Guilin is an amazing natural monument and one of the most picturesque places on the planet, the Chinese are very proud of this attraction. The layers of limestone that emerged from marine sediments rose above sea level about 360,000 years ago. This initiated erosion in karst areas of the tropics and subtropics, giving birth to the karst forms of towers, cones, sinkholes, and caves we see today.
In Chinese the name of the mountains means “forest of cassia trees” – a very symbolic name, because the limestone pillars in appearance are really very similar to stone trees. The city of the same name is located in these mountains, which is one of the largest airports in the country.
Today, the Guilin Mountains extend from southern central China to northern Vietnam, presenting a stunning picture of sheer cliffs, often a hundred meters high, nearly vertical, clinging to one another.
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Video: Guilin City and Mountains
In addition to Guilin in the region there is another tourist center – Yangsho. Local hotels and guest houses offer bicycle rides, rafting and canoeing, motorized rickshaw tours, Chinese and qigong courses, painting courses, rock climbing routes (in winter only), and much more. In both Guilin and Yangshuo you can also book fascinating evening tours by bus – for example, you can watch cormorants fishing.
Attractions in Guilin
Elephant’s Trunk Mountain (Xiangbishan)
A little south of the old city, on the west bank of the Li River stands an elephant. Although this huge animal has no ears, legs or tail, it looks like an elephant with its trunk in Lijiang. This impression is created by the hole in the mountain – at least when the water level is high enough. This curiosity can be seen from the square on the shore to the north of it.
Shanhu and Ronghu Lakes
The shady promenades of Kunmingamii Lake north of Elephant Mountain and Banyan Lake, which is adjacent to it on the west, are ideal for strolling. One block west of Guilin’s main street Zhongshan Zhonglu, on the north bank, stands the old city wall gate. In the area between the city gate and the main street, students from the nearby foreign language institute often talk to foreigners. The fact is that the so-called “English Corner” is located here, providing a good opportunity to ask young Chinese interested in communication about what is not written in books.
If you walk north along the river embankment all the way to the end, you can meet a typical karst cone. It is called: The Crushing Wave because it stands directly beside the water and appears to be floating on the river. It can be viewed equally from above and below. From above means to climb the three hundred and twenty-three steps and enjoy the magnificent panorama from a height of 62 meters. From below means that the foot of the cone is hollow and it is possible to descend into the natural catacombs inside the mountain to the hole and rocky terrace right by the river. As early as the Tang dynasty, Buddhist sculptures were carved into the rock here, about two hundred in all. You can also see the stone calligraphy of Mi Fu (1051-1107), one of the most famous calligraphers and painters of the Song dynasty. Working time: Every day. 8.30-16.30.
Seven Stars Park (Qixing Gongyuan)
From downtown Guilin, the Bridge of Liberation (Qixing Gongyuan) leads to the east bank; the continuation of the street takes you to the Seven Stars Park, so named after its seven peaks corresponding to the seven main stars of the Big Dipper. Here you can have a good and fun time. You can also visit the stalactite cave (Qixingyuai) and other walls, one of them (the extreme one on the west) are all covered with ancient inscriptions. You can often trace how stone sculptures arise here; they are sold in a store near the cave.
Further east, the ascent begins; however, it is possible to go around the karst hill on the south side. At the eastern end of the park is a small, very modest zoo where a large panda is sad. You can also see one of Guilin’s most famous karst cones here, on Camelback Mountain, which rightfully bears that name. Opening Hours: Daily. 8.00-17.00.
Reed Flute Cave (Luidian)
Stalactite caves are typical of karst areas and this is just the “model cave” for tourists coming to Guilin: it is quite large and close to the city. Be warned though: there are more beautiful stalactite caves, and full of fancy bright lights do not necessarily enhance the impression of this cave. It is better to take a Chinese guide, for what the Chinese eyes can discern in the bizarre stone formations is closely related to local cultural peculiarities. 6 km from the city. Opening hours: every day. 8.00-17.30.
