Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) in eastern China’s Anhui Province is the perfect blend of natural beauty and human ingenuity. Emperors and poets have lauded the mountain range’s misty landscapes, scroll painters have sought to capture its ethereal beauty. And a thousand years of labor have gone into creating its dizzying pathways and staircases. The mountain has no religious associations: It’ as if the power of nature alone has been enough to inspire centuries of admirers.
The range is comprised of over 70 peaks characterized by gnarled pine trees, teetering rock formations, building hot springs, and a shifting sea of clouds. A cable car can transport you up (you can also travel by sedan chair), but hiking is traditional. The eastern steps will take 3 to 4 hours, the western steps 4 to 6 hours, but the longer trek is compensated by even more spectacular scenery. The going is tough and steep and is unsuitable for those with no head for heights, but the scenery is among the most amazing in the world. While the extremely fit could hike up and return down the same day (taxis and minibuses are also available), staying at the top means the chance to experience sunrise piercing the sea of mist, surely one of China’s most awesome natural sights.
Even though Huangshan’s hotels aren’t going to win any prizes, they should be booked well in advance. The Shilin Hotel provides compact but cozy rooms and basic services; the Xihai Hotel is a Swiss-deigned establishment popular with foreign visitors.
On the southwest slopes of the mountain, Hongcun is a venerable village of 1,000 or so residents. Founded 900 years ago, it was laid out by a fengshui master in the auspicious shape of a buffalo. One of China’s most beautiful historic villages, it is comprised of some 150 buildings, including a farmhouse and clan halls that date back to the Ming and Qing dynasties and are among the best preserved in China. Scenes in the movie Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon were filmed here in 2000.
WHERE : 315 miles/500 km southwest of Shanghai. Nearest airport is Tunxi, 40 miles/65 km away.
BEST TIME : Mist and fog shroud Huangshan at any time; May – Oct is busiest.
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