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Guilin

One of the picturesque regions in China, Guilin has long been famed as a sedate holiday destination filled with stunning landscapes. Over recent years though, the city has modernised, with a fantastic nightlife and plenty of local cuisine to sample.
For those wanting to see classic Chinese landscapes and picture postcard scenery, Guilin is a strategic base from which to plan some day trips. From here, you can enjoy the glorious rice terraces at Longsheng, the meandering Li River made famous by the ¥20 note, and the popular tourist town of Yangshuo.

Tours and activities in Guilin

With so much to see and do around Guilin, it’s a good idea to plan how you want to spend your time in advance. Navigating transportation, ticketing and other nuances of travel can cause delays, wasting your precious time here in this gorgeous city, so to really maximise your experience, book a local tour guide to help.

Local guides are extremely knowledgeable and can really bring to life the history and stories behind the attractions and buildings you’ll see. They can negotiate favourable rates on transport and accommodation, and can often secure tickets to shows, concerts and events more easily than if you tried to do it yourself. Check out our selection of great value tours below, or get in touch to find out more.

Best time to visit

Guilin has a fairly mild climate, with four distinct seasons. Springtime is vibrant and sunny with a foggy, wet summer and a cool, mild autumn. The best months to visit are between April and October, however it’s worth keeping in mind the Chinese National Day Holiday from October 1st to 7th, as during this time Chinese people will holiday all over the country, and Guilin can become very busy.

Top Attractions in Guilin

What to see and do
Elephant Trunk Hill
1. Elephant Trunk Hill
Landmarks and icons

Elephant Trunk Hill (Xiangbishan) is one of the foremost landmarks in Guilin and has been a site of tourism since the Tang Dynasty. Although slightly outside the city centre itself, the natural limestone arch has been adopted as a symbol of Guilin, and is therefore a very popular site with visitors. The arch is said to look like a giant elephant head drinking from the river, hence the name. Water Moon Cave is a cave running between the trunk and legs of the elephant and at night, when the water is still, the cave and its reflection form the shape of a glowing moon.

Central Square
2. Central Square
Landmarks and icons

In the city centre, Central Square is a good landmark to orientate yourself with on arrival. The evening light show and artificial waterfall is worth staying out for, which should take place at 8:30pm each evening.

3. Guilin Art Museum
Museums, galleries and exhibitions

For lovers of art and all things beautiful, Guilin Art Museum, is one of the largest in China. Housing many famous paintings from historical masters, the museum also sells work from contemporary artists and up-and-coming names.

Guilin Museum
4. Guilin Museum
Museums, galleries and exhibitions

Guilin Museum is a relatively compact attraction, but worth spending half a day exploring if you’re keen on local history. Just 23km from the city, Daxu Old Town is a living museum, founded over 1000 years ago and which has barely changed in that time. Take a walk through the past and see ancient workshops with bamboo waving and shoe-making.

 

Jingjiang Prince’s City
5. Jingjiang Prince’s City
Museums, galleries and exhibitions

In the heart of the city lies a small forbidden city called Jingjiang Prince’s City. It was once the secret home of princes, but today is a grandly walled city housing museums, exhibitions and temples. At ¥130 it’s a pricey day out, but worth it for the panoramic views of the city available from Solitary Beauty Peak.

Yangshuo
6. Yangshuo
Nature, parks and outdoors

While there may not be many galleries or exhibitions, you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to natural attractions in beautiful Guilin. In Yangshuo you can take a leisurely ride on a bamboo raft along the Li River. Reed Flute Cave is a breath-taking sight, full of stalactites that are cleverly lit lending the appearance of a crystal castle.

The Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces in Longshen
7. The Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces in Longshen
Nature, parks and outdoors

The Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces in Longshen, 90km from the city, is a working crop plantation where you can see traditional Chinese agriculture and experience the genuine folk culture of the minority ethnic groups of Zhuang and Yao.

 

Seven Star Park
8. Seven Star Park
Things to do with kids

Kids will love letting off some steam at Seven Star Park. At just 20 minutes’ walk from the city centre, a good half day can be spent here enjoying the wide-open spaces and small zoo area. The zoo houses over 100 species of animals, including the famous giant pandas, golden monkeys and red-crowned cranes. Admission fee is ¥99 per person (under 6 years or under 4 feet children go free).

 

The Merryland Resort
9. The Merryland Resort
Things to do with kids

The Merryland Resort is a theme park, resort and holiday village. With six sections including Happy China Town, Dream Global City and Pirate Village, there’s tonnes to do that will keep the kids entertained. Prices are ¥150 for adults and ¥75 for children between 3.9 and 4.9 feet tall.