Tomb of the Princes (Jingyangwanglin)
Six kilometers east of the city in the countryside at the western foot of Yaoshan Mountain lies the partially restored, but mostly still “wild” necropolis of the princes of the Ming dynasty who lived in the palace in Guilin. A total of eleven princes were buried here from 1370 to 1645 years. with their wives – in the imposing tomb complexes, though not imperial, but quite considerable size: the smallest covers an area of 0.5 hectares, the largest – 21 ha. Completely restored and therefore looks like a new tomb of the third prince (with a gate, landscaped with greenery, with a stone guard of honor and a hall for sacrifices) This is how all the tomb temples once looked, but it is the unrestored tombs with their witch-like atmosphere that speak much more to the Western visitor. On the way to the princes’ graves you can, by the way, pass the usual local style cemetery – with small grave mounds and circular fences. Opening hours: daily. 8.30-17.30. Route 24 bus from Jiefangqiao Bridge.
Yaoshan Mountain (909 m above sea level, 760 m above the plain) is the highest peak in the vicinity. A funicular takes visitors from the Tomb of the Princes to the summit in 20 minutes. Those who want a more thrilling experience can take the cable car from the intermediate station down a huge 1 km long chute and land at the Princes’ Graves.
A thing to take note of: Bus No. 58 takes you for free to the most important tourist attractions in Guilin, including the Reed Flute Cave, Fuboshan Hill and the Seven Stars Park.
River trip along the Li River (Lijiang)
Now comes the fun part: the 83 kilometers along the Lijiang River from Guilin to Yangshuo is what draws tourists to Guilin. Moving along the clear river, you will see quaint mountains, villages, colonies of bathers and fishermen with cormorants floating by – if you are lucky with the weather, it will be one of the most amazing trips of your life. On all the riverboats, you can stand on the upper deck and enjoy the panorama. Each boat has a galley that provides travelers with a multi-course hot lunch (included in the price of the trip); for an extra fee, you can even sample local delicacies, including shrimp from the Lijiang River, which, despite the cramped conditions, are prepared quite decently.
During most of the year you can take a bus 30 km downriver to Zhujiang Wharf, because the water level in Guilin itself is pretty low. From there the boats depart one after the other between 9:00 and 10:00 (which is often hectic, so be careful not to lose sight of your tour group!) and in about four hours you arrive in Yangshuo; from there you can get back by bus (boats return empty only). It’s best to book your hotel immediately; otherwise you’ll have a lot of unnecessary hassle and the trip will cost much more. Sailing on the Li River is not cheap as it is: you should expect at least 350 yuan; without much expense and in the winter season (December to March) 450-500 yuan looks more realistic, with better food and a better boat with fewer passengers. Beware. Cheap options can mean food in cartons, overcrowded decks, and sometimes no return transportation!
Of course, the trip can be spent in silence, immersed in your own thoughts, but it is much more interesting to learn what representations the Chinese associate with the many mountains the ship passes by. Illustrated pamphlets describing the trip along the river can be helpful, but much will escape the eyes of tourists if they do not turn in the right direction at the right moment. Therefore, services of a guide, who knows Russian or English will always be justified. Here are just some of the sights that open to the eye starting from Zhujiang Wharf: Dragons playing with water (right bank) – hanging on a rock wall, overgrown with green moss stalactites, from which water drips. Waiting for her husband (right bank) – the rock looks like a woman standing with a child behind her. Boy honoring Buddha (left bank) – a small rocky peak standing in front of a larger one. Snail Hill (right bank) – with a spirally twisted edge. Brush-holder’s hill (right bank) – a row of closely spaced peaks with rounded indentations between them – Chinese ink-painters and calligraphers put their brushes on a device of this shape when they interrupt their work for a while.
While Chinese tourist groups leave mainly from Guilin to see the scenery and return there after the river journey, foreign tourists and individuals often prefer to stay longer in Yangshuo after the river cruise. This town, once a small insignificant village, now lives mostly on tourism income, which entails a number of unpleasant side effects, especially in the surrounding villages. If you are used to people trying to impose on you things you don’t need, that you almost always have to haggle and constantly watch out not to be stolen, then you will find a lot of positive things in Jansho. First of all, life here is noticeably cheaper than in Guilin. There are plenty of pleasant private camping sites, many cafes and eateries tailored to the tastes of foreigners, and an array of other topical services, such as bike rentals, because Yangsho is the ideal place for large and small independent trips to other places along the Li River, as well as to idyllic countryside, where bazaars, villages, bizarre karst peaks, caves, and opportunities for swimming, boating and kayaking are plenty. This is one of not too many places in China where you can enjoy spending a whole month.
