As a traveller, getting off the beaten track is one of my favourite things to do. Away from the popular Chinese tourist sights such as the Great Wall of China and the Teracotta Warriors, I took time out to see Sunrise at Elder Peak in the Danxiashan Mountains of China. The place is practically unknown to foreign travellers but it is stunning. This was yet another highlight from my ongoing China travel journeys…
How to get to Danxiashan Mountains in Guangdong:
Firstly you will need to get to the city of Shaoguan in northern Guangdong Province. Shaoguan is served by 2 functional railway stations, one of which offers high speed trains to Guangzhou. So get yourself to Shaoguan to begin with. You then want to start enquiring about getting a bus out to the Danxiashan Mountains. It is just a 30 – 45 minute drive by bus, but you will need to make sure you get the right bus as it’s easy to get stranded in a place like this. Your trip there will be difficult to organise unless you can speak or understand Chinese. I don’t, but having a Chinese girlfriend really boosts my travel repertoire for China. I’ve seen so much of China because of her. It makes it easily accessible and a breeze to travel round.
From Shaoguan – Get a bus out to the World Heritage Danxiashan Mountains. Your bus will drop you off at the entrance and you will need to spend at least one night here in the mountains, 2 would be better if you want to really see a lot more and also have time to relax. But we bunged a lot into 2 days and 1 night.
Where to stay in the Danxiashan Mountains:
You will probably stay in Yao Tang Village or Jin Jiang Village. In essence they are both the same place, separated by a 2 minute walk over a bridge. There are lots of hotels and rooms available and to be honest unless there is a really special event on, you will have no problems getting a bed for the night. We stayed in Yao Tang Village.
How much does it cost to see sunrise at Elder Peak in the Danxiashan Mountains?
You buy a National Park pass for 120 RMB and that includes everything, so seeing sunrise at Elder Peak is part of that ticket. Get the pass on the way in through the entrance on arrival at the National Park.
How to do Sunrise at Elder Peak in the Danxiashan Mountains:
OK first of all get up at 5 am – it’s an early start. Sunrise varies depending on the time of the year but we went in early September and got up at 5 am – that was time enough to do the climb and be at the top for sunrise.
You will leave your hotel in darkness and walk down towards the entrance to the Danxiashan National Park. I really wish I could describe this in detail, but as it’s all in Chinese, it’s difficult. Go with the flow and ask at the hotel to confirm where you should go – they will help you out. They rely on tourism. You get in a motorised car near the edge of Yao Tang village and it has two stops:
1. Stop 1 – Don’t get off at the first stop, as this is for the Cable Car. If you want to do the hike you will need to stay on until the second stop. If the cable car is the way you want to do it, then get out here! (I’d recommend the hike/climb)
2. Stop 2 – Get off at the second stop for the hike to Elder Peak. It’s sign posted and basically you just walk all the way to the top for sunrise.
How difficult is the climb to see sunrise at Elder Peak?
It will make you sweat and may strain your lower legs, but generally it’s an easy one. A few thousand steps up probably, and it’s a constant climb but you should be fine if you are used to walking and climbing on your travels. Please note that you will be climbing in darkness, so as usual some of those travel essentials will come in handy.
How long does the climb to see sunrise at Elder Peak take?
Of course this depends on your own level of fitness. It took us around an hour to reach the summit and we took it relatively relaxed. It could be done in much less, and equally if you set aside two hours to do it, you will be fine.
What do you need to take with you to the climb for sunrise at Elder Peak?
You’ll need a bit of energy so water alone isn’t quite enough, here’s what I took and what I recommend per person:
– At least 1 litre of water
– 500 ml of another drink (Cola or Orange Juice)
– Some light snacks (biscuits, fruit, crisps)
– A hat
– Insect Repellent
– A camera
– A torch
– Your entry ticket for the Danxiashan Mountains (we weren’t asked for ours on this hike, but please bring it just in case)
What facilities are there on the climb for sunrise at Elder peak?
There are currently none except for a public toilet. This means no market stalls or anywhere to buy things. Hence the need to bring your own stuff. However the Danxiashan Mountains is a massive place and there are loads of facilities all over it, just not on the actual ascent to Elder Peak.
What else is there to see and do in the Danxiashan Mountains?
There are lots of interesting rock formations, including the famous Penis Rock and Vagina Rock. Yes both the male and female genitalia are featured here in this World Heritage Site.
Here’s my list of other things to do in the area:
– Short boat cruise on Xiang Long Lake (this costs about 12 RMB and is down at the bottom past Vagina Rock)
– Sunset at Fortress Rock (I will write about this climb too – another classic!)
– Boat trips along the rivers
– Countless hikes and climbs
– Eat locally for cheap and get a cold beer for about 40 US cents!!
Is sunrise at Elder peak worth seeing?
Of course! I’m a traveller and I loved it! It was well worth it to be at the top for sunrise. Impressive views all round, a lack of foreign tourists and the knowledge that you feel you are really travelling did it for me. This is a great place. I loved it and I recommend it, the photos alone can tell you that! Here’s a final photo for you:
This is another great example of an off- the beaten track location, one that is not even mentioned in the latest Lonely Planet guide to China. Here are my videos:
Walking through Yao Tang Village at 5am before the hike:
Darkness on the sunrise hike to Elder Peak:
Sunrise at Elder Peak in China, in 4 parts:
ON the descent on the way back down from sunrise at Elder Peak:
View from the bottom after coming back down from Elder Peak:
7 thoughts on “Sunrise at Elder Peak, Danxiashan Mountains, Guangdong Province, China”
Great tips Jonny. It’s amazing how different a location can look at sunrise. Although it’s often a mission to get out of bed I think watching a new day dawn over a spectacular landscape can be rather soul cleansing.
Thanks Charlie! Yes it’s always worth it – I’m a lover of watching the hot ball rise and even more a lover of having a beer in the evening watching it sink! Safe travels! Jonny
can I take the cable car to the top and then hike to the elder peak, is that on the right direction? how long it will tke to hike to elder peak after getting of the cable car to the top?
Hi Colin, sorry for the delay, I haven’t been working on this site or checking emails or comments about it for ages due to depression. I was there in 2012, 6 years ago so I doubt the situation will still be the same. But at the time I seem to remember the Cable Car wasn’t open early enough to catch the sunrise so we hiked it. Presumably by getting the cable car you would knock 30 minutes off the hike, but I cannot be sure. ANyway enjoy your trip there. Safe travels. Jonny