Guilin is located in the southeast corner of China and has become a popular tourist destination due to all of its natural beauty. The vegetation, hills, karsts, and more allow Guilin a certain uniqueness from the areas around it. If you’re ready to get out of the city and explore on foot and by boat rather than on the subway, by train or by car, then this is the spot for you. Here are the 15 best places to visit in Guilin!
The Li River is a premier spot to see the true natural beauty of Guilin. In fact, it’s so peaceful that even the tours that take place in the rain receive rave reviews. Spend half a day cruising the Li River. The views are constantly changing, and your boat will provide a panorama view. Constantly lauded as one of the top 10 experiences in China, make sure this is on your list of things to do!
This county and resort town reaps all the benefits of being right on the Li River. While you’re there, you’ll get to see karst mountains and engage in a variety of recreational activities. You can drift on a bamboo raft, rent a bike or just take in the rural setting. You’ll find fields and terraces that are thriving thanks to the river. It’ll seem half a world away from what you’re used to and totally worth the trip.
Around 27 kilometers of winding fields of rice will stretch out before you at the Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces. If you’re wondering how rice terraces could possibly be interesting, you won’t wonder after you’ve been here. The terraces are painfully difficult to maintain but demonstrate the hard work and wisdom of the farmers who do so. This is a spot to witness local Zhuang life and culture as they go about their daily lives in colorful costumes while singing and dancing.
While in Yangshuo (#2), make sure you hit up its oldest street, West Street! This street is (wait for it)…over 1,400 years old. It has around 200,000 new feet on it each year as new visitors flock to see the unique mix of culture it has on its streets. It’s completely paved with marble and is a great example of a typical southern street in China. You’ll find the bilingual shop signs helpful and be able to shop until your heart’s desire. Bonus: there’s more than just cheap souvenirs here. Find calligraphy stores, craftworks shops, and wax-paint weaving for a little bit more local flavor.
Reed Flute Cave is a karst cave northwest of downtown Guilin. It was discovered in 1959 and was named because verdant reeds grow outside of it, which people use to make flutes. Inside the cave, you can see where the water eroded stalactites and formed carbonate deposition. If that doesn’t sound impressive, just wait until you’re inside. The view is spectacular. To tour it, you’ll enter the cave and take U-shaped sightseeing routes to different spots. Make sure you hit the Tower-shaped Pine and the Crystal Palace.
Elephant Trunk Hill is one of the primary landmarks of Guilin. Dating back to the Tan Dynasty, the hill looks as though a giant elephant is driving from the river which is where it gets its nickname. Water Moon Cave is the round opening between the elephant’s “trunk” and its legs. Right at Water Moon Cave is the Taohua and the Lijiang River meet. There are great photo opportunities here and no climbing required to get to the destination.
Seven Stars Park is a large park that you can check out all of the best natural forms in Guilin. It is named for seven visible mountain peaks from Putuo Mountain (four peaks) and Crescent Mountain (three peaks). Together, they resemble the form of the Big Dipper constellation. In addition to these mountain peaks, Seven Stars Park includes clear water, valleys, a stone forest, cultural relics, and plants and animals. Once you’re there, don’t miss the Flower Bridge, Camel Hill, and Light of China Square. The natural significance of each of these will astound you.
Looking for a view? Mao’er Mountain will get you where you want to be! Either take a hike, a bus or a taxi up to the top where you’ll see a view of the countryside you won’t regret. If you opt for the hike, it’ll take you around an hour and is aided by a wooded path. Be sure to bring your camera up to the top so you can snap some pictures of mountain tops and mist—just Google some pictures if you want a preview!
If you haven’t had enough of Guilin’s scenery yet, make sure you don’t miss Chuanshan. This scenic mountain park is southeast of the city and is right on the river. You can hike, explore caves, check out an ancient tomb, and see a Buddhist pagoda and sculptures. Better yet, Chuanshan is not as overrun with tourists as some of the other spots in Guilin so you can enjoy it in peace.
Get your bamboo raft out and ready! Crown Cave is a 12 km long cave near the Li River and it has been developed for the benefit of visitors. The interior of the cave—filled with stalagmites and stalactites—are beautifully and colorfully illuminated. It’s recommended that you spend around an hour and a half floating and enjoying the neat few that an expedition into Crown Cave can provide you.
The Flying Tigers Heritage Park honors the US men and women who served in China during World War II. Flying Tigers specifically refers to all fighter pilots, bomber pilots, transport pilots, and ground crews. The park aims to spread the history of World War II to all who come to visit Guilin. By visiting, you can learn more about what the war meant to these two countries and help ensure that the types of atrocities committed in war never come to fruition again.
Folded Brocade Hill refers to a spot by the Li River that as a number of remarkable layered rock formations and carvings. The views at this landmark are incredibly picturesque, and thus attracts quite a few tourists each year. Spots to hit while you’re there? Yuyue Pavilion, Huanbi Garden, and Wood Dragon Cave are all awesome.
Located in Seven Stars Park (#7), the Guilin Zoo was first built in 1959. It houses a number of state-protected animals like giant pandas, gibbons, golden monkeys, red-crowned cranes, and Leaf Monkeys. The zoo was replicated to appear as their animal’s natural habitat and therefore has an incredible atmosphere. Its most popular exhibit is Panda Hall. Head to the zoo in the morning to ensure you’ll see the giant pandas awake and playing as the afternoon is often their naptime.
You’re not done with the karst caves yet! Silver Cave is a little bit further south from both Guilin and Yangshuo but is absolutely worth a visit. There are no fewer than 28 scenic spots in Silver Cave just waiting for your eyes. This is an especially good rainy-day activity as you’ll be inside the warm cave but perfectly occupied. Keep this in your back pocket for the inevitable poor weather and you’ll never be disappointed on your trip!
Merryland Resort is a theme park located in Guilin. If you feel like you need a little relaxing on your trip, then this is the spot to go. You’ll have access to the Merryland Resort Hotel, the Holiday Cottage, a golf club, and a theme park. Whether you want to ride every ride in sight, work on your golf swing, get adventurous with bungee jumping and switchback car sitting, or go to the spa, Merryland has something for everyone! The best time of year to visit is from April to October since the weather is at its peak in Guilin. Don’t miss out on this opportunity that’s fun for the whole family and rivals Disneyland.
If you have a short-list for places to travel in China, make sure Guilin is on there! The natural beauty that permeates this city is absolutely undeniable. From the Li River to rice terraces to the karst caves, you’ll be filled with wonder with how the Earth actually looks like this. There are spots for you to hike and explore on food, and when you get tired, there are spots for you to rest and enjoy yourself too. There’s no reason this shouldn’t be at the very top of your travel list before everyone else discovers it!