Every day in Yangshuo is divided into two unequal parts: about two hours between the arrival of the ships and the departure of the last buses taking tourists back to Guilin, when thousands of visitors fill the streets, and the remaining twenty-two hours when the city is cozy and quiet. In the markets, which stretch from the pier to the bus stops and from the river along the main street (Xi Jie, West Street), of course, deals are struck during those two hours. The assortment offered there makes Yangshuo just a paradise for souvenir hunters. In addition to all kinds of textiles (including cheap silk), there is an abundance of porcelain trinkets and jade and other stone carvings, fake antiques, children’s toys and sometimes very complex puzzles for adults, and of course also fruit, drinks, etc.
Another is the central market for locals (on Diecui Lu Street north of Xi Jie), which sells mostly agricultural products and offers a rich assortment of fruits, mushrooms, vegetables, etc.
There are many small, curious biking and hiking targets in and around the city at any distance. In the city itself, you will enjoy Yangsho Park and Mt. Bilian with a park with lots of water – to the east, just above the river. Interesting places lie 7-8 km south of the city, on the other side of the Yulunhe River: here grows a banyan tree, the antiquity of which cannot but inspire reverence. Its huge crown casts shade on as much as half a hectare, and its age, according to rough estimates, is between 1400 and 1500 years. Just behind the banyan there is a wonderful-looking Moon Mountain: it has an opening, round on top and resembling a crescent. It is worth climbing up and, if you are brave enough, walk further to the top of the natural bridge. You will be rewarded with a magnificent panorama. But for safety reasons, you should not walk this route alone.
Guilin is famous for exotic foods such as raccoons, snakes, lizards and freshwater snails, as well as an abundance of fruits and vegetables, including water chestnuts, lotus root, taro, carambola, kumkat (dwarf oranges) and lychee. So you can quench your passion for exploring and even if you don’t order special delicacies, you can still enjoy your meal for a modest fee. The pedestrian zone of Zhengyang Lu Street is full of cafes, mostly inexpensive. The more modest eateries huddle further north, near the Pedagogical Institute. Among other things, they serve horse meat.
The many foreign tourists in Guilin generally dine at hotels, so the few independent cafes and restaurants cater to the tastes of foreigners. In Yangshuo, 90 km south of Guilin, the opposite is true: on Xicheng Lu there are especially many nice little cafes serving food from all over the world and even have menus in English. Prices are low to mid-range.
20 Guilin sights worth seeing
Guilin cuisine is a combination of Cantonese and Hunan cuisine, but with lots of fish and spices. The dishes are most often prepared by frying.
Restaurants in Guilin often serve bland food to tourists from non-Asian countries assuming that they are not used to even mildly spiced food. So it is better to clarify whether the dish will be prepared according to the canons of Chinese cuisine or a “light version” is expected.
Eateries in Guilin are literally on every step. Near the train station you can buy delicious and cheap local fast food. There are many restaurants along the main streets and by the river, but most of them do not cook the most authentic food and are overpriced. It’s better to move a couple of blocks inland.
There are a few foods that are most representative of Guilin’s cuisine. One of them is chili paste, which is also shipped overseas. It consists of chili peppers, lobster, garlic, and Sanhua wine. The fermented soybean curd, famous for its tangy flavor, which has been made here for over 300 years, is also noteworthy.
The full name for this natural beauty is Li Jiang. The waters of the river stretch all the way to the city. But it originates at Cat Mountain. If you join a tour group or float it on your own, you can see many interesting places here, including the Elephant Trunk, Fuboshan, and Folded Brocade mountains.
shankar s. / flickr.com.
There are farms and orchards along the banks of the river, allowing locals and city dwellers to have steady jobs. The water ride lasts 1 hour and 30 minutes. During this time, the boat travels 80 kilometers from Guilin to Yangshuo village. Therefore, there is enough time to not only enjoy the scenery, but also to take pictures against their background.
