Guilin has always been a popular tourist destination in China since it was developed for tourism after 1949. Most Chinese people know about Guilin from studying their textbooks during lessons. These books tend to proclaim that "Guilin's scenery is the most beautiful under heaven", and rightly so. Surrounded by rivers, lakes, and karst mountains, Guilin's breathtaking natural landscape is very charming and famous.
With a perfect blend of modern buildings and local culture, colorful Guilin is like a real-life traditional Chinese painting waiting for you to explore it.
Where Guilin Is Located
Located in the northeast of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in South China, it's about 500 kilometers northwest of Hong Kong, 1,234 kilometers southwest of Shanghai, and 1,585 kilometers southwest of Beijing. Special karst landscapes attract tourists from all over the world every year. It's always the last destination for foreign travelers — for example, a popular visiting route is Beijing–Xi'an–Shanghai–Chengdu–Guilin.
The Features of Guilin
- Picturesque karst landscape. One example proves just how beautiful it is: it is celebrated on the back of China's 20 yuan bill. Unique-shaped hills, the clear Li River, and mysterious caves with the pleasant aroma from osmanthus flowers have made Guilin into a paradise for tourists. Taking a bamboo raft trip on the Li River and seeing the scenery on both sides is a must-do activity in Guilin.
- Authentic rural lifestyle. Thanks to the imperfect city construction, you can still experience the most authentic countryside lifestyle in Guilin. If you have ever been to Beijing, Shanghai, or Hong Kong, Guilin’s slow rhythmic pace of life makes you enjoy the local landscapes even more. When you visit Yangshuo, pay more attention to both sides of the roads as you explore to witness the vivid, peaceful, and idyllic lifestyle of the locals.
- A paradise for photography lovers. Since a photograph taken in Guilin won a bronze prize in an international photography exhibition, Guilin has welcomed travelers and photography lovers from all corners of the world. Due to the wonderful scenery, you can take good photos no matter whether you are good at photography or not.
- Convenient for foreigners. As one of the most popular destinations in China, Guilin has a high percentage of English-speaking locals, especially in Yangshuo’s West Street. Moreover, tourists from 51 countries can benefit from the 72-hour visa-free transit policy. If you are a citizen of one of the 10 ASEAN countries, you can even take advantage of the 6-day visa-free entry policy.
Top Guilin Attractions You Can’t Miss
Guilin is a small, clean, and modern city. However, as the first city in China to develop tourism, Guilin offers abundant attractions for you from downtown Guilin to the famous Yangshuo County. Below, we have detailed some popular and famous attractions you mustn’t miss.
The Li River — One of the Top 10 Watery Wonders in the World
- Location: The Li River stretches for 83 kilometers from Guilin to Yangshuo and the Yangshuo section is the most popular part to travel across.
- Admission ticket: This depends how you want to visit the river. To hike alongside it is free, and cycling alongside it costs no more than 50 yuan. Taking a bamboo raft trip costs about 130 yuan per person and taking a cruise from Guilin costs 260 yuan per person.
- Opening times: for hiking and cycling: all day; a bamboo raft trip: from 7am to 11am and 12:30pm to 5pm; a cruise from Guilin: 8:40am, 9:30am, and 10:20am. Rivers and mountains are the key highlights of Guilin while the Li River is the most classic river in the city. Taking a cruise or bamboo raft trip on the river and enjoying the beautiful views that surround you is an essential experience when you’re in Guilin. From Guilin to Yangshuo, the 83-kilometer section collects most of the famous sights of Guilin, such as Xianggong Hill, Elephant Trunk Hill, Two Rivers and Four Lakes, and Daxu Ancient Town. It’s no wonder that CNN and National Geographic magazine gave it such high praise as being one of the “world’s 15 best rivers for travelers” and “top 10 watery wonders in the world”.
Xianggong Hill — Sweeping Panoramic Views of Yangshuo
- Location: Xingping Town, Yangshuo County, to the south of Guilin. It’s close to Yangshuo’s high-speed railway station.
- Admission ticket: 60 yuan
- Opening times: 8am to 6pm
Located at the one of the most beautiful sections of the Li River, Xianggong Hill’s scenery is perhaps the best in Yangshuo due to its sweeping panoramic view of karst peaks. It’s quite easy to hike up Xianggong Hill. After a 15-minute hike, you will reach the hilltop and enjoy the stunning landscape. The view is spectacular: clouds surround the tops of hills while the Li River runs alongside them silently.
The Longji Rice Terraces — the World’s Top Terraces
- Location: Longsheng County, northwest of Guilin; about 3 hours’ drive from downtown Guilin
- Admission ticket: 100 yuan
- Opening times: all day
The site of the Longji Rice Terraces has the laudatory name of being “the champion of the terrace world”. The best sections include the Ping’an Zhuang Terraces and the Jinkeng Red Yao Terraces. Initial construction of these terraces can be dated back to the Yuan Dynasty, so the site has a long history of over 650 years.
Who could have imagined that the ancient people’s fields would be listed as a World Heritage Site in the 21st century and attract tourists from around the world? The most important features that make the Longji Rice Terraces so popular are the magnificent atmosphere and strong visual impact. Spring and autumn (April, May, June, September, and October) are good times to see the water-filled terraces or golden fields. The fields look like a large mirror that reflects the trees, blue sky, the locals’ wooden houses, and flying birds.
