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How To Plan A Trip To Guilin

Guilin is an incredibly beautiful city in the northeast of China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in South China. With “the finest scenery under heaven”, Guilin is one of the best-known tourist destinations in China, ranked as top four destinations to go after Beijing, Xian and Shanghai.

When people speak of Guilin, it really means Guilin - Yangshuo / Guilin - Yangshuo - Longsheng as a whole. Whether it’s your first time or your next time in Guilin, there’s so much to see and do that you might want to stay here for 3~5 days! From unbelievable Karst landscape to amazing rice terraces, relaxing Li River cruising to enjoyable walking/cycling and more, you’ve got a lot of inspiration here!

But, how to plan your Guilin tour? We’ve listed some essential travel information, like best to go, how to get to and travel within Guilin, top places to visit, inspiring activities to experience, where to stay in different places...for your amazing Guilin trip. Hope this may help you make a more reasonable, useful and smooth trip plan.

Best Time to Go / When to Go

The latitude longitude coordinates for Guilin are 25°16'54.98"N, 110°17'11"E, thus Guilin belongs to subtropical monsoon climate with four distinctive seasons and comfortable climate conditions. The annual temperature is around 17.8℃ (64℉). Generally speaking, the best time to visit Guilin is from April to October. Try to avoid Chinese holidays such as the Chinese National Day (the beginning of October) and the Labor’s Day (the beginning of May). Meanwhile, avoid traveling during December - February if you can for the weather tends to be depressingly cold and rainy almost every day with fog that obscures most views.

To have a perfect exploration in Guilin, you should make clear the best time in different places with different sceneries - Guilin downtown area, Yangshuo County as well as Longsheng County. Check specific weather information about each hot destination and you may have a clear idea about when to go in and around Guilin.

Guilin is full of things to do

Guilin downtown area (altitude: 155 meters): It can be visited all year round.

Yangshuo (altitude: 136 meters): The best time to travel is from April to October.

Longsheng (altitude: 300-1100 meters): The best time to travel is April ~ October.

- For mirror-like irrigated terrace and rice transplanting scene: go mid-April to late June.
- For golden terraces and harvest scene: go late September to early-November (National Holiday in October will be the harvest time for Jinkeng Rice Terrace).

Top Destinations to Visit in Guilin

There is a saying “East or West, Guilin Landscape is the Best”. Besides the picturesque Karst landscape and idyllic painting-like countryside scenery, there are more to see and explore - brilliant ethnic minority folk customs and culture hidden among the gorgeous rice paddy fields.

Guilin administers seventeen county-level divisions, including 6 districts, 8 counties, 2 autonomous counties and 1 county-level city. Among them, three parts including Guilin Downtown Area, Yangshuo Town and Longsheng Various Nationalities Autonomous County are worth your time and effort to visit.

Elephant Trunk Hill in Guilin

Guilin Downtown Area - Transfer Center & Symbol of Guilin - No matter where you come, you should arrive in Guilin downtown area first. This is the transfer center and from here you can head north to Longsheng and transfer south to Yangshuo.

Short on time? Spending about half day exploring this beautiful city center is enough. Visit the hot spots of Guilin and its magical surroundings that include Elephant Trunk Hill (symbol of Guilin and its shape resembles an elephant drinking water through its trunk) and Reed Flute Cave (impressive natural beauty of its stalactite and stalagmite formations), and if you like, enjoy the sparking night view by taking the Two Rivers and Four Lakes cruise.

Yangshuo Town - Heaven for Natural Lovers

Moon Hill in Yangshuo

Yangshuo is as popular as Guilin, well-known for its karst peaks, rivers, caves and villages, as well as its laid back cafes and bars. Cruising leisurely along Li River from Guilin to Yangshuo is the best way to appreciate karst mountains, winding river and beautiful rural scenery. Slow down your pace and mind to indulge in the visiting no matter which style you choose - walking, hiking, cycling, bamboo rafting or kayaking, you will enjoy yourselves to the fullest.

Longsheng County - Capture the Finest Rice Terrace Scenery

Longsheng County

The reason to come to Longsheng is mainly for Longji Rice Terraces. (In English it’s called Dragon’s Back Rice Terraces. They’re also known as Longsheng Rice Terraces.)

The 600+ year-old terraces are still very much in use and feed the local Yao and Zhuang communities. This large area is divided three scenic spots - Ping’an Rice Terrace, Jinkeng Rice Terrace and Longji Ancient Zhuang Rice Terrace. The terraced fields are built along the slope winding from the riverside up to the mountain top, with an altitude rising from 300 meters to 1100 meters. The rice terrace is layer upon layer, like the changing ladder created by nature leading to the blue sky, forming a majestic painting between Heaven and Earth.

Inspiring Activities to Do in Guilin

No matter what kind of travelers you are - seeking for leisure pace visiting or adventurous exploration, Guilin will never let you down. There are much to do to meet all your interests and demands. Not all the inspiring activities can be done in one trip. Just feel free to select your likes. Try??!

