Shaanxi Province's

HUASHAN

Global Mark : 12.22

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
3 5 1 3 2 1 4 2

1

9.78

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend Range AVER.
6 100%  (6) 83%  (5) 100%  (6) 12 to 18 14.67


Description : A superb Buddhist mountains area with a lot of stairs to make you sweat, a few temples to make you holly and a lot of shops to make you poorer...

Comments : Not as touristy as Emeishan, Huangshan or Taishan, this place is however packed on weekends and therefore best avoided at that time.

What to do : Sweat on your way up / Listen to Chinese tourists shouting or singing at the mountains (in some places, the mountains answer) / Climb to high caves on the other side of the river / Get sensations & adrenaline in some parts of the narrow path / Relax and contemplate the view at the summits /

What you may not like : The entry fees scam (see below) / Sweating too much in the summer heat / The noisy and dirty crowd /  The snacks-sellers every 10 meters or so up to the North Peak / The very basic accommodations at high prices / The general lack of hygiene / Not being crazy enough to follow some paths  / The overcast weather / The rain that make some parts of the path quite dangerous

How long ? It is possible to  go up and down in one day if you are (real) fit (walking) or wealthy (cable car) but 2 days would be a more appropriate pace to appreciate the scenery...

Walking from the base to the North Peak takes from 2 (real fast) to 5 hours (real relax).  From there to the other summits (in clockwise or anti clockwise circuits) and back to the North Peak should take another 4 to 6 hours walking time but you should allow more time to explore the parallel paths and dream at the view.

How hard ?

If you do not like stairs, forget about Huashan ! Except for the first 3 kilometers, steep and unequal steps will put your legs to the limit. If in addition you ascend during a sunny day, it could be a very strenuous experience...that you will remember for a long time. It is possible to limit the damage by taking a cable car to/from the North Peak (from 7am to 7pm) but you will also have to be quite healthy for the remaining Peaks...

The path is also in some parts very impressive and quite dangerous (especially during wet weather). There are iron safeguards along the most abrupt parts but  steady legs are still a must ! In some parts, you may have to climb or go down ladders (usually, there is also an easier but longer way via "normal" stairs). Before accessing some temples off the main path, you might also want to take a parachute or climbing equipment to safeguard yourself against the (real) risks of falling down. If you are subject to vertigo, forget about those areas !


Where to stay ?

At the base, plenty of guesthouses will compete for your patronage. Prices are as low as 15Y for a basic single but most of the places will ask around 20-30Y for a bed in a dorm. Bargain hard and do not hesitate to walk out if you do not like what you see. One place that we found particularly good value was Jin Di Da Jiu Dian, on the right when going up, just after the minibus stop : huge and attractive Dble, Trpl or quads with bathroom for 30Y per bed. Opposite the road, going up  a bit, Ba Yi Lu She has basic singles for 15Y.

On the way up to North Peak, two basic places offers dorm beds for as low as 20Y in 10 beds' rooms but there is little reason to stop there as you still have stairs to climb...

At the North Peak, Beifeng Fandian has beds  for 25 (30), 40 (14), 50 (8), 70 (4) or 120 (2). This is not a bad place to stay as the rooms are fairly clean, the hotel well located and your legs usually tired when you reach it. During the low season and off weekends, the huge dorm should also be quite empty. Toilets are very bad but what a view !

The next hotel (1 hour walking time) is located on the right path just after the Stone Gate (Jin Qiao Guan). Rooms are fairly comfortable and cost 60 (4) or 80 (2) but they have only 10 beds in total.

On the way to the east peak via the easy road on the right (the fastest way, on the left,  involves climbing a dangerous ladder), the hotel Zhongsheng Fandian is best skipped considering the prices and what you get for the money. For the record, it cost 30Y for a place on a common bed (worth a look) or 60 (8), 100 (5) or 120 (4 or 2)

The East Peak Hotel (1h30 walking time) is also bad value at 60 (10), 120 (5), 150 (4), 180 (3) or 200 (2). They also have double at 100 per bed under the roof. Those are also worth a quick look to help you put in perspective  your sense of luxury...