Reed Flute Cave — the Representative View of a Karst Landscape
- Location:1 Ludi Road, Xiufeng District, Guilin; downtown Guilin
- Admission ticket: 110 yuan
- Opening times: 8:30am to 5:30pm
Unique karst landscapes are the most featured symbol of Guilin. As well as seeing various shapes of karst hills, you can also get close to the unique karst landscape by visiting Reed Flute Cave. Reed Flute Cave is a thousand-year-old colorful dream showing you the most splendid karst scenery by way of exquisite, magnificent, and surreal stalactites.
Guilin Travel Guide: Hotels, Food, Visa, Transportation, and Activities
Guilin is not as modern as Beijing or Shanghai. A useful travel guide will help you avoid some unnecessary issues. Here, we have listed the most important Guilin travel tips for you.
Best Seasons to Visit
Guilin is a subtropical monsoon zone with four distinct seasons and high humidity. The best season for traveling there is from April to October; however, June will be rainy while July and August will be very crowded.
Therefore, it’s best to go to Guilin from April to May and September to October.
Where to Stay in Guilin — Yangshuo or Guilin?
Where should you stay in Guilin? This question is decided by how many days you will stay there for.
- Two days: Downtown Guilin is the best choice as it’s convenient for you to take train journeys or flights.
- More than 2 days: Stay for 1 or 2 nights in Yangshuo and spend the other days in downtown Guilin.
Yangshuo is a quiet and beautiful place. It is worth you spending a whole day there to see the amazing sunset at dusk. Guilin and Yangshuo both offer 5-star hotels and cheap inns for all kinds of travelers. How much you spend on accommodation is up to you. The best area to stay in is always the downtown area:
- Guilin: within 3 kilometers of Jiefangqiao, near places such as Guilin South Railway Station, Zhongshan Road, Elephant Trunk Hill Scenic Area, and Anxin Xiaoqu
- Yangshuo: the urban Yangshuo area, such as West Street
What to Eat in Guilin
Guilin has various delicious and special local foods that you can't eat in other cities. Influenced by nearby provinces, such as Guangdong, Sichuan, and Zhejiang, Guilin cuisine is a little spicy. The most famous local foods include Guilin rice noodles, steamed Li River mandarin fish, Yangshuo beer fish, and Lipu braised pork.
You can see the Guilin rice noodles’ shops in every corner of Guilin. It’s a cheap and routine food for local people. However, many foreigners who have joined our tours have found Guilin’s dishes hard to enjoy because of the unusual and sour flavors.
To prevent this unfortunate situation, you can choose to dine in other restaurants in Guilin to enjoy alternative dishes, such as Sichuan cuisine, Hunan cuisine, and Western food, including fast-food chain restaurants (KFC or McDonald’s).
The 72-Hour and 144-Hour Visa-Free Policies
Travelers from 51 countries benefit from a visa-free policy when traveling to China. You can enjoy 3 days in Guilin without a visa and you can even stay in Guilin for 6 days if you are a citizen of one of the 10 ASEAN countries. Read more details about the 72-hour and 144-hour visa-free policies.
Guilin Transportation Details
Guilin Liangjiang International Airport
- Location: about 28 kilometers from Guilin’s city center
- Airlines: About 50 airlines operate at this airport, including those used for domestic flights as well as international airlines. Taking an airplane from Beijing and Shanghai are convenient while taking a high-speed train from Hong Kong is faster and more economical.
- Airport shuttle bus: The shuttle bus is located between the airport and the Civil Aviation Mansion. It costs 20 yuan and operates from 6:30am to 8pm. No matter whether you want to go to Yangshuo or downtown Guilin, you can take the airport shuttle bus direct from Guilin Liangjiang International Airport.
- 72-hour visa-free transit: Without getting a visa, citizens from 51 countries can visit Guilin for 3 days.
- Guilin train stations: Guilin Railway Station (Guilin South Railway Station) and Guilin North Railway Station
- Trains: You can travel to Guilin on a normal-speed train or a high-speed train from almost every city in China. This includes Beijing (8 hours), Shanghai (8 hours), Xi’an (about 11 hours), Chengdu (about 7 hours), and Hong Kong (3 hours).
- Note: Buy your ticket(s) in advance to ensure availability.
- Bus: This is the most convenient form of transport to travel anywhere within Guilin and Yangshuo. It costs 2 yuan for a single trip in Guilin.
- Yangshuo: Take a bus at Guilin Bus Station (near Guilin South Railway Station) at a cost of about 30 yuan.
- The Longji Rice Terraces: Take a bus at Qintan Bus Station.
- Taxi: It's convenient to take a taxi in the city of Guilin. During the daytime, it costs 9 yuan for the first 2 kilometers and then 1.9 yuan per extra kilometer. During the nighttime, it costs 11 yuan for the first 2 kilometers and then 2 yuan per extra kilometer.
Guilin Fun Activities
Guilin is a mature tourist city and offers rich activities during the night.
If you want to hang out at a local market during the nighttime, we recommend two places: Zhengyang Street in Guilin’s city center and West Street in Yangshuo. There are various local handicrafts, small shops, and souvenirs at these markets. Remember to bargain with the sellers.
- A Show
Don’t miss the opportunity to watch Impression Liu Sanjie in Yangshuo. It's a classic live performance that is not only an artistic show but is also a feast for the eyes due to the natural landscape that forms the show’s backdrop.
Go to Zhengyang Street, Binjiang Road, and West Street in Yangshuo.
- Nighttime View
Dotted by colorful lights, the Two Rivers and Four Lakes are more beautiful at night. Having a nighttime stroll or taking a cruise are popular with travelers.