How to Plan a 3-Day Trip in Guilin and Yangshuo

Day-1 Arrive in Guilin and transfer to Yangshuo

As I finally land in Guilin Liangjiang International Airport, the clear sky outside shows a delightful welcome. Shuttle bus to downtown Guilin has two stops, one is at Xiangjiang Hotel (香江饭店) and the other is at Aviation Hotel (民航大厦). I stop at the former one and take a city bus to the train station, where I catch a coach to Yangshuo.

The 2-hour drive to Yangshuo is just perfect for me to nap. My hotel, Aiyuan Hotel (瑷源宾馆), is located on the West Street. It is weekend so the street is jammed up with shoppers, eaters, travelers and self-claimed tour guides. Back in the 80’s – 90’s, when Yangshuo was not as popular as it is today, western travelers found themself a little paradise here.

They would stay for a couple of days, even months doing nothing but cycling and lounging. The street was shortly taken over by those blue-eye-blond-hair westerners, aka Laowai (老外). Thus the name.

yangshuo west street

I have no interest in shopping or people-watching, just want to find a late lunch before bamboo rafting. As it is widely seen on restaurant ad boards, it seems like I wouldn’t miss Li-River Beer Fish. Fish tanks outside the restaurants give the customers a choice of which fish to eat.

Charged by the weight, the fish will be weighed before it hits the chopping board. Hot, great-smelling and eye-appealing, the fish will make its way to your table after 20 minutes.

Bamboo rafting route goes from Xingping (兴坪) to Yangdi (杨堤). There is a bus station at the entrance of West Street. I take a 40-minute bus to Xingping pier, where numbers of bamboo boats are waiting for customers. There are 5 people on the raft, 4 travelers and the boat owner, who is also the caption of this journey.

rafting from Xingping to Yangdi

Sites along this 1-hour bamboo rafting include some icons such as Carp on the Wall (鲤鱼挂壁), Magic Brush Peak (神笔峰), Sail Peak (风帆山), Thumb Peak (拇指峰), Kuan Yin Sitting on Lotus (观音坐莲台), Nine-Horse Fresco Hill (九马画山) and the site of 20CNY bill.

All the attractions are named because of their sizes. Imagination shall engage a great deal while soaking in the scenery.

The small village of Yangdi shows up from afar at the end of the journey. Buses back to Yangshuo are parking near the exit of the pier. I get back to Yangshuo at 5pm. Time for dinner, I grab a pizza at the famous Red Star Express, watching the world pass by.

Instead of wandering for nothing on the West Street, I keep myself entertained by a night show. Impression Sanjie Liu(印象刘三姐) is one of the shows that allows me to forget where I actually am for a moment. Staged between mountains, the whole show is presented on the water, featuring with minority people, villagers, fishermen and farmers singing and dancing.

I have read the legend of Sanjie Liu, a typical good against evil love story. The show is adapted from the story yet adds more of a musical touch, just a good way to let the spirit of Li River emerge.


Attraction Information

1. The West Street (西街)
Highlights: A street full of shops, restaurants, cafes, hostels and clubs. It got its
name due to the great number of westerners who used to stay in
Yangshuo for quiet a time back in the 90’s.
Address: West Street, Yangshuo County, Guilin
Opening Hours: All-day
Visiting Hours: 1 hour
Admission: Free
Getting There: Coach from Guilin to Yangshuo Bus Station (near Yangshuo Park)
and walk for 10 minutes to the entrance (near the gate of KFC).

2. Bamboo rafting from Xingping to Yangdi 
Highlights: The best part of Li River’s scenery, the 1-hour bamboo rafting allows you
to admire the views by being a part of it. Summertime is the best
chance to do the rafting. The rafts are owned by the local villagers, it is
a good way to help with local economics, too.
Address: Xingping Dock, Xingping Town, Yangshuo County, Guilin
Opening Hours: 8:00AM – 6:00PM
Visiting Hours: 1 hour
Admission: CNY 200 for a boat
Getting There: Take a bus at Yangshuo Bus Station to Xingping Town (40-minute
driving, CNY8/person)and walk 10 minutes to the dock.
Note: The fare is paid up front to the boat owner. Wear a light coat and a hat if go in autumn or cloudy day.

