Fenghuang Ancient Town

Your Ultimate Travel Guide to Fenghuang Ancient Town 2024

The last time I visited Fenghuang Ancient Town, I drove there with friends. My initial expectations of the town stemmed from a book by the renowned local writer, Mr. Shen Congwen. Today’s Fenghuang Ancient Town is no longer the tranquil place depicted in that book; it is bustling, and even when we sought refuge in an ancient town inn, finding peace is rare, as the liveliness persists until midnight.

In the early morning, there is a brief moment of tranquility in Fenghuang Ancient Town. We entered the ancient town as the day was breaking. If one could choose a quiet day during the off-peak season, Fenghuang Ancient Town is perfect for a leisurely stroll. With a whole day, it’s enough to explore every corner of the ancient town.

Starting from the North Gate Tower, passing by the YYang’s Ancestral Hall, and meandering to the East Gate, one can unintentionally circulate around the ancient town. Wandering aimlessly in Fenghuang Ancient Town, one might easily find themselves along the banks of the Tuo River. There, you might coincidentally witness a woman opening the window of a stilted building, a little yellow dog stretching lazily, and the tempting aroma of a meal wafting from a wooden building.

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🌟Hunan Travel Planning Guide

Considering a last-minute trip to Fenghuang Ancient Town?

1. 2 Days Relax Tour to Fenghuang Ancient Town from Zhangjiajie
2. 5 Days Zhangjiajie Beauty&Fenghuang Ancient Town Tour

🇨🇳 Top Activities and Tours in Zhangjiajie:

1. Full-Day Zhangjiajie National Forest Park Tour: Tianzi Mountain and Yuanjiajie
2. 3 Days Private Tour to Zhangjiajie National Park&Glass Bridge&Tianmen Mountain

🏨Where to Stay:

Sulv Lianhua Hotel (⭐️ 4.9)
Phoenix City Boutique Hotel (⭐️ 4.8)
Phoenix Youran Qingsu Hotel (⭐️ 4.9)
Qingxi Chanyuan Hotel (⭐️ 4.7)

🌐Make sure to install ExpressVPN in advance for unrestricted internet access during your stay in China!

🌏Where is Fenghuang Ancient Town Located

Fenghuang Ancient Town is situated in the southwestern part of the Xiangxi Tujia and Miao Autonomous Prefecture in Hunan Province, covering an area of around 10 square kilometers. Comprising 28 ethnic groups, including the Miao, Han, and Tujia, it represents a typical region where diverse ethnic minorities coexist. This location serves as a crucial crossroads between Huaihua, Jishou, and Tongren in Guizhou. It is conveniently located, being 27 kilometers from Tongren Fenghuang Airport, 57 kilometers from Huaihua Zhijiang Airport, and 280 kilometers from Zhangjiajie Hehua International Airport.

Fenghuang Ancient Town has a subtropical monsoon climate. The annual average temperature in Fenghuang is between 12-16°C, with the hottest months being July and August, averaging around 24-27°C. The coldest month is January, with an average temperature ranging from 1.7-4.3°C.

The optimal time for visiting is considered to be during spring and autumn.

April to June marks the rainy season. During spring, the misty scenery along the Tuo River is considered one of the most beautiful sights in Fenghuang.

September to November is also a favorable period when the town is bustling with visitors, and the heat and rain of summer have subsided.

From December to March of the following year, Fenghuang enters winter, resulting in fewer tourists and a chance to witness the ancient town adorned in a silvery winter coat.

During events such as Miao New Year, Lusheng Festival, Sisters’ Meal Festival, March 3rd Festival, and June 6th Festival, Fenghuang Ancient Town attracts a large number of visitors.

It is advisable to avoid peak travel times during holidays such as the Qingming Festival, May 1st, and National Day (Oct. 1), as these periods tend to have high tourist numbers and elevated expenses.

🚗How to Get to Fenghuang Ancient Town

Travel Options to Fenghuang Ancient Town from Nearby Airports:

Zhangjiajie Hehua International Airport:

Board a direct bus from Zhangjiajie Hehua International Airport to Zhangjiajie Center Bus Station, followed by another bus to Fenghuang Ancient Town. Buses operate hourly, taking approximately 3.5 hours, and the fare is around CNY 80.

Changsha Huanghua International Airport:

Travel from Changsha Huanghua International Airport to Changsha West Bus Station, then take a long-distance bus to Fenghuang Ancient Town. Four buses run daily, with a ticket price of CNY 145 and a journey of about 5-7 hours.

Tongren Fenghuang Airport:

Utilize the direct bus service from Tongren Fenghuang Airport to Fenghuang Ancient Town, with a travel time of approximately 1.5 hours and a ticket cost of CNY 25 per person.

