If you're willing to travel a little way out of Changchun the most impressive scenery in the region can be experienced at Changbai Mountain, which is located in an enormous nature reserve not far from the border with North Korea. The mountain is a dormant volcano, in the crater of which sits Tianchi Lake, also known as Heavenly Lake. Reputedly home to the elusive Tianchi Lake Monster, the lake shines like jade and is the highlight of most visits to the mountain. The mountain is very popular with Korean tourists, who call it Mount Paekdu.
The lake sits high up, at 2,189 meters above sea level, which means that all year round clouds are never far away. The weather is extremely changeable providing an impressive sight for visitors to the lake, who can walk in bright sunshine and watch rain clouds gathering and approaching. The lake is the source of three rivers: the Songhua, Tumen and Yalu Rivers, as well as being the site of the roaring Changbai waterfall on the Chengcha River, which is the highest volcanic waterfall in the world. It is best viewed from Heifengkou on the peak of Changbai mountain, the climb to which is not for the fainthearted and should not be attempted lightly. Ten smaller waterfalls are dotted around the mountain.
The Changbai Hot Springs are a great way to warm up on a visit to the mountain. Surrounded by colorful rocks, dyed by the minerals in the water, the springs have become popular for their therapeutic benefits: bathing in the hot water reputedly eases suffering from ailments such as arthritis, dermatitis and exhaustion.
The mountain has a plethora of scenic spots, a full guide to which would run to several pages. The Underground Forest is known for its ancient forests and rocky canyons which draw explorers and photographers in equal numbers. Great Valley, Jinjiang Waterfall, King's Lake, Tiger's Back and Tizi River are additional spots on the mountain recently opened to the public, and visitors interested in wild alpine flowers should enter the mountain through the southern slope entrance where in the summer months flowers blossom in abundance.
In the winter, it is even possible to ski on Changbai Mountain: the season begins in November and has been known to last as long as six months. Most of the hotels in the area stay open all year.
The average temperature on Changbai Mountain is a very cool 7C. Due to the changeable weather on the mountain visitors should bring sweaters, a coat and even waterproofs. Sensible footwear is a must. Do not let this put you off! It's a great place to visit whatever weather you may encounter.
How to Get There:
As well as catching the train from Changchun visitors can arrive by rail from Tonghua and Dandong to get to the mountain. Coaches come from Changchun and Yanji, Shenyang, Jilin City, and Antu. The nearest airport is in Yanji. Visitors may wish to hire a car to get around the huge area, but be sure to ask whether or not the car you rent will be permitted to go up onto the mountains.