Hangzhou. The buses from Hangzhou run either to Huangshan City (nearly two hours away) or direct to Tangkou (close to the base of the mountain). The buses to Tangkou are less regular, but easy to catch if you phone up the bus station and get a timetable.
An entry fee of ¥230 applies (off-season entry fee is ¥120, e.g. early December), a 50% discount is available for students with IDs and seniors. If you take the tram to the top, it costs ¥80 each way. Prices for food are about twice as high on the top as they are on the bottom (May 2007).
Unfortunately, the town of Huangshan is not too close to the actual Yellow Mountain. Taxi from the airport to the Xinyungu cable car is between ¥200 and ¥100 depending on your negotiating skills.
Alternatively, upon arrival at the train station, airport, or long-distance bus station, a convenient method of transportation is by bus to the small town of Tangkou. The bus ride to Tangkou takes about an hour, and offers great views of the rural Anhui Province. There are a great deal of buses located outside the train station, these should cost ¥15-20 for a one-way ticket.
Once at the Tangkou bus station, the entrance to the Yellow Mountain Park is quite accessible. Travellers desiring a longer hike up the face of the mountian can embark from the town of Tangkou. For those wishing to ascend the mountain more rapidly, there are tour buses that depart from Tangkou to the cable car lifts, these are easily booked for about ¥10.
The actual ascent starts from the entrance to Huangshan mountain. There is around 20 minutes bus ride from Tangkou town to the entrance (and this distance is not recommended for site seeing, if you are not interested in road construction), you can easily get a bus for ¥19 in Tangkou Town.
Be aware of Mr. Chengs and his restaurant, he is a scammer and will defintly try to cheat you with food and transport ticket for the public bus. Better take a taxi and drive to the western part of Tankou's city. There, near to the freeway station is the long distance bus station. Here you can buy the ticket without getting cheated. Busticketprice back to shanghai was in april 2012 140rmb.
Once on the top of the mountain it is possible to do a few walks. Highly recommend is the walk to the Fairy Bridge. Peace and quiet (a rarity in China) and stunning scenery. You can see why Avatar was based on this scenery. Takes around 30-40mins to walk, at the bridge it is possible to then do the canyon walk which looks great however it was closed in May 2011. Still worth going to the fairy bridge and back with a good camera!
An English language map is available in Tangkou and is worth purchasing as signage can be confusing. Many local couples buy padlocks and inscribe their names on them, then lock them to various places on top of the mountain. Others buy medals commemorating their successful summit of the peak.
In Tunxi, the most cited tourist destination is Laojie (old street with lots of souvenir shopping). This street is over commercialized and has little to offer over the more authentic ancient towns nearby (Hongcun, Xidi, both on the UNESCO World Heritage list). But it is near the airport and train station, and can be entertaining if you need to kill time before leaving town. The Laojie is a great place for buying high quality red, black and green tea at reasonable prices. Also worth a try is the tea tofu.
Food options are limited on the mountain. There are (expensive) restaurants in all the hotels but it is hard for a solo traveller to find cheap food. There are several small grocery stores selling snacks & drinks. Stinky tofu of a particularly stinky variety seems to be popular as well. On top of the mountain in peak season, water was ¥6-10, beer ¥10, meat sticks 3 for ¥10, instant noodles ¥10, cucumbers 2 for ¥6.
Take plenty of water as the price rises steeply on the mountain (up to ¥10 per 600ml bottle). Local beer, such as Huangshan Beer (黄山啤酒), costs ¥10-20.
On Huangshan, most tourists choose to stay overnight at one of several hotels in the Beihai region of the mountain to watch the sunset and sunrise. In Tangkou there are a lot of cheap hotels available for around ¥80. And there are also some options in Tunxi.
It is possible to camp on the top of the mountain for around ¥180, but conditions involve tightly-packed camping is on concrete flooring space in 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.