On the way to the South Peak's summit after another 20mn walk, turn left after the stairs to a small Temple Guesthouse that offers very basic Dble rooms for 20Y per bed. This is also the place for the most scary experience of Huashan : a 30cm wide wooden path on the side of the cliff  (remember that you are at 2000 meters) leads to a tiny temple that is certainly not worth the adrenaline spent... Even so you have a guiding iron cords to grasp, it is a perilous adventure that would be completely unacceptable in most countries...

Turning right will lead you to the summit in 10mn, the highest point of Huashan at 2160m. The Nanfeng Guesthouse (tel 0913 430 0065) is a bit down, on the way to the West Peak. This is a good option to catch the sunrise in the morning and the rooms are acceptable and reasonable priced at 20(4) or 50 (3 or 2). It might however be a good idea to reserve in high season as there are only 40 beds available .

The West Hotel (0913 430 0079), 10mn down, is much bigger and also acceptable. Beds cost 10 (common bed), 20(3) or 50(2).

Qi Xiang Zhan Hotel (0913 430 0033) is just below and offers correct rooms for 20(8) or 50(4). The latter rooms are quite comfortable and have a TV (it could therefore be noisy at night...). The small garden is equipped with a table tennis table...

Another 5mn down leads you to the luxury option of Huashan where a bed in a very basic 6 beds' rooms cost 120Y and good Dbl or Trpl with 24 hours shower 380 or 430Y...


The entrance' fees scam & other costs ?

The ticket to Huashan cost an hefty 50Y. But to reach the ticket office, you are invited (forced would be a more appropriate term) to go through a temple that cost an additional 20Y for foreigners (Chinese pay only 8Y).

There is a road on the right of the temple (take the stairs down) that enable you to skip it but policemen have been somehow instructed to guard it against possible foreigners invasions... If you speak Chinese, do not lost your time trying to explain them that you do not need to buy a ticket for something you do not actually see. Instead, you would better play the stubborn foreigner that do not understand and walk right through them with a noisy "bu yao, xiexie" (no need, thank you). The last option if they insist that you buy the ticket (maybe by offering you to pay the Chinese price) is to take a short walk through the river and rejoin the road a bit later : you actually do that in front of them but their zeal does not seem to go as far as to follow you...

To take the cable car is another way to avoid paying the temple non-visit (at least until now) but it cost 55Y to go up, 55Y to go down or 100Y both way so you will not exactly save money... You will however definitively save your legs !

Once at the ticket office, foreigners are asked to fill a registration form. This formality cost another 5Y.

Food prices increase with the height. The same instant noodle that cost 3.5Y at the base will cost 5Y on the way up, 9Y at the North Peak and 10Y at the summits. Water and other drinks cost 5 or 6Y but guesthouses usually provide hot water in thermos. A lot of other snacks are also available every 100m or so on the way up at relatively affordable prices (cold noodles cost 2Y for example). Meals in top (height) restaurants are expensive (a very basic fried rice dish should cost around 10Y for example).

If after paying everything you are short on cash, be advised that the Bank of China does not accept Travellers Cheques. 


Trains
 


The trip back to Xi'an :
  Iveco /SS / L&R /  Y20 / 2 hours

Frequent turbo minibus leave when reasonably full between 11 and 14. This is the fastest and most comfortable option. It should cost 25Y but you might get it a bit cheaper. What they forget to tell you however is that they do not go to the train station but instead stop at a bus station further east. From there, it is an additional 20mn ride on the electric bus No105 (0.5Y).

If no more Iveco buses are available at your arrival, "normal" minibus are supposed to go back to Xi'an until 19pm (double check). During my visit, the bus station was empty and the big buses had to be caught from the main road at undisclosed time... You have also the option to take the train.