Guilin Travel Guide

Yangshuo

 

A small highway town at the end of the Li River Cruise, Yangshuo is surrounded by some spectacular karst hills interspersed with green paddy fields. It was nothing more than a rural marketplace until the late 1980s, when it became popular with visitors taking the cruise from Guilin. Not as tranquil as it used to be, Yangshuo remains a good base to explore the surrounding peaks and river, as well as a few caves and outlying villages. Hiring a bicycle is one of the easiest ways to explore the area. Local specialties include grapefruit-like pomelos and “beer fish” – served at most restaurants in town. Yangshuo has recently become one of Asia’s favorite rock-climbing centers, with over 200 short routes already mapped out.

Ferries moored along the Li River, with karst hills rising in the distance
Ferries moored along the Li River,
with karst hills rising in the distance

Visitors' checklist

  • 44 miles (70 km) S of Guilin
  • 60,000
  • from Guilin
  • 8th Fl, 362 Zhongshan Zhong Lu, Da Shijie
  • tours & boat trips available
  • For rock climbing visit the cafés on Xian Qian Jie particularly Lizard Lounge & Karst Cafe.
Guilin Yangshuo

Xi Jie
An 820-ft (250-m) long cobbled street running between the highway and the Li River, Xi Jie (West Street) is lined with restored rural architecture dating from the Qing dynasty. Today, it has a glut of friendly restaurants, cafés, guesthouses, and souvenir shops aimed at foreign visitors. Restaurants serve western cuisine such as wood-fire pizzas and steak as well as local specialties including a variety of fresh fish dishes. Shops sell a range of inexpensive Chinese souvenirs, from Mao memorabilia and wooden theater masks to antique wooden panels, batiks, silk T-shirts, scroll paintings, modern and traditional clothes, and pirated Western music CDs. A few shops also sell factory-reject designer wear at bargain prices. The Hongfu Hotel, located about halfway down the street, was built in the 19th century as an inn for merchants from Jiangxi. The docks area at the river end, where ferries pull in from Guilin, is covered in ornamental paving and offers good views of the angular peaks upstream. In the area north of the highway are some lovely back alleys, and a lively produce market where locals shop.

The forested Bilian Feng (Green Lotus Peak), overlooking the river
The forested Bilian Feng (Green Lotus Peak),
overlooking the river

Bilian Feng & Yangshuo Gongyuan

  • daily

Situated close to the center of town are two 328-ft (100-m) high peaks which can be climbed. To the southeast of town, overlooking the river, is the towering Bilian Feng (Green Lotus Peak), with a steep track to the summit. The second peak, Xilang Shan (Man Hill), is situated in Yangshuo Gongyuan to the west of town. It has an easier set of steps that lead to a viewing pavilion. The park is also a pleasant place to stroll and watch sessions of early-morning tai ji quan.

Jianshan Si & Underground Caves

  • 3 miles (5 km) S of Yangshuo
  • or cycle
  • 8:30am–5pm daily

The only temple in the area around Yangshuo, Jianshan Si is built in a simple, late Qing-dynasty style, with wing-like horsehead gables protecting its doorway. Located nearby, the Black Buddha, Assembled Dragons, and New Water Caves are a series of underground caverns discovered in the 1990s. Locals show people around the cool, damp, and muddy caves using hand-held flashlights. Although visitors have to negotiate tall bamboo ladders and scramble over rocks, the lack of well-laid paths and garish colored lights that usually illuminate subterranean rivers and waterfalls is refreshing.

Yueliang Shan

  • 4 miles (7 km) S of Yangshuo
  • or cycle
  • daily

The distinctive crescent-shaped arch that pierces Yueliang Shan (Moon Hill) has made it the most famous of Yangshuo’s peaks. Stone steps, steep in places, lead to the base of the arch, a half-hour climb through bamboo thickets and bushes. The view of the Li River valley from the far side of the arch is magnificent, with fields laid out below, encircling the jagged karst pinnacles. The best time to visit is during the summer rains, when the fields are bright green. If traveling by bicycle, visitors should take the main road south of town toward the river and turn right about 220 yards (200 m) before the bridge. From here, it’s an hour to Yueliang Shan. Close by, Longtan Village has several unrestored old buildings, with whitewashed brick walls, wooden doors, and tiled roofs supporting intricate “flying eaves” drawn out into points.

Fuli Village

  • 5 miles (8 km) E of Yangshuo

The pretty village of Fuli is a quiet rural center except when it hosts a busy produce market on days ending in 1, 4, or 7. One of the best in the region, it is visited by throngs of villagers who bargain for livestock, seasonal fruit, plastic buckets, wooden pipes, all kinds of vegetables, and bamboo fans – a famous local product. To the north is Donglang Shan, a narrow hill often paired with Yangshuo’s Xilang Shan in local legends.

Cormorant fishing
The Chinese have used tame cormorants to fish for thousands of years, and this unusual technique is still practiced in southern areas. Fishermen set off on bamboo rafts after dark, with cormorants wearing collars to prevent them from swallowing their catches. The birds swim just below the surface alongside the raft towards a light hanging from the bow. When a bird has made a catch, the fisherman pulls it from the water and retrieves the fish from the bird’s beak. Hour-long viewing trips can be organized during the summer months through most hotels.

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