Guilin Pickled Tofu
Guilin cuisine is a mix of Cantonese and Zhuang cuisine. It is known for its snacks and use of spices, especially chili. Guilin chili sauce ( 桂林 辣椒 酱 ), widely used in cooking by locals, is made from fresh chili peppers, garlic and fermented soybeans and is considered one of the city’s Three Treasures (桂林 三宝). Two others of the Three Treasures are Guilin Sanhua Ju (桂林 三 花酒), a type of rice baijiu or liquor derived from rice; and pickled tofu from Guilin .
Guilin rice noodles
Guilin rice noodles have been a local breakfast staple since the Qin dynasty and are famous for their delicate taste. Legend has it that when Qin troops suffering from diarrhea entered the region, a cook created Guilin rice noodles for the army because they had trouble eating local food. In particular, the local specialty is horsemeat noodles , but this dish can also be ordered without horsemeat. Zongzi , dumplings made from sticky rice and mungbean paste wrapped in bamboo or banana leaf, is another popular delicacy in Guilin.
This is located in the town of Xinan. It takes two hours to get there, but it’s well worth it. While driving, you can admire the surrounding scenery. In southern China, Cat Mountain is considered the highest mountain. At its base come from three rivers: the Li, the Zi, and the Xun. The mountain got its name because of its peak, which resembles a cat’s head with protruding ears. It is famous for its rare plants, which grow here in great numbers. Until recently, it was almost impossible to reach the Cat Mountain, but recently this problem has been solved by the construction of stone stairs. Before you go up to the top, you should know that there are no stores nearby, so you have to take all the provisions with you.
Guilin Liangjiang International Airport
The airport is Guilin Liangjiang International Airport (ICAO: ZGKL, IATA: KWL). The following airlines fly to the airport:
- East China
- Asiana Airlines
- South China
- Air China
- Hainan: Airlines
- Shanghai Airlines
- Shandong Airlines
- Xiamen Airlines
- Tianjin: Airlines
- EVA Air
- Air Asia
- Beijing Capital Airlines
- Hebei Airlines
Guilin North Station
Guilin has the fastest train stations of any city in China. There are Guilin North , Guilin West , Guilin and a new station in the Lingui area . Guilin Station and Guilin North Station are on the Hunan-Guangxi Railway, the Hengyang-Luzhou Intercity Railway, and the Guiyang-Guangzhou High-Speed Railway, the main railroads connecting Guangxi with central and southern China. Arriving at the Northern Station, high-speed trains between Guilin and Changsha and Beijing began operations in December 2013. In December 2014, high-speed transportation began connecting Guangzhou , Shenzhen , Guiyang and Shanghai . This made it more convenient for people to come to Guilin. It takes only 2 or 3 hours to get from Guangzhou to Guilin, 9 hours from Shanghai to Guilin, and 13 hours from Beijing to Guilin. Trains running between Kunming South Station and West Kowloon Station (for example) stop at West Guilin Railway Station .
Public transportation in the city includes bus routes and cabs. Guilin is mainland China’s leading city, with double-decker buses running regularly on major routes; on its main street, double-decker carriages run one after the other almost every minute. Excursion boats also run along the city’s canals and lakes.
By 2040, there are plans to build 7 lines of the Guilin subway with 117 stations and a total length of 273.2 km. Line 1 is scheduled to open by 2025 and will be 29.23 km long with 13 stations.
Elephant’s Trunk Mountain.
South of Guilin’s main street Zhongshanlu is an ancient symbol of the city – Xiangbishan Mountain (Elephant’s trunk).
The mountain looks like the trunk of an elephant, which is lowered into the water. Its height is 100 meters. There is a legend that says that an elephant came down from heaven to help people in their hard work. This angered the Heavenly Emperor: he stabbed the elephant with a dagger and the elephant turned to stone.
On the flat top of the mountain is a brick pagoda resembling a sword. It was built in the 14th century.
Between the elephant’s “trunk” and his “torso” is a round cave through which the Lijiang River flows. During the full moon, the circular cave of the Elephant’s Trunk in the river resembles another moon. People in Guilin say that on such nights, reflections of two beautiful moons appear near the mountain.
Li River.| Photo: xiquinhosilva / Flickr.
