Luoyang Longmen Grottos, located along the ancient Silk Road, is situated in between Beijing and Xian. The grottos are located in a beautiful area straddling the Yi River, just outside the city of Luoyang, and are very easy to access. Like most Buddhist grottos in China they have been carved out of steep cliffs alongside a river. There are many statues inside the caves. You can see a little bit of the remnants of the paintings that once adorned the caves, but mostly you will be impressed with the sheer number of caves, and the quality of the statues after all these years. It is possible that renovation projects have been implemented, but for the most part everything still seems intact from its original creation.
The shear magnitude of the caves is overwhelming, and could easily occupy you for a full day depending on your speed and level of interest in visiting all the areas. The ticket will allow you into four different areas on both sides of the river. Most of the grottos must be accessed by foot and involve climbing some stairs. One advantage of this grotto system compared to others is that they have English informational in front of many of the larger caves with brief explanations and dates of creation. In my experience, most of the other cave systems around China have minimal English, or none at all. Also, some of them force you onto a tour group and sweep you through with a Chinese guide. You might get lucky and find an English guide, but it is rare, and you always have to pay more. I really enjoyed Longmen Grottos because you can leisurely walk around taking your time, and the English was really helpful.
The caves always inspire something in me. Whether it is a spiritual feeling or an artistic one, but I am always in awe that something so old has lasted so long. Maybe it’s the beauty of the decaying art, and finding the small detail that has survived not only the weather, but also the Cultural Revolution, allowing people to see a glimpse into the past. Although I do like to see the renovations of these grotto complexes, I also like to see what they look like before renovation. Even if they are in extreme decay, I still am so amazed at the craftsmanship and the skill that went into creating each carving or statue. That is just a few of the things that I really love about visiting the caves around China.
Surprisingly there was hardly anyone there, but we did go on a weekday, and before the start of summer vacation, so I think it’s possible it could get quite crowded on the weekends and during summer holidays, or other national holidays. I would recommend going either early in the morning or later in the evening to miss the big crowds of tourists, and beat the heat of the day.
Along with being incredibly accessible, this cave was really remarkable. If you only have a small amount of time to visit China, I highly recommend seeing these caves, or the Yungang Grottos in Datong. Both are a short train ride from Beijing, and each are impressive in their own ways. Both Longmen and Yungang Grottos are easy additions to any itinerary to China, and allow you to see a legacy of the Silk Road without having to travel too far west.
How to get to Luoyang Longmen Grottos
Getting to the cave is easy, especially from Beijing or Xian. It would even be possible to do a long day trip from Beijing or even Xian to the Grottos. Or better yet, it is a great way to break up the journey from Beijing to Xian, especially if you are planning on using the new high-speed train that connects the two cities. This is what we decided to do, and it made for an enjoyable day. The fast train arrives at the Luoyang Longmen station, which is very close to where you take a bus into the first entrance of the grottos.
A cab or tricab would probably cost around 15-20 CNY from the Luoyang Longmen fast train station, or you can jump on the 71 bus and ride it to it’s terminus. If you arrice from the Luoyang Railway station a cab will run you about 35-40 CNY, or you can jump on bus 81 and get off at the Longmen Grottos station. If you are staying in town you can take bus 53(1CNY) or 81(1.5CNY) to their terminus. Once you get off the bus you wait for another bus that will take you to the entrance where you buy the tickets.
It was a little confusing at first since there are no signs in English, but there is a place that looks like another bus stop with bars marking lines for people to wait in. This is where you get the bus to the ticket area, which is free and seemed to leave every 20-30 minutes. Keep in mind that the last bus leaves the ticket gate at ~5:20, so make sure to get back to the ticket counter in time, or you will be forced to either walk to the road where you can catch the 57 or 83 bus back into town, or take a cab which will cost you more money.
- Make sure to get back to the ticket gate before 5:25 in order to get the last bus out of the Grottos to the main road.
- There are many places to buy snacks and beverages, but if you are trying to stick to a budget bring your own. It’s a lot of walking so you will probably want something to energize you along the way.
- It is possible to walk from the ticket counter to the entrance of the caves. If you are in a hurry you can purchase a ticket to ride the e-car to the entrance, and buy another ticket to get from the exit of the complex back to the ticket counter. The e-car is 10CNY per ride, not round trip.
- It cost 120 CNY, which includes four different areas on both side of the river.
Have you been to Longmen Grottos or any other Grottos in China? Which one was your favorite? What was your experience like? I would love to hear about it in the comments below!
This is the third installment of my Silk Road series entitled “Chasing the Buddha: Our Silk Road Journey”. You can read the first part of the series about Bingling Grottos, and the second part about Mogao Caves. I will continue to add a post each Friday for the next month or so. So, if you would like to know more about visiting different grottos and other points of interest along the Silk Road, stay tuned!