This is how I did it. Short(ish) and sweet:
• Getting there! Bus from Shanghai to Tangkou (Huangshan Scenic Spot). 140rmb each way. Can only book one way from Shanghai. You buy the ticket from Shanghai South Long-Distance Bus Station. The ticket office is open until 10pm every day – Metro Line 1 Shanghai South Train Station and follow the signs, quite a walk. Get hotel in Tangkou to book return, as soon as you check in.
• Accommodation! I stayed in Tangkou, close to the South Entrance. Tangkou is a rather non-descript town, but really convenient for the mountain. Hotels are reasonably priced and quite good condition. On the mountain itself the prices rise as steeply as the peaks do! If you have time and money the ultimate thing to do is stay at the top of the mountain for a week and really explore it! See Entrance fee! below for more accommodation info.
• Getting on the mountain! I took a bus to the Yungu cable car station at the foot of the mountain from the bus station in Tangkou. It costs 19rmb and takes about 20mins to get there. Ask your hotel how to get to the bus station. It is possible to walk into the park and up to the cable car station, but it’ll take a while – save your time and energy!
• Entrance fee! You buy the entrance ticket to the mountain where the bus drops you off, next to the Yungu cable car station. Entrance in May 2014 was 230rmb. You have to pay every time you enter the mountain. That means if you stay in Tangkou for 3 days and want to go to the mountain every day it will cost 3x 230rmb. The sensible thing to do here, as I did, is pay to stay in one of the mountain hotels dorm rooms and leave all of your heavy luggage in the Tangkou hotel. So, I booked a Tangkou hotel for 3 nights; stayed the first night, got up early, went on the mountain, stayed at the Yupinglou Hotel atop the mountain (male 9 bed dorm 150rmb) for one night. Descended the day after. This gave me two full walking days. Perfect!
• Getting up the mountain! Two choices: Walk, or take the cable car. I was going to take the cable car (80rmb one way) and see more of the top, but I took one look at the queue and decided to walk up. I’m glad I did! There is something quite achieving in the act of walking up a mountain and down it again. Beware though, there are a lot of steps and you WILL get exhausted – but worth it!
• Walking the mountain! Maps are available, but almost every one is different and the names of the routes and peaks are different too. I copied the map from http://wikitravel.org/en/Huangshan onto my iPad and used that. I still needed to guess a little, but it’s all part of the fun! My route: Walked up the mountain from the Yungu entrance. Took about 2.5 hours and then made my way over to the Yupinglou Hotel to check-in. Then explored that area until the sun disappeared. Next day I climbed a few peaks and then walked down the mountain back to Tangkou. Do not think that you will see all of Huangshan in one trip unless you are there for at least a week, or you are super fit. Take your time and soak in the views rather than race about the place – you’ll have a heart attack!
• Getting off the mountain! Two choices: Walk or take the cable car. I walked down to the Yupinglou cable car entrance. It took about 2 hours from the Yupinglou Hotel at the top, with a few stops on the way down. When you get down you can buy a bus ticket back to Tangkou. This is what I was going to do, but I saw a sign directing people to the South Entrance by foot. And here is my Huangshan secret! I did it and I saw absolutely nobody for the entire 4.5km walk back to Tangkou through the woods and across the stream and through the bamboos. BLISS! You’ll know what I mean when you get to the top of the mountain – you ain’t gonna be by yourself! So, if you want at least a little bit of natural solitude walk down the mountain right to the South Gate.
• Food and drink! There were numerous little stalls all over the mountain selling snacks and drinks. I would advise to buy some water and snacks in Tangkou for your trip up, but you won’t be too far away from refreshment if you don’t. Atop the mountain, on some of the routes could be different, so stock up if you plan on walking all day. The hotels have restaurants and convenience stores. The one at the Yupinglou sold me some of the tastiest noodles for 50rmb and the staff were really friendly. That could be because I drank a few cans of Tsingtao and giggled at them a lot!
Things to be aware of!
• Even though the mountain is full of all kinds of people of different age, size, and fitness levels, and the main routes are really well paved, don’t underestimate how difficult it can be to walk this mountain. There are a lot of steep steps and at times I felt so out of breath and dizzy that I almost fell off the path! Not good when there is a sheer drop next to you!
• This is China and there are thousands of people on that mountain making a lot of noise and being very excited. Respecting this difference in cultures and blocking it out with an iPod will help you enjoy the mountain more if you’re bothered by noise. You will not get any solitude up there, unless you get off the main routes, which can be difficult. Things calm down after 5pm when all of the ‘day-tripping-cable-car-people’ bugger off back to their buses ☺
• Although the mountain is often covered in fog, when I was there it was brilliant sunshine and I did not pack any sun cream – I burned!
• Do as much reading up as you can before you go to try and clarify what you’re going to do. I say you need at least 3 days in the area. If you book a hotel in Huangshan city by mistake and expect to see the mountain in one day you’re kind of limiting yourself to a very stressed out experience. Planning it will help you avoid the adverse effects of visiting this mountain.
Go forth and ENJOY!
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