Putuoshan reaches only 297 meters above sea level and is 5 km east of Zhoushan island in Zhejiang province. The mountain is dedicated to Guanyin, often known in English as the Goddess of Mercy or the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara.
This is by far the lowest and among the most accessible of the four sacred mountains of Chinese Buddhism (the others being Emeishan, Wutaishan, and Jiuhuashan), and because it's a small, forested island, the space available for visitors is somewhat constrained. This can make it quite crowded and far from tranquil, especially around the most famous temples. However, the island still retains a special atmosphere and natural surroundings, and seems more laid-back than many similar tourist destinations. With roughly 80 temples on the island, of which only about three are famous, it's easy to find more-obscure, less-crowded options.
There is an accommodation bureau at the port. The staff are extremely helpful, and provide reliable information on hotels and guest houses on the island. During national holidays and the nights before Guanyin's three birthdays it is advisable to make prior room reservations, but this is not generally necessary at other periods.
Another tourist office is on the main square near Puji temple, and this is a good place to pick up free English-language guides and maps.
Flora and fauna
You can only reach this island by ferry, but you have several options for where to embark. Ferries arrive at the 1 Putuoshan Ferry Terminal (普陀山客运站) at the south end of the island.
- 2 Shenjiamen Ferry Terminal (沈家门半升洞客运站) (The Shenjiamen ferry terminal can be reached from the Shenjiamen bus station by several city bus routes, most notably 6 (¥2, 20 minutes).). 06:00-17:30. The 15 minute fast ferry ride from the ferry port in Shenjiamen costs ¥30 (every 20 minutes), while a slower ferry plies the same route for ¥14 (25 minutes, a few per day). You will need to show ID to get a ticket.
- 3 Zhujiajian Ferry Terminal (朱家尖蜈蚣峙码头) (This ferry port has its own intercity bus terminal and is near the Zhoushan Putuoshan airport.). 07:00-22:00. The 12 minute fast ferry ride from the ferry port in Zhujiajian costs ¥30. You will need to show ID to get a ticket. The 15-minute frequency is similar to Shenjiamen, but these ferries are much larger because they serve an expansive parking lot and a bus terminal.
- Shanghai Wusong Ferry Terminal (上海市吴淞码头) (Near the Songbin Road station on line 3.). Overnight ferry between Baoshan district in northern Shanghai and Putuoshan. Leaves Shanghai Monday, Wednesday and Friday around 19:30, usually stops at another island along the way around 05:30, and arrives at Putuoshan around 07:30. The return trip leaves Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday around 16:00, arriving in Shanghai around 06:30. Times and stops vary by date, so you need to find the schedule for the month you wish to travel. There are also tickets that include a bus from central Shanghai to the ferry port.
- Shanghai Xiaoyangshan Ferry Terminal (小洋山客运码头). A fast ferry leaves from Shanghai's Xiaoyangshan terminal (actually in Zhejiang) at 10:20, arriving in Putuoshan at 12:50. Passengers are collected at a bus station near Nanpu Bridge at 08:30 and driven to this rather remote ferry terminal. The return trip leaves Putuoshan 13:30, arriving at Xiaoyangshan at 16:00, then the Nanpu Bridge bus terminal around 18:00.
Most buses arrive at the Zhujiamen ferry terminal. Shenjiamen is also an option, but the 4 Shenjiamen bus terminal is several km from the ferry terminal.
Combined bus+ferry tickets are available to (and presumably also from) Ningbo South bus station, for ¥100, with similar options available for Hangzhou and Shanghai. This includes the ¥30 fast ferry to Zhujiajian. These tickets are sold just to the right of the main ticket office at the Putuoshan ferry terminal, and can save some hassle.
Ningbo has regular buses from the Ningbo South bus station to Shenjiamen (¥56, 2 hours) or Zhujiamen (¥72, 2 hours).
Shanghai has several departures daily from Shanghai Sightseeing Bus Center, Shanghai Nanpu Bridge Bus Center and Shanghai South Long Distance Bus Station (¥138/4-5 hours).
From Hangzhou, there are buses from the south bus station (407 qiutaolu 秋涛路407) to the bus station on Zhoushan (shenjiamen 沈家门). Buses depart approximately once per hour, take 3-4 hours, and cost ¥70.
- 5 Zhoushan Putuoshan Airport (舟山普陀山机场, HSN IATA). On Zhujiajian island immediately south of Putuoshan, this small airport has domestic flights to several major cities. The Zhujiajian ferry terminal for Putuoshan is just north of the airport, accessed by a frequent local bus route.
