Where is Mount Wutai
Mount Wutai is located in Xinzhou City(忻州市), Shanxi Province(山西省) with a scenic area of 607 square kilometers and an administrative area of 436 square kilometers. It consists of a series of mountains and peaks, including five peaks whose summits are flat like a Tai (terrace), which is the reason why the mountain range is named as Wutai (Five Terraces).
6 Importation Locations to Know
Before starting your hiking, you need to be clear about 6 important locations of Mount Wutai which are related to the hiking route, accommodation, dining, etc.
Taihuai Town - Tourist Center & Temples Group
Taihuai Town (台怀镇 - 1700m) is the core area of Mount Wutai where most of the temples and other sacred sites are located at. It is also the place where tourists usually stay overnight during their Mount Wutai trip. There are shopping streets, restaurants and banks gather here too. The regular Mount Wutai tours including Mount Wutai classic tour, Mount Wutai Buddhist tour only Taihuai Town and nearby area.
Five Terraces - Hiking & Pilgrimage
The Five Terraces are the five highest peak of Mount Wutai, namely East Terrace, South Terrace, West Terrace, North Terrace and Central Terrace, representing five “clones” of Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of Wisdom. They are situated at different directions and faraway from each other.
East Terrace or Wanghaifeng (望海峰) is about 20km from Taihuai town. With an altitude of 2795m, this peak is the best place to enjoy sunrise over Mount Wutai. You can get the East Terrace by tourist bus from Taihuai Town (RMB 70), or by walking from Hongmenyan (鸿门岩) (3km/1hr).
With an altitude of 3061, the North Terrace, or Yedoufeng(叶斗峰), is the highest peak in Mount Wutai even in northern China. It is reputed as the “Ridge of North China”. The temperatures here are much lower than Taihuai Town. It usually starts to snow from September to April. The North Terrace can be reached by tourist bus from Taihuai Town (26km/1.5hrs) or by walking from East Peak (14km/3.5hrs)
Located 10 kilometers northwest of Taihuai Town, the Central Terrace is shaped like a lion. Its altitude is 2894 meters, second only to North Terrace among all five terraces. There is a temple on the top of the terrace, named Yanjiao temple, which was founded in the Sui Dynasty (581~619). The annual average temperature is minus 4 degrees centigrade. The annual average gale days are 182 days, and the maximum snow days are 279 days. The Central Terrace can be reached by tourist bus from Taihuai Town (1.5hrs), North Terrace (20mins) or by walking from North Terrace (8km/2hrs), West Terrace (5.5km/1.5hrs).
West TerraceThe West Terrace is also known as Hanging Moon Peak(Guayuefeng-挂月峰), which is 2773 meters above sea level. It’s not the highest among the five peaks, but the best place to enjoy the sunset and bright moon. At the top of the terrace sits the Falei Temple (Buddhism Thunder Temple). Falei means that Buddhism is like thunder, which can awaken all living beings. There are white stupas and payer flags on the West terrace, which create a strong sense of Tibetan culture. You can get to the West Terrace by tourist buses from Central Terrace (5.5km/15mins) or Taihuai Town(40km/1.5hrs), or get there by walking from Central Terrace (5.5km/1.5hrs)or Shiziwo Temple (Lion Nest Temple-狮子窝)(10km/2.5hrs)
Unlike East Terrace, West Terrace, North Terrace and Central Terrace which are mountains with many ridges, the South Terrace (Jinxiufeng -锦绣峰) is a single peak, which means it’s not connected to the other four peaks. Looking at the shape of the mountain from afar, it is like a strapping horse standing on the mountain. The South Terrace pleases visitors with more than 100 species of rare flowers and plants. In spring, the mountain is filled with red, yellow, blue, white, purple, etc. And during the midsummer, you can see numerous sheep and cows grazing on the mountain. You can get to the South Terrace by tourist bus from Taihuai Town (70km/2hrs) or by foot from Fomudong (Buddha’s Mother Cave – 佛母洞) (3hrs). Fomudong is about 20mins’ driving from Taihuai Town.
• Popular Mount Wutai Tour including Five Terraces: ✔ 3 Days Mount Wutai Trekking Tour
How to Organize Your Mount Wutai Hiking Itinerary
1 Day Mount Wutai Hike
To be honest, 1 day is no longer enough to enjoy a real hike in Mount Wutai because you need at least a half day to visit the temples in the core area, such as Xiantong Temple (显通寺), Tayuan Temple (塔院寺), Pusading(菩萨顶), etc. Plus time for transportation, meal and rest, you have less than a half day for hiking. Fortunately there are two options available:
Option 1: Visit Essential Temples + Hiking to Dailuoding
From - To: Taihuai Town - Dailuoding Taihuai Town
Hiking Duration: 2km/1.5hr
This itinerary involves easy walking among temples also an uprising hiking on stone steps to Dailuoding (1925m). It can be done in 3/4 day by most of travelers including seniors and kids. Recommended for those who are interested more in temples and Buddhist culture.
Option 2: Visit Essential Temples + East Terrace Hiking
From - To: Taihuai Town - Dailuoding Taihuai Town
Hiking Duration: 5km/2.5hrs
This itinerary takes you to spend a half day explore the essential temples, then take you to East Terrace which is about 20km from Taihuai Town. You can start the hike from Hongmenyan (2500m) (鸿门岩) where you will hike about 3 hours to the top of the South Terrace, then take a tourist bus back to Taihuai Town. If you have a tight schedule, you can take the tourist bus directly to the top of the South Terrace and hike around for 1~2 hours, then take the tourist bus back to Taihuai town. But please note the tourist bus to South Terrace may not operate sometimes when there are not many tourists.
2 Days Mount Wutai Hike
From - To: Taihuai Town - East Terrace - North Terrace - Central Terrace -West Terrace - Taihuai Town
Hiking Duration: 35km/1 day
2 Days are good duration of the Mount Wutai Hike but still not long enough to hike all five terraces unless you skip the visits to temple in Taihuai Town which are the best highlights of Mount Wutai. Fortunately you can hike the highlighting part between East Terrace and West Terrace which also include the North Terrace and Central Terrace. An advantage of this itinerary is that you don’t have to stay a night on the terraces where the accommodations are very basic. You can take below itinerary:
Day 1 Arriving at Wutaishan before noon, then spend the rest of the time exploring the temples in Taihuai Town and accommodate in Taihuai Town;
Day 2 Transfer about 30mins to Hongmenyan (鸿门岩) where your hike starts. First hike about 1 hour to East Terrace where you have to keep hiking about 3.5 hours to the North Terrace, then 1.5 hours from North Terrace to the Central Terrace and 1 hour from Central Terrace to West Terrance. Lastly hike 2 hours down the West Terrace to Lion and transfer back to Taihuai Town by vehicle. If you want to save time, you can take the tourist bus directly back to Taihuai Town from West Terrace.
3 Days Mount Wutai Hike
From - To: Taihuai Town - East Terrace - North Terrace - Central Terrace - West Terrace - South Terrace - Taihuai Town
Hiking Duration: 50km/2 days
3 days’ tour duration allows you to hike all five terraces and also visit the temples in Taihuai Town. But you usually have to stay a night on the mountain where some monasteries provide dormitory with basic beddings. This hiking requires you have a great physical condition and well preparation for changeable weather on the mountains. You also have to bring many food and drinks with you. Below is the recommended itinerary:
Day 1 Arriving at Wutaishan, visiting the essential monasteries and getting prepared for hiking;
Day 2 Hiking from Hongmenyan to West Terrace via North Terrace and Central Terrace
Day 3 Hiking from West Terrace to South Terrace and leaving Wutaishan.
Conclusion: If time allows, it is strongly recommended to hike all five terraces. But if your time is on budget, you can also take the shorter hike. No matter which hike you take, you should never miss out the real essence of Mount Wutai – Buddhist temples visiting in Taihuai Town. Must-visits are: Xiantong Temple (显通寺), Tayuan Temple (塔院寺), Pusa Ding(菩萨顶).
• Popular Mount Wutai Hiking Tour: ✔ 3 Days Mount Wutai Trekking Tour
▶ Browse more tours at: Mount Wutai Tours
Best Time to Hike Mount Wutai
Wutai Mountain has a temperate continental climate with mild summer and cold winters. Although its latitude is close to that of Beijing, its climatic characteristics are similar to those of Daxinganling(大兴安岭) in northeastern China. According to meteorological records, the highest temperature on the terraces is 20 degrees, and the annual average temperature is -4 °C. July and August are the hottest month with average temperatures of 9.5 °C and 8.5 °C respectively. January is the coldest month with the average temperature of -18.8 °C. The climate of Taihuai Town area is much moderate. It’s usually 6°C warmer than the temperatures on the terraces.
You can visit Mount Wutai all year around but the best time to hike Mount Wutai is late spring (May), early summer (June) and early autumn season (September) when the weather is more comforatable. No matter what time to visit Mount Wutai, remember to bring your extra layers and umbrella/raincoat always.
▶ Learn more about: Mount Wutai Weather
• Popular Mount Wutai Tour: ✔ 5 Days Datong & Wutaishan Discovery Tour
How to Get to Mount Wutai?
Mount Wutai is located in Taihuai Town, Xinzhou, central-north Shanxi Province, about 350 km from Beijing, 800 km from Xian, 200 km from Taiyuan and Datong and 300 km from Pingyao. It has an airport and a railway station, but both far away from Mount Wutai.
Currently, most of tourists travel to Mount Wutai from Datong, Taiyuan or Pingyao in Shanxi Province by driving. The most classic itinerary is to start the tour at Datong, then drive directly to Mount Wutai, next move on to Taiyuan and Pingyao, which usually needs about 6~7 days. If you want to start your tour at Mount Wutai directly, you can take a flight to Wutaishan Airport from Shanghai, Chengdu, Nanjing, Hangzhou, etc., or a fast train from Beijing. High speed train is not available yet.
Where to Stay During Your Mount Wutai Hiking
The accommodation locations depend on your itinerary, basically cab be divided to two categories: Taihuai Town and Mountain Area. Most people have to stay a night in Taihuai Town where hotels of different classes are provided. You can easily find good hotels even those 5-stars resorts there. If you take the 2 Days Mount Wutai Hiking (Taihuai Town + East Peak, North Peak, Central Peak and West Peak), you are able to return to Taihuai Town after the hiking on the second day. If you take the 3 Days Mount Wutai In-depth Hiking (Taihuai Town + all five terraces), you need to stay a night on the mountain, usually in the temples on the terraces. Some temples provide two-bed rooms, and some only provide dormitories. During the peak season, you have to make reservation or get to the temple earlier than others to ensure you can have a room or bed. Our suggestion is to start the hiking early from the East Terrace so that you can get to Lion Nest Temple where there are guesthouses and restaurants are available.
▶ Learn more about: Recommended Mount Wutai Hotels
What to Pack for Mount Wutai Hiking
You should pack accordingly to your itinerary and season of hiking. Wearing warmly especially with layers is the most important whenever you come to Mount Wutai. There is huge consumption of both energy and time. You’d better bring enough food and drinks with you. You can leave your big luggage in your hotel at Taihuai town. Below is the packing list:
- Comfortable hiking boots or firm running shoes;
- Light and comfortable pants (trekking pants in winter);
- T-shirt for summer and long-sleeved shirt and underwear for autumn and winter;
- Changes of socks;
- Warm layers for top: fleece, cashmere jumper, sweatshirt/hoodie;
- Hiking sticks;
- Some energy bars for the trekking;
- Sun cream;
- Rain cape;
- Bottle waters.
- Mount Wutai Tours
- 3 Days Mount Wutai Buddhism Tour
- 3 Days Mount Wutai Trekking Tour
- 5 Days Datong Mount Wutai Tour
- 6 Days Datong Mount Wutai Pingyao Tour
Top Mount Wutai (Wutaishan) Tours
Helpful Mount Wutai Travel Guide
- How to Plan Mount Wutai Tour
- Mount Wutai Buddhist Pilgrimage
- Top Attractions in Mount Wutai
- Things to Do in Wutaishan
- Get There & Around Mount Wutai
- Beijing to Mount Wutai
- Wutaishan Airport
- Wutaishan Railway Station
- Where to Stay in Mount Wutai
- Mount Wutai Weather & Seasons
- Mount Wutai Maps
- More Travel Guide
Recommended Top Mount Wutai Tour Packages
Below are our travel experts’ handpicked top 3 Mount Wutai tour packages which covers classic hiking routes, private transfer, experienced hiking guide, etc. You can also contact us to design the hiking itinerary of your own.
- 3 Days Mount Wutai Trekking Tour (Suspended)
- 4 Days Datong Wutaishan Discovery Tour
Datong / Wutaishan