Huangshan Mountain in Anhui Province is the last national park we visited in China. The first was Jiuzhaigou National Park and the second one Zhangjiajie National Forest Park. We were very lucky both times, enjoying great weather and not so many tourists. Not this time. Tourists were everywhere, it was raining like hell and there was a very dense fog. We almost couldn’t see a thing! There were many paths and the visibility was low, so finding our way was very difficult. Luckily Chinese, as friendly as anywhere in the country, helped us a lot. The whole experience was beyond belief.
How to Get to Huangshan – Tunxi
From Hangzhou we took a fast train to Huangshan – Tunxi, in the south of Anhui. There is some confusion regarding the name of the city. Some people call it Huangshan City, but the real name is Tunxi. In any case, the place is merely a transport hub (the fast train arrives there). Located an hour away from the mountain it lacks scenery and has no special tourist interest. While traditional trains arrive in Huangshan station, fast trains arrive in Huangshan Nord. Since 2019, more than a dozen daily fast trains connect Shanghai (through Hangzhou) with Tungxi. The ride takes between 2.5 and 3 hours. Most trains depart from Shanghai Hongqiao Station, and just a few go directly from Shanghai Central Train Station. Additionally, there are five daily fast trains from Beijing and one from Guangzhou.
Instead of Tunxi we decided to stay in the town of Tangkou, the perfect base to visit the famous ancient towns and Huangshan Mountain (Yellow Mountain). Our train arrived almost at midnight so we hopped on a taxi to reach Tangkou. The road is in great condition and takes you through lush greenery. If you arrive during the day, you can take any of several buses. Tangkou town is your typical Chinese tourist resort town. Faceless buildings line the main road. The town has no interesting sites, streets or parks. Though there are plenty of restaurants in town, most serve the same typical Chinese food.
Where to Stay in Tangkou Town
We got to our Cheng Jin Hotel late and tired. The hotel is conveniently located next to the bus station from where buses to Huangshan leave, but it’s very quiet since it is off the main road. Rooms are clean and spacious, and they have great filtered coffee. To our delight, the bed was actually quite comfortable. We are not exaggerating: most hotel beds in rural China are extra hard! Another great option within walking distance to the bus station is the Zero Five One Seven Boutique Hotel. The lovely hotel offers chic design and nice views. If you rather stay directly inside the Huangshan Scenic Area, book a room at the Huangshan Resort & Spa. This luxury hotel offers 38 hot springs!
Ancient Towns of Anhui
After a well-deserved rest, we woke up and grabbed two coffees from our hotel. It had rained the whole night but cleared a bit so we decided to drink it outside to enjoy the views. Something magical happened. A local man approached us. He started talking to us offering tours around the area. We were planning to visit the historical towns of Xidi and Hongcun, but he insisted they were overly touristic and suggested two different towns with no tourists. I believed the less touristic part, but wondered if they were pretty enough. They turned out to be spectacular! Why was I so skeptical!?
To get to Tangmo village we had to go back closer to Tunxi city. I was skeptical again. How could an ancient town be so close to a large metropolis? It was! We first saw two ducks walking freely and a bunch of locals getting on with their everyday life. The village completely blew our minds: Narrow streets, ancient houses, locals chatting and smiling at us and a 500-year-old Ginkgo tree. There was no tourist infrastructure and only a small group of Chinese tourists. We couldn’t believe it; we witnessed life as it was centuries ago. At the end of the village there was a small temple inside a beautiful garden.
On the way to Chengkan Town we stopped near an old pagoda to take some pictures. We were now wondering if the second place would be equally beautiful? And once again our jaws drop: a fairy tale town with outstanding architecture, gorgeous scenery and people so nice they seemed out of a movie. We spent hours wondering around its crumbled streets, taking pictures and smiling back at the locals. We were offered a meal in a local’s house which we ate with special joy. Besides us there was only a group of professional photographers and few fancy Chinese artists. On our way back we passed through a mountain range and again enjoyed some outstanding views (our favorite hobby).
