Okay, a late posting, but justified: Guilin, one of the tourist highlights of China. I will intend for this to be a very simple but concentrated mini-guide.
Guilin is famous for the beauty of its landscapes, which attract millions of tourists from all over the world every year. The rivers, the karstic hills, and the exuberant vegetation allow to enjoy idyllic views and to obtain unique photographs.
The city is a perfect place to discover the rural life of southern China. Currently, its main economic activity is tourism and, therefore, its spaces are neat and attractive, as well as being provided with good quality services.
Guilin enjoys a privileged location on the banks of the Li River. This river, precisely, has been included by the National Geographic magazine of the United States among the “10 best water wonders” in the world.
Things to do in Guilin
1. Navigate the Li River
Cruising the Li River, between Guilin and Yangshuo, is an unforgettable experience. It will allow you to contemplate incredible landscapes and discover amazing attractions. Among the spectacular limestone peaks, you can see bamboo forests, farmers cultivating rice and water buffalo. The boats depart from several jetties near the center of Guilin.
2. Explore Yangshuo
Cormorant fisherman in Traditional showing of his birds on Li river near Xingping, Guangxi province, China. @ chanwit Yanshet.
Ancient and picturesque, the town of Yangshuo is the traditional arrival point for cruises on the Li River. Its special geography gives it an incredible beauty and treasures 1400 years of history. Here diverse ethnic minority groups live, and in its streets, there is a simple and calm atmosphere.
This is an absolute must in Guilin.
3. Discover the Hill of the Elephant Trunk
Elephant Trunk Hill on a Winters Day in Guilin China
Capricious and attractive, the Hill of the Elephant Trunk is an emblem of Guilin. It is located in Xiangshan Park, at the confluence of the Taohua and Li rivers, and looks like a giant elephant drinking water from the river. In the place, you can admire some very attractive old buildings, such as the Puxian Pagoda and the temples of Yunfeng and Sarira Dagoba.
4. Visit the ancient village of Daxu
ancient village of Daxu in Guilin
This populated core lies north of the Millstone Hill and on the banks of the Li River, about 23 kilometers south of Guilin. It is an ancient and still little known city with a long history, where you can meet many of the ancient manifestations of Chinese culture. At the confluence of the Mahe and Li rivers is the Longevity Bridge, a stone arch built during the Qing Dynasty.
5. Admire the rice terraces of Longji (Dragon column)
Longji terraces are breathtaking, very much worth the trip.
For some years, this is a protected area, so to access it is necessary to pay an entrance fee of ¥ 100. That way you can visit and enjoy a stay in the territory of Longsheng. The area of the terraces is divided into two sectors, one occupied by the terraces of Ping’an of the Zhuang ethnic group, and the other where the Jinkeng terraces of the Yao ethnic group are located. Within walking distance are the villages of Huang Luo and Jinzhu, which are also worth a visit.
5 best unexpected Guilin highlights
1. The Lake Shan Hu
Guilin at night.
Located in the center of the city, on its shore are the pagodas of the Sun and the Moon. At night, these showy constructions light up yellow and white, respectively.
2. Nightly atmosphere
Guilin nights offer an amazing show. The center is illuminated with colorful LED lights, including trees, bridges, buildings, and walls. You can take a night cruise through the two rivers and the four lakes of the city to contemplate this beautiful show.
3. Park of the Seven Stars
It extends for more than 120 hectares and houses mountains, lakes, forests, deep and serene valleys, abundant animals and plants and valuable cultural relics, such as the Bridge of Flowers, which is the oldest in Guilin. Here you will also find an attractive zoo in the city.
4. Shangri-La ethnic theme park
Visit this ethnic theme park and you can enjoy natural landscapes of great beauty. It is located in the vicinity of the Li River, and houses old trees and old buildings of Dong architecture, while its locals make millenary handicrafts and preserve their customs and traditions.
5. Prince City of Jingjiang
Built during the era of the Ming Dynasty of Prince Jingjiang, between 1368 and 1644, it is an emblematic place in the city. Today it is a very popular place for tourists since it allows to know part of the remote history of the region.
Quick-history and facts of Guilin
Yangshuo in Guilin
For those who want a more to understand better this area it totally pays off to read a little about Guilin story, believe me.
Since the days of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), Guilin has been explored and loved by poets and painters. Before 1961, however, very few other travelers visited this scenic area. Most people knew its beauty only through poems and images.
After 1973, Guilin was listed as one of only 24 cities in China with permission to receive foreign travelers, which initiated the development of tourism here. At that time, the main places of interest were the traditional natural landscape and most of the visitors were from outside of China. (According to statistics, Guilin received 977 foreign tourists in 1973, but more than 2 million in 2007.)
Tourism developed rapidly after 1978 when the era of reform and a more open economy began. In 1982, Guilin prided itself on being included as one of the 24 most important historical and cultural cities in China, which led to strong political support from the government. In 1985, Guilin landscape took second place, just behind the Great Wall, in the “Most Beautiful Chinese Landscapes” Contest. Naturally, this gave rise to Guilin’s reputation as a beautiful place to visit, and the growing number of visitors discovered places like Elephant Trunk Hill, Fubo Hill, Diecai Hill, Reed Flute Cave, Qixing Cave and, of course, the Li River.
In the early 1990s, Guilin was making many important historical sites available to the public. The most typical was the residence of Prince Jingjiang in the center of the city (built at the end of the 13th century). In this way, travelers can not only visit the unique landscape but also enjoy local history. By 1998, Guilin was combining its 12 neighboring counties (known as Big Guilin), as many places such as Yangshuo and Longsheng had become well known.
Today, experiences like Two Rivers and Four Lakes, cycling and trekking in Yangshuo, Impression Sanjie Liu, visits to local families, Longsheng Rice Terraces, ethnic life experiences and visits to unique caves are just some of the opportunities to enjoy while they visit Guilin.
When is the best time to visit Guilin?
Any time of the year should be fine, but I advise strongly against traveling China during Chinese new year (CNY). I did it ( and survived the experience), but well, if you can choose other dates, it’s better to avoid CNY.
The weather has 4 stations, similar to Europe. Spring and Autumn are usually the best traveling seasons.
Best hotels to stay in Guilin
There are 3 good areas to stay =
1. Center area. The heart of the city hosts the largest concentration of bars, hotels and shopping sites. In addition, it is very well connected by public transport with other areas of the town.
- Guilin Sapphire. 4* 50$ per night. I only stayed 2 nights so I could review the other hotels and I regretted ever leaving, this hotel hit the spot for me.
- Lijiang Waterfall Hotel. 5* 90$. In fairness, it felt more like a 4* hotel, but the price was pretty good.
- Guilin Sky Palace Hotel. 3* 30$ for a double bedroom.
A Japanese styled room in Guilin Sapphire hotel.
2. Yangshuo. This nearby city is ideal for the accommodation of travelers who love close contact with nature. Its idyllic landscapes allow to make various excursions along the river, walks through paddies and mountain expeditions.
Yangshuo Spring Hill Hotel
3. Xiufeng. It is a very lively neighborhood, surrounded by the lakes of the city and the Li River. In this district is the Prince of Jinjiang City, the Art Museum, beautiful parks, a theme park, and Central Square.
- Sky garden inn. Sky garden inn. 4* 74$. Was gonna stay in this hotel but finally, I was out of time. The reviews are awesome and they have really high scores.
- Universal hotel. 4* 48$.
- Sheraton hotel guilin. 5* 115$. For those with big bucks who don’t want to go wrong. 😉