China // Sichuan and Chongqing //

Emei Shan

Thick forests and dozens of temples, all linked by exhausting flights of stone steps, have been pulling in pilgrims – and more recently, tourists – to Emei Shan (峨眉山, éméi shān) ever since the sixth-century visit of Bodhisattva Puxian and his six-tusked elephant (images of whom you’ll see everywhere). Religion aside, the pristine natural environment is a major draw, and changes markedly through the year – lush, green and wet in the summer; brilliant with reds and yellows in autumn; white, clear and very cold in winter.

You can see something of the mountain in a single day, but three would allow you to experience more of the forests, spend a night or two in a temple, and perhaps assault Wanfoding, the highest of Emei’s three peaks at 3099m. It’s only worth climbing this high if the weather’s good, however: for a richer bag of views, temples, streams and vegetation, you won’t be disappointed with the lower paths.