Walk around the Town
The best way to see the town is by walking around it. You can visit historical wooden buildings, have a close-up experience with the local people, and immerse yourself in its cultural atmosphere. You can enter narrow alleys paved with flagstones and decorated with lanterns, and walk around to grab some souvenirs and snacks from stalls lined along the streets. You can see some local elderly women wearing traditional costumes and selling their handmade souvenirs on the roadside.
The nighttime scenery in the town is beautiful, with old buildings nicely illuminated along the river. The town is a hive of activity with all the nightlife. You can find a café beside the Tuo River to enjoy some free time. It is a different place in the morning, being very serene and peaceful.
Take a Boat Trip
The Tuo River, running through the heart of the town, is the mother river of the ancient town. Along the river you will see unique wooden houses called Diaojiaolou, which were constructed on stilts to keep them safe from the spring floods. They are typical Miao buildings with a history of over 100 years. When seen from a distance, the houses look like they are standing on the river.
Taking a boat trip along the Tuo River is a great way to have a better view of the houses. The best time is in the early morning or in the evening. You may see locals using the river water to wash their clothes as well as vegetables. Boats operate regularly upstream, running from the pier near the town’s North Gate to Wanshou Temple.
Visit Historical and Cultural Sites
Fenghuang Ancient Town's history can be dated back to the Spring and Autumn Period (770–476 BC). The town as you can see it now was built during the 43-year reign of Emperor Kangxi of the Qing Dynasty in 1704, and the ancient buildings displaying the distinct Qing Dynasty style are well preserved.
Its fairly long history endows it with over 300 cultural heritage sites. These include Huang Si Qiao Castle, the best-preserved stone castle built in the Tang Dynasty in 687, and Xiangxi Border Wall, which was built during the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) and is highly praised as being China's Southern Great Wall.
There are also famous ancient buildings including Longevity Palace, Chaoyang Palace, Hong Bridge, the East Gate Tower, and Wanming Pagoda.
Join in a Bonfire Party
If you are interested, you can join in a bonfire party beside the river at night. It is a way to experience the traditions and culture of the Miao people. It usually starts from 7:30pm and ends at 9:30pm. The cost is 50–80 yuan.
Visit a Miao Village
Fenghuang is an ethnic minority group area, and the Miao ethnic minority takes predominance in its numbers.
If your schedule allows, you can spend half a day visiting a Miao village. A recommended village is Tehang, where the Miao customs, living style, and festivals are kept intact. In the village, you can see typical buildings, listen to traditional songs, and taste the local food.