3. Impression Sanjie Liu (印象刘三姐)
Highlights: One product of director Zhang Yimou’s Impression series. The 2-hour
performance takes part on the water as the mountains and forest of its
background. Storyline is about the legend of Sanjie Liu and common
daily life in Yangshuo.
Address: No.1 Tianyuan Road, Yangshuo County, Guilin
Opening Hours: 8:00PM and 9:35PM daily from April to November, each show lasts for 2 hours.
Visiting Hours: 2 hours
Admission: CNY198/person for Normal Seats, CNY238-320 for VIP Seats, CNY480 for President Seats.
Getting There: Take a bus or taxi to Tianyuan Road, near Biyu Hotel.

Transportation between Sites

1. The West Street to Xingping: Take a bus at Yangshuo Bus Station to Xingping Town (40-minute driving, CNY8/person)and walk 10 minutes to the dock.

2. Yangdi to the West Street: Walk up the village from the disembarkation point and take a bus back to Yangshuo (40 minutes, CNY6/person).

3. The West Street to Impression Sanjie Liu: Take a bus by the street or at the bus station to Impression Sanjie Liu at Tianyuan Road (20 minutes, CNY5/person)

Recommended Dinning Places

1. Xiedajie Beer Fish (谢大姐啤酒鱼)

Notable Dishes: Li River Beer Fish (漓江啤酒鱼), Stuffed River Snails (酿田螺), Stir Fried Li River Shrimps(漓江虾), Steamed Pork Ribs with Taro(香芋扣肉)
Price: CNY40-80/person
Address: NO.18, Diecui Road, Yangshuo County, Guilin
Tel: +86 0773 8823098

2. Pure Lotus Vegetarian Restaurant (暗香疏影素食餐厅)

Notable Dishes: XO Vegetarian Steak (XO酱素扒), Fish-Flavor Eggplants(鱼香茄子), Buddha Jumping Wall/Fotiaoqiang (佛跳墙), Vegetarian Lion Heads (素狮子头)
Price: CNY50-100/person
Address: NO.7, Diecui Road, Yangshuo County, Guilin
Tel: +86 0773 8818995

Travel Tips

1. Right time and right clothes

The best time to pay Guilin a visit falls in late spring till early autumn. Weather is just lovely and you will find a great deals of activities to do, especially in Yangshuo.
Biggest rainfall comes in April and lasts to July, followed by a hot summer that can heat up the day to 38℃(100℉).

If you are traveling in that time, you need sunglasses, umbrella, raincoat, hat, light overcoat, some fast-dry T-shirts and good walking shoes for outdoor activities.

2. Guilin or Yangshuo?

As it troubles a lot of travelers to decide where to focus, you’d better balance your time and budget on the two destinations. This decision shall be made based on your travel style.

If you are a leisure traveler and in for outdoor activities, Yangshuo is your best go. However, Guilin might better be your base and stretch out to Yangshuo for a day, if you are on tight schedule. So is it if you are traveling with seniors and one Li River Cruise shall be sufficient for essence-tasting.

3. Hotel choice

It is always wise to find your hotel close to action. Stay in Guilin, there are plenty hotels and hostels in downtown, which is within 20km(12.4mil) radius from Guilin Train Station. Search along the Zhongshan Road and around Central Square, you will easily find your stay.

Focusing on Yangshuo, you may want to stay close to the West Street. The street supplies you with food, drinks, shopping, leisure and even travel information (at some travel agency offices).

Small villages and towns near Yangshuo make their newfound charm of some riverside resort. This will be good choice given you have private transfer since it will usually take 10-20minutes to drive from main town Yangshuo to these locations.