Huaihua Zhijiang Airport:

Catch a daily shuttle from Huaihua Zhijiang Airport directly to Fenghuang Ancient Town, departing at 13:00.

The nearest train station to Fenghuang Ancient Town is currently Jishou Station, located approximately 53 kilometers north of the ancient town, with a travel time of about 1-1.5 hours. Regular trains operate from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Nanning, Guiyang, and other cities. Upon arrival, visitors can take a direct bus to Fenghuang Ancient Town, with service available from 07:00 to 19:00, departing every 15 minutes.

🎫Visiting the Fenghuang Ancient Town

Entrance FeeFree
Package FeeCNY 128
Biancheng PerformanceFrom CNY 220
Qiliang CaveCNY 55
Opening HoursAll day
P.S. Free entry to the ancient town; tickets required for access to scenic spots inside.

Two-day Combo Ticket at CNY 128 per person, providing access to nine attractions: Former Residence of Shen Congwen, Tuojiang River Boating, Longevity Palace, Former Residence of Xiong Xiling, Yang’s Ancestral Hall, Hong Bridge, Chongde Hall, Fenghuang Ancient Town Museum,and East Gate Tower. The package fee is mandatory for individual entry to any single attraction.

👑Top Must-See Places in Fenghuang Ancient Town Worth Exploring

1. Tuojiang River (沱江)

Taking a boat tour along the Tuojiang River is essential. There are two sections of boating on the Tuojiang River. The upper section involves regular cruise ships, boarding on the east side of the North Gate and sailing eastward to Longevity Palace, allowing passengers to admire the scenic beauty of the Tuojiang River. For the lower section, passengers board at the Guanguang Bridge Pier, using privately-owned boats, which are operated by local farmers and require separate tickets. Boat tours on the Tuojiang River are included in the general admission ticket for the overall scenic area.

The bars and stilted houses in Fenghuang Ancient City are built along the Tuojiang River. Walking along the river at night, the dazzling lights create a beautiful scene that rivals the daytime.

The Tuojiang Stepping Stone(沱江跳岩) is one of the popular attractions in the ancient city. This ancient bridge, initially built in the Tang Dynasty and later reconstructed in the Qing Kangxi period, serves as an ancient transportation route in Fenghuang Ancient City. The stepping stone is 100 meters long, with 15 stone piers covered by thick wooden boards. It is securely fastened with iron chains anchored to the riverbed, allowing pedestrians to walk freely. The name “Tuojiang Stepping Stone” comes from people crossing the river by hopping from one stone to another.

2. Stilted Building Group

The Stilted Building, one of the distinctive ancient structures in Fenghuang Ancient City, showcases the rich architectural features of the Miao ethnic group and stands as the largest group of stilted buildings in China.

Lining both sides of the Tuojiang River, the row of stilted buildings spans 240 meters, still housing several families today. These stilted buildings have upper floors suspended, while the lower sections either stand in the water or are supported by slanting wooden columns. Entirely constructed from wood, the exterior walls display a warm yellow-brown hue.

As tourism began to thrive in Fenghuang Ancient City, residents of the stilted buildings transformed them into guesthouses to accommodate visitors.

🌷Tips: For accommodation, it’s advisable to avoid the bustling central and upper reaches of the Tuojiang River, where commercialism is pronounced, and there are numerous bars and newly restored stilted buildings that lack the charm of the ancient city. Opting for the lower reaches, especially around Huilong Pavilion, offers a quieter experience, allowing you to immerse yourself in the authentic charm of western Hunan.

3. Former Residence of Xiong Xiling (熊希龄故居)

Xiong Xiling, born in Fenghuang Ancient City, was a prominent educator, social activist, industrialist, philanthropist, and distinguished patriot during the Republic of China era.

His former residence, tucked away in a quiet alley off Wenxing Street in the ancient city, is a Southern-style courtyard with traditional wooden and tile structures. The relatively small house, consisting of four rooms, has retained its original appearance.

Upon entering the entrance, a roughly ten-square-meter front room, also known as the reception room, is located on the left. To the east of the courtyard is a dedicated woodshed containing traditional tools such as stone mortars, bamboo hats, and raincoats. The main hall, a two-story wooden structure, showcases the artifacts and items used by Xiong Xiling during his lifetime.

Since the official opening of Xiong Xiling’s former residence to the public, it has attracted over a million visitors, becoming one of the prominent cultural landmarks in the ancient city.

4. Chaoyang Palace (朝阳宫)

Chaoyang Palace, also known as Chen Family Ancestral Hall, was constructed in the fourth year of the Republic of China and further expanded and perfected in 1923. The architecture of Chaoyang Palace includes a main gate, main hall, stage, side chambers, kitchen, restroom, and more, comprising a total of 14 rooms. All the structures seamlessly integrate to form a typical southern quadrangle courtyard.

