Guangxi province -> Guilin city
Famous for its wonderful scenery, rivers and karst peaks covered in lush greenery, Guilin has a long history as the most beautiful place in China. Established in the Qin Dynasty as a regional power base for the first emperor of China, Guilin's population exploded to around a million during the 1930s when the city was a Communist stronghold against the Japanese. In recent decades, although development and exploding tourism are changing the face of this beautiful city, Guilin has remained one of China's greenest and scenic cities.
Guilin is situated along the Lijiang River, which is a favorite travel attraction in itself. The beauty of the water and the karst peaks towering into the sky have attracted travelers to this area for centuries.
| Elephant Trunk Hill|
|Elephant Trunk Hill (Xiangbishan) is one of the Lijiang River's most famous sights. The hill is situated on the western bank of the Lijiang River, to the southeast of Guilin. It looks like an elephant, dipping its snout into the Lijiang River, hence the name "Elephant Trunk Hill". This sight is very representative of the landscape around Guilin and is a symbol of Guilin itself. A park and a Ming Dynasty pagoda are found on and around the Elephant Trunk Hill.|
| Seven Star Park|
|Seven Star Park is one of the best urban parks in China and has something for just about everyone. |
The park is named after the seven peaks located throughout here that are shaped like the Big Dipper constellation. Amongst the peaks are several explorable caves, including "Seven Star Cave", which are quite famous for having stalagmites, stalactites and other natural formations that resemble animals and landscapes. The rest of this fantastic park is filled with trees and gardens. With its beautiful peaks, caves and gardens, this park has enough to keep any visitor entertained for hours.
You may wish to avoid the park zoo however, as conditions in Chinese zoos can be upsetting for animal lovers.
| Reed Flute Cave|
|Reed Flute Cave (Ludi Yan) contains some of the most extraordinary underground scenery in all of China. |
The natural rock formations in the cave make up several scenes including "Primitive Forest", "Crystal Palace", and "Flower and Fruit Mountain". While the multi-colored lighting may be annoying, the caves are really quite impressive. You can either follow one of the tours that go through the cave every 20 minutes, or take your time rejoining a tour later on.
Reed Flute Cave is located on the northwest outskirts of Guilin, 5 kilometers away from the downtown area. Tickets into the cave cost RMB45 and it is well worth it.
Open: 8:30am to 11am and 12:30 to 3:
| Folded Brocade Hill|
|Folded Brocade Hill (Diecai Shan) is one of Guilin's most climbable peaks situated very close to the city center in the northeast of Guilin, near the Lijiang River. The thin shape of the hill and lush greenery around make it resemble brocaded fabric. |
Countless Chinese character inscriptions decorate the stone sides of the hill and the area around the path leading to the top. Some other sights here include Wind Cave, with its Buddhist carvings and inscriptions, and "Cloud-catching Pavilion" on Moon Peak, where you can get a clear view of the city.
Solitary Beauty Peak and Wave-subduing Hill can be seen from Folded Brocade Hill.
The Hill is not very high and can be climbed in a half an hour to an hour.
| Lijiang River|
|River tours between Guilin and Yangshuo are an extremely popular way to see the natural scenery along the river, which is some of the best in China. However, the tours can be on the expensive side with a one way ride to Yangshuo costing about RMB360 and some trips costing as much as RMB500 (but including a bus ride back to Guilin). These prices also include lunch on the boat. |
As the best sections of natural scenery are near Yangshuo, if you plan to spend a lot of time in Yangshuo, then you may wish to skip the Guilin Lijiang River tour and take one of the minibuses that leave Guilin South Railway station, where trains from Beijing and Shanghai (and all destinations north) arrive. The bus should cost you RMB5 and this is the most convenient way to reach Yangshuo.
| Moon Hill (Yangshuo)|
|About an hour bicycle ride southeast of Yangshuo, is Moon Hill (Yueliang Shan). The fantastic views from the top have made this hill one of Yangshuo's best attractions! Moon Hill has a natural round cave at the peak and from a distance, the cave (a hole in the peak) resembles the moon, hence the name. |
Moon Hill Village can also be seen from Moon Hill's peak. Local villagers will offer guided tours of Moon Hill and the surrounding peaks, caves (see below) and villages for relatively reasonable prices (RMB50-100 for one day). They are quite friendly and may even offer you lunch at their home as part of the tour.
Between the village and Moon Hill, stands a Banyan tree that according to legend, was planted in the Jin Dynasty, about 1,500 years ago. While impressive and very old, up close you will find it is just an old tree and not particularly inspiring!
On the way to or back from Moon Hill, it is great fun to explore the nearby caves. The Black Buddha New Water Caves and the Black Dragon Caves are lots of fun for those who love a little adventure. The Black Dragon Caves tour is partly by boat and requires some wading. This expedition takes you through some great underground swimming holes so go prepared to get wet and dirty! The caves are only open in the summer and tours cost as much as RMB100, but you can bargain (especially when part of a larger group) and it is very much worth it.