Top Things to Do in Fenghuang, China
Are you going on a trip to China and you have decided to visit Fenghuang (凤凰), in the province of Hunan?
You will not regret it!
In order to help you prepare for your stay, I have concocted a complete guide to this superb old town.
What to do and see in 1 or 2 days in Fenghuang and the surrounding area, how to get there and where to stay, I tell you everything!
So how to visit Fenghuang?
Visit Fenghuang: all my tips
Fenghuang, the city of the Phoenix is one of (if not the!) most beautiful old towns in China.
Classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it was built on the banks of the Tuo River and is famous for its wooden houses on stilts, the Diaojiaolou (吊脚楼). Most of them date from the Ming and Qing dynasties (between the 14th and 17th centuries).
The main activity on site is of course to walk in the old town, you can make a loop and visit the 2 banks by crossing one of the many bridges that span the river.
The place is very touristic (for Chinese, there are not many Westerners visiting Fenghuang), so you will find many souvenir/food/jewelry shops and of course restaurants.
Basically, the city acted as a military garrison. You will therefore find some remains of fortifications, including a rampart which crosses the city and some old guard towers.
Not far from Fenghuang, you can also visit the Great Wall of Southern China, which I tell you about a little further down in the “what to do around Fenghuang” section of this article.
In addition to visiting Fenghuang on foot, you also have the option of donning a nice orange life jacket (or not) to take a gondola ride on the river. As you can imagine: the Chinese love it.
And to give a little Venetian touch to the thing, some gondoliers do not hesitate to push the song, under the approval of the Chinese angels.
Tips for your Fenghuang Itinerary:
The best times to take a gondola ride are early in the morning or late in the day.
Fenghuang at Night
Once night falls, the old town totally changes its face: many Chinese tourists come to Fenghuang to party, the streets are very lively and the bars are crowded!
And I have to tell you, I didn’t expect that at all before visiting the city.
In any case, I reassure you: that did not prevent me from taking advantage of the superb lighting which highlights the buildings once the evening has come.
Tips for your Fenghuang Itinerary:
Do you like taking pictures? The best time to photograph Fenghuang is during the “blue hour”, just after sunset, when it is not yet dark.
At night, also go for a walk in the easternmost part of the old town, on the side of the large covered bridge.
Not necessarily very attractive during the day because built in Disneyland mode in a style close to the old one, the place is however very photogenic at night (photo below). As they say: it’s beautiful from afar, in the dark!
What to do around Fenghuang?
Great Wall of Southern China
And yes, close to Fenghuang is the Great Wall of Southern China. Built in the 16th century during the Ming Dynasty to protect China from the rebellion of the Miao (a local ethnic group), it is also called the “Great Wall of the Miao” by the locals.
Smaller and much less known than its big sister in the North, it is nevertheless a nice visit to do if you spend 2 or 3 days in the vicinity of Fenghuang.
To go to the Southern Great Wall from Fenghuang, you must:
- Go to the bus station located south of Fenghuang (its name in Chinese, for the taxi: 土桥垅车站)
- Take the bus to the wall. Show the Chinese name to the drivers (Great Wall of Southern China:中国南长城), who will tell you which one to take (there are no numbers). The bus costs 5 yuan for around 30 minutes.
Entrance fee: 45 yuan.
Located 10 to 15 minutes by taxi north of Fenghuang, Qiliang Cave is not well known to Western tourists. It is however a great visit, especially if you do not have the opportunity to see other caves during your trip to China.
A small note: it is, like all the caves in the country, laid out “Chinese style”, so do not expect lighting with a natural rendering. It’s very flashy with lights of all colors!
Plan around 2 hours for the visit.
Furong Old Town
Located 2:30 – 3 hours from Fenghuang, Furong Old Town is a must-stop if you plan to travel to Zhangjiajie. Much smaller than Fenghuang, Furong is famous for the very pretty waterfall that crosses it.