Activity 1: Cruising along Li River from Guilin to Yangshuo

Reputed as “Hundreds miles of Li River, hundreds miles of art gallery”, Li River flows 83 kilometers from Guilin to Yangshuo. It was selected as one of the world’s top 10 watery wonders by America’s National Geographic magazine. Almost every traveler who come to Guilin will take the 4-hour Li River cruise. These boats departs in the morning from Guilin Mopanshan Pier and arrives at Yangshuo Longtoushan Dock. You won’t miss the marvelous scene of the Nine-Horse Fresco, image on back of the 20 RMB note at the Yellow Cloth Shoal.

Activity 2: Biking/Cycling in the Idyllic Yangshuo Countryside

Hop on a bicycle and head towards to the Yangshuo countryside with breathtaking karst landscape passing by! The biking distance ranges from 15 kilometers to 30 kilometers, taking around 2~6 hours in total. There are four biking routes to suit different travelers no matter you want classic route or in-depth discovery.

Activity 3: Bamboo Rafting on Yulong River & Li River

Taking a bamboo raft is truly a highly recommended way to have a real close-up to the hills and waterscape. Usually, travelers choose to float along Yulong River and Li River. You can enjoy 50-90 minutes’ bamboo rafting on Yulong River and appreciate the comparatively more serene countryside view and authentic lifestyle of local residents. Bamboo rafting brings more fun, joy and excitement on Li River and slow your pace on viewing the well-known Xingping Town, Nine Horses Fresco Hill, Yangdi and other karst mountains. Time ranges from 50 minutes to 2 hours in total.

Activity 4: Hiking along Yulong River & Longji Rice Terraces

Hiking is regarded as the best way to link yourselves with the local land. Hiking chances are a lot when traveling in Guilin. In Yangshuo countryside, enjoy hiking time along Yulong River. It is a good opportunity to see some old and peaceful villages along the river. The hike usually starts from Yulong Bridge or Jinlong Bridge, following the downstream of the river and ends at Gongnong Bridge. In Longji Rice Terraces, seize the moments to do some light hiking in Ping’an Rice Terrace to “Seven Star around the Moon” and “Nine Dragons and Five Tigers” and do some in-depth hiking to Jinkeng Rice Terrace which is less commercial at present.

Activity 5: Doing Meaningful Cooking Class

Engage in an authentic cooking class in Yangshuo cooking school and you’ll learn how to make traditional Chinese cuisine on your own hands. The morning class is available from 9:30 to 12:30 and the afternoon class starts from 15:30 to 18:30. The whole class lasts for 3 hours including visiting local market to learn about ingredients and local life, preparing, cooking under the guidance of professional chef. Of course, enjoy your dishes with your family and friends.

Activity 6: Watching Amazing Shows at Night

To enrich your nightlife in Guilin, you can kill your time in bar and cafe’, and how about watching a large-scale open-air show on the shores of the Li River with stunning backdrop of mountains and rivers? This enchanting performance is called “Impression Liu Sanjie”, directed by famous Chinese director - Zhang Yimou. It lasts about 1 hour usually performed at 20:00 every night. Just about 1.9 kilometers away from West Street.

Activity 7: Encountering Yao & Zhuang Ethnic Groups

Guangxi and Guilin are home to 12 different ethnic minorities besides the Han Chinese. To deeply encounter with Yao and Zhuang ethnic groups, the first choice is Longji Rice Terraces. Reach Huangluo Yao Village see the Guinness long hair women, with the longest of about 1.7 meters. When hiking among rice paddies, you have the chance to meet Yao and Zhuang local people and they would like to share stories with you. If you like, come to one local resident’s house to learn how to make traditional bamboo rice. Interesting, isn’t it???

Activity 8: Photography

Guilin is the darling paradise for photographers. The subjects are a lot, and you can shoot Karst landscape, Nine Horses Fresco Hill, Yellow Cloth Shoal, buffalos, old villages, old bridges, countryside view, farmland, sea of clouds, mist Li River, sunrise and sunset, ethnic minorities and their villages, rice terraces paddies in four seasons...Don’t worry about the best locations and best time to shoot, just check our Guilin Photography Guide and you can get professional ideas.

Decide your Travel Length & Suggested Route

For most first-time travelers, they put Guilin into their long China tour (such as Beijing Xian Guilin Shanghai tour) and usually arrange 3 days & 2 nights in Guilin to cover all the highlighted attractions. To visit Guilin and Yangshuo, it costs three days and to cover Guilin, Yangshuo and Longji altogether, it takes about four days. Or, you can contact our professional travel consultant to customize your trip based on your time, date and likes.
The 4-day sample itinerary is regarded as the classic route covering Guilin Longji Yangshuo.

Day 1: Guilin Arrival - Longji Rice Terrace, transfer 2.5 hours to Longji Rice Terrace and accommodate in Ping’an Village;

Day 2: Longsheng to Guilin, shoot sunrise and enjoy breathtaking view at the best locations;

Day 3: Guilin - Li River Cruise - Yangshuo, pay visit to Yulong River and West Street after 4-hour Li River cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo;

Day 4: Yangshuo - Guilin Departure, transfer back to Guilin for a sightseeing tour to Elephant Trunk Hill and Reed Flute Cave.

