China’s Guangxi region isn’t known for its shopping or its bustling cities. Instead, you’ll find idyllic countryside, the best of which is Yangshuo county. Better still, it’s totally underrated in guidebooks to the mainland.
Did you know
1 Yangshuo is one of the best-known climbing destinations in Asia.
2 It has a somewhat turbulent history; the region was split into two separate counties during the Tang dynasty (618–907), and didn’t reunify until a few years later.
3 The county is famous for its fields of pomelos, persimmons, chestnuts, and tangerines.
4 Many of Yangshuo’s mountains are made of karst, which is a combination of limestone, dolomite, and gypsum. It is characterised by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves.
5 Yangshuo’s famous Karst peaks feature on the 20 yuan bill.
Best ways to see the Yulong River
The Yulong River is a branch of the larger Li River that runs from Guilin to Yangshuo. While it’s beautiful to look at from the banks, it’s even more exciting to take part in river activities.
Rafting is easily the most popular way to see the Yulong River. Bamboo rafts each hold two people and a local guide, giving you the freedom to choose the length of your route. You will need to wear sandals and it’s a good idea to bring an umbrella to protect yourself from the sun.
To see the river from a higher vantage point, try rock climbing. We recommend the Tongmen Hill route because it’s right on the banks of the Yulong River. When travelling with younger children, try the Jinmao cave which is much more suitable for beginners. Be sure to wear comfortable clothing, and don’t forget to check the weather forecast in advance, because rainy or excessively windy days mean that rock climbing tours get cancelled.
Hiking offers a perfect mix of natural and cultural scenery. The most famous hiking trail begins at Yulong Bridge, which was built during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644). You’ll be able to walk through many of Yangshuo’s small villages and grab a bite to eat at the restaurants by Xinglong Bridge. The hike ends at Gongnong Bridge, where you can then take a rafting tour if you wish.
The river’s excellent cycling routes will guide you through its karst peaks and ancient villages, where you’ll see dragon fruit, rice, taro, sesame seeds, water chestnuts, pomelo, and plenty of other produce being grown. Be sure to visit the ancient Dragon Bridge along the way for an excellent swimming spot. You can rent a bike from West Street but be sure to join a tour to avoid getting lost.
Other things to do in Yangshuo
Liu Sanjie light show
This is one of Yangshuo’s most popular night time activities, and the best way to see the mountain landscape. Book tickets early because they tend to sell out.
This street serves up a medley of both local and international shops and restaurants. Barter for great deals on everything from local handicrafts to the area’s famous Ginger candies. Stay after the sun goes down for the best view of West Street’s colourful lanterns and night time displays.
There is a famous Chinese proverb that reads: “anyone who has been to Silver Cave will never be short of money”. While we can’t attest to its moneymaking properties, we can promise that the cave is rich in beauty. Its stalactites and stalagmites are lit up by multicoloured lights, giving off an ethereal glow. Don’t worry about bringing caving gear because the cave has paved paths with railings that make it easy to navigate. Make sure you bring some water, though, as it can get quite humid.
How to get there
Although there are direct flights from Hong Kong to Guilin, the best way to get to Yangshuo is via Shenzhen because you can avoid steep international airport taxes. From Shenzhen, you can take the train to Guangzhou South then change to the high-speed train, which will bring you all the way up to Yangshuo Station.
Before you go
- Bring a camera with spare memory cards because you’ll want to take a lot of photos.
- Bring a good pair of hiking shoes for those scenic trails.
- Pack a swimsuit just in case you decide to take a dip in the Yulong river.
- Ask the receptionists at your hotel to book activities for you because without a solid grasp of Chinese, getting the best prices can be troublesome.
- Bring small change for bargaining.
- Avoid visiting Yangshuo during Chinese public holidays because it can get very crowded. Instead, visit during late summer, when there will also be less rain.
- Phone signals can be poor in the mountainous areas, so print out or download any info you might need beforehand.