Yangshuo Travel Guide, Guangxi
Located 70km away from Guilin in the northeast part of Guangxi Province, Yangshuo is featured with the typical karst terrain. The 60km long river section in the Yangshuo area is the essence of the famous Li River cruise. The Xingping and Yangdi landscapes and Yulonghe Scenic Area are known as the best of the Li River attractions. Set amid an awesome cluster of limestone pinnacles, some of the most impressive karst scenery in China can be found just a short bike ride outside town. The rural charms of peasant villages, fields and rivers aside the Guilin-Yangshuo Speedway have attracted many off-the-beaten-track travelers and cycling adventurers.
What make this place especially lovely are the people. Yangshuo is home to Zhuang, Yao, Miao and eight other minority groups. Each minority group bears their own customs and traditions. The common favorite amongst all of the groups is the Song Competition. Each year, the song competition activities are held at the foot of Moon Hill on a mid-autumn day (which falls on the August 15th depending on the Chinese lunar calendar). For the competition, young people from the minority groups climb up to the hilltop and sing a love song for their lovers.
With its inexpensive hostels and Western-style cafes, some foreigners have been known to stay in Yangshuo for months or even years. Once a sleepy little town, today's Yangshuo is being overtaken by upscale hotels, new shops, bazaars and hordes of eager tourists. Though touristy, crowded and commercialized, it remains a lovely and relaxing place to break a journey in the laid-back old town and to soak up some of China's most spectacular Karst scenery around.
Best times to go: April, May, October and November.
Highlights: Xijie(West Street) / Li River Cruise /Karst Peaks
Getting there & away
The nearest rail and air connections are in Guilin. Take a train or flight to Guilin first, then travel to Yangshuo by bus or taxi.
There is no shuttle bus between Guilin airport and Yangshuo. The only choice is to take a shuttle bus to Guilin, get off at Guilin railway station where you can find a minibus to Yangshuo. Minibus departs from the square in front of Guilin railway station every 15 minutes, which costs around Y13 for one hour to Yangshuo.
From Guilin's bus station, buses heading for various southern towns stop by in Yangshuo. It takes about 1.5hrs.
Taxis from Guilin airport to Yangshuo will cost around Y200~250, from Guilin City to Yangshuo is around Y150~200.
For moving on, from the bus station on Pantao Lu, buses depart for Guilin (70 min.; Y7.5) every 10 to 15 minutes from 7:30am to 8pm; for Xingping (1 hr.; Y3.5) every 15 minutes from 6am to 7:30pm; for Fuli (20 min.; Y5) every 15 minutes from 6am to 7:30pm; and for Gaotian (a half-hour; Y2) every 15 minutes from 6:30am to 7pm.
Direct buses also run to Guangzhou (8 hr.; Y150) at 10am, noon, 4pm, and 10pm; and to Shenzhen (10 hr.;Y180) at 5:30pm and 9pm.
Yangshuo's main thoroughfare is the cobblestone pedestrian street Xi Jie (West Street), also known as Yangren Jie (Foreigner's Street). It runs from Pantao Lu to the Li River boat docks and is where the bulk of travelers' cafes, shops, and basic guesthouses are clustered. The town itself is small enough to be traversed by foot in less than an hour. Bikes are the best means of getting to outlying sights, and are available for rent for Y10-15 at many Xi Jie cafes and hotels, as well as at the southern end of Xi Jie towards Pantao Lu. Motorcycle taxis, normally Y3 for 3km, will offer to take tourists out to Moon Mountain and nearby caves for Y30, but be sure to agree on all the desired destinations and cost beforehand.
Plenty of cheap accommodations for travelers along or nearby the Xijie(Western Street), hard to make any recommendation.
Check the room and bargain hard if it's not in peak season, Y30~40/dbl with bathroom for non-weekend, Y40~60 for weekend. During the high season or weekend, prices increase a bit.
The western street is full of bars, cafes and restaurants, from local cuisine, snacks to French and Italian restaurants. Reasonable price for Chinese meal, not more expensive than restaurants outside West street in the town.
Pick up the restaurant according to your mood, Western or Chinese dishes vary from Y10~15, pancakes are around Y5, big breakfast from Y10~15.
If you are fed up with the westernization of the place, head for the market area for cheap Chinese food.
There are also legions of restaurant outside the west street, most of Chinese tourists or local people eat there, the atmosphere is a little bit lousy.
Banks, Foreign Exchange & ATMs -- The Bank of China is located at Binjiang Lu 11. Forex hours are Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.
Internet Access -- Internet access is available at a number of cafes for Y6~10 per hour.
Post Office -- The post office (open 9am-9:30pm) is at Pantao Lu 28#.
Visa Extensions -- The Yangshuo PSB office at Chengbei Lu 39 now tells foreigners that they have to go to Guilin to renew their visas.
Things to do
- Wander in the western street to browse the colorful market. Whe getting tired, enjoy a laid-back moment by having a bottle of beer in a cafe, watch pedestrians passing in front, chat with a charming waitress...
- Shopping- Xijie disposes a lot of shops of local products, Chinese paintings, and antiques. However, after 3 o'clock in the afternoon, Xijie is packed with mass tourists who came on shore in Yangshuo after their famous notoriously expensive Li river cruise. They disappear around 5 o'clock.
- Hiking: The region offers great possibilities for hikers. Easy trails without demanding much physical effort.
- Bike the amazingly beautiful countryside. The classic route from Yangshuo is to ride for Moon Hill. The scenery on the way is spectacular.
At the entrance of Xijie, there are a lot of bicycles for rent. A good mountain bike is Y10 a day. Ask for a raincoat during the raining season, it's free of charge. Everybody speaks more or less English.
