Fewer Tourists is Just One Reason to Wait for the Sun in the Danxiashan Mountains

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breaking sunrise in Danxia China As a traveller, getting off the beaten track is one of my favorite 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

You buy a National Park pass for 120 RMB and that includes everything, so seeing sunrise at Elder Peak will be included as part of that ticket.

Ticket for sunrise at Elder Peak in Danxia 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 which is enough time to do the climb and be at the top for sunrise.

breaking sunrise in Danxia China

You will leave your hotel in darkness and walk down towards the entrance to the Danxiashan National Park. I

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.

signpost on elder peak climb china

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.

Elder Peak sunrise hike

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)

sunrise hike to Elder Peak in China

  • A hat
  • Suncream
  • Insect Repellent
  • A camera
  • A flashlight

There are currently no facilities at the top except for a public toilet. This means no market stalls or anywhere to buy things.

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.

Jonny Blair at penis rock

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!)

Fortress Rock Danxiashan

  • Boat trips along the rivers
  • Countless hikes and climbs

Is sunrise at Elder peak worth seeing?

Of course! Here’s a final photo for you:

Sunrise at Danxiashan China