The main gate of Chaoyang Palace is a purple-red brick gate tower, standing at a height of 8 meters, with symmetrically sculpted reliefs of landscapes, flowers, and birds on both sides, displaying flying eaves and upturned corners.

Upon entering the main gate and passing through the stage, a spacious quadrangle courtyard paved with square bluestones unfolds. Facing the courtyard is a three-room wooden main hall, historically used by the local gentry to watch performances. On both sides of the main hall, there are two-story chambers, each with three rooms. The lower level is open for the audience to take shelter from the rain, while the upper level features intricately carved wooden railings, providing a space for dignitaries to enjoy performances.

Facing the main hall is the ancient stage, typically hosting classical operas such as Yang Opera, Nuo Tang Opera, and Chenhe high-pitched tunes.

5. Fenghuang Ancient City Museum

Situated at the heart of the ancient city, the Fenghuang Ancient City Museum was once the century-old home of the Chen Baozhen family, a significant official in the late Qing Dynasty. Within its walls, precious historical items, photographs, and documents donated by Chen Baozhen’s descendants are on display, along with the wolf-skin cushion used in the carriage granted by Emperor Guangxu during Chen Baozhen’s inspection tours.

Inside the museum, there are over 500 varieties of mineral specimens and ancient biological fossils dating back hundreds of millions of years.

6. Former Residence of Shen Congwen (沈从文故居)

The Former Residence of Shen Congwen, constructed in 1866 AD by Shen Congwen’s grandfather, stands as a testament to the rich history of the late Qing Dynasty. Shen Congwen, a renowned Chinese literary figure and archaeologist, spent his early years in this building located in Fenghuang Ancient City.

This centennial structure consists of two sections, front and rear, with a central courtyard paved with square stone slabs and a large water tank. The courtyard is surrounded by ancient wooden houses with tile roofs, comprising three rooms in the main building, four rooms in the wing, and three rooms in the front building, totaling over ten rooms.

Although the wooden architecture lacks intricate carvings, its small, exquisite, and antiquated charm is evident, especially in the finely crafted wooden windows with Xiangxi flavor, capturing attention with their exceptional craftsmanship.

Today, the residence showcases Mr. Shen Congwen’s calligraphy, manuscripts, belongings, and portraits. The furniture and tables, aged, worn, and unembellished, include some pieces directly transported from Beijing.

7. Chongde Hall (崇德堂)

Chongde Hall, with a history of over a century, was constructed in 1884 by the wealthy businessman Pei Shoulu from Jiangxi. It showcases precious antiques and various plaques collected from all over the country.

Chongde Hall is a typical southern-style quadrangle with a total area of 622 square meters, divided into two floors. The first floor consists of a stone-carved exhibition hall, two wooden-carved exhibition halls, a central reception room, a dining room, and a rear garden. The second floor comprises the bedrooms of the owner and relatives, which are not open to the public.

The stone-carved exhibition hall displays a Qing stone carving depicting the characters “孝”(”Filial Piety”), “官”( “Official”), and “财” (“Wealth”).

In the first wooden-carved exhibition hall, a gilded plaque with intricate hollow carvings holds high collection value. The second wooden-carved exhibition hall showcases a pair of nine-headed lions carved from a whole piece of golden nanmu wood, incorporating both relief and through-carving techniques, with only two such pairs in the entire country.

The reception room features an exquisite round table carved from camphorwood. The chairs and tea tables on both sides are crafted from mahogany, with Ganoderma patterns carved on the chair backs, symbolizing health and longevity.

Chongde Hall is renowned for its numerous plaques, all reflecting the owner’s filial piety and high moral character.

8. Slate Old Street

This narrow, less-than-5-meter-wide old slate street, spanning over 3000 meters, is Fenghuang’s most bustling commercial street. The winding and twisting alleys create a maze-like network. Exploring the old street is one of the most significant activities when visiting Fenghuang Ancient Town.

The buildings on both sides showcase distinctive features, maintaining the characteristics of western Hunan. There are ancient-style wooden houses and Ming-Qing mixed brick structures. Walking on the street feels like stepping into an ancient era.

Various shops line the street, offering Miao and Tujia ethnic clothing stores, silver jewelry shops, handicraft dealers, internet cafes, and Miao-style snacks. The array of choices is vast, but prices can be inconsistent, with some on the higher side.

9. Yang’s Ancestral Hall (杨家祠堂)

Fenghuang County’s ancestral halls are most notably represented by the Tian and Yang families, with Yang’s Ancestral Hall being the best-preserved in Fenghuang City. Covering an area of 770 square meters, construction of the ancestral hall began in the 16th year of the Qing Dynasty’s Daoguang era. As the Yang family was known for its prestigious status, the scale of the ancestral hall is comparable to that of a typical temple.