To get there, take the Fenghuang-Zhangjiajie bus and ask the driver to stop at Furong.
All the info for visiting Furong is in my article: The Ultimate Guide to Furong.
Tips for your Fenghuang Itinerary:
Try to be there at the end of the day and spend the night there, it’s superb!
Zhangjiajie National Park is the star attraction in the Hunan region , and you’ve probably already planned to go there!
Famous throughout the world for these vertiginous karst peaks, it is the quintessential Chinese postcard setting.
In addition to the park, if you have 3 days there or more, I also recommend that you take a trip to Tianmen Mountain to discover its rocky arch and the glass bridges suspended above the void.
Visiting time: 2 to 4 full days
Are you going to Zhangjiajie? I recommend that you read my travel guide: How to organize your stay in Zhangjiajie?
1 Day Fenghuang Itinerary
If you only want to visit the old town, 1 day is enough to visit Fenghuang.
On the other hand, I strongly advise you to spend a night there, the illuminated city being really magnificent! Here is the best itinerary for 1 day in Fenghuang:
- Arrive late afternoon (around 4-5pm) and visit the city
- Enjoy the evening in Fenghuang
- If you like to take pictures, take a short walk around the city again the next morning to take advantage of the beautiful morning light.
- Otherwise, departure for your next step!
2 Days Fenghuang Itinerary
In 2 days in Fenghuang, you will have time to take a tour of the surroundings, for example the Great Wall of South China (Southern Great Wall, also called Miaojiang Great Wall. In Chinese:苗疆邊牆)
Take the previous itinerary for day 1 and go for a walk to the wall in the morning or early afternoon for your 2nd day in Fenghuang.
Accommodation in Fenghuang
- Jiumu Youth Hostel: very well located youth hostel with a super friendly staff. Night in dormitory from 5 euros. Perfect for a stay in China with a small budget!
- FengHuang Ten People One House: Bed and Breakfast very well located, with super friendly hosts. Night in a double room from 17 euros.
- Fenghuang Weijianshan Guesthouse: very well located in the heart of the old town while being in a quieter alley. The rooms are very comfortable and the staff super friendly. Night in a double room from 30 euros. It’s my favorite in Fenghuang for its price/performance ratio!
- Moon Land Art Hotel: Located a little away from the old town, by the river. This is the quietest hotel you can find in the area. The bedding is super comfortable, the decor and the staff are top notch. Night in a double room from 120 euros. The best choice for an upscale stay in Fenghuang!
When to go to Fenghuang?
Spring and autumn are considered the best times to visit Fenghuang. The temperatures are mild and it rains less than in the middle of summer.
Here is a small summary of the climate in Fenghuang by season:
Spring: the month of April is very good, the rainy season begins in May.
Summer: This is the worst period, lots of rain! And yes, the 3 rainiest months in Fenghuang are June, July and August.
In autumn: It is still quite warm and the rainy season is over. This is where you are most likely to have good weather.
In winter, it is the low tourist season: there are few people and you will be a little quieter to visit. If you are lucky, you may be able to visit Fenghuang under the snow!
How to get to Fenghuang?
You can go to Fenghuang by bus, train or plane.
This is the preferred mode of travel for most travelers to get to Fenghuang. Most of you will probably come from Zhangjiajie. The journey takes 4 hours.
If you come from afar and do not go through Zhangjiajie, flying can be a good solution to visit Fenghuang.
In this case, you must:
- Fly to Tongren Airport
- From there, take a bus that will take you to Fenghuang (about 1 hour drive).
Just like flying, there is no train station in Fenghuang itself, so you have to take the train to one of the 3 nearby major cities, then a bus to Fenghuang.
Here are the 3 closest stations:
- Jiushou – 1h by bus from Fenghuang
- Huaihua – 1h15 by bus from Fenghuang
- Tongren – 1h30 by bus from Fenghuang
And you, do you plan to visit Fenghuang on your next trip to China?
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