The Shaolin temple, or also known as the Shaolin Monastery, was one of the highlights of our trip in China. I’ve been hearing the almost mystical word “shaolin” since I’m a kid, and I was ecstatic to have the chance to visit one of the birthplaces of Kung Fu ! We decided to stop by the Shaolin monastery during our overland journey from Hong Kong to France.
This UNESCO World Heritage site is located 60 kilometers away from Luoyang and 90 kilometers away from Zhengzhou. The nearest city is Dengfeng, only 13 kilometers away. Dengfeng doesn’t have a railway station yet though (it’s under construction).
In the same scenic area is included the Songshan mountain, one of the five most sacred mountains of China. You have the possibility to hike this mountain during your trip.
The Shaolin temple was built in the 5th century AD, it has been reconstructed many times. It is now a very popular place among local tourists, and that might hamper your experience a little bit. However if you’re a fan of martial arts and Kung Fu, or if you just want to hike the nearby sacred Songshan mountain, don’t miss the opportunity to make a day trip to visit the scenic area !
If you’re looking for other cool things to do while in China, check our Camping on the Great Wall of China article !
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Transportation to the Shaolin Temple
How to get to the Shaolin Temple ?
You can get to the Shaolin temple either from Luoyang or Zhengzhou. Luoyang has a lot of sights to see and is a more interesting base than Zhengzhou. However Zhengzhou is a bigger city with more options to get to from other parts of China. Both cities are served by the high-speed train.
Unfortunately there’s no train going near the temple, therefore the most common option is to take a bus. You could also take a taxi.
The Shaolin Temple is written 少林寺 in Chinese, ask for Shaolinsi (pronounced Shaolinseu).
Taking a bus from Zhengzhou – 28RMB – ~2 hours
Frequent buses are leaving from Zhengzhou bus station (市长途客运站) located near the Zhengzhou train station (郑州火车站). You can take a bus to Dengfeng (登封) then switch to another bus, or take a direct bus to the temple depending on the time of the day.
Taking a bus from Luoyang – 19RMB – ~ 2 hours
We took a bus from the Luoyang central bus station (洛阳汽车站) located on the East side of the Luoyang train station. Most tourists are headed towards the Shaolin temple so getting a ticket is straightforward. Buses leaving every 30 minutes for Dengfeng. The trip took us around 2 hours, and they dropped us in front of the entrance. We paid 19RMB each.
You can also take a bus from the Luoyang Jinyuan Coach Station (洛阳锦远汽车站) located on the West side of the Luoyang train station. The fare is 19RMB as well.
Taking a taxi from Luoyang/Zhengzhou – 150/200RMB – 1.5 hours
If you have a higher budget than ours, you could find a taxi ready to drive you to the Shaolin temple. A taxi should be around 150 to 200RMB. A good deal for an hour and half ride.
How to leave the Shaolin temple ?
By bus to Zhengzhou
You can take a shuttle bus to Dengfeng, then you’ll find plenty of buses going to Zhengzhou. Otherwise, there’s direct bus from the Shaolin Temple to Zhengzhou but it is less frequent.
By bus to Luoyang – Careful !
In order to leave the monastery and go back to Luoyang, we headed back towards the main road. Several people tried to tell us to get a bus to Dengfeng, the nearest town. Many small buses are waiting nearby, doing the shuttle between the temple and Dengfeng. It wasn’t an interesting option for us because we were headed the other way.
Be carefull ! These people told us it was impossible to get a bus going the other way. They almost convinced us, but we walked to the other side of the road, and a bus going to Luoyang arrived just a few minutes later. We flagged him down, but the bus was almost empty and waited for about 30 minutes in order to let more passengers board. We paid 20RMB.
Just wait on the side of the road for a bus with the sign Luoyang (洛阳), and ignore the touts.
While we were waiting for the bus, a taxi came to us and offered us a ride all the way back to Luoyang for only 130RMB.
Where to sleep near the Shaolin Temple?
This can be done as a day-trip from Luoyang or Zhengzhou. You will have enough time to tour around the temple, but you might not be able to hike the nearby Songshan Mountain. One of the nicest sights is to see young students training early in the morning, make sure you don’t miss it!
An interesting possibility is to sleep inside the Shaolin temple compound, there’s one hostel named Kung Fu Hostel accepting foreigners.
The best option if you don’t want to rush is to sleep in the nearby city, Dengfeng. The city is located just 15 kilometers from the temple and a frequent bus is connecting these places.
Sleeping in Dengfeng
Lanyue Hostel Dengfeng is definitely the best option in Dengfeng with 9.0 ratings on Booking.com and an affordable price.