Upon entering the main gate, one can see wooden carvings of a bull’s head and bats on the two-tiered doors. The bull’s head is a totem of worship for the people of Western Hunan, symbolizing the dispelling of evil and the blessing of safety. Bats represent the arrival of good fortune and auspiciousness.

The ancestral hall is a wooden structured quadrangle courtyard with two stories. Its layout consists of the main gate, a stage, a pavilion, corridors, and the main hall, forming a rectangular shape. In the rooms on the right side, ancient items such as a bridal sedan chair and a loom are still preserved.

Yang’s Ancestral Hall used to be a public venue for storytelling and theatrical performances in Fenghuang City. Notable figures like Huang Yongyu often watched dramas here during their childhood, while elders in the family enjoyed the performances from the side galleries on the second floor.

Today, the side galleries of the ancestral hall have been transformed into small exhibition halls showcasing Miao ethnic life and craftsmanship. Additionally, to promote and inherit the ancient folk art of Fenghuang, captivating traditional dramas are performed daily on the ancestral hall’s ancient stage.

10. East Gate Tower

The East Gate Tower, built in the 54th year of the Qing Kangxi era (1715), is adjacent to the Tuojiang River and is one of the four major gates of Fenghuang Ancient City.

It features a lower section constructed from purplish-red sandstone and an upper tower made of ancient bricks. The gate is 3.5 meters wide, 4 meters high, and semi-circular in shape, while the tower stands at 11 meters tall. The structure is well-preserved, with minimal signs of damage, and the interior of the tower showcases weapons, fortifications, and layout diagrams worth exploring.

From the vantage point of the tower, looking through the hollowed walls, one can observe the life of the ancient city outside—narrow alleys bustling with tourists and residents, forming a lively scene that captures the essence of the ancient city.

Tip: Fenghuang Ancient City originally had four city gates, but only the East Gate, North Gate, and West Gate towers remain. Among them, the East Gate Tower and North Gate Tower are the most popular.

11. Hong Bridge (虹桥)

Hong Bridge, spanning the Tuojiang River, has a history of over six centuries, dating back to the Ming Dynasty. It stands as one of the prime locations in Fenghuang Ancient Town for sightseeing and photography.

In 1914, a significant flood in the Tuojiang River caused substantial damage to Hong Bridge. Following restoration efforts, the bridge piers were reinforced, the bridge deck repaired, and 12 rooms were added on each side. Over time, Hong Bridge has weathered, with wooden components showing signs of decay, and the rooms on both sides displaying signs of wear and tear.

Subsequent renovations have transformed Hong Bridge into a two-tier structure. The lower level houses shops and general stores, while the upper level serves as a folk culture building. Inside, a collection of paintings and writings spanning the bridge’s history can be found. Standing on the upper floor and looking through the windows, visitors can enjoy a panoramic view of a significant portion of the ancient city.

12. Longevity Palace (万寿宫)

Longevity Palace, constructed in the late Ming to early Qing period, was built by a Jiangxi businessman who settled in Fenghuang Ancient City for trade, aiming to provide accommodation for merchants traveling between the north and south.

Spanning over 4,000 square meters with more than 20 rooms, the palace exhibits grand and intricately designed architecture. While only the imposing gatehouse and main hall remain, their artistic value is well-preserved.

At the top of the nine-level staircase inside the main gate is the main hall, flanked by a pair of finely carved stone lions. The main hall, now an art gallery, displays the folk culture of Fenghuang, featuring numerous artistic paintings, many contributed by the renowned local artist Huang Yuzhen. Art enthusiasts can immerse themselves in the cultural and artistic ambiance within the main hall.

In front of Longevity Palace is the Wanming Pagoda (万名塔), originally built during the Qing Jiaqing period as a furnace pagoda for burning paper. Destroyed over time, it was reconstructed in 1988 through local donations under the initiative of Huang Yongyu.

13. Duocui Tower (夺翠楼)

Duocui Tower, the most magnificent, delicate, and aesthetically pleasing building in Fenghuang Ancient Town, deserves special mention. A few years ago, when local villagers wanted to demolish the stilted building and construct a new one, Huang Yongyu passionately advocated for its preservation. Now, the spectacular stilted building landscape has been retained, making it one of the best-preserved structures in the ancient town.

Craftsmen ingeniously designed the house as a stacked structure, extending from the lowermost layer of the house foundation to the back, forming a seven-level stepped building. Each level of the building is closely connected, creating a chain of interconnected structures.

