One of Sichuan’s most popular Unesco site is Mount Emei. This Buddhist mountain sees many visitors all throughout the year, located right next to Leshan and accessible by train and bus, it makes Emei the perfect day trip from Chengdu.
While people tend to visit during the spring and summer (and locals in Autumn to witness the leaves changing colours), I believe Mount Emei looks its best come winter, when the 3,000m high mountain turns white, contrasting with the red and gold colours of the many temples that populate the site. A visit in winter will most likely mean treacherous paths and limited transportation to the golden summit, but advantages include entrance fees being a lot cheaper, and thinner crowds when ascending.
Mount Emei: A holy mountain of Sichuan.
Sichuan is full of holy mountains, with high summits and a strong Buddhist influence. This isn’t very surprising, but few are similar to Emei. Like Mount Qingcheng for Taoism, Emei is the birthplace of Buddhism in the Yangtze basin. The many temples that sprouted over the years are probably proof enough, and pilgrims sometimes decide to make the climb as well towards the summit. The temples you will encounter often provide overnight accommodation for a small fee, but don’t forget that the food that you will be offered will be vegetarian.
The golden summit.
What most come for has got to be the golden summit. In winter, cable cars are frequently out of service, so you might have to make the ascent under your own steam. The ice makes the journey somewhat tricky, but once the golden statue peeks out of the trees you’ll know that your are getting close to your goal. Many bring offerings and burn incense near the elephant sculptures guarding the bottom of the stairs, you’ll simply need to walk a little further to get to the summit.
If you are lucky and get there on a clear day it is said that you’ll get a chance to observe a few of the other neighbouring holy mountains. We were not that lucky and all we could see was a deep sea of clouds surrounding us. For the frozen landscape though, the trip was still very much worth it.
Beware of the monkeys on Mount Emei.
There’s one thing you need to know about Mount Emei: the monkeys that live there are not the friendly kind.
Though many seemed happy to pose for pictures, others were not. Robb’s attempt to free a toddler from the grasp of one particularly aggressive specimen were interpreted as a challenge to the entire troupe, who promptly launched themselves at him in a flurry of nails, teeth and fur. And engaging in a fistfight with a dozen macaques on an ice-covered mountain staircase, is, needless to say, a precarious undertaking.
Robb maintains that he won the fight, though his hat was snatched away somewhere amid the fracas. So if you visit Emei and you see a monkey wearing a black woolly hat, best to give that particular ape a wide berth.
Don’t feed them, don’t engage them, don’t stare at them.
Hiking or cable cars.
A few choices are available to you depending on how much time you might have, and how much effort you are willing to put in to the climb. From Emei city, you’ll be able to get a bus to Leidongping (which is not too far from the cable car that will bring you to the golden summit) or simply take on the hike itself to the top which might take you a day or two.
There are two cable cars available, one near the bottom of the mountain called Wannian and one bringing you to the top called Jinding.
If you decide to hike the mountain in winter you’ll probably want to buy a set of crampons from one of the sellers at the bottom, or bring your own. The path is very icy and very slippery. Be aware that what we do call a hike is more of a stone path with lots and lots of steps and might not be the most enjoyable journey. Along the way, if you are feeling a bit tired, people will offer to carry you up the mountain, I wouldn’t try this one out as I don’t doubt it would be very expensive and a fall can easily happen.
Where to stay in or near Mount Emei.
When visiting Emei for several days you will find a few rooms in monasteries along the way, if that’s not what you are looking for then the city has a few hotels you can choose from. If you’re not sure about them, head to Chengdu for the night, you’ll find our guide here.
For under 30USD for a double room located right next to the entrance of the scenic area of Mount Emei, this is one of the best deal you’ll be able to find if two of you are visiting the area. The rooms are modern with a Chinese twist and breakfast is included. Perfect if you want to be near the mountain for an early start.
(From 30USD to 50USD)
Don’t mistake this one with its cheaper alternative (Teddy Bear Hostel), this property offers private rooms with bathrooms and fun decoration depending on the room you pick. A little further from the park, the staff can arrange transportation to the entrance. Consider the Theme Round bedroom for a quirky night filled with teddy bears and a massive bath!
(From 50USD upwards)
Rooms start at 200USD, needless to say that’s top of the line in Sichuan. What makes this one so special is the wellness centre it offers. Focused on your well-being, you could even get a room with a jacuzzi. If the price is a bit too much, you could opt for The Micro Hostel with beautiful rooms and settings at around 100USD.
Practical information to visit Mount Emei.
If you’ve come so far, you might want a little practical information about Mount Emei.
From Chengdu, trains and buses are available.
If you take the train, you’ll need to stop at the Emeishan station. It takes a little over an hour and should cost around 60RMB
By bus, get to Xinanmen bus station, there a bus to Emeishan leaves almost every 30 minutes and should cost around 50RMB. It should take around two hours and leaves from 07.20 to 19.35 (be careful with the last buses as they can be fully booked and leave you stranded)
The entrance ticket to Emeishan varies depending on the season, and so do the cable cars and the buses.
During the high season ( 15th of January to 14th of December)
The entrance ticket is 185RMB
The Wannian cable car costs 65RMB going up and 45RMB going down (you’ll find tickets going both ways)
The Jinding cable car costs 65RMB going up and 55RMB going down (again, check prices for a round trip)
During the low season (15th of December to the 14th of January)
The entrance ticket is 110RMB
The Wannian cable car costs 30RMB going up and 20RMB going down
The Jinding cable car costs 30RMB going up and 20RMB going down.
Beware, depending on the weather conditions it is very possible that the Jinding cable car will be closed.
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