Huangshan – Yellow Mountain
Huangshan is undoubtedly China’s most famous mountain, known around the country for its four great wonders: lush green pines, sharp rocky peaks, clear springs, and floating clouds. Through the centuries, Huangshan inspired countless painters and writers. In fact, there are over 20.000 poems about it. The place is also known as the Yellow Mountain since in 747 AD the area was renamed after the Yellow Emperor. Legend has it that he lived here before becoming a supernatural creature. In 1990, UNESCO included Mount Huangshan in its List of World Heritage sites due to its outstanding scenery and cultural importance.
From Tangkou to Huangshan Scenic Area
We reserved our last day for Huangshan Mountain. It was raining like hell, but we were hoping it would stop before our visit. Unfortunately, it didn’t, but we couldn’t postpone it anymore. Anyhow, from Tangkou we took a shuttle bus to the Huangshan Scenic Area. The bus station is close to the roundabout where National Motorway G3 enters Tangkou town. It’s a pretty large station, but perfectly organized. After a short ride, our bus crossed the Front Gate and stopped in front of the Yungu Cable Car. Once again, tones of people were queuing, but to our surprise, it didn’t take us long to board the cable car.
Inside Huangshan National Park
As soon as we got off the cable car we found ourselves in the middle of the Huangshan Mountain. We walked up and down thousands of stairs, went for coffee in a hotel, and took a funicular and another cable car. It was cold and we were tired walking amid dense fog. At the same time we were happy. Yeah, visibility sucked, but we could sense the immensity of the mountain. The sun came out when we were leaving the park. Bad luck, huh? Not really, we experienced firsthand one of the most portrayed natural sites in Chinese art and literature. And now we have a reason to go back! We took plenty of pictures, but they don’t reveal the beauty of the Yellow Mountain, nor the intensity of our day.
What to See in the Park
Huangshan Mountain has put the whole region of Anhui on the tourist map. The entire world knows of its iconic granite peaks and pine trees. Some of the highest peaks reach 1800 meters in height, and you often see the Sea of Clouds right under you. On the other hand, Huangshan’s pine tree is renowned for its particular shape and the fact that it grows directly out of the rocks. Some pine trees are more than a thousand years old! Don’t be surprised if you see monkeys happily jumping from one tree to another. Other than vegetation, the park has numerous hot springs. Several are at the bottom of the Purple Cloud Peak.
The Best Huangshan Itinerary
There are three main cable cars in the park, leading to three different areas. From Tangkou you can access the Huangshan Mountain either by the Yuping or Yungu cable cars. We chose Yungu since our lovely hotel receptionist recommended this route as less crowded. Basically, we were able to walk in the opposite direction of the masses. The Beihai Hotel is a short walk from where the Yungu cable leaves you. We stopped there for coffee and cakes. We kept walking and went past the Xihai Hotel and the Taiping cable car (this one goes to the north of Huangshan Mountain). We then took the steep funicular to go all the way up. From there, we walked next to the Tianhai Hotel and kept walking until we reached the Yuping cable car to go back down.
Ancient towns and Huangshan Mountain: Massive tourism
Some visitors complain about the massive number of tourists in China. I’ve been asked several times how could I possibly enjoy the country with so many people around? A very cool Dutch guy we met in Zhangjiajie complained so much about Chinese overpopulation. He was in shock when we told him that his country is more densely populated than China! There is no space for anyone! I don’t want to sound pretentious; we planned our 2-month trip around China outstandingly well, so we were mostly able to beat the crowds. The only place we were overwhelmed was in Huangshan Mountain. But even this time with a little help from our receptionist we were able to avoid the biggest crowds.
Special thanks to our guide Mike. He drove us safely everywhere, told us great stories and showed us two outstanding historical towns. Thanks to him we were able to enjoy Chengkan and Tangmo without the crowds! And all that only 3 hours away from China’s largest city Shanghai. What a luxury!
Huangshan (Yellow) Mountain Map
Happy Frog Travels organizes personalized trips to China including Anhui. Contact us HERE.