In a nutshell
Fenghuang means Phoenix in Chinese, the bird in mythology that is said to have been reborn after it was consumed by fire, Fenghuang is also known as Phoenix Ancient Town and is located in the extreme west of Hunan province and is said to be one of the two most beautiful towns in China.
8 Reasons Why You Should Visit Fenghuang
The ancient town in Fenghuang is an example of how villages used to look before the days of modernization. The flagstone paved alleys that run between the houses are showing the wear and tear of generations of local people as they continue with their daily business while visitors can observe the local traditions. The Tuojiang River has been a life force for centuries; the women do their daily washing of clothes while the men fish with nets. The boatmen on the river now earn their living by providing a service to visitors wishing to do some sightseeing from the river.
The area has a high percentage of its local population descending from the Miao ethnic minority, and a visit to the Miao village is a highlight of any tourist’s trip here. You can buy a through ticket which gives you access to the attractions. The first ticket costs CNY98 and allows entry to the Yang Family Ancestry Hall, the Hong Bridge and the East Gate Tower in addition to some smaller attractions and is valid for one day. The two day ticket costing CNY148 also gives access to the Gucheng Museum and the Wanshou temple. The third regional ticket is valid for three days, costs CNY168 and includes all of the attractions on the one and two day tickets as well as the Southern Great Wall and the Miao village. Some of the above attractions can be paid for individually if not buying one of the combination tickets. Other attractions include the stilt houses that overhang the river. You can observe them from the opposite bank or in a boat on the river. Some are open as teahouses or cafes so you can freely go inside and experience them for yourself.
The boat ride along the river is included in the Through Ticket; you can slowly glide downstream from the North Gate Wharf to the Wenshu temple. The Southern Great Wall is 15km to the west of Fenghuang is quite a strenuous hike with some excellent viewpoints of the local rice terraces from the vantage point of the restored wall. You can take a minivan there or bus number 2, followed by a local unmarked bus to the entrance. The wall was built to protect the Han Chinese from the Miao during one of the many uprisings in centuries past.
When is the Best Time to Visit Fenghuang?
Fenghuang has a short spring season of just two months and a summer of five months duration. It is warm or mild most of the year. July is the hottest month with highs of around 32-38C, while the coldest month is February with lows of around 0-2C. The best times to visit are from April until June or September until November. The temperature is mild and rainfall is at the lowest levels.
Where to Stay in Fenghuang?
The choice of hotels in Fenghuang is a little more restricted than in large cities but there are still around 250 to choose from in the newer city and not the ancient town. There are a few hostels from around CNY40-50 per night for a bed in a dorm room although there are lots of hotels to choose from priced at CNY100-200 per night for en-suite rooms. There are some 4 star hotels available and expect to pay between CNY300-400 per night at these hotels. The hotels here are generally a little cheaper than in the larger cities although the most luxurious hotels are not available at this location.
Where and What to Eat in Fenghuang
In Fenghuang you will find lots of choice in the small family run restaurants that are available throughout the old town and newer city. A local delicacy is pickled red peppers and the appetizing smell draws many people inside the restaurants where this delicacy is being served. Hot pot is widely available at several restaurants as is Hunan style cuisine.
At night the streets come alive with street food as vendors set up their stalls of bbq, grilled meats, flat bread, dumplings and many other varieties of snack foods. The streets close to the river are also transformed during the late evening into impromptu Karaoke Bars with flashing lights and music blaring out until around midnight. Beer that usually cost CNY2-3 in the supermarket is on sale here for around CNY25.
How to Get Around Fenghuang
The ancient town of Fenghuang is small enough to discover by walking, you do not really need any transport. From the newer city to the old town you can take a local bus. The bus 1A operates from the main bus station in Fenghuang to the ancient town, it is about 2km so not too far to walk. Apart from buses to get around the newer city, another alternative is to use minivans that operate similar to taxis, you will have to negotiate a price before your driver sets off on the journey though.
How to Get To and From Fenghuang
With no railway station and no airport, most travelers will get to and from Fenghuang by express bus. There are direct bus routes from several Chinese cities but the four most convenient routes are from Jishou (the nearest railway station), Changsha, Huaihua and Zhangjiajie. From Jishou there are buses every 30 minutes during the day to Fenghuang’s bus station, the journey takes around one hour and costs CNY22. There are 8 buses every day from Changsha, the cost is CNY120 and takes around 8 hours. There are numerous buses from Huaihua to Fenghuang, they leave every hour for the 90 minute journey costing CNY40.
From Zhangjiajie there are four buses each day to Fenghuang and one direct bus daily from Wulingyuan. They cost CNY65/75 and take approximately 3 and half hours from Zhangjiajie and an hour longer for the bus from Wulingyuan. The traffic getting in and out of Zhangjiajie is horrendous and this can sometimes add an extra hour to the expected journey time.
For destinations further away there are direct buses to and from these cities, Wuhan will cost CNY200, in Guangdong province the cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen cost from CNY260. Guilin and Nanning in Guangxi province and the city of Kunming have direct buses from CNY160 while buses from Chongqing will cost CNY150.
The nearest airports to Fenghuang are at Huaihua and Zhangjiajie, there are no buses direct from either of these airports to Fenghuang, so you will need to take a bus into the city then transfer to one for Fenghuang. From Huaihua there are flights to and from Changsha, Beijing and Guangzhou airports and this is the more convenient airport for getting to the ancient city of Fenghuang.
Is it Safe in Fenghuang?
Visitors to Fenghuang should feel extremely safe, it is a location that attracts lots of tourists, both Chinese and foreign and the local authorities act very harshly on those committing criminal acts as this could affect the impact on the tourism industry. It is safe to walk around at night, just do not advertise your wealth by flashing lots of cash around. Should you fall ill there are local medical facilities but it is very likely that no English is spoken by those administering you the aid you require. Should you need hospital treatment the nearest hospitals likely to treat you are at Zhangjiajie or Huaihua, three or four hours travelling time from Fenghuang.