At 10,226 feet tall (3,117 meters), Mt Emei is the highest of China's four sacred mountains of Buddhism. Buddhist monks have made pilgrimages to the mountain's temples and monasteries for nearly 1,800 years, and as a nod to its religious and cultural importance, Mt Emei was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996. Though a cable car now carries most visitors to the lofty summit, those wanting to commune with the mountain can trek the same pilgrim trails used in centuries past. For a rewarding cultural experience, it's also possible to punctuate the journey with an overnight stay in a monastery.
Located 90 miles (145 km) southwest of Chengdu, Mt Emei is best visited in summer. Bitter cold and deep snow can render the summit inaccessible during winter, and the rudimentary heating capabilities of the monasteries can make for uncomfortable evenings. Another good time to visit is in early autumn, when travelers can peruse the myriad stone carvings along the trails and stave off the cool mists by hunkering down with a warm cup of green tea at any of the temple tea houses.
When venturing from Chengdu to Mt Emei, it's popular to combine the journey with a trip to the nearby Leshan Giant Buddha, which faces the mountain and shares its UNESCO World Heritage status.