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  • Writer's pictureOlivier

China: Traveling to the Huangshan Mountains (Part 2)

Updated: Mar 8

Among all the representative landscapes of China, the Huangshan Mountains are certainly the most famous. Also known as the Yellow Mountains by a decree from 747, referring to the first emperor who visited them, these unique landforms have been one of the major sources of inspiration for traditional Chinese painting and culture in general. A journey through time.


China: Traveling to the Huangshan Mountains (Part 2)


Introduction

Immersed in a misty atmosphere for more than 300 days a year, this 1200 km² national park has become a must-see for black and white landscape photography. The contrasts between the high brightness of the clouds and the dark hues of the rock flanked by ancient pines give the impression of moving through a traditional black ink painting.


Characterized by their granite peaks emerging from a sea of clouds, the Huangshan Mountains offer a multitude of scenic facets to photographers. However, time and patience are required to fully admire these phenomena. Optimal conditions are not always present, where and when one would like them to be.


The landscape is constantly changing, influenced by the clouds and winds that sometimes blow at impressive speeds between the rocky peaks.


A look back at the fascinating history of these mountains, their origins, spirituality, and the tourism they attract. Here are my tips for optimizing your journey through a series of 5 articles that I invite you to read and discover in chronological order.


1. History, Geology, Characteristics, Spirituality, and Tourism

2. How and When to Get There, and Where to Stay for Photography Under Optimal Conditions

3. How the National Park is Structured and How to Organize Your Travels

4. What Equipment to Bring and On-Site Logistics

5. Descending into the Depths of Huangshan Canyon

 

Contents of this Article:


 
China: Traveling to the Huangshan Mountains (Part 2)

Getting to the City of Huangshan

The national park is located in Anhui Province. Your starting point will inevitably be the city of Huangshan via Tunxi Airport.


To get there, you have two options: by air or by train. I recommend the first option, which is naturally faster. Most Chinese airports located in the country's major cities offer flights to Huangshan. However, it is common to travel there from Beijing or Shanghai.


Having always traveled from Shanghai to Huangshan, here is some information that may be useful for planning your trip.


If you are arriving directly via an international flight to Shanghai, there is a high likelihood that you will land at Shanghai Pudong Airport.

Flights to Tunxi Airport (Huangshan) all depart from Shanghai Hongqiao Airport. You will need to arrange for transit between these two airports by bus. Be cautious; you are in China, where everything takes time due to the long distances.


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Book your second flight (to Huangshan) several hours after your arrival at Shanghai Pudong, or even the next day. It is entirely possible to spend the night in one of the affordable and quality hotels near Shanghai Hongqiao. Several paid shuttles (approx. 14 RMB/person) provide transit between the two Shanghai airports throughout the day and several times per hour.


The organization of transportation is excellent, but possible traffic jams make the duration of the journey unpredictable. If everything goes smoothly, the trip between the two Shanghai airports takes about one hour. The flight from Shanghai Hongqiao to Huangshan also takes approximately one hour.


China: Traveling to the Huangshan Mountains (Part 2)

Where to Stay in the City of Huangshan

When you arrive in the picturesque city of Huangshan, you will still need to take a taxi to the city center where your hotel is likely located. You will have a choice among numerous hotels. Having experienced a few of them, I recommend two options:

  • The Huangshan International Hotel on the outskirts of the city

  • The Guzo Su The Old House Boutique Hotel & Cafe in the historic center of Tunxi


1. The Huangshan International Hotel is ideal if you are aiming for comfort and practicality, as this hotel is located on the outskirts of the city center, along the Xin'an River. It offers all the necessary amenities and quality dining. Highly popular among Chinese families, it is not uncommon to see family receptions that occupy the entire restaurant. And it is particularly noisy.


Here are some illustrations of the Huangshan International Hotel:


© O. Robert


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2. The Guzo Su The Old House Boutique Hotel & Cafe is a family-run hotel in the heart of a bustling and charming historic district. This is a personal favorite, a well-maintained establishment that has remarkably set itself up in a renovated traditional house. You can enjoy a quality breakfast in this beautiful traditional setting, but you will need to rely on local restaurants for dinner as this hotel does not have a restaurant.


Here are some illustrations of the Guzo Su The Old House Boutique Hotel & Cafe:


© O. Robert


Take the opportunity to treat yourself to a nighttime stroll in this picturesque center. Although touristy, these streets and alleys feature shops of all kinds, ranging from fast food to artisan boutiques. If you've just arrived in China, the change of scenery is guaranteed. It's an immersion that will foreshadow what awaits you in the mountains.


