The Karst Hills of Yangshuo and Guilin

The Karst hills around Yangshuo in the Guangxi Province of China are some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever seen. Tom and I love it so much there we’ve been twice already! This is what I mean:

Li River Karst hills

(Unfortunately both times we’ve been have been early spring so the photos are a bit cloudy and gloomy!)

This area is so easy to get to from Hong Kong – the flight to Guilin is only 1h05min! Both times we stayed at the Li River Retreat, just outside Yangshuo. The hotel organised a taxi to pick us up from the airport (upon request) and the drive takes over an hour. But the last half of the drive goes through the Karst hills and local towns so there is lots to see!

I cannot recommend the Li River Retreat enough. The staff are extremely friendly and helpful, the rooms are large, clean and beautifully decorated and the setting is amazing. It’s also really good value for money at 300 RMB (approx. £30) per night for a Standard room (which actually has 2 large beds in!). We found it through recommendations on TripAdvisor but it also has its own website. This is the view from the main terrace (which all the rooms look out onto):

Li River Retreat Yangshuo view

A must-do activity when you come here is a trip down the river. The Chinese prefer to get on large boats at Guilin and go down the river that way, but the best parts of the river are closer to Yangshuo and a fun way to see them is to hire a raft for an hour or two. Again, the hotel organised this for us and arranged for a taxi to take us to Yangdi where a local took our receipt and arranged the raft for us. It was a bit bewildering but we ended up on a raft in the end! The raft tour takes 1-1.5 hours and finishes in Xingping where you can either have arranged for a taxi to take you back to the hotel, or catch a local bus back to Yangshuo (they seem to be fairly frequent, but you first have to catch a tiny bus into Xingping village, which is free for people with raft receipts). The rafting is fairly expensive, I think it was about 200 RMB (£20) each, plus 300 RMB (£30) for a taxi one-way, but it was totally worth it! This is what I mean:

Li River rafting

Li River mountains

Li River hills

Xingping Li River view

On the raft

Another activity I’d recommend is to hire bikes and go cycling around the hills. The land is really flat between the hills so it’s very easy to cycle around and you can be out of Yangshuo and into very peaceful, quiet countryside in no time. You see paddy fields, small villages and local people going about their lives in amongst these amazing hills. I guess they just take them for granted.

Karst hills and villages, Yangshuo

Fields and hills of Yangshuo

Countryside around Yangshuo

We found it a little hard to navigate based on the map the hotel had (which is definitely not to scale!) but every now and again there is a signpost to tell you where you are. We planned to cycle to Moon Hill (which has a crescent-shaped hole in) but it took a lot longer than expected and the saddle soreness got quite bad so we gave up and stopped for lunch in a small village by the river! Unfortunately I can’t remember the name of the village, but there was a great little restaurant right on the waterfront and the owner spoke very good English and was very friendly. And the food was lovely too! The restaurant also organised a raft back up to Yangshuo with our bikes on too, for 200 RMB altogether, so we got to see even more of the river :)

[Edit: I have since been reminded that the village is called LiuGong (see comments). It was signposted from the ‘main’ road we were cycling along.]

Yangshuo itself is pretty touristy, but in a way that’s quite fun when you’re a tourist. There’s a great market where you can pick up all kinds of Chinese tourist tat (and some nice things too!) and have some fun bartering the stallholders down. We found the restaurants to be a bit of a mixed bag – one restaurant that we ate in was terrible! Possibly the worst food I’ve ever had in China. But the next day we went to Cloud 9 Restaurant, which was recommended on TripAdvisor, and it was fantastic.

If you’ve never been to this area and would like a weekend away, or if you’re planning a trip around China, I’d thoroughly recommend that you visit Yangshuo. It’s so beautiful, and very peaceful and relaxing too!

Thanks for reading!