If visiting Huangshan for your affordable China tours, you should know the following.
1. There are no 'short-cuts' on Huangshan Mtn!
If you are pressed for time and want the easiest route to climb Huangshan Mountain, read this. My 72 yr old mother and I climbed Huangshan in 48hrs in September 2009. The easiest up route is to take the Yungu cablecar up, and ascend the Eastern steps. This is route doesn't have many ascents, and is a fairly easy for even 2 older women to do. The view is lovely! It takes approx 1 hr to do the actual steps from the cable car, with plenty of stops to rest and take photos (longer if you are slightly out of shape!). No smoking is allowed along this route except at the cable car (mom is a smoker!). We stayed at the Beihai hotel at the top. Mornings at the top of Huangshan will find you at the sunrise-viewing platform with about 30 other people. It's a tight squeeze, with uneven footing since it's not a flat platform up there! On the way down, we decided to take the 'short-cut' route, and not take the western sea canyon route. Well, if you take the 'short-cut', sure it's less distance to walk but it is entirely UPHILL WALKING. There is no view along this route! Just stairs & stairs & stairs going up up up. In hindsight, we should have taken the slightly longer western sea canyon route, to at least appreciate the view. Once we hit the actual 'western steps' down, the view was more incredible than the eastern side! However, we would have been in agony attempting the upward journey as it is VERY steep and clings to the side of the moutain. But, so worth it going down! Time down is approx 3-5 hours, depending on how fast you go. We were pressed for time to hit the Yuping cable car before it shut down for the night (530pm) so we hired the porters to haul us down. We heard it was pricey, and it was. We managed to negotiate a price of 700 RMB (unit for China money) EACH (1400 total) to go from the Tian Pavillion down to the cablecar. It was pricey, but they had to haul both of us down and we each weighed around 155 pounds, and we wanted them to rush. It didn't look like you could negotiate a better rate, their supervisors seem to be watching the porters closely and when we got them to come down from 780RMB to 700RMB, they all turned to the supervisor and waited for his nod before taking us. AND THEY MOVED FAST! We got down in about 1.5 hrs with these guys with a couple of stops for rests. They also hinted about giving them a tip (we did, they really deserved it! 38 celsius!). For 4 guys, we gave them an extra 250RMB total. Since we had to catch the train at 7pm in Tunxi, we paid it. And what a memory we have now!!
2. Nine Dragon Waterfall
There are nine sections to this waterfall, hence the name. If you only go as far as the rock where everyone have their picture taken, you will have missed the upper sections. To continue further up, take an unmarked trail to the left and continue to hike some 15 mins and you will see the top of the waterfall. The unmarked trail was pointed out to me after I asked a guide if there was more to the waterfall.
Admission fee: 42 yuan.
The hostel (zhaodaiso) called a cab for me to get there for 15 yuan. I took the local blue bus back (1 yuan) after telling the cab driver not to wait for me (they were pestering me to sample tea in a back room which I felt really uncomfortable doing). After visiting the waterfall, I walked down to where a group of old folks were sitting in front of their farm houses .......turned out I had just missed the local bus and so ended up spending 40 mins or so chatting with these friendly farmers.
3. Sunrise at Huangshan
Depend on weather, you may get a chance to witness this much talked about experience of seeing the red sun shooting out above the clouds in Huangshan.
Check with your China tour guide and hotel, there is a predictability factor of the chance of seeing sunrise and expected time of sunrise.
So plan the time of the year of your trip if this is a must.
You have to do a 10-20 minutes short hike up the steps to site of watching sunrise in the dark and so bring a torch light if your hotel does not supply one. Remember you may be too tired in waking up if you have been hiking the previous day.
4. Hiking up, along and down the mountain
Depending on your time and fitness level, you can hike all the way or part of the way, taking cable cars.
There are two directions, the back or west which is steeper and more dramatic and the front or east. The back or west has cable car for half of the journey and the front or east has cable that goes all the way.
So if you cannot walk well, take the front cable car up and down and you can still enjoy the walk along the top of the mountain. If you can walk, there are sedan chairs but it can be a bit scarry as these old male carriers have to keep the momentum of moving fast avoiding other tourists.
Most important is to not to push yourself too hard. Stop frequently to enjoy the view.
Hiking most of the way or part of the way to Huangshan is an exhilarating experience.
Only thing is that traffic is both ways and you have watched for other hikers.
5. Welcoming Guests Pine
Its scientific name is Pinus Hwangahanensis. This legendary pine tree is still alive and welcoming guests to Huangshan. It is so famous in China that a security guard ranger is permanently stationed at its side like a soldier to protect it from the crowds of tourists who jostle for best posing position as well as watching at night through severe weather conditions.
Special people who get paid to go around estimating the age of trees have guessed that this one is over 800 years old.
Every Chinese tourist who visits Huangshan (top destination for your top 10 China tours) wants their photo taken with this tree. In the second photo, you can see calligraphy on a nearby rock praising the wonderful scene.
What to do in Huangshan