4. Local food and drinks

Neighboring Hunan Province, which is noted for spicy food, food in Guilin is often spicy and greasy. When ordering food, ask for none-spicy. And for the local cuisine, Li River Beer Fish, carps and grass carps are mostly used. It will be troublesome de-bone while eating. Order a spotted long-barbel catfish (Jianguyu, 剑骨鱼), which is less bone-y.

In summer, street vendors go around and selling freshly-squeezed iced juice. They are made of mango, water melon, papaya, coconuts and other seasonal fruits. It’s better to get one from a shop or bar.

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Day-2 Active day in Yangshuo

Thanks to the great show, I was sleeping like a log and got myself full power for today’s events. At exact 7am, I set off for my journey in Yangshuo’s rural life.

My route is quite simple: Gongnong Bridge (工农桥) – Big Banyan Tree (大榕树) – Longtan Village (龙潭村) – Zhutoushan Village (珠头山村) – Xinglong Bridge (兴隆桥) – West Street. GPS suggests it will be complete within 3 hours.

Not in a hurry, I take my time on the road and stop several times for photos. Villages around Yangshuo are quieter. Not so much shopper hustling, it is nice to watch the farmers work on fields with their royal friend, the water buffalo.

I reach Gongnong Bridge after 40 minutes on the wheel. Three tributaries, Yulong River, Jinbao River (金宝河) and Tianjia River (田家河) meet up here. So do those river rafts. Tourists busy getting off and raft owners busy turning about the rafts, yet farmers not far away are idling without a care.

Yulong river

Carrying on, I pass by Yangshuo’s icon, Big Banyan Tree. Later is the Moon Hill. The mountain takes its name due to the moon-shaped arch. Parents take their kids here for soft mountain trekking.

It takes me 1 hour to get to Longtan Village after a 20-minute break at Moon Hill. Jinbao River runs at the front gate of the village. Viewing from afar, it looks like there is no path into the village but the river. Bamboo grove sways softly around those old houses, some of them date back to the Ming Dynasty.

I hit a farmer’s house for lunch. Humble villagers earn some extra cash by running the Pleasure-in-Farmhouse (农家乐). It is a new industry that allows villagers to run guesthouse, restaurants and even travel info desk on their own farmhouse. It is 1pm when I return to my hotel for a quick nap.

Scenery at the mountain top is often overlooked as everybody is here for bamboo rafting or riverside cycling/hiking. This afternoon, I stretch my legs to Laozhai Mountain(老寨山) in Xingping Town.

After 40 minutes on the bus, I reach Xingping Town again. This time, I am not heading to the dock. Instead, I enjoy a short hour wandering in the old town of Xingping. Buildings in this town are much older than those in Longtan Village. Locals tell me it was already a trading hub back in the time of the Three Kingdoms.

Following a shady way back to Xingping Ancient Town, I join a group of travelers heading to Laozhai Mountain. The 300-meter-some mountain sits at the corner of Li River. Iron railings and steep stairs on the climbing trail make me feel lucky since I have no heavy luggage or lens camera.

40 minutes is spent climbing with my hands and feet. It is totally worthy when I take in the gorgeous views of the river and villages down my feet. As this mountain is noted for the most photographed parts of the Li River, I would like to get a taste of that. I stay at the top and wait till the sun starts to set.

Feeling rather fulfilled after perfect shooting moments, I make my way back to Yangshuo. Pack up before going to bed, I know I will cherish the memories of today.

Attraction Information

1. The Yulong River (遇龙河)
Highlights: The best part of the Li River. Sprawling through fertile rice fields and lively villages. Its downstream, where Gongnong Bridge is located, is the meeting point of other two rivers, Jinbao River and Tianjia River. Hiking and cycling trail along the river allows travelers to immerse in the landscape deeper and closer.
Address: Yulong River, Yangshuo County, Guilin
Opening Hours: All-day
Visiting Hours: 2-3 hours
Admission: Free
Getting There: Bike from the West Street to Pantao Road (蟠桃路) and turn right to the country road, ride for 20 minutes till reach Gongnong Bridge. Go eastwards to the Moon Hill and find a cycling trail by its west side.