- Boat Excursions: The traditional route from Guilin to Yangshuo is too expensive and noisy. An alternative is to take a cruise from Yangshuo to Fuli, or catch a return cruise in Yangshuo to Xingping and Yangdi. If you visit the fishing village near Xingping by boat, you can enjoy the most beautiful part of Li river scenery.
- Rafting on Yulong river-From Yulong Bridge to Gongnong Bridge on Yangshuo-Wuzhuo highway: Y150-Y200 per bamboo raft accompanied by two locals who row you down the river and help to pass 28 rapids (dams). It offers a different view over the Yulong valley from walking and biking.
- Climbing: With over 70,000 natural peaks to choose from, this area truly is a sport climber's paradise.
Yangshuo Mountain Retreat has quality climbing equipment available, and is licensed by the China Climbing Association.
Some of the best spots include the following (Name / Location / Level of Difficulty):
Copper Door / Directly opposite Mountain Retreat and probably the most popular pitches in the area / 5.10
Moon Hill / Five Minutes from Gaotian Village / 5.12
Gold Cat Hill / Opposite Butterfly Park / 5.08
Thumb Peak / Next to Butterfly Cave / 5.10.
Buddha Cave: Y80, close to Moon Hill.
Water Cave: Y120, around 6km after Moon Hill.
Dragon Cave: Y35, close to Moon Hill.
Attractions around Yangshuo
Surrounded by a jungle of karst pinnacles, the charming, as yet unspoiled village of Xingping about 25km upstream of Yangshuo is being touted by some as the next Yangshuo, meaning the next backpackers' haven. The particular stretch of river between Yangdi and Xingping is known as the Golden Waterway and includes the most famous peak in the area, Nine Horse Mountain.
The most scenic area in Xingping is the riverfront; on market days you'll see villagers from the surrounding areas boarding boats laden with everything from live chickens to new aluminum woks. A few cafes and backpackers' hostels have sprung up here, but accommodations and dining are still fairly basic.
Getting here: There are regular buses to Xingping from the Yangshuo bus station(Y7, 45 minutes ), or you can ride your bike here in 3 to 4 hours. Taking a boat from Yangshuo to Xingping costs about Y60, 3hrs each way
An interesting side trip from Xingping is to Yucun (literally "Fishing Village"), a tiny, picturesque Ming dynasty village (1506-21) 20 minutes downstream along the Li River, whose more famous visitors have included Sun Yat-sen in 1921 and Bill Clinton in 1998. Full of traditional Ming and Qing dynasty houses with white walls and gray-tiled roofs with upturned eaves, as well as the occasional ancestral hall, the village requires a Y5 entrance fee which includes a tour by a Chinese-speaking local. Daily boats make the 20-minute trip to Yucun for Y25 round-trip. They depart Xingping's waterfront between 8am and 5:30pm (the ticket booth is to the right at the end of the main street), but boats only depart with a quorum of 10, which sometimes can mean a wait of hours in low season. The gorgeous boat ride between Xingping and Yucun, however, is generally worth the bit of hassle in getting there.
Located along the Li River downstream from Yangshuo, the village of Fuli, first established over 1,300 years ago during the Tang dynasty, is a popular excursion either by boat or bike. Most travelers seem to prefer the latter for the gorgeous scenery along the 6km ride, especially now that the Pavilion has opened at Liu Gong. Fuli holds a market every 3 days and while there's not much to buy for tourists (but potentially a lot to lose to pickpockets -- be careful!), there's enough local color here to take an hour or so of your time. Just before the market is a lane that winds past traditional stone houses down to the river. To cycle to Fuli, head east on Pantao Lu past the traffic circle and follow the road across the bridge. You can also take a bus from the station on Pantao Lu.
Yulong He (Yulong River / Jade Dragon River)
One of the loveliest trips outside Yangshuo, Yulong River, sometimes dubbed Xiao Li Jiang (Lesser Li River), is even more beautiful and certainly quieter than the Li River. The Yulong River's more famous landmarks may be its bridges, in particular the 59m-long Ming dynasty Yulong Qiao (Jade Dragon Bridge) found in the town of Baisha, but it's the scenery of small villages nestled at the foot of karst hills surrounded by rice paddies and a lazy winding river that most visitors remember long after they've left. Many of the travelers' cafes offer full-day tours of the river and surrounding sights, but it's entirely possible to visit on your own. Just pack a picnic, plenty of film, and rain gear, check your bike's tire pressure, and you're off.
There are several routes by which to explore the river. From Yangshuo, head out towards Moon Hill. Before the bridge crossing the Yulong He, head right on the dirt trail which can, with several deviations, take you all the way up to Baisha and the Jade Dragon Bridge. You can return along these back paths, or head back from Baisha on the main Guilin-Yangshuo highway. Or reverse the order and take the highway to Baisha (9km/6 miles from Yangshuo), then cycle back down through the villages. Chances are you'll get lost on some of these paths, that can narrow to the width of your bicycle (so get off and walk carefully or you may end up in the mud!), but that's half the fun. Not to worry, the villagers around here are more than happy to set you right, and there are enough paths between the river and the highway that you won't be lost for long.
Alternatively, some travelers have sailed back down the Yulong He on narrow bamboo rafts for Y100~200, though we don't recommend it. A couple of years ago, there was a boating fatality involving a foreigner in the lower reaches of the river. Because new rules requiring passengers to wear safety jackets seem to be honored more in the breach, this is a risky undertaking at best. Some travelers have settled for sailing down a very short, relatively smooth stretch of the river from Baisha, but even this involves having to get off the raft occasionally so it can be poled down the bigger bumps. The full journey to Yulong Qiao may be a bit much for some, especially in the summer when heat stroke and sun burn are serious threats on a journey as long as this.