Why Purple Mountain is a must for any trip to Nanjing

Purple Mountain offers sights that will stay with you for life. Rising to a height of 448.2 metres, its peaks are wreathed in purple and gold mists at dawn and dusk, giving the mountain its famous moniker. Though comparatively small, it is still considered one of Southern China’s four greatest monoliths, rich with historical and cultural significance.

More than 200 heritage sites and scenic routes can be found on or around Purple Mountain. The most famous of these are Dr Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum on the southern slope, Toutuo Ridge on the peak, Linggu Temple to the east and the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum to the west, the last of which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There are also about a dozen national research institutes and university outposts, drawn by the mountain’s rich ecology of over 600 plant species. Together, they provide fresh air throughout this massive forested park area, making Purple Mountain a paradise for nature trekkers.

Unmissable stops

The Purple Mountain Observatory is the cradle of China’s modern astronomy movement, located about halfway up the slope. Finished in 1934, it is currently known equally for its cutting-edge facilities and architectural grandeur. Ancient astronomical apparatus is also on display, dating back to the Qing and Ming dynasties.

Purple Mountain’s main peak is the atmospheric TouTuo Ridge, which hides a veritable trove of historic landmarks dating back to the Six Dynasties. You can explore the White Cloud Pavilion, Liu Ji Cave, Black Dragon Pool, Stone Carvings and more, all set against the stunning backdrop of modern Nanjing spreading below your feet.

In addition to its historic monuments, Purple Mountain offers a wealth of other places to explore. About halfway up the peak, you’ll find the Linggu vegetarian restaurant nestled within the Linggu temple complex, offering the chance to grab a healthy bite during your hike.

Purple Mountain offers a wealth of sightseeing opportunities for intrepid explorers of all ages. Remember to bring water, refreshments, comfortable shoes and maps, and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime.

Getting to the mountain

Purple Mountain is located to the east of Nanjing, providing a scenic backdrop to the city’s skyline. Other than driving or taking a taxi, there are many convenient options for getting there. As with any journey, non-Mandarin speakers might find it helpful to have their destinations noted down in Simplified Chinese.

Several metro stops circle around the mountain. These include Muxuyuan Station on Line 2 or Gangzicun Station on Line 4, which are closest to the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum; Xiamafang Station on Line 2, which is closest to Dr Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum; Zhonglingjie Station on Line 2, which is closest to Linggu Temple; and Jiangwangmiao Station on Line 4, which is closest to Toutuo Ridge. Several sightseeing shuttles depart from those stations, which will carry you around Purple Mountain’s key historic landmarks.

Buses are also a good alternative. Routes 20, 315 and G5 will carry you near the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum; route 34 will carry you near Dr Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum; route 202 will carry you near Linggusi Park; and routes 20 and 315 will carry you to the Mountain Cableway Station in Dibaocheng, where you can catch a breath-taking cable car ride up the mountain.

Reaching the peak

There are several ways to reach the peak. From the Mountain Cableway Station, cable cars run from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm Monday through Friday, and 8:30 am to 5:30 pm on Saturday and Sunday. It’s a 15-minute ride to the Purple Mountain Observatory and about 40 minutes to TouTuo Ridge at the peak, offering resplendent views of the mountain’s thickly forested slopes and the city of Nanjing spreading into the distance.

Those seeking an adventure can consider going on foot. The trek to the peak takes approximately three to four hours, with picturesque nature trails taking you in and around the mountain’s verdant treasures. Cycling is another good option. Ofo and Mobike both offer plenty of bikes near the metro stations, and there are roads aplenty winding up the mountain, making for a bracing uphill climb.