Duocui Tower is not open to the public, and visitors can only admire and photograph it from the opposite side of the river. There is a steep staircase next to the inn’s entrance that leads up to Duocui Tower.

14. Heavenly King Temple (天王庙)

Heavenly King Temple, also known as Three Kings Temple, was originally built during the Southern Song Dynasty (1183 AD). It is located near the Nanhuashan National Forest Park, and visitors can climb 108 stone steps to reach the temple.

The central hall of the Heavenly King Temple is supported by 24 vermilion columns and enshrines three imposing Heavenly Kings. The main entrance, doors, windows, and eaves feature numerous unique and ancient reliefs. Flanking the main hall are side rooms and palaces, including an ancient stage in front of the main hall. Behind the temple is a shaded area with a scenic mountain view, facing upstream of the Tuojiang River, offering a panoramic view of both the ancient and new city areas.

Legend has it that during the Northern Song Dynasty, there were three brothers named Yang, who were skilled warriors and served in the border regions of Hunan and Hubei, contributing greatly to the defense of the area. As a reward for their achievements, they were enfeoffed by the emperor, and a temple was built to commemorate them. Since then, people have come to the temple to pay homage, seeking blessings and fertility.

15. Miao Ethnic Attire Photoshoot

Many young women come to the ancient city with the main objective of having a photoshoot in Miao ethnic attire. The entire process, including makeup, trying on costumes and headdresses, and the final photo session, is characterized by uncertainty and anticipation, offering a distinct and locally flavored experience. Alongside Miao clothing and Hanfu, there are also influences from Tibetan, Dong, and Hani ethnic groups.

When it comes to renting Miao clothing or other ethnic costumes, it is recommended to avoid the aunties by the river with brochures. Renting from them may restrict photo opportunities to a limited area. Opting for shops with consistent prices is advisable, allowing you to rent for half an hour with the flexibility to move around.

The rental costs for Miao clothing and accessories are separate. Typically, Miao clothing rents for CNY 10 per half an hour, while the cost of headdresses varies based on size, ranging from CNY 10 to 30 for half an hour.

16. Fenghuang Bonfire Party

Regarding the evening entertainment in Fenghuang Ancient City, there are two main forms: one is the stage drama, known as Biancheng Performance, and the other is the Fenghuang Bonfire Party, which has a very affordable ticket price.

The Bonfire Party doesn’t take place directly in Fenghuang Ancient City but rather assembles nearby, and attendees then travel to the event location by bus. Each person carries a torch into the Bonfire Party.

The program during the evening event typically includes elements such as Miao ethnic clothing culture, ethnic songs, Miao wedding ceremonies, calligraphy and painting auctions, torch dances, Miao witchcraft, and the unique local practice of “corpse driving” in western Hunan. Every segment is designed to actively involve the audience.

The Bonfire Party provides an opportunity to experience the charm of Xiangxi’s ethnic culture, the mystery of its local culture, and the warmth of its people.

17. Qiliang Cave (奇梁洞)

Situated in Qiliangqiao Town, just five kilometers north of Fenghuang Ancient City, Qiliang Cave exemplifies a typical karst landscape, with its origins dating back 600 million years.

Spanning a length of more than 6,000 meters, the cave is segmented into five distinct sections: the ancient Battlefield, Gallery, Paradise, the Dragon Palace, and the Yin-yang River. Visitors have the opportunity to take a boat ride and immerse themselves in the scenic beauty along the river.

While Qiliang Cave may not be considered the most superior karst cave, it features a variety of formations inside, including stalactites, stalagmites, and columns, which are quite commonplace. What distinguishes it is the serene underground river characterized by exceptionally clear water. The most remarkable spectacle is the reflection of the cave ceiling stones visible in the pristine water, accentuated by strategically placed lighting, resulting in a truly splendid and awe-inspiring panorama.

🎫Admission ticket: CNY 55
⏰Opening hours: 08:00-17:30

Miao New Year “赶年场”

Miao New Year stands out as the most cherished celebration among the people of the Miao ethnic group. Typically celebrated in the 10th lunar month, occasionally in November or the first lunar month.

The occasion marks the end of the lunar calendar year and the beginning of a new one. The festival involves various rituals, traditional performances, and communal activities, such as bullfighting and lusheng (a traditional reed-pipe wind instrument) playing. It serves as a time for family reunions, cultural expression, and the expression of good wishes for the upcoming year.

Lusheng Festival “芦笙节”

The Miao ethnic region predominantly observes the Lusheng Festival, which stands out as their primary and significant traditional celebration.

One of the key elements of the Miao Lusheng Festival is the performance of Lusheng, a traditional reed-pipe wind instrument. The Miao people believe that playing the Lusheng can ward off evil spirits and bring good fortune. During the festival, Miao villagers, often dressed in colorful traditional costumes, gather to play Lusheng, dance, and sing.