Kung Fu Hostel
The Kung Fu hostel is located inside the Shaolin park. A double room is worth $24. Don’t expect something luxurious. You need to pay for a ticket for the Shaolin temple to access the hostel. The staff is very friendly though.
Sleeping in Zhengzhou
Zhengzhou has many options to sleep, and world-class hotels such as the Hilton, the JW Marriott or the Sheraton. If you’re looking for cheaper options, we couldn’t find any hostel accepting foreigners, but we’d recommend the Holiday Inn Express or the Ibis hotel.
Sleeping in Luoyang
Luoyang should be on your list, at least to visit the 2,500 year-old UNESCO Longmen Grottoes.
Where to eat near the Shaolin Temple ?
Better pack your own food before getting to the complex. If you haven’t you can find a small indoor restaurant near where the Kung Fu performance is located. It’s a bit overpriced and not really tasty. 20RMB for a bowl of noodle with some meat. They also serve rice for a few more RMB.
Inside the complex you can find a few stalls selling food and drinks. Always outdoor except the one we mentioned before. Near the Pagoda Forest we found a stall selling cheap noodles. Food options are scarce.
You can fill your bottle for free at the water dispenser located inside the tourist center right next to the ticket office.
Planning on going to Hong Kong? My wife grew up there and share with you the best tips to travel Hong Kong on a budget!
What to do in the Shaolin temple ?
Entrance fee :
We paid 80RMB to enter. It seems like the price decreased, as it used to be 100RMB. Half price for students, seniors citizens above 59 y/o and children between 7 and 17. Children under 7 and seniors above 69 y/o are free. I’m unsure if the senior discount is valid for foreigners.
Opening hours of the Shaolin temple :
|March 1 – September 30 : 6.30am
|October 1 – February 29 : 7am
|March 1 – September 30 : 6pm
|October 1 – February 29 : 5.30pm
Be aware that the main temple will only open at 8am.
Transportation inside the Shaolin park :
There’s an electric shuttle going from the entrance to the last cable car entrance about 2 kilometers away. You can walk like most people do, or use the shuttle for a small fee. The shuttle bus costs 15RMB for one-way and 25RMB return. There are also 2 cable cars in the complex, it’s not included in the entrance fee though.
What to see？
The first attraction is to see the students practicing their Kung Fu skills. They do that only in the morning, when we came back around 3pm it was empty.
After a kilometer you’ll arrive at the Martial Arts performance center where you can see a 30-minute Kung Fu show included in your entrance ticket. Be aware that it might be really packed inside.
Here’s the schedule of the Kung Fu show : 09:30 (summer only), 10:30, 11:30, 14:00, 15:00, 16:00, 17:00 (summer only)
After the show you can walk in the same direction for another kilometer and you’ll arrive at the famous Shaolin temple. Take your time, there’s a lot to see, but unfortunately you won’t be the only one here.
Once you’re done with the temple, you can head towards the Dharma Cave. It’s a bit far off the main path and we did not have enough time to visit. Otherwise you can continue along the main road and you’ll arrive to the Pagoda Forest. This part is very quiet and often overlooked by Chinese tourists. Therefore you can have a relaxing walk around the numerous pagodas.
After this short escape off the crowd, continue forward and you’ll reach two cable cars : – Songshan cable car and the Songyang cable car. They are operating until 6pm.
You’ll need to pay another ticket. They sell one-way or round-way ticket. The Songshan cable car is much more popular than the other one. You might have to queue. The ticket is worth 70RMB one-way and 100RMB round-way. The Songyang cable car is cheaper at 25RMB one-way and 50RMB round-way.
Hiking the Songshan Mountain
Another recommended activity is to hike the Songshan mountain. It is part of the scenic park, so you won’t have to pay another ticket.
There are two options to hike, either you take the Songshan cable car and then continue hiking, or alternatively you can follow the main road before you reach some stairs which will lead you to the cable car’s arrival platform. From there it takes about 3 to 4 hours (or maybe less if you’re truly fit) to get to the final point of Sanhuangzhai, which is located on the other side of the mountain.
The views are incredible, but if you make it to Sanhuangzhai be aware that you shouldn’t count on finding any public transportation there. You’ll probably find a taxi or you could hitch a ride to go back to Dengfeng. There’s not much traffic on this road.
Alternatively, you can come back to the cable car and exit through the same entrance at the Shaolin temple instead. You could also start the hike from Sanhuangzhai by bargaining a taxi in Dengfeng and end up at the Shaolin temple. The disadvantage is that starting from this side is more strenuous since you’ll have to go up many stairs to reach the top.
If you wish to do the Songshan hike you should start very early, or plan to spend a night in Dengfeng or the Kung Fu hostel.
Do YOU wanna visit the Shaolin Temple? Have you hiked the Songshan mountain? Share your experience with us!