2. Xingping Ancient Town (兴坪古镇)
Highlights: An old fishing town dating back to the Three Kingdoms. Today it is a transmit hub for boat trips and hiking. It is pleasant to walk between the old and new buildings and watch the local spend their day.
Address: Xingping Town, Yangshuo County, Guilin
Opening Hours: All-day
Visiting Hours: 1 hour
Admission: Free
Getting There: Take a bus at Yangshuo Bus Station to Xingping Town (40-minute driving, CNY8/person)

3. Laozhai Mountain (老寨山)
Highlights: Ever wonder where are those postcard pictures or even documentaries are taken? The peak of Laozhai Mountain located in Xingping Town is the very spot that you shall not miss.
Address: Xingping Town, Yangshuo County, Guilin
Opening Hours: All-day
Visiting Hours: 1 hour
Admission: Free
Getting There: Take a bus or taxi to Xingping Town (or Xingping Ancient Town) and the mountain is just located at the back of the town.

Transportation between Sites

1. The West Street to Gongnong Bridge: Take a taxi or bike along Pantao Road (蟠桃路) and get to the cross road and turn right, go towards the Big Banyan Tree (direction sign can be seen on the way).

2. The West Street to Xingping Ancient Town: Take a bus or taxi to Xingping Town (about 40 minutes) and walk to the entrance of the ancient town.

Recommended Dinning Places

Cafe China (原始人餐厅)
Notable Dishes: Cheese Cake (芝士蛋糕), Roast Chicken (烤鸡), Apple Chip Cookies (苹果碎饼干), Panlong Eggplant (盘龙茄子), Flaming Shrimps (火焰虾)
Price: CNY30-70/person
Address: NO.34, West Street, Yangshuo County, Guilin
Tel: +86 0773 8827744

Travel Tips

1. Route designing: local tour guide or GPS?

For solo travelers, the biggest problem is the direction of cycling or trekking. On the West Street, you might encounter with some locals who claim themselves as licensed tour guides. It is wise not to go along with them even though they seem like quite eager to help.

Planning your route on GPS is smartly easy given your cellphone has this feature or you have a professional device. If you get lost on the way, you can always ask a local people for redirection.

2. Power suppliers

Be prepared for a late lunch or none at all. Sneakers or some chocolates will be good for quick supplies. Your digital devices, e.g cellphone, Ipod and camera, also need instant recharging. Bring a portable power bank for them.

3. Photography on Laozhai Mountain

Featuring with most postcard-like (in fact, it is where the postcard photos are taken) scenery, Laozhai Mountain has been a new favorite for photographers and hikers.

As it requires all of your limbs to climb, it is wise to carry a backpack with all the photography equipments. For sunrise, a flashlight is necessary as it is dark without any street light before dawn.

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Day-3 Brief Guilin tour before departure

I check out hotel early in the morning and catch the first bus back to Guilin. After so much fun in Yangshuo, Guilin city tour seems somehow dispensable. Nevertheless, I decide to get around some icons before my departure flight at the evening. First thing first, my luggage is put on deposit at the train station before I get on a bus to the Elephant Trunk Hill (象鼻山).

elephant trunk hill

The Elephant Trunk Hill, as indicated by name, resembles a giant elephant drawing water from the Li River. It is the postcard icon of the city. By the water of the mountain, eye sight can reach out to the upper watercourse, where many locals are swimming and water-playing. That is Zizhou Park(訾洲公园) by the Jiefang Bridge(解放桥).

Walking along the river on Binjiang Road(滨江路) is quite pleasant as I get to watch local people strolling or doing Tai Chi. This scenic boulevard is noted for good cafes and restaurants around. I will give it more credit for such a delightful walk.

