Putuoshan is only 297 meters above sea level and is located 5km 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, it is advisable to make prior room reservations, but this is not generally necessary at other periods.
Another tourist office is located on the main square near Puji temple, and this is a good place to pick up free English-language guides and maps.
Whether you arrive from Ningbo, from Zhoushan or direct from Shanghai, it costs ¥160 (July 2010) to land on Putuoshan as the whole island is a National Park (for ¥5 more you can buy a "Digital CD-ROM entry ticket" for the island which includes a CD with a video about the island). This is collected in a large hall as you leave the 1 ferry dock.
Due to new bridges, it's now possible to travel to 2 Shenjiamen (from which it is only about a 15 minute 3 ferry ride to Putuoshan) entirely by bus from Shanghai and Ningbo. Shanghai has several departures daily from Shanghai Sightseeing Bus Center, Shanghai Nanpu Bridge Bus Center and Shanghai South Long Distance Bus Station (138rmb/4-5 hours).
Ningbo has regular buses from both the Ningbo South and Ningbo North bus stations (¥57 or 52, respectively, 2-3 hours)
The 15 minute boat ride from Shenjiamen costs ¥14 (slow ferry, 25 minutes) or ¥30 (fast ferry, 10 minutes, every 20 minutes). You will need to show ID to get a ticket.
Combined bus+ferry tickets are available to (and presumably also from) Ningbo South bus station, for ¥100. This includes the ¥30 fast ferry to 4 Zhujiajian. These tickets are sold just to the left of the main ticket office at the Putuoshan ferry terminal, and can save some time and hassle, but the ferry is significantly less frequent.
- 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.
The following bus/ferry combinations are still available but the bus services which now utilise the new bridge connections are faster and more comfortable.
The journey from Ningbo to Putuoshan costs ¥70 and consists of an about 1 hour bus ride from the Ningbo Ferry Wharf to the port in Daxie and a 1 hour boat ride from Daxie to Putuoshan. The Ningbo Ferry Wharf is located just north of LaoWaiTan in 288 Zhongma Road (中马路). 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.
There are two boats departing from Shanghai. The cheapest leaves in the evening and takes around 12 hours, and costs around ¥90-340 (one way). For approximately ¥260 (one way), you can buy a ticket which includes a bus trip to Luchao Wharf from the city centre (taking up to two hours, depending on traffic conditions) and a boat onwards to Putuoshan (taking between two and three 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. The bus journey no longer involves a vehicular ferry from the mainland to Zhoushan because a new bridge has been competed.
Putuoshan has an efficient minibuses service that links all the island's main attractions, and it costs either ¥5 or 10 per ride, depending on the distance. However, 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). Located 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). Located 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). Located 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.
- 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.
- 4 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 5 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.
- Chao Yindong (潮音洞). Cliffs carved with "Chao Yindong" three words, the Department of the Qing Emperor Kangxi handwritten. Here the original legend inscribed "appeared at the" ancient believers Kouqiu Guanyin appeared among those who worship here.
- 6 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.
- 7 South Sea Guanyin (南海观音). Large statue of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy, to whom the entire island is dedicated. ¥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. 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, loung 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 (¥5-10) vegetarian fare is available at many of the temples. Note: Eating times are from 11.30-12.00 for lunch and 16.00-17.00 for dinner.
- 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.
Note: There are mostly no English Menus available and the staff does not speak any English, also in the bigger Hotel-Restaurants. If so, you are lucky! Don`t forget your English-Chinese dictionary, especially for food with Chinese Characters. And there is no restaurant on the island serving Western food. If you are lucky you get some toast for breakfast in the hotels.
- Putuoshan Beer is served in a number of the hotel restaurants and is worth a drink if only for novelty value.
Note: Depending on your level of desired hospitality, hotel rooms are available on the island in a variety of prices, ranging from ¥300 to ¥1000 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 generally not allowed to take foreigners.
See also the Five Star Landison Hotel.
- 8 Luojia Shan (洛迦山). A small island to the southeast of Putuo Shan, 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 ¥45, and departs from 6 near the main ferry terminal. There are two sailings a day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, and the journey takes about 30 minutes. The ferry stays in Luojia Shan for two hours before returning to Putuo Shan, so it is important to keep your eye on the time. Many of temples on Luojia Shan are on mountain peaks, so be prepared for a lot of stair climbing.