While the exact timing of the Miao Lusheng Festival may vary from one region to another, it often takes place during important agricultural events, such as the planting or harvesting season.

Sisters’ Meal Festival “姊妹节”

The Miao Sisters’ Meal Festival is a vibrant celebration among the Miao ethnic group in China, particularly highlighting courtship. Held in March or April to welcome spring, Miao women prepare colorful, intricately designed meals to offer potential suitors. The festival features singing, dancing, and the exchange of gifts symbolizing sisterhood. It is regarded as the “oldest Valentine’s Day in the East.”

March 3rd Festival “三月三”

The March 3rd Festival is a customary celebration of song and dance within the Miao community. On this special day, Miao individuals naturally converge at agreed-upon venues to engage in singing, listening to music, dancing, observing performances, and reveling in joyous celebrations.

June 6th Festival “六月六”

The sixth day of the sixth lunar month is the traditional song festival of the Miao ethnic group. On this day, Miao youth from all directions gather at the singing grounds, dressed in splendid attire. They play suona or beat flower drums, but more importantly, they use songs to connect, express emotions, and form romantic bonds. Therefore, the June 6th singing festival is a special occasion for courtship among Miao men and women.

🍖What to Eat in Fenghuang Ancient Town

Stir-fried Duck with Duck Blood Curd Cake (血粑鸭)

Stir-fried duck with duck blood curd cake is the most famous specialty dish in Fenghuang Ancient City. It involves making rice cakes with duck blood and glutinous rice, which are then stewed together with duck meat. This dish combines the delicious and rich flavor of duck meat with the fragrant and chewy texture of blood curd cakes. It is available in various restaurants, and those who enjoy the chewy texture of glutinous rice and are not averse to duck blood can give it a try.

Boiled Fish with Pickled Cabbage and Chili (酸菜鱼)

Boiled fish with pickled cabbage and chili is made with locally sourced wild fish. Diners come together around the stove to enjoy the dish, with pickled cabbage, chili, and other ingredients cooked alongside the fish. The dish is prepared and savored in tandem, intensifying in flavor as it cooks longer.

Highly recommended is the restaurant Kaili Sour Soup Fish “凯里酸汤鱼” in the town, known for its broth naturally fermented with rice and enriched with diverse condiments like pungent litse fruit, pickled tomato sauce, and chili. The fish offers a delectable and zesty taste.

  • Recommended Restaurant: 大锅大灶, 凯里酸汤鱼

Stone Pot Fish (石锅鱼)

Stone Pot Fish is a dish found in almost every local restaurant, each with its own unique features. It can be ordered spicy or non-spicy. The dish involves slicing grass carp, draining excess oil, and then pan-frying it in a stone pot. Various condiments such as chili and purple perilla are added, along with a broth made from simmering beef bones.

Rice Noodles (米粉)

In Fenghuang, there are numerous rice noodle shops, and among them, Beef Rice Noodles are a must-try in each establishment. These rice noodles, made from rice, come in various thicknesses, providing a chewy and smooth texture. The broth, simmered with beef, is rich and flavorful. Thinly sliced beef is garnished with a sprinkle of green onions or cilantro, and those who enjoy spiciness can add some unique Xiangxi red chopped chili. Additionally, pickled string beans are often used as a condiment.

Lei Cha (擂茶)

Lei Cha, or grinding tea, is typically made using ingredients such as rice, peanuts, sesame, mung beans, salt, and tea leaves. These components are ground into a paste using a mortar and pestle, and hot water is then added to brew the mixture into tea. The taste is somewhat similar to soy milk but thicker in consistency. Drinking a cup of Lei Cha can be quite filling, making it worth a try.

Rice Wine (米酒)

The rice wine in Fenghuang is a type of glutinous rice wine, locally known as “sweet wine.” True to its name, this wine is aromatic and sweet, with a history spanning several centuries. Typically low in alcohol content, ranging from a few to over ten degrees, and occasionally reaching over twenty degrees, the rice wine boasts a mellow flavor that is not overpowering, not throat-burning, and pleasantly sweet. Moreover, it is free from any additives, ensuring the authenticity of the wine.

She Fan (社饭)

After the beginning of spring, locals gather fresh and tender greens from the fields. These greens are mixed with glutinous rice, Chinese tarragon, cured meat, and other ingredients, and then cooked together. The dish is either placed in a small steamer for sale or arranged in a stainless steel tray, served with pickles and chili. It features the sweet aroma of glutinous rice, the smoky flavor of cured meat, and the fresh fragrance of the greens. You can find this dish at small stalls near the Hong Bridge or in the night market.