Here are some illustrations of the city of Huangshan in the evening:


© O. Robert


Getting to the National Park from the City of Huangshan

You can only get to the national park from the city of Huangshan by road, as there is no train line in this protected region. You can choose between a long journey by local bus or a taxi. I strongly recommend the taxi option to avoid wasting too much time. I have shared a taxi with another person before, which significantly reduces the cost. Although it is not expensive to begin with, considering the distance (300 RMB if you are alone).


The taxi will drop you off at the main parking lot at the entrance to the national park, at the foot of the mountains. From here, you will need to take a shuttle as no private vehicles are allowed beyond this point. You can buy your round-trip ticket at the designated ticket counters directly on the parking lot (230 RMB).


Be aware that you should travel light. There is very limited space for luggage or suitcases. In any case, bulky and heavy bags will pose a problem once you reach the summit. Opt for a backpack whenever possible.


My equipment: GITZO Adventury. The ultimate backpack for hiking. Waterproof, sturdy, and lightweight. The perfect protection for photography gear. Check it out here.

My equipment: GITZO Adventury. The ultimate backpack for hiking. Waterproof, sturdy, and lightweight. The perfect protection for photography gear. Check it out here.


The shuttle will drop you off near the cable car parking lot, which you can use to get into Huangshan Natural Park. You can once again purchase your cable car ticket directly on-site (80 RMB one-way).


From this parking lot, you can also opt for a hike up via the marked trails, but I advise against it if you do not have a very strong physical condition. Assuming you are going for photography, the equipment you carry is heavy and not practical for hiking up these steep trails for several hours.


If you still wish to venture on foot, be aware that it will take between 6 and 8 hours of walking, depending on the number of stops you make for photography. It's an exceptional experience that I do not regret, despite the time it takes. I made this ascent in winter, during my second trip. It allowed me to discover panoramas and trees that remain the most beautiful I have ever seen.


China: Traveling to the Huangshan Mountains (Part 2)

Where to Stay in the Huangshan National Park

Once you've reached the summit, you finally witness the grand spectacle of Huangshan's first landscapes. But your journey is not yet complete. You now need to get to your hotel. You have several options, varying in quality and budget. There are six hotels within the national park:


  1. Paiyun Hotel

  2. Beihai Hotel

  3. Xihai Hotel

  4. Baiyun Hotel

  5. Yuping Hotel

  6. Bright Top Villa


In most cases, you will arrive by the Yungu cable car. In that case, opt for one of the closest hotels: Beihai, Xihai, or Paiyun.


Beihai Hotel (on the left) - Bright Top Villa Hotel (on the right) © O. Robert


The quality of these hotels varies greatly. I highly recommend the Xihai Hotel. The only upscale hotel in the park, it is ideally located and, most importantly, offers exceptional comfort that is almost unthinkable considering the location.


Indeed, these hotels, like all the infrastructure in the national park, were built manually. All the materials needed for the construction of these hotels were carried on the backs of men, without the use of any aerial transport methods, which are prohibited. It's a colossal effort, something the Chinese have already accustomed us to in other locations.


My Library: Celestial Realm The Yellow Mountains of China - Wang Wusheng.

My Library: Celestial Realm The Yellow Mountains of China - Wang Wusheng.


The same goes for all the infrastructure throughout the national park, not to mention the beautiful paths and staircases made of carefully carved granite blocks. These are works of art in themselves when you consider where you are.


Although the Xihai Hotel charges higher rates than its competitors, they are entirely in line with its offerings. You can also speak some English there, which is a luxury at this location. Personally, I have never regretted my stays at the Xihai Hotel and would return without hesitation.


Here are some illustrations of the interior of the Xihai Hotel:


© O. Robert


The quality of rest and food at this hotel has always allowed me to fully recover and set off in great shape the next day. Despite the crowd that can sometimes be present at Huangshan, this hotel is surprisingly never packed.


To get to the hotel (Xihai or Beihai) from the cable car arrival point, you will need to walk approximately 30 minutes with your luggage and climb hundreds of steps both uphill and downhill. You can also request a porter to carry your luggage to the hotel. Depending on the porter and the distance, this will cost you about 120 to 150 RMB.


Other Accommodation Options

Finally, it is also possible to stay outside of Huangshan Natural Park. Cheaper options are available in Tangkou, the closest town to the park. From there, you can take a bus to the park entrance each day (as explained earlier).


However, this is not a recommended solution unless, for personal or budgetary reasons, you decide to travel to the mountains each day by shuttle and cable car. This takes time and, of course, costs the round-trip fare for the trips. It is not really a cost-saving or time-efficient option, especially for photography. It's an option to consider for other reasons.


Indeed, it's possible that this natural park is not one of your priorities but rather a stopover if you are in Anhui province. In that case, staying at the foot of the mountains is a good solution as it will allow you to diversify your evenings, visit typical villages, and immerse yourself in local life. As for camping, it is not allowed in the park.


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