How to Get to & around Guilin? – Flights, Trains and Highways

Known as one of the top scenic cities in China, Guilin serves millions of tourists every year. Owning 3 major high speed bullet train stations, one internationalized airport, and the expecting city metro to be bulit by 2022, Guilin is easily accessible from many other cities in China. The followings are the top recommended transferring routes from some popular gateway cities to Guilin for your reference.

Guilin Liangjiang Airport

The Guilin Liangjiang International Airport is the only airport serving passengers in Guilin. It is located in the southwest suburb of Guilin, Liangjiang, about 28km/17mi to the city center (1hour, by car). There is no subway running from Guilin Liangjiang Airport to the city center until 2022, but you don't need to worry about getting a vehicle to your hotel, since the buses to downtown Guilin are arranged by the flight schedules. Arriving either early in the morning or late till the midnight, there are always buses waiting for you.

Flights to Guilin - Guilin is one of the top tourist cities in China, and the airport here serves over 100 flights departing from and 76 cities, including the cities from China mainland such as Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Chengdu, Chongqing, Xiamen, Fuzhou, Kunming, Nanning, Nanjing, Qingdao, Tianjin, Hangzhou, Haikou, Yantai, Jinan, Harbin, Shenyang, Yinchuan, Lijiang, Zhengzhou, Hohhot, Lanzhou, Zhenzhou, Xuzhou, etc, with a few international /regional flights from Hong Kong, Taipei, Seoul, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur. The regular flights are operated all year from Guilin to the major tourist cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Xian, Chengdu,Chongqing, Nanning, Xiamen, Kunming, Fuzhou.

72-Hour Visa-Free Transit at Guilin Liangjiang Airport Passengers can be exempted from visa if they transit from Guilin Liangjiang International Airport to a third country (region) within 72 hours on the basis of their valid international travel documents, the online tickets or related certificates to a third country/region with confirmed flight dates and seats for departure within 72 hours.

By Train - Trains to Guilin

Guilin High Speed Train

Guilin is regarded as a famous scenic city where not only multiple airlines are able to reach but also the railway network is busy working. Besides normal trains, the main serving power is high speed bullet trains (G Trains & D Trains), and they carry the passengers departing from different regions, such as Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, Kuming, Changsha, and Nanning. There are about 140 trains stopping over at different train stations in Guilin, more than 40 trains arriving / departing there every day.

Guilin High Speed Bullet Train

Aside from the most popular cities like Beijing and Shanghai, High Speed Trains have well connected Guilin and other tourist cities. Altogether, Guilin possesses over 260 daily high speed trains (G, D trains) traveling from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Dali, Kunming, Hangzhou, Xian, Changsha, Wuhan, Chongqing, Beihai, Nanning, etc.

Transportation at Guilin City

Guilin Bus Tour

By City Bus: In Guilin City, public bus is the most economical transportation to travel. You can also get an opportunity to get close the local people and learn about the local life. There are available public buses to Guilin Seven Star Park, Elephant Trunk Hill, Reed Flute Cave and more scenic spots.

By Coach: Take a non-stop Guilin – Yangshuo coach, you can reach Yangshuo West Street. The whole journey takes about 1.5 hours. If you want to travel to Longji Terraced Fields, you need to take Guilin-Longsheng bus and transfer in Longsheng County. It costs about 3.5 hours in total. As you entered the scenic spot, change eco-friendly car to see what rice terraces are.

By Taxi: Taking a taxi is always the most convenient way to get around Guilin. In Guilin, 9 RMB (11 RMB during 23:00 ~ 06:00) is charged for the first 2 kilometers and 1.6 RMB for each subsequent kilometer.

By Metro: The first Metro line is scheduled to be accomplished by 2022. The conceiving Metro Line 1 will connect Guilin Liangjiang Airport to Guilin City, which will greatly facilitate passengers visiting here.


How to Plan Your Guilin Tour

A combined tour of idyllic Guilin with the picturesque Yangshuo county and Longsheng county nearby is the most popular choice for tourists. You can either visit the attractions such as Elephant Trunk Hill, Reed Flute Cave in Guilin City, and try the Li River Cruise there to Yangshuo where you can get to experience the bamboo rafting and biking tour, enjoying the stunning karst landscape such as the Moon Hill and taking pictures at Xianggong Mountains/Ten-Mile Gallery. If you are excited to explore more, Longji Rice Terraces is an amazing trekking spot. You will get to experience the tranquility of the heavenly fairyland in Guilin. Since Guilin has become the 72-hour visa-free city in China, it's even more convenient to get there. Based on your itinerary, budget and schedule, you could plan a Guilin & Yangshuo tour for about 2 days and a trekking tour at Longsheng about 1 day or longer to get a brief or full exploration in Guilin. To connect all the scenic spots you are interested in, please don't hesitate to contact us for professional advice.

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