Fees and permits
No matter how you arrive, it costs ¥160 to land on Putuoshan as the whole island is a National Park. This is collected in a large hall as you leave the ferry dock. If the accommodation options on the island are too extortionate for your tastes, you can get free re-entry if you register your face at the "visa office" on the right after leaving the ticket hall. You will then need to find the facial recognition gates when you return the next day.
Unlike at many other Chinese national parks, transportation around the island and to Luojiashan is not included in the ticket. The efficient shuttle bus network links all the island's main attractions, and charges either ¥5 or 10 per ride, depending on the distance. The destinations and costs are posted at each bus stop. The return trip to Luojiashan costs ¥70.
As many bus stops are some distance from the temples, be prepared for some long walks. Furthermore, as bus signs are usually in Chinese characters and pinyin only, it's advisable to write down the name of your destination before you set out.
If weather permits, the island is best explored on foot. This allows you to avoid the crowds and also to visit pavilions and temples that are off the beaten track. The return journey can be made by bus.
Of course, riding a mountain-bike would also be a great option, no cars, great scenery... But you can not hire bikes on the island. Too bad!
- 1 Fayu Monastery (法雨寺, 法雨禅寺). At the foot of Fodingshan (Foding mountain), at the north end of 1000 Step Beach. ¥5.
- 2 Huiji Monastery (慧济寺, 慧济禅寺) (near the top of Fodingshan). The lazy can reach the temple by cable car (¥40 return). Take Bus 2 from the port (¥10). More active visitors and pilgrims take the concrete steps from near Fayu Temple. It takes about 1 hour to climb the mountain. If your interest is old military installations, turn right soon after the start of this stair ascent up a smaller set of stone steps. After 10-15 minutes, this continues through a series of anti-ship and anti-aircraft gun emplacements with gunner accommodation and ammunition stowage built into the cliffs. Everything is in very good condition, there is no impediment to access, and looks like the PLA continues to take an interest. Also being off the beaten path, there is a complete absence of other visitors. You can then continue to the summit of Fodingshan on earthen paths, using common sense navigation because nothing is signposted in this area. But this is less interesting. ¥5.
- 3 Puji Monastery (普济寺, 普济禅寺) (at the center of the island). This is the most accessible and famous monastery on Putuoshan. Nearby there are hotels, restaurants and interesting shops. A public ritual performed by the monks runs from 4:30AM to 7AM. It is crowded at this time, so unless you are interested in the ceremony, it's best to visit the temple outside these hours. ¥5.
A small island to the southeast of Putuo Shan which resembles someone sleeping on their back, 6 Luojia Shan (洛迦山) can be seen from Bukenqu Temple. An old saying states: 'if you don't visit Luojia Shan, the pilgrimage to Putuo Shan is incomplete'. The ferry to Luojia Shan costs ¥70 return, and departs from the 7 Luojia Shan ferry port, near the main ferry terminal. There are at least two sailings per day, at least one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and the journey takes about 20 minutes. At busy times, the ferries may run every 20-30 minutes or there may be one or two extra sailings, so check the schedule or ask. The ferry stays at Luojia Shan for two hours before returning to Putuo Shan, so it is important to keep your eye on the time. Accessing nearly anything interesting on Luojia Shan requires passing over the main ridge, so be prepared for some stair climbing. The island has no food or accommodation, nor any commercial activity at all, aside from four drink vending machines which do not accept cash or cards.
- 4 Miaozhan Pagoda (妙湛塔) (300m up the stairs from the ferry terminal). An intricately-carved stone pagoda sits roughly on the island's belly button.
- 5 Yuantong Monastery (圆通禅院) (Partway down the far side of the ridge, past the pagoda).
- 6 Dajue Monastery (大觉禅院) (Continue farther along the trail). Monastery accessed via a yellow-walled corridor.
- 7 Luojiashan Lighthouse (洛伽山灯塔). It is possible to continue another 300m past the monasteries to a lighthouse.
- 8 Northern Village. Accessed by walking north up the hill from the lower cable car station, past the large new development on the coast (on the right). After 1-2 km, at the end of the road, is the start of a footpath that leads through an historic village in various stages of disrepair. While some residents remain, the majority of villagers were re-settled in new dwellings with services back south of the ferry terminal. Continue on via a PLA training area to the northern tip of the island, but staying on the earthen path may be good advice. You have to walk back to the cable car station to exit the area.
- 9 Fanyin Cave (善财古洞). From Fayu Monastery a 15 min. bus ride. It is a nice trip to the east coast. From there you can walk 20 min. through the forest to the quiet 10 Shancai Cave (善财洞).
