I’m sure you’ve been struck by one of those refined Chinese porcelains decorated with delicate drawings that evoke an almost dreamlike mountainous landscape. The totally bucolic picture is usually made up of peaks with rounded tops jutting out of the clouds, streams of fresh water full of bends that spring from the peaks and pines whose branches twist as if they were dancing with the surroundings. The scenery is so poetic that it seems unreal, but the truth is that it is taken from a place as authentic as Huangshan National Park, Yellow Mountain in Anhui Province in eastern China.
We were lucky enough to see these UNESCO World Heritage Sites with our own eyes on a 10-day trip through Shanghai and Eastern China, and it would not be far-fetched to say that it was one of the biggest surprises of the whole route. In case you dare to travel to the Asian giant we are going to tell you how is the trip to Huangshan Yellow Mountain from Shanghai or Hangzhou.
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Excursion to Huangshan from Shanghai or Hangzhou
So far accustomed to metropolises like Shanghai and Hangzhou, the arrival at Yellow Mountain or Huangshan was for us like a breath of fresh air… literally. Who could imagine that only 3 hours by train from the most populated city in China was this paradise that has inspired Chinese painters and poets since time immemorial with dozens of granite peaks and their twisted pines that dance among the clouds and hide behind the fog.
But how did we discover this incredible place? We have to thank Irene from Youlan Tours, an expert in the Asian giant, who recommended us to visit some places in China that are usually off the beaten track. Huangshan was close enough to Shanghai to spend at least a couple of days in this area of Anhui province enjoying hiking, the landscapes of the Yellow Mountain and small villages declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
How to get to Huangshan from Shanghai or Hangzhou
Although they seem like two completely different worlds, getting to Huangshan from Shanghai is quite easy. The fastest way to travel is via the high-speed train, a service that has nothing to envy our AVE or the Japanese shinkansen. We made several trips on this formidable transport during our trip to China and were able to see first-hand stations of enormous size where we hardly saw any western tourists… despite the fact that our trip was during the month of July.
It takes less than three hours to travel from Shanghai Hongqiao Station to Huangshan North (Huangshanbei). In fact, at certain times of the day, there are trains with fewer stops, which take only 2 hours and 32 minutes. The price in first class for this journey ranges from 306 to 330 yuan (40-43 euros) and in second class from 191 to 206 yuan (25-27 euros).
In our case, before we arrived in Huangshan we were in Hangzhou city in Zhejiang province and the journey by high-speed train is much shorter. From Hangzhou East station to Huangshan North it is 1 hour and 25 minutes (on the shortest journey). The price for this journey is 189.5 yuan (25 euro) in first class and 118 yuan (18 euro) in second class. You can check the timetables and ticket prices in Baolau or 12Go.
When we arrived at Huangshanbei station (where we had to leave the train quickly because it only stopped for 3 minutes) our Chinese guide from Youlan Tours, William, and a driver in a private air-conditioned vehicle were waiting for us to leave our bags in the locker of a local hotel. We were going to spend the night in another lodging in the Yellow Mountain which was only accessible on foot so we had to go lightly.
Once we were equipped with the basics to walk around the mountain and spend a night there, our vehicle accompanied us to Tangkou station where we got on a public bus that in about 30 minutes would take you to the parking lot at the entrance of the Yungu Temple. There we took the Yungu cable car (one of the first cable cars used in China) that covers about 750 meters of unevenness at about 6 meters per second. After the trip above the clouds we start the first walk until we reach our mountain hotel.
You must bear in mind that the Yellow Mountain National Park has four entrances, including the Yungu Temple, the Light of Mercy Pavilion, Xiaolingjiao and Songguan, although the first two are the most used by hikers.
Our recommendation for your trip to China:
For our trip to China we have been advised and booked all the services with Youlan Tours. Why? Their main strength is that they are Spanish who live in China and directly organize all their trips and excursions. They know each other from start to finish in a country as gigantic and complex as China, so they always find the trip you are looking for. Besides, Irene and all her team stand out for their flexibility, proximity and the quality of all the services they offer to the traveller who wants to discover the real China.
They have completely customised trips and are specialists, both in the most popular places in China and in jewellery off the beaten track. With them we have discovered the essential places to visit in Shanghai, but also surprising corners like the Yellow Mountain, Hangzhou or Suzhou. Whatever you are looking for in China, they will know how to help you.
The relationship with Irene and the Youlan Tours team has always been exquisite and very close (always with direct contact via WeChat) before, during and after the trip. In addition, their team of local Spanish and English speaking guides is truly extraordinary. Thanks to them we left with the feeling of having discovered the most authentic China, as there were times when we were the only Westerners living beautiful experiences. We recommend them 100% if you are planning to travel to China.
Hiking through hiccupping landscapes in the Yellow Mountain
Our plan in Huangshan was to hike and enjoy the breathtaking scenery. However, after getting off the cable car and heading to our mountain hotel located at 1600 meters above sea level, we realized that the walks we were going to do in the Yellow Mountain were going to be very different from the ones we were used to in Spain.