Rice Tofu (米豆腐)

In the summer, refreshing rice tofu is served with a topping of spicy red chili, chopped green onions, minced garlic, and crispy pickled mustard greens. It is then drizzled with vinegar and soy sauce, creating a delightful cold rice tofu dish. In the winter, you can enjoy a steaming hot plate of rice tofu adorned with various colorful garnishes, providing a feast for the senses.

🏨 Where to Stay in Fenghuang Ancient Town

The commercialization of Fenghuang Ancient Town is well-developed, with many hotels and inns available. While the hotel conditions may be slightly inferior to those in other places of the same category, they possess distinctive features of Western Hunan and offer a memorable accommodation experience.

Accommodations in Fenghuang Ancient Town can be broadly categorized as follows:

Riverside Stilted Buildings:

These inns are primarily concentrated from the North Gate to the East Gate along the river. The advantage is their central location in the core area of Fenghuang Ancient Town, providing excellent views of the Tuo River. The room decor is charming, but they tend to be relatively expensive. During holidays, prices may double or triple, and the rooms can be small. Additionally, being located across from the bar street, it can be noisy until around midnight.

Ancient Town Inn Riverside Rooms:

Some rooms in ancient town inns directly face the river, while others do not. Prices vary, and these inns are situated either upstream or downstream of the Tuo River. Despite not being directly in the town center, it only takes a few minutes to walk to Fenghuang Ancient Town. The ambiance is pleasant, and prices are slightly more affordable compared to riverside stilted buildings.

General Inns Inside the Ancient Town:

These inns are located within Fenghuang Ancient Town but may not be directly facing the river. Despite not being riverside, they are still close to the Tuo River, and a short walk of a few minutes will take you to the riverbank. Conditions vary, with some inns being well-equipped and others more basic.

Sulv Lianhua Hotel

Sulv Lianhua Hotel
⭐️ Rating: 4.9/5 | 🤑 Cost: from $74 USD | 🏩 View on Trip

The hotel is situated downstream of the Tuo River. Looking outward from the river-view rooms, guests can enjoy a superb perspective overlooking the river. It takes about ten minutes to walk from the hotel to the ancient town, offering a quieter atmosphere compared to the bustling scenic area. If needed, the hotel can arrange transportation to the ancient town. The hotel’s warm and attentive service has received high praise from many guests, as evidenced by its 4.9 rating on Trip.

The rooms are designed in a serene Chinese style, clean, and spacious. Wooden carvings adorn various spaces, and even the sofa in the living room is of traditional Chinese furniture. A set of Chinese tea utensils is placed on the coffee table, with complimentary tea leaves provided, though coffee is not available. It is said that the owner appreciates a classical ambiance and refrains from participating in Western holidays.

The breakfast is a relatively simple buffet, with a focus on Chinese dishes. While the variety may not be extensive, both the taste and portion sizes are satisfactory.

Phoenix City Boutique Hotel

Phoenix City Boutique Hotel
⭐️ Rating: 4.8/5 | 🤑 Cost: from $56 USD | 🏩 View on Trip

Phoenix City Boutique Hotel is the only five-star hotel in the ancient town of Fenghuang. Situated next to Tuo River Stepping Stone, the hotel provides a picturesque view of the riverside street from its rooms, making it a prime establishment in the bustling area along the Tuo River.

The overall decoration follows the architectural style of Ming and Qing Dynasty courtyards, featuring a vast and expansive area. With over 60 rooms of various types, the room furnishings showcase a vintage carved pattern style, complemented by celebrity calligraphy and paintings, teapots, and teacups. The fourth and fifth floors boast nearly a hundred square meters of antique-style courtyards.

Phoenix Youran Qingsu Hotel

Phoenix Youran Qingsu Hotel
⭐️ Rating: 4.9/5 | 🤑 Cost: from $24 USD | 🏩 View on Trip

Phoenix Youran Qingsu Hotel is situated downstream of the Tuo River, and you can reach the ancient town in about 3-4 minutes on foot. If you prefer modern accommodation, I highly recommend this guesthouse. The inn features a simple and comfortable design, equipped with duck down bedding, smart toilets, fully automated electric curtains, solid wood furnishings, and more.

The hostess warmly welcomes guests and particularly enjoys discussing the local life and customs of Fenghuang with them, sharing stories from the original residents of Fenghuang.

Qingxi Chanyuan Hotel

Qingxi Chanyuan Hotel
⭐️ Rating: 4.7/5 | 🤑 Cost: from $38 USD | 🏩 View on Trip

The Qingxi Chanyuan Hotel is located within the ancient town. Originally a private school, and the guesthouse is themed around Zen, tea, and ethnic culture. Many ancient items from western Hunan, century-old doors and windows, and antique collections are used to restore the ancient style. In the lobby, under ancient trees, and on the hillside, there are old stone mill tea tables for enjoying the scenery and sipping tea.