The Li River begins at the Cat Mountains in Xing’an County, which is north of Guilin, and flows through Guilin and Yangshuo, flowing into the Western River at Wuzhou. The river is 437 kilometers long. Most cruises on the Li River are along the 54-kilometer stretch, from the Zhujiang Pier to Yangshuo. In total, the entire boat ride lasts about 4 hours.
A cruise on the Li River offers you a unique opportunity to experience the beauty of fabulous scenery. Traveling down the river you can enjoy breathtaking views of fantastic peaks of all shapes and sizes, green hills and bamboo groves. But what’s most breathtaking is the reflection of these wondrous landscapes in the crystal clear water. This characteristic landscape along the river is used as a backdrop for Chinese scrolls.
Address: Lijiang River, Guilin, China.
In the middle section of the Li Jiang River is a mountain, part of which is hidden under water, while the other half rises 60 meters from the water level. This is why the name Fuboshan was coined, which translates as “the mountain that conquers the waves”. There is an observation deck on top, from where you can see not only the river itself, but also the surrounding area.
The attraction of the mountain is a temple mounted on it. In front of it is a cauldron more than 300 years old, designed to cook food for 1000 people. Nearby is a bell from the Qing dynasty, which weighs two and a half tons.
Several caves have formed in the middle of the mountain, housing statues of Buddha, frescoes, and many other memorabilia of the Chinese Republic.
Guilin Museum and Library
- GDP per capita in 2009 was 1,935 yen (about $2,858), ranking second. 125 out of 659 Chinese cities.
- Local industries: condoms , pharmaceuticals , tires , machinery , fertilizer , silk , perfumes , wine , tea , cinnamon , phytotherapy.
- Local agricultural products: shatian pomelo , summer orange , Fructus Momordicae , ginkgo , moon persimmon , taro lime , Sanhua alcohol , pepper sauce , fermented bean curd , Guilin rice noodles , water chestnut , grains , fish and cream of dried milk in dense buns.
Until 1949, Guilin had only a thermal power plant, a cement factory, and several small textile factories. Since the 1950s, however, Guilin added factories producing electronics, engineering and agricultural equipment, medicine, rubber, buses, textiles, and cotton yarn. The food industry, including the processing of local agricultural products, remains the most important industry. More recent and modern industry is characterized by high technology, and the service industry is characterized by tourism, trade, and services.
Statue of Ma Yuan in Fuboshan, Guilin.
Map showing Guilin (marked as 桂林 KUEI-LIN (KWEILIN) (Walled)) ( AMS , 1954)
Guilin governs seventeen , including 6 districts , 8 counties , 2 autonomous counties and 1 county-level city .
- District :
- Xufeng ( 秀峰 区 )
- Xiangshan (象 山区)
- Diechai District (叠彩 区)
- Qixing district ( 七星 区 )
- Yanshan district (雁 山区)
- Lingui (临桂 区)
Lipu City (荔浦 市)
- Yangsho County (阳朔 县)
- Linchuan County ( 灵川 县 )
- Xing’an County (兴安 县)
- Quanzhou County (全州县)
- Yongfu County (永福 县)
- Ziyuan County (资源 县)
- Guanyang County ( 灌 阳县 )
- Pingle County (平 乐 县)
- Gongcheng Yao Autonomous District ( 恭城 瑶族 自治县 )
- Lunsheng ( 龙胜 各族 自治县 ) autonomous district of various nationalities
Yangshan Lingui County Yangsho Lingchuan County Quanzhou County Xing’an County Yunfu County Guanyang County Lunsheng County Pingle County Gongcheng County Lipu (city) 1. Xufeng 2. Diecai 3. Xiangshan 4. Qixing
Seven Stars Park
The park covers an area of 120 hectares and is considered to be the largest in the entire Guilin area. The park gets its name from the seven mountain peaks on its territory. If you look at them from a great height, you can see a resemblance to the constellation of the Big Dipper. Walking around the park, you will see lakes with crystal clear water, zoos, museums, beautiful caves and much more. It gained its fame during the Sui and Tang dynasties. The most interesting sights of the park were the Flower Bridge, Mount Puto, and others. The oldest place of all the above is the Flower Bridge, built during the Song Dynasty. The best time to visit it is during the warm season, when the plants are in bloom. It is during these days the bridge lights up with new colors and fragrance so that the scent is felt at a distance of several kilometers. In the area of the bridge water is always calm and in the reflection you can see the whole surrounding landscape.