I get to Zhengyang Pedestrian Street (正阳步行街), where I have lunch before taking a bus at Shizijie Street (十字街). The bus (NO.3) goes to the Reed Flute Cave (芦笛岩).

Guilin’s blessed with unique karst landform. Caves, mountains, creeks and rivers are just some features to name. Reed Flute Cave, aka Ludi Cave, is known as the most interesting one and of course a must-do for Guilin tours.

The cave was firstly discovered by accident when some refugees fled to hide from the Japanese in the 1940s. However, the inscriptions inside the cave suggest that it has been an attraction ever since the Tang Dynasty. The total sightseeing route is 500m (0.31 mile). A great number of stalactites, stalagmites and limestone formations create a fascinating world with multicolored lights.

I fish the tour at 5pm and take a bus to the train station for my luggage. Depart the city just when the streets light up.

Attraction Information

1. Elephant Trunk Hill (象鼻山)

Highlights: Guilin’s landmark and a must-see attraction, just located in the city
center. By the waterside, eye sight can reach as far as to the Jiefang
Bridge and other landmark mountains around.
Address: NO.52, Minzhu Road, Xiangshan District, Guilin
Opening Hours: 7:00AM – 9:30PM
Visiting Hours: 1 hour
Admission: CNY75/person
Getting There: Bus NO.2, 23 and 16 to the entrance

2. Zhengyang Pedestrian Street (正阳步行街)

Highlights: Four pedestrian streets meeting at Zhengyang Clock (正阳大钟), offering chances to shop, dine, leisure and people-watching.
Address: Zhengyang Road, Xiufeng District, Guilin
Opening Hours: All-day
Visiting Hours: 1-2 hours
Admission: Free
Getting There: Bus NO.3, 10, 11, 16, 22, 99 and 100

3. Reed Flute Cave (芦笛岩)

Highlights: Deep cave by the mountain waist featuring with numerous stalactites,
stalagmites and rock formations. Together with neon lights and the
reflection over the water surface, it creates an underwater-like wonderful
Address: NO.1, Ludi Road, Xiufeng District, Guilin
Opening Hours: 7:30AM – 6:00PM
Visiting Hours: 1-2 hours
Admission: CNY90/person
Getting There: Bus NO.3 and 51

Transportation between Sites

  • The train station to Elephant Trunk Hill: take Bus NO.16 to the entrance of the park.
  • Elephant Trunk Hill to Zhengyang Pedestrian Street: Walk along Binjiang Road for 20 minutes and turn left to Yiren Road and walk 5 minutes.
  • Zhengyang Pedestrian Street to Reed Flute Cave: Walk along Zhengyang Road to the bus station and take Bus NO.3 to Reed Flute Cave.
  • Reed Flute Cave to the train station: Take Bus NO.3 to the train station

Recommended Dinning Places

Rosemary Cafe (迷迭香餐厅)
Notable Dishes: Rosemary Pizza, Chicken Taco, Beef with Cheese and Potatoes, Chocolate Ice Cream
Price: CNY50-70/person
Address: NO.1, Yiren Road, Xiufeng District, Guilin
Tel: +86 0773 2810063

Travel Tips

1. Luggage deposit

You sure don’t want to travel with all your bags. Put them at the deposit desk at the train station (CNY10 for one piece) and travel light in the city. Attractions in the city don’t usually have luggage deposit.

2. Guilin city tour for essence

Choose two to four highlights of Guilin if you put your focus on Yangshuo, which I did, yet don’t want to miss out what Guilin has to offer. Always put your timetable as the first factor in planning. Guilin is a small city and easy to get around by bus. Half day in the city should cover 2 attractions at an easy pace.

Essence of a Guilin city tour covers the Elephant Trunk Hill, Reed Flute Cave, Seven Star Park (skip the Seven Star Cave if you already have Reed Flute Cave) and Fubo Hill.

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