🌸Final Tips for Fenghuang Ancient Town Adventure

Accommodations are limited in the ancient town, especially during holidays, so it’s essential to make reservations ahead of time.

The ancient town is ideal for exploring on foot.

Fenghuang cuisine is known for its predominant spicy and sour flavors; if spice isn’t your preference, communicate your preferences to the restaurant owner.

Exercise caution when purchasing expensive silver jewelry, particularly from street vendors, as the quality may not be guaranteed.

Fenghuang Ancient Town boasts numerous artistic venues such as bars, cafes, and clothing stores, making it a worthwhile destination.

For the best views of the Tuo River scenery, visit early in the morning, while the NanHua Bridge provides the optimal vantage point for capturing the panoramic night scene in Fenghuang Ancient Town.

When being a guest in someone’s home, ensure separate accommodations for men and women.

Respectful behavior is essential when visiting a Miao family, including refraining from stepping on doorsteps and avoiding the main seating position (facing the ancestral shrine).

Exercise discretion in Miao villages, refraining from close interactions with married women.

Avoid whistling casually in Miao and Tujia villages, as it is believed to attract supernatural entities.

Keep in mind that coins are not accepted within Fenghuang Ancient Town, so it’s advisable to have paper currency before entering the historical area.

China Travel Planning Guide&FAQ

🎫Do I need a visa for China?

Yes. Most visitors to China will need a visa to enter the country. The type of visa you need will depend on the purpose and duration of your trip, as well as your nationality. If you are a resident of the US, you must apply for a Chinese visa at the Consular Office in the country. On the other hand, inhabitants of countries like Japan, Canada, and the UK can request a visa through the Chinese Visa Application Service Center.

🤔Why is it necessary to install a VPN in China?

In China, the government has strict regulations on internet access, leading to the blocking of popular websites and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, and YouTube. To access these sites, a VPN is suggested as a means of bypassing the restrictions. It is important to choose a reputable VPN provider and use caution while doing so. ExpressVPN has been historically deemed the most reliable VPN for this purpose, despite being heavily targeted by China’s censors. Nevertheless, it is still a widely preferred option owing to its ease of installation and user-friendliness.

📲Is it necessary to have a Chinese SIM card while in China?

Yes. It is crucial to acknowledge that accessing the internet in China may pose limitations due to certain websites being prohibited or filtered. To ensure uninterrupted connectivity while staying in China, purchasing a local SIM card is advisable. For optimum results, acquiring SIM cards from either China Unicom or China Mobile is recommended. While China Mobile has the most comprehensive coverage in China and is a market leader, China Unicom is more compatible with foreign phones, enabling 3G and 4G services. Or you can purchase a SIM card online.

🔮Should I buy China travel insurance?

Yes. Although China is generally a safe country for travel, it is still possible to encounter accidents or other unexpected occurrences. Therefore, obtaining travel insurance can provide a sense of security and financial protection. In my research, I have found that World Nomads is a reputable travel insurance provider that covers a wide range of activities and is recommended for the average traveler. Nevertheless, I advise you to compare insurance quotes from various providers before making a decision.

🚙Can you rent a car in China?

Unfeasible. Obtaining a Chinese driver’s license to rent a car and self-drive may seem like an option, but it is not a practical choice for most foreigners. Therefore, many prefer to opt for a driver or public transportation when navigating China, as it proves to be more convenient.

✈️What’s the best site to purchase flight tickets for China?

I suggest using Trip for affordable flights to China. As a China-based company, they often offer lower prices compared to foreign companies. Additionally, they offer English-speaking phone support in case of any issues.

🏡What is the best way to book hotels in China?

Not only does Trip offer a wider range of flight options, but it also provides a greater selection of hotels to choose from. Moreover, Agoda is a reliable resource for hotels throughout Asia.

🎒What do I pack for China?

Travel adapter and converter: China uses a different electrical system than many other countries, so it’s important to bring a travel adapter and converter if you plan to use electronic devices such as phones, cameras, and laptops.  
Sunscreen: The UV index in China can be high, particularly during the summer months, and prolonged exposure to the sun without protection can cause skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer.
Deodorant: It should be noted that finding deodorant in China may not be a simple task.

📚Can a guidebook for traveling to China be useful?

Yes. If you’re planning to travel to China for the first time, a travel guidebook can be a valuable resource, and Lonely Planet is one of the most reputable guides available globally. Its comprehensive itineraries and recommendations take into account your personal preferences and can save you both time and money. The insider tips are also extremely helpful in navigating China’s unique cultural landscape like a local.

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