Why visit Huangshan?
Traditional Chinese calligraphy paintings often used Huangshan as inspiration to paint mountains shrouded with clouds. Each peak has a smooth surface interrupted by jutting pines or other granite rocks. They range from a coffee toned brown to gray, shifting with the intensity of sunlight. Clouds are often drifting lower than the line of sight, adding a mystical air. In fact, the standout features of these mountains are the pines, the rocks, the sunrises, and the clouds.
The scenery is plentiful and melts into a Rorschach that speaks to the imagination or level of drunkenness of whoever named the spot. Each scenic spot tells its own tale. Can you see the monkey’s back as he’s overlooking the ocean? Do you see the soaring pines that are 2 tigers chasing one another?
Best season to go?
The weather can be temperamental, with sudden bursts of rain from the low hanging clouds. I took a picture where it looks like I’m blowing on clouds-they are THAT close. I went the first week of September and the last week of April, and I lucked out with perfect weather both times. Apparently the beauty of the mountains changes with each season, so it’s touted as a year round destination, even during the snows of the winter. For temperature comfort I’d recommend the spring or fall (basically the times I went). I was 1 out of 2 on a clear sunrise, but even shrouded in the clouds it was breathtaking. It’s even better than the sunrise over Angkor Wat.
How long do I need to visit?
Huangshan can be “seen” in a 3 day trip, spending one night on the mountain, if you’re in a rush. Even a day trip is doable. But I’d recommend spending 2 nights up on the mountain, one on the western side near the Yuping “Jade Screen” cable car and one night on the eastern side near the Yungyu “Cloud Valley” cable car. The eastern side is clearly where you watch the sunrise, and the shuffle from the Beihai Hotel begins before the crack of dawn. Because there are a limited number of rooms on the mountain, after the day crowd leaves the mountain displays a serenity I would normally not associate with China. I think even some of the tourists are fatigued from climbing, so when my Mom and I explored paths later in the day, we were alone with nature. It was her first time in China and the scenery and cleanliness have probably spoiled her for future travel there. But then you understand why Chinese poets and painters scrambled up these cliffs without cable cars or paved steps.
Nearest airport is Tunxi. 3 hr flight from Shenzhen , 1
hr flight or 4hr drive from Shanghai (also trains), 1.5 hr flight from Hangzhou. Huangshan (Yellow Mountain in Chinese) is a marquee Chinese tourist spot, kept impressively clean. It is a household name in China, but has not really been marketed internationally. With a billion potential customers China doesn’t need to raise its international profile anyway.