Datong lies in the north of Shanxi Province, about 240 kilometers (150 miles) or about 2½ hours' train travel from Beijing, about 3½ hours' train travel from Pingyao Ancient Town and only 20 kilometers (12 miles) south of a section of the Great Wall.
Datong, formerly known as Pingcheng, was the capital of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386–534). Today, Datong City is one of the most famous historic and cultural cities in China — a famous tourist destination with many historical sites, including the Yungang Grottoes, Hanging Monastery, and Wooden Tower.
Why Travel to Datong
1) Datong has a lot of Buddhist architecture.
Datong experienced a series of turbulent wars in its early days, and its people longed for peace. Thus, Buddhism found favor. Buddhist temples started to be built in the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) and building peaked in the Northern Wei Dynasty (386–534).
Today, Datong has many well-preserved Buddhist sites, and the World Heritage site — the Yungang Grottoes — is the most popular one for tourists to visit.
2) Datong is an important window into Chinese history.
Datong was founded around 200 BC during the Han Dynasty with the name of Pingcheng. In ancient China, Pingcheng was a stopping-off point for camel caravans on a northern branch of the Silk Road from China into Mongolia. As the capital city of the Northern Wei Dynasty, provincial capital of the Liao Dynasty (907–1125) and the Jin Dynasty (1115–1234), and an important military stronghold in the Ming and Qing dynasties (1367–1912), Datong has a historical legacy that has left us with precious historical relics.
3) Datong is the "west garden of Beijing".
Datong is about 5 hours' driving from central Beijing, but with the development of high-speed railways, you can now take a bullet train from Beijing in 100 minutes. Datong is a good weekend gateway from Beijing.
Let us customize a Datong trip for you including train ticket booking between Datong and Beijing.
What to See in Datong
The city of Datong today is more than just a burgeoning industrial zone. It boasts a unique mountainous landscape and is the venue of some of China's most valued historical treasures:
- The Yungang Grottoes— classical masterpieces of Chinese Buddhist art in the 5th and 6th centuries
- The Hanging Monastery— a Buddhist temple built onto a cliff considered to be a work of art as well as a marvel of engineering
- Yingxian Wooden Pagoda— the oldest and tallest wooden pagoda in China, built in 1056 AD
- Datong Nine-Dragon Screen Wall— the largest dragon screen wall in China
- Mount Heng— one of the five sacred mountains of Taoism
- Shanhua Temple — the most complete and largest temple group in China built in the Liao and Jin Dynasties nearly 1,000 years ago
See more on Datong Attractions.
Besides the attractions in Datong, you could easily extend your trip to see nearby attractions such as Wutai Mountain and Pingyao Ancient Town.
For some inspiration see our 4-Day Datong Yungang Grottoes and Pingyao Tour.
Or we could tailor a Shanxi province trip including Datong, Wutai Mountain, Pingyao to your special requirements.
Datong Weather — Best Times to Go
Datong is in China's temperate continental monsoon climate zone. Affected by the monsoon, its four seasons are distinct. If you're going to Datong mainly for ancient buildings and grottoes, the season doesn't matter so much.
Datong could be visited all year around, but normally April to October is the best time to go to Datong if you do not like cold (freezing) weather.
In spring (April to May), the temperature rises rapidly, with an average temperature range of 3–23°C (37–73°F). It is quite dry in spring, but there are strong winds, so please remember to bring a hat and a scarf with you if you travel to Datong in spring.
In summer (June to August), the climate is mild, and the average temperature range is a pleasantly warm 17–28°C (62–82°F). Though most of Datong's rain comes in summer, it is still not much, making Datong a good place for summer vacations. Please remember to bring an umbrella or raincoat with you.
In autumn (September and October), average temperatures are similar to spring's with temperatures dropping suddenly. Rainfall drops off, and the sky is often blue and clear.
In winter (November to March), the average temperature range is -12–2°C (10–36°F). Winter is freezing and long in Datong with about 10 days of very light snowfall in total.
Contact us whenever you want to go! We will tailor make a comfortable and well-designed Datong trip for you.
How to Get to Datong
Datong Yungang Airport is the only airport in Datong, about 16 km (10 miles) or 40 minutes' driving from Datong city center. You can fly from Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai, Chengdu, Hangzhou, Chongqing, Xiamen, Yinchuan, Urumqi and other big cities to Datong.
By Bullet Train
Datong South Railway Station is one of the important rail hubs in the north of Shanxi Province, connecting with Beijing 2½ hours to the east, Taiyuan (2½ hours), Pingyao (3½ hours), and Xi'an (6½ hours) to the south, and Hohhot 3 hours to the north.
What to Eat in Datong
Datong is a famous food city in China, mainly known for its various wheaten foods. Datong dishes are representative of northern Shanxi cuisine, with a salty taste and heavy oil use.
Sliced noodles, yellow cakes, oat noodles, Hunyuan bean jelly, braised rabbit head, instant-boiled mutton, and haggis are popular snacks or dishes in Datong that you should try.
See more on Datong Food.
Where to Stay in Datong
Datong is an ancient city with numerous historical sites including the Yungang Grottoes, Hanging Monastery, and Yingxian Wooden Tower. To see the essence of Datong, you are recommended to stay at least one night in Datong city.
For your convenience getting to the city attractions and ease of shopping and food hunting, we always recommend you stay in the Datong downtown area, inside or near Datong City Wall. Here are some frequently selected hotels for your reference.
- Garden Hotel Datong (4*): about 3 minutes' walking from Datong Drum Tower and the center of Datong Old City
- Datong Hotel (4*), Holiday Inn Datong City Center (4*), Great Palace Hotel Datong (5*): about 6 minutes' driving from Yongtaimen Square and Datong City Wall (south)
- Yungang International Hotel (5*), Yunzhong Courtyard (5*): 5 minutes' walking from Huayan Temple
Contact us for Datong hotel booking.
Datong Travel Tips
- Datong is in the loess plateau area, so it experiences big winds and silt-storms, especially from March to June. It is recommended to bring a hat and scarf that's appropriate to the season.
- Datong is dry in summer and the sun's ultraviolet rays are strong. Please drink plenty of water and prepare sunscreen.
- In addition, there is a big temperature difference between morning and night in Datong. Please prepare a jacket etc. appropriate to the temperatures above even if you travel in summer time.
- Traditional Datong dishes are a little salty and spicy. If you can't get used to it, please ask for less salt and pepper when you order. Your private guide will help you order the dishes if you tour with us.
Tour Datong Your Way with Us
If you want to discover more about this cultural city, it would be convenient to have an experienced private tour guide. We can help you with that.
Here are our two most popular customizable Datong itineraries for your inspiration:
- 4-Day Essence of Datong and Pingyao Tour — Explore China's "hidden" historical sites
- 9-Day China Culture Relics Classic Tour — Tour the ancient cities of north China: Beijing–Datong–Pingyao–Xi'an
A tailor-made China tour based on your own interests and requirements can also be readily designed by our experts.