Yangshuo – World’s most beautiful mountains

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There is a saying that “the landscape of Guilin is the most beautiful in the world, but the landscape of Yangshuo is the most beautiful in Guilin”. Yangshuo County has a good portion of the world’s most impressive karst landscapes combining hills, rivers, and caves.

Yangshuo, a county town 65 km south of Guilin city, is characterized by breathtaking landscape scenery, a holiday atmosphere, and rustic culture. The section of the Li River between Guilin and Yangshuo is the most attractive stretch, and there are several activities you can try in order to experience the local life and culture.

Yangshuo is popular among tourists for its karst peaks, rivers, caves, and temples, as well as its laid back cafes and bars. As such, the city is visited by a large number of Chinese tourists and foreigners alike, and has a relatively large expatriate community.

Yangshuo is now a large tourist town, different from most typical Chinese towns. It is relatively air and noise pollution free, (provided you get away from major roadways), very clean (by Chinese standards) and does not usually suffer from endless massive traffic chaos. Instead, it harbours wonderful restaurants and shops, an almost unlimited number of hotels and hostels, and is fairly developed by mainland Chinese standards. Yangshuo is well-known among travelers in Southern China, and is a major stop on the trail of many independent travelers. The main reason people stop in the town is to explore the local countryside by bike, try their hand on the world class rock-climbing sites, or take a bamboo raft down the river, viewing the famous ¥20 scene in the process.

In this splendid setting are numerous Zhuang ethnic villages where the paddy fields are farmed and local traditional customs are continued. If you are a nature lover, taking an easy hike or going cycling on the countryside roads are good experiences.

Karst landscape

The area around Yangshuo is renowned throughout China, if not the whole world, (even making it into the backdrop of Star Wars Episode 3), for its karst landscape where there are hundreds upon hundreds of limestone hills dotting the countryside. The beautiful scenery here is a common subject of Chinese paintings as well as the inspiration for poetry. There are several popular areas for karst landscape sight-seeing which can be covered by river cruises, bