Fenghuang (凤凰; Fènghuáng) is a well-preserved ancient town in western Hunan Province, about a half hour south of Jishou. It is the birthplace of author Shen Congwen 沈从文 (1902-1988) and residence of artist Huang Yongyu 黄永玉 (1924 - ).
The easiest way to reach Fenghuang is by high-speed train. Before the completion of the new railway line in 2021, most visitors arrived by car or bus from Jishou. An expressway opened in 2012, cutting travel time from Jishou from 70 minutes to about 30 minutes. Expect buses and roads to be crowded on weekends and holidays, however.
Fenghuang is served by Tongren Fenghuang Airport (TEN) in Tongren, with service from Guiyang, Guangzhou and Beijing as well as a few other cities in China. The airport is 34 km away from Fenghuang. To get there from Fenghuang, you can either take a taxi or head to Fenghuang North Bus Station and ask for a ticket to Tongren Airport (铜仁机场). It costs ¥20 (Dec 2016) and has the destination printed on it. There is no indication of the airport in the bus station so just board a Tongren-bound bus and show your ticket to the driver. You will most likely be dropped off at an intersection close to the airport from where it is a 10-minute walk to the terminal building. It is not known how it works the other way round but there seems to be a tourist shuttle bus during the day until 16:30.
Other nearby airports include Huaihua or Zhangjiajie and transfer to Fenghuang. However, neither airport offers direct buses. Flights are also frequently canceled during off season.
- 1 Fenghuanggucheng Railway Station (Fenghuang Old Town 凤凰古城站) (the station is linked to the city by a maglev line; express buses are also available). Trains from Changsha take about 2 to 2 and half hours to reach this station. From Zhangjiajie, the journey time is about 50 to 65 minutes.
There are direct buses from numerous cities in China, but the four most common direct routes are from Changsha, Jishou, Huaihua, and Zhangjiajie. Fenghuang has several bus stations and it is not easy to travel between them.
Ticket sellers at bus and train stations in Hunan will tack on travel insurance along with the sale of your ticket, so be sure to tell them not to include this when you buy your ticket. Otherwise you will be paying an extra ¥1-3!
- From Changsha (长沙): Eight buses leave a day from Changsha. Price: ¥120. Duration: 8 hours.
- From Jishou (吉首): Buses leave approximately every 30 minutes from the north bus station (qiche beizhan 汽车北站), near the railway station (huochezhan 火车站), though during peak times they often leave more frequently. Buses arrive in Fenghuang's North Bus Station. Price: ¥20. Duration: 30-60 minutes.
- From Huaihua (怀化): Buses leave hourly for Fenghuang's Western Bus Station. There are buses from Huaihua West (in the city) and Huaihua South (Train station for bullet trains). Price: ¥40 (June 2019). Duration: 1½ hours.
- From Zhangjiajie (张家界): There are about 4 buses per day from Zhangjiajie City and one that leaves directly from Wulingyuan. Both terminate at the North Bus Station. Price: ¥65/¥75. Duration: 4½-5½ hours.
- From Guìlín (桂林): There is one bus leaving the South Bus Station at 11:00. The bus arrives at the North Bus station. Price: ¥160. Duration: 6 hours.
Fenghuang Old Town is only part of the city of Fenghuang. Taxis can take you from the bus stations to the main entrance to the Old Town, which is best explored on foot. The Old Town is largely not wheelchair accessible.
Most of Fenghuang's sites can be visited with a "through ticket" (通票). There are three versions. The first includes the Yang Family Ancestral Hall, East Gate Tower, the upper gallery of the Hong Bridge, and a few other smaller attractions for ¥98. The second ticket includes the first ticket plus the Gucheng Museum and Wanshou temple, costs ¥148, and is valid for 2 days. The third ticket is a Fenghuang regional through ticket that, in addition to the previous two through tickets, includes the Southern Great Wall and Miao Village for ¥168 and is valid for 3 days.
- 1 East Gate Tower (东门城楼). Included in through ticket.
- 2 Yang Family Ancestral Hall (杨家祠堂). Included in through ticket.
- 3 Hong Bridge (虹桥). Free; upper gallery included in through ticket.
- 4 Former Home of Shen Congwen (沈从文故居). Included in through ticket.
- 5 Wanshou Temple (万寿宫). ¥50 individually, or included in through ticket.
- 6 Gucheng Museum (古城博物馆). ¥48 individually, or included in through ticket.
- 7 Queen of Heaven Temple (天后宫). Free.
The Southern Great Wall (南方长城) is about 15 km west of the city (entrance coordinates: 27.9312N,109.4665E). While it is nearly completely restored it still makes for a strenuous hike with beautiful viewpoints of rice terraces and the surrounding countryside. Since 2003, the courtyard of the old fortress has featured a giant Go board used for the biennial Ancient City of the Phoenix Cup - an exhibition match between a top player from China and Korea, played using people in traditional black and white clothing as pieces.
Minivan drivers are everywhere and will be willing to take you here, but bargain with them first (price will depend on number of people, distance traveled, and time spent). Or, from the old town area take the westbound bus number 2 to the big bus station (second-to-last stop) and transfer to an unnumbered bus which will make a stop right next to the entrance.
Fenghuang is famous for ginger candy. Throughout the Old Town vendors make and sell bags of candy for around ¥2-4. The local Miao people are also renowned for their silverwork. The old town has several silver shops offering high quality items. Beware of cheaper materials sold in the many shops selling mass-produced trinkets to tourists.
At night the streets in Fenghuang's old town are full of street food vendors, serving grilled meats, dumplings, fried potatoes, flat breads and grilled vegetables.
There are many restaurants that specialize in Hot Pot.
The streets facing the river come alive at night with karaoke bars, adorned with neon lights and blasting out music until midnight. Beer typically costs ¥25 for a 330 ml bottle, or about ten times the price at local shops.
Inns can be found in the Old Town along Bei Bian Jie, running between the Northern Wall and the river. Larger hotels catering to tour groups can be found in the city center and the roads leading to both bus stations.
- [dead link] Fenghuang Huxiangyi International Youth Hostel (凤凰湖湘驿国际青年旅舍), No. 20 Wujia Lane, Dongzheng St, Fenghuang (凤凰古城东门城楼 东正街吴家弄20号 ), ☏ +86 7433227070, firstname.lastname@example.org.
- A good year (一年好時光), 鳳凰古城回龍閣89 號, no.89, Hui Lung Ge, Fenghuang Guchen. 50—120.
Most buses leave for Jishou, Huaihua, Changsha, and Zhangjiajie. There are also one to two buses that go directly to Wulingyuan. See "Get In" section for prices and durations.
In addition, the following buses leave directly from Fenghuang: Wuhan (¥200), Guangzhou with continuation to Zhuhai and Shenzhen (¥260), Chongqing (¥165), Guilin, Nanning, and Kunming. Prices and departures are variable.