Mount Puto is the central part of the park, where there are numerous caves and grottoes. It was named after the famous Chinese mountain Putoshan. At the base of Puto located a huge Camel Hill, which resembles, as you have already understood, a camel. It is said that during one of the dynasties, here lived a hermit who grew plums. To this day, numerous plum trees surround the hill. The park also has a zoo which is home to pandas.
Relics found in the city’s Baojian ( simplified Chinese :宝 积 岩; traditional Chinese :寶 積 巖) and Zengpian (甑 皮 巖) caves date back about 10,000 years. The Zengpian people had a matriarchal clan society. Before the Qin Dynasty, the Guilin region was inhabited by the Baiyue people. In 314 B.C. a small settlement was founded on the bank of the Li River.
During the Qin Dynasty campaigns (221-206 B.C.) against the Nanyue state, the first administration was established in the area around Guilin . The modern city was located on the territory of the Guilin Command , from which the modern name “Guilin” was derived.
In 111 BC, during the reign of Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty , the Shian District (simplified Chinese:始 安县; traditional Chinese:始 安縣) was founded, which can be seen as the beginning of the city.
In 507 AD, the city was renamed Guizhou (Gui prefecture,桂 ).
In 634, Lingui County was established on the site of the modern city of Guilin in Gui Prefecture. In 868, Pan Xun rebelled against the Tang of Gui Prefecture.
Guilin flourished under the Tang and Song dynasties, but remained a county. The city was also the link between the central government and the southwestern frontier, and it was here that regular armies were stationed to guard that frontier. Canals were built through the city so that food could be brought directly from the Yangtze food plain to the farthest southwestern point of the empire.
In 997, the Guannan West Autonomous Region, the forerunner of modern Guangxi, was founded, with Guizhou as its capital. In 1133, Guizhou was renamed Jingjiang Prefecture (simplified Chinese:静 江 路; traditional Chinese:靜 江 路). In 1367, the name was changed to Guilin Prefecture (桂林 府).
In 1921, Guilin became one of the headquarters of the Northern Expeditionary Army led by Sun Yat-sen .
In 1940, the city of Guilin was founded.
In 1950, the capital of Guangxi province was moved from Guilin to Nanning .
In 1981, Guilin was included by the State Council in a list of four cities (the other three were Beijing, Hangzhou and Suzhou) where the protection of historical and cultural heritage as well as natural landscapes should be considered a priority project.
In the heart of the village of Yangshuo is the pedestrian Western Street. It stretches from the bus station to the very bank of the Lijiang River. Most of the houses on the street are built in a southern Chinese style. Their snow-white walls are decorated with carved roofs.
It takes 15 minutes to walk along the entire street, but the multitude of souvenir shops, which attract you like a magnet, is sure to drag your hike for a couple of hours. And no wonder, because the local souvenir shops can boast the most interesting handmade items such as Tibetan silver, felted toys, baize tablecloths, embroidered pillowcases, designer bags, national minority clothing, beautiful porcelain dolls and much more.
If you don’t see a sign that says “no bargain,” you can safely haggle with the seller, because the price is sure to be inflated 5 to 10 times.
There are also several clubs, restaurants and bars on West Street.
Twin Cities – Twin Cities
Guilin is the twin city of :
- – Nishikatsura , Yamanashi , Japan – Linchuan County
- – Kumamoto City, Japan – Guilin
- – Toride , Japan to Guilin
- – Miho, Ibaraki , Japan – Lingui
- – Jeju , South Korea
- – Hastings , New Zealand
- – Torun , Poland
- – Orlando , USA
- – Tlaxcoapan , Hidalgo, Mexico
- – Langkawi , Malaysia
Guilin’s relationship with New Zealand’s Hastings began in 1977 after researcher Stuart Falconer identified a number of common areas of interest between the two cities, including horticulture and their rural-urban combination. In 1997, Guilin began an exchange relationship with Ta, Gunma , Japan.