Forget about dirt roads and forest trails, as hikes through Yellow Mountain National Park are made by walking up stone steps that wind through an eternal up and down trail filled with nooks and crannies until you reach simply amazing viewpoints. Let’s say that the stairs are perfectly maintained and that there are routes that are not excessively long, but the difficulty lies in the constant going up and down the steps. In that sense, it is advisable to be in good health and wear comfortable shoes.
As we all travel along the same staircase paths, it is easy to see crowds of tourists. Keep in mind that Huangshan is one of the most popular mountain spots in China and is usually quite crowded in high season. We recommend avoiding weekends and local holidays, but if you have to (as we did) take advantage of the early and late hours of the day because the cable cars run from 7:00 to 17:00 on weekdays and from 6:30 to 17:00 on weekends. When the cable cars don’t work, only the people staying in the hotels will be left in the mountain, so it will be much clearer.
We spent approximately one and a half days in the mountain, so we had time to go on several hikes to discover some of its most famous viewpoints where we could enjoy the sunset and sunrise (although the fog cut off this moment on the second day).
The routes are very well signposted (in Chinese and English) and the signs indicate at all times the distance to the most emblematic places. Bear in mind that only the kilometres are marked and there is no indication of the difference in level so do not be too confident. Most of the points of interest in Yellow Mountain have very peculiar names and in each of them William, our Chinese guide from Youlan Tours, told us some legend related to the origin of the name. Monks, kings, princesses, poets and scholars used to be the protagonists.
The tours to Begin to Believe Peak and Lion Peak are two of the most popular and are relatively close to our hotel. On the trails we could enjoy the “four wonders” that you can see in the Yellow Mountain National Park: beautifully shaped pines, fantastic rocky peaks, its sea of clouds and the hot springs. We enjoyed Huangshan in the summer, but at the hotel we had the opportunity to see photos from other times of the year and it is like visiting four completely different landscapes.
The walks are like watching ancient Chinese scroll paintings come to life. We especially loved the tour of the so-called West Sea Grand Canyon, which locals say is even better than the Grand Canyon because it is green and has vegetation. It is definitely the perfect place to discover the interesting and unique rock formations of Huangshan.
Where to stay in Huangshan National Park
Many people spend the day walking the trails of Yellow Mountain National Park. However, we also recommend that you stay a few nights at the mountain hotels in the area (which are only accessible on foot) to relax and watch the bucolic sunsets and sunsets.
Bear in mind that as they are located in the middle of the national park, the hotels are quite modest and everything they consume or need (including waste) is carried by carriers that go up and down stairs without stopping, carrying an enormous weight. The image of the carriers is quite hard and typical of remote times. Irene from Youlan Tours recommended the Beihai Hotel as it is relatively close to the Yungu cable car and some of the main points of interest in the area.
Hongcun and Xidi, charming villages and Tiger and Dragon
If the days we spent on Yellow Mountain had already left us with a great taste in our mouths and the feeling that we had discovered the most authentic China, the return to the slopes of the Huangshan summits just confirmed it. We could not leave Anhui Province without visiting the historic villages of Hongcun and Xidi, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Of the two, Hongcun is perhaps the more peculiar. First, because it is shaped like a water buffalo, and second, because some of the most famous scenes from Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning film, ‘Tiger and Dragon’, were filmed in the waters of the moon pool that surrounds it. Nevertheless, strolling through the labyrinthine and winding streets of Hongcun and Xidi is a real treat. In addition to the many local crafts and shops, it is almost a must to contemplate their feng shui urbanism and many of the old houses, halls and academies that can be visited in both locations.
After the visit we spent the night in the old commercial city of Tunxi, where besides enjoying its rich local cuisine in its old street, we could attend a show that is a kind of mixture between Chinese opera and the acrobatics of the Circo del Sol. Quite an experience.
How to get to China?
The last time we traveled to China we did it with KLM airline via Amsterdam, without a doubt, one of the most comfortable, fast and efficient ways to reach the Asian giant. This is one of our favorite airlines to travel to Asia, since when we leave from Alicante we save one or several stops. This also means a lot of time and money, which is appreciated when you travel with children.
This time KLM’s good connections and connectivity between Spain and Amsterdam and then between the Dutch capital and China made our trip to Shanghai last a little over 16 hours including the time we waited comfortably at Schiphol airport.
We never travel without travel insurance
We never travel without travel insurance… especially when the kids come with us. It is always convenient to be protected by what may happen and more in a destination where quality medical care is so expensive. We recommend that you travel to China with a policy that covers you at your destination in case of accidents, hospitalization due to illness or setbacks that could represent an extra cost in your travel budget (keep in mind that hospitalization or private medical care in China is extremely expensive). We use the travel insurance of IATI Seguros because it has an above-average coverage and always offers a personalized and fast treatment. You can hire here the travel insurance of IATI Seguros and just for being a reader of the Pachinko apply directly a 5% discount.
Did you like our trip to Huangshan? Had you heard about Yellow Mountain before? We look forward to reading your opinions in the comments.