Guilin International Tourism Commodity Wholesale City
10. Guilin International Tourism Commodity Wholesale City
Leisure and shopping

Shopping in Guilin has grown as tourism has increased and you can find local specialities, souvenirs, paintings and calligraphy aplenty. Guilin International Tourism Commodity Wholesale City is a massive wholesale market with traditional Chinese arts and crafts.

 

Zhengyang Buxing Street
11. Zhengyang Buxing Street
Leisure and shopping

Zhengyang Buxing Street is a pedestrianised precinct full of shopping, entertainment and restaurants. Sparkling with light and a busy atmosphere, this street is known as “the first street in Western China.”

Moon Hill
12. Moon Hill
Landmarks and icons

Moon Hill is a hill with a natural arch through it a few kilometers outside Yangshuo in southern China's Guangxi autonomous region. It is so named for a wide, semicircular hole through the hill, all that remains of what was once a limestone cave formed in the phreatic zone. Like most formations in the region, it is karst. It is also a popular tourist attraction.

It takes roughly 20 minutes to climb (about 800 steps) to the arch, or considerably longer for those who mean to reach the hill's summit. Access is not free and visitors must pay an entrance fee to be allowed to climb the hill. Souvenirs and refreshment vendors often follow climbers up and down the path.

Getting here and getting around

Guilin Liangjiang International Airport services flights from 12 airlines, with flights from domestic cities and foreign countries too. Frequent connections are available to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and Seoul amongst others. An airport shuttle bus provides a convenient service and costs just ¥20. However, the bus drops off to the south of the city at the Aviation Hotel, where a taxi will be needed to take you the rest of the way. With traffic, you should allow two hours for travel to and from the airport.

The city has two main passenger railway stations that let you travel across town as well as take the train to many major cities in China. If you’re looking for sleeper tickets, be aware that these are not usually available on the day of departure because Guilin is often a mid-route stop. Book in advance to be sure.

City buses are plentiful and probably your best bet when travelling across the city. They usually cost ¥1.2 without air conditioning, rising to ¥2 for buses that are air conditioned. You can also take one of almost 200 taxi cabs in the city, with flag-down rates starting at ¥9/¥11 depending on whether you’re travelling by day or night.

As Guilin is so compact, many locals opt to travel by bicycle and if you’d like to do the same, you can hire bikes from ¥15.

Eating and drinking

Guilin cuisine is diverse, with influences from Canton, Sichuan, Hunan, Zheijang, Jiangxi and Fujian. Popular dishes include stewed duck with gingko, thought to help problems with the lungs, Lipu taro pork, stewed clams and chicken and Lo Han boiled rice.

Local snacks include rice noodles and soup – made from pork, steak, Lo Han Kuo and a variety of seasonings. Horse meat noodles are famed in Guilin.

Popular restaurants include Tong Lai Guan in Zhongshan Middle Road which serves local snacks and Lao Xiang Qin Restaurant, serving Beijing and Tianjin cuisine. There are also plenty of western restaurants, including Sharon’s Coffee on Chaunshan South Road which offers German and Western dishes including burgers, schnitzel and pizza as well as, of course, coffee and espresso.

Nightlife in Guilin is truly buzzing, with the Li River Folk Customs Centre famous for singing, dancing and performances in traditional costume, as well as plenty to eat and drink. Ghuishan Zhi Xiu (the Beauty of Guishan) is a typical performance that explores traditional ethnic life including the Yao wedding dance and the harvest dance. There are also nightclubs across the city providing performances and Karaoke.

Getting a good night's sleep

For luxury, opt for a stay at the Guilin Golden Oriole Hotel, opposite the iconic Elephant Trunk Hill. This high-end hotel offers free pick up services for guests, exquisite rooms and a scintillating laser and lighting shows in the garden in the evenings.

A fantastic mid-priced hotel that receives excellent reviews from travellers is the Guilin Zhongshui International Hotel. Free pick-up service and a tour desk are provided, and the hotel serves a mix of local cuisine and Hunan dining. The location is ideal for those who’d like to enjoy some nature walks or riverside tours.

Despite its budget prices, Junshe Boutique Guest House is a bestseller in Guilin, and incredibly popular with shoestring travellers. You can choose from guestrooms or dormitory accommodation with air conditioning throughout. A restaurant, bar, reading area and games room means there’s plenty to do in the evenings, and plenty of opportunities to make new friends.

Top Tours & Activities in Guilin

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