While Guilin is a great springboard for exploring the natural beauty of Guangxi province, it also boasts a thriving tourism scene of its own. Visitors will find the city welcoming and easy to get around – a perfect first destination for newcomers to the mainland.
Guilin is home to two rivers and four lakes, which form one long scenic waterway through the city. This makes it easy to locate the city’s main attractions, as most of the action takes place near the waterfront.
The best way to enjoy the water is on it, and you’ll find plenty of tourism companies offering river cruises – complete with musical and theatrical performances along the way. The very best ones are at night, when the scenery is lit up in vibrant colours.
Elephant Trunk Hill
This uniquely-shaped hill, which resembles an elephant dipping its trunk in the river, is one of Guilin’s most recognisable landmarks. It has inspired countless legends, poems, and works of art over the years. If you explore the hill and the surrounding greenery, you’ll find the old Puxian Pagoda, which offers picturesque views of the Li river.
Sun and Moon Pagodas
Much like many other sights along the rivers and lakes, these Buddhist-style pagodas – also known as the gold and silver pagodas – are best seen at night, when they are lit up in gold and white lights that shimmer on the water. The evening river cruises offer a prime view of these structures, but they are also open to the public – for anyone who wants to climb them.
Seven Star Park and Cave
While this family-friendly park is a great place to take a leisurely Sunday stroll, the real appeal is its limestone cave, which is one of the largest caves in China. There are guided tours along an easy-access, paved route every half an hour, so anyone can tag along.
The striking stalagmites and stalactites in the Seven-Star Cave appear to form all sorts of weird and wonderful structures, from woodland animals to fantastical beasts. They’re also lit up by coloured lights, making for an even more ethereal atmosphere.
Zhengyang Pedestrian Street
This long commercial street in the city centre is crammed with shops and restaurants of every description, so if you’re looking for a memento of your trip, this is probably the place to look. With rows of traditional Western-style buildings selling handicrafts, jewellery and souvenirs, parts of this street almost resemble a European Christmas market – with a similarly warm, inviting atmosphere, too.