Yangshuo is an absolute dreamland!! I thought camping on the Great Wall would be the most incredible thing I saw in China by far… until I looked out the window on our bus ride from Guilin to Yangshuo. I mean seriously, how can those mountains even be real?? They don’t call them the “Dr. Suess Mountains” for nothing!
Guilin is the nearest ‘big city’ to Yangshuo in Southern China. There’s an international airport, a number of train stations connecting to cities all over the country, etc. If you’re going to Yangshuo, you’ll have to go through Guilin first! From there you can either take an hour long bus ride or a 2.5 hour boat ride/raft down the Li River to get to the city of Yangshuo. We took the bus because it was cheaper and faster (not to mention carrying 6 months worth of luggage), but how cool would it be to hop on a bamboo raft with a local guide to row you down to your next destination?
We didn’t see much of Guilin, but we DID stay in the most beautiful hostel there! They had a fantastic chef who cooked both Chinese and American meals, freshly squeezed juice & smoothies at the bar, and a huge common area with pool and a movie screen. Hostels are always a bit of a gamble – we’ve stayed in some incredible ones and some terrible ones, but this one was one of the best in the country for us. If you’re interested in staying, you can check it out here on Hostelworld!
Guilin is known for its rice terraces, particularly the Longsheng rice terrace. It looks gorgeous in photos and I’m sure it’s amazing in person, but some friends traveling with us went and said it was really crowded with tourists and had expensive admission fees. It’s also on the outskirts of the city so it’s a lot of travel time as well; you’ll want to plan almost the entire day to visit. You’ll also want to do a bit of research on what season is best to see the terraces based on when it’s planted. Just some things to consider! There are plenty of rice terraces to see throughout Yangshuo as well.
Things To Do in Guilin/Yangshuo, China
Yangshuo is incredible. You’ll want to go in the spring/summer months because you will want to be spending all day every day hiking, swimming, bridge jumping, and riding mopeds through rice terraces! (I’m trying not to end literally every sentence with an exclamation mark but I’m too excited just writing about it!!! Add it to your bucketlist immediately!)
The best way of transportation around Yangshuo is by scooter! We rented scooters more than half the time we were there because it was cheap (about $7 per day) and it’s so FUN to ride all over the countryside at our own pace. We got a tour guide named Peter who was recommended by some other travelers and he was the highlight of our trip! He learned English by interacting with foreigners and has lived in Yangshuo for years. We told him a few places we wanted to visit and asked for a few recommendations and he put together a custom tour for us! The tour included scooters, a meal, several snacks along the way, and a personal local tour guide. It was an amazing deal and I loved being able to just relax and follow him and enjoy, rather than stressing where to go next and getting lost. We also got to see some ancient towns and landmarks that most tourists could never find on their own which made it even cooler. Several of my ‘things to do’ below were from our tour! If you want to contact Peter about giving a tour in Guilin or Yangshuo, I’ll attach his WeChat information at the bottom of this post!
He is such a character, he needs his own tv show.
hike Xianggong Mountain
This is the best place to get the perfect view of Yangshuo and the Li River. Look at that view!! We rode our mopeds up to the mountain, parked, and paid the small entrance fee. The hike was basically just 20 minutes of stairs up to the top, and from there you can go to a few different levels and step out on the platform to see the view from different angles. We spent awhile just hanging out, eating snacks, and watching the rafts float down the river. Our trip to China was worth it just for this one hike!
the “20 yuan” view
On the 20 yuan bill, there’s a scene of the Li River with the mountains behind it. We went to see the location and, of course, took that oh-so-iconic picture holding the bill out in front of us. Is it worth going out there just to see it? No way. You show up, take a picture, and leave. The river is just as beautiful anywhere else! However, there’s a cute little alley of shops and restaurants right next to it which made it a fun little day trip to get some nice handmade souvenirs and fresh fruit.
Ancient Fuli Bridge
Ancient Fuli Bridge is a beautiful historical landmark, not very crowded because it’s fairly unknown to tourists, and is perfect for swimming! It was almost definitely too shallow to jump from something that tall, but we did find a few spots that were ideal for jumping!
Ancient Fuli Bridge
where to go Bridge Jumping
This bridge was our personal favorite, although I don’t think it even has a name! I’ll go back and attach the location later. We ran into a few other local kids jumping but it was otherwise pretty quiet, so it was nice to hang out and have a picnic with some friends. I also liked that it was high but not too high, because I’m kind of a wuss when it comes to falling from dangerous heights haha.
We also heard that Dragon Bridge is a great place to go jumping, but be sure to go there with multiple people so some can watch for passing rafts/boats under the bridge! That one is known to be a little more crowded (both for swimming and for water traffic), so I wouldn’t recommend going on holidays or weekends where there are likely more people.
Moon hill hike
This hike is absolutely gorgeous and doesn’t take long at all! The entrance fee was maybe $1 and took about 20-30 minutes to get to the top. When you reach the top you’ll find an archway to stand below and catch the view. My recommendation though, is to keep walking past the archway until you find a rock with red writing on it and follow the patch behind the rock to go above the archway. That’s where we took these photos below and watched the sunset! It was absolutely mesmerizing.
Float down the li river
This was another one of the highlights of our trip! We took a bus up to the top of the Li River, negotiated a price for a boat ride, and spent an hour or so riding down the river back to West Street in Yangshuo. We made sure to get there right before sunset and got the most beautiful view!
If you type “Yangshuo” or “Guilin” into Google, West Street is one of the first things that will pop up on the screen. It’s nothing incredible or unique compared to the rest of China, but it’s a fun place to go for dinner and shopping in the evening. It is definitely the ‘tourist spot’ of the city and is jam-packed with travelers from all over China! We saw very few international people, probably because Yangshuo is still little-known outside of China (although I don’t understand how – it’s going to be the next ‘Amalfi Coast’ Instagram destination, I am convinced). There’s a little light show on the small river going through West Street, a McDonalds/KFC (you will find those two EVERYWHERE), a ton of little shops and antique stores, and several local restaurants and ice cream shops. Now let’s move to my favorite segment of every post: WHERE AND WHAT TO EAT.
A small hike we found on the side of the road right by West Street! Bridge on the hike by West Street.
where and what to eat
Ganga Impression is by far the best Indian food we had in China (Japan, however, is another story). It’s owned by the sweetest family who moved from India to Yangshuo awhile back and they make the most incredible curry! I even took a picture of the restaurant so you have no excuses to miss out on this.
You will also see these peach smoothies literally all over China and they are incredible! They’re around 25-35 yuan so they aren’t exactly cheap, but they are so worth it. There are also tons of incredible stir-fry type restaurants that you will see at every corner in Yangshuo. They let you choose your meat/veggies/sauce flavor and cook it to put over rice.
Caution: low quality phone pics
This city is also famous for a dish called Beer Fish, which is basically exactly what you’d expect; fish cooked in beer for a unique flavor! We got a huge order of it at a restaurant in West Street and it was both incredibly delicious and incredibly expensive compared to what we’d been paying for meals the past several months. A huge dish of it was $15-20 though, so still a great deal for how much you get! If you’re traveling to Yangshuo, it’s a must.
Lastly, be sure to eat some kumquats! They’re all over the markets, but the best is when you pull them right off the tree and eat them fresh. Word to the wise: it’s incredible with honey and vanilla ice cream.
Hope you enjoyed reading about our trip to Yangshuo! Got any comments/questions? Want more stories or experiences? Leave a comment below – I’d love to hear what you think. Love you all!
PS. for those who were interested in Peter’s contact info….