If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you’ll know that last semester I reached one of my main goals in China and climbed the famous Huangshan mountain. Climbing Huangshan has been one of the highlights of my time in China, despite my annoyance of the hundreds of Chinese present like ants on an anthill. It was also a bitch to organize. I spent hours combing through travel websites, blogs, and booking sites before I was able to figure out how to even get us there!
Since I put a lot of effort in to figuring how the best way to climb the mountain, I thought I’d share my new expertise and attempt to make your trip a little less difficult.
First Question: Where to Stay?
When initially researching Huangshan, you’ll find it’s a bit difficult to even figure out where to book hotels.
That’s because apart from the mountain, there’s Huangshan city. And then there’s two areas closer to the base where you can also stay. Don’t pick the city. Huangshan the city is about an hour away from the mountain. You want to stay in the small little town at the base of the mountain: Tangkou.
Tangkou is the closest stop to the base of the mountains. There are plenty of restaurants, hotels, and convenient stores so you won’t be lacking in food or beds. Tangkou is also where all the buses leave to bring you to the base of the mountain. i.e. where you start your hike.
I booked a simple but nice and warm hotel through bookings.com where I was able to request a van to pick us up from the bus station.
How to get to Tangkou?
This was definitely a bit of a struggle for me. I’d decided where I wanted to stay, but then couldn’t figure out anything through the Chinese websites that were all in characters! Add in the fact that you need a Chinese credit card to book things and…ai-ee-a (as we often say in Chinese).
I’m based in Shanghai so my advice will be on how to get to and from Tangkou from there.
First of all, you have two options. You can take a train to Huangshan city and then grab a bus to Tangkou, or you can bus it all the way from Shanghai to Tangkou.
Take the bus.
Believe it or not, it’s quicker. The bus is approximately 6 hours from Shanghai South Bus Station. The train is overnight and its 12 ½ hours. At first this super confused me. Doesn’t it make sense for the train to be faster?
Well, as of now, the train doesn’t go directly to Huangshan. It takes a very roundabout way passing through many other nearby cities. And its overnight. Opt for the bus.
If you have a Chinese friend, they can reserve bus tickets through an app. You can do this too if you can read Chinese and have a Chinese credit card. I had my teacher book and pay for tickets with her card, and then I paid her back.
If you don’t have this option, you can always buy bus tickets at the bus station. You really only need to reserve in advance if you’re on a schedule or traveling through the Chinese holidays (the big ones are National holidays in October and Chinese New Year). Otherwise, you can always show up at the bus station and just reserve the next bus. Or go to Shanghai station and reserve in advance.
For your return ticket, your hotel or hostel should be able to book for you. We paid our hotel the night before and were picked up at the hotel the next morning.
I need to buy one bus ticket to Huangshan.
Can you help me reserve a bus ticket to Shanghai?
Should you stay at the top?
A popular thing to do for the Chinese is to climb the mountain (or take the cable cars) and stay in a hotel at the top. They then wake up at the break of dawn to watch the sunrise. So what should you do? Try and attempt the hike in one day, or break it up?
Pros of staying at the top:
- Huangshan is big. There’s a lot of sights to see at the top of the mountains. If you stay for two nights you’ll have plenty of time to take a break and explore the whole area.
- Gorgeous sunrise pictures
- The top is very expensive, rooms and food.
- Approximately 2/3’s of the time, Huangshan mountain is so cloudy you can’t see the sunrise.
On a bit of a budget and time constraint, we opted to climb Huangshan in just one day. I think this was a totally doable option and I was still very satisfied with my experience. The rest of my post will be geared towards the one day option so you can adjust as necessary.
What route should you take?
If you’re here to climb the mountains, then you probably don’t want to be taking the cable cars. The climb up was the best part! Although the steps were exhausting.
There are two routes of stairs that will take you to the top of Huangshan mountain. The Western stairs are steeper and harder to climb. The Eastern stairs are a bit easier and will take less time. This is the more popular option. It takes approximately 4 hours (depending on your stair climbing prowess) to reach the top by using the Western stairs and about 2 hours from the Eastern stairs.
We opted for the Eastern stairs. I would suggest this as the best way to go up. You’ll have gorgeous views along the way and it brings you straight to the best overlook point (where you’ll also unfortunately meet up with the hordes of Chinese tourists who took the cable cars up.)
We originally planned to go up the Eastern stairs, take a look around some of the many sites at the peak, and then find the Western steps to go down. We ran into a small bump in the road when we couldn’t find the start to the Western stairs.
The top is huge and it’s a maze of hundreds of people. You can definitely get a bit lost. The park also closes at 5pm meaning if you want to start the descent down, you need to find the steps by 1pm or 2pm at the latest.
We ended up walking for hours all over the top just looking for the cable cars. (There are a few different sections.) We also ended up waiting in line for hours just to get to the place for cable cars. Talk about a traffic jam!
However, the climb up was extraordinary. The views at the top were unbelievable. It wasn’t too big of a deal to choke up the 60kuai to ride the cable car down. And we were at the top the majority of the day. (The hike at the top to the cable cars took at least an hour.)
Further readings for routes:
What should you bring?
Make sure you get a full breakfast before you head out. Of course, you’ll also want plenty of water.
We went for ramen for breakfast, plenty of snacks throughout the day, and then a BIG dinner when we got back down.
Make sure to bring sugary items to keep your sugar levels high-Snickers never tasted as good as it did as when we reached the summit. We also devoured crackers, peanuts, and Chips Ahoy.
Other items you might want to consider are a walking stick.
There are plenty of places and vendors at the top and staggered through the Eastern stairs to buy water and snacks. They are of course, a bit pricier than the convenient stores in Tangkou.
- The park opens at 8am (I believe). Make sure you catch the first buses to the bottom of the mountain as you’ll have to wait in line for tickets. If you’re planning on hiking, this is essential. (Other friends started too late and didn’t have time to start the hike.)
- Park tickets cost 160kuai. If you’re studying abroad bring your student ID in order to get tickets half price.
- If you’re prone to altitude sickness, factor this in. Take lots of breaks and give yourself time to adjust.
- The mountain top is cold, no matter what time of year you go. Bring a jacket.
Was this advice useful? Is there anything else you wished you knew before climbing Huangshan?