- Other Monasteries. If you don't want to meet many people and prefer to explore the quieter monasteries, try to walk around. There are nearly 80 other quiet and nice monasteries to explore in the forests.
- 11 Chao Yindong (潮音洞). Cliffs carved with the three characters "Chao Yindong", handwritten by the Department of the Qing Emperor Kangxi.
- 12 Sea stamp pad (海印池). 24 hours. A series of ponds, bridges, and pavilions in front of Puji Temple. The Royal Beiting, octagonal and Puji temple in formation of the axis will be sea seal pool is partitioned into one divides into two., thing two pool.Sea seal pool built stone three, intermediate a deck of flat and wide, North Temple front gate, South from the Royal Beiting, bridge has a pavilion, also known as the octagonal pavilion, facing the temple gate, visitors can sit here. Free.
- 13 South Sea Guanyin (南海观音). 33m-high statue of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, to whom the entire island is dedicated. There is a large stone plaza in front, and the access road also accesses two small temples out on the rocks next to the ocean. ¥6.
- 1 Cable Car (普陀山索道). Ride the cable car from the bottom of the mountain then explore the temples at the top, climb down slowly and admire the pagodas and temples along the way.
- 2 Foding Shan. 24 hours. Or, you could hike up Foding Shan as described above under Huiji Temple. The summit, the highest point on the island, is a military radar station and cannot be accessed, but the temple is worth a visit and the route up passes some interesting rocks and structures. Free.
- Relax There are two beautiful beaches near to the main hotels on Putuoshan, namely 3 Hundred Step Beach and 4 Thousand Step Beach. The former has facilities such as lockers and showers, lounge chairs and parasols for hire, with quadbikes and banana boats also available. At night, Hundred Step Beach is sometimes used to host karaoke parties. Thousand Step Beach is longer and more peaceful but no facilities are available and signs forbid swimming. Another beach immediately south of Hundred Step Beach is closed to the public. The 5 beach on the south side of the island, despite having a village next to it, is not as developed or patrolled as Hundred Step Beach.
Near Puji Temple there is a night market that sells a variety of souvenirs, statues and raw seafood, a number of convenience stores, and a few restaurants offering inexpensive meals.
- Temple food. Inexpensive (¥5-12) vegetarian fare is available at many of the temples. Options are available for all three meals, but lunch is the easiest to find. Lunch can start as early as 10:30 and ends at 11.30-12.00, and dinner will be 16.00-17.00 or 16:30-17:30. Breakfast is the hardest to find, and will be finished by 07:30.
- Vegetarian. As a Buddhist island, most of the island's restaurants offer a good selection of vegetarian dishes.
- Chinese dishes. The hotels near Puji Temple have restaurants that are open to non-residents.
- Seafood. The 1 new village, south of the ferry terminal, boasts many seafood restaurants with an excellent fresh selection. Prices are 20-25% dearer than the mainland, but the quality of shellfish and fish is first rate. The non-Chinese speaker will have to point to the display and hope for the best.
There are few English menus available and most staff do not speak any English, even in the larger hotels and restaurants. Don`t forget your English-Chinese dictionary or translation app, especially for food with Chinese characters. Western food is extremely limited on the island -- there is a small 2 bakery/coffee shop on the main road to Puji Temple, near the tunnel. If you are lucky you may get some toast for breakfast in the larger hotels.
- Putuoshan Beer is served in a number of the hotel restaurants and is worth a drink if only for novelty value.
If you have a hotel booking you may be met at the wharf by a hotel minibus. Look out for placards in the bus park. There is an information/hotel booking desk at the Wharf, otherwise it is a short walk to the Puji Temple central area, where there is another information centre.
Depending on your level of desired hospitality, hotel rooms are available on the island for a variety of prices, ranging from ¥300 to many thousands of ¥ per night. On weekends you pay more, up to double the price. Many of the houses and apartments on the island operate as guesthouses toward the lower end of the price range, but these are not allowed to take foreigners. If the prices seem too high, consider staying in Shenjiamen and taking the ferry (see information about validating your ticket for free re-entry under Fees and Permits). Even cheaper accommodation is available in Zhujiamen, but it's in the centre of the island, far from the ferry.
If splashing out at the upper end of the price range is your thing, see the five-star Landison Hotel [dead link].
Not allowed in the park.
This park doesn't have a backcountry.
Some of the trails can be slippery when wet. Several parts of the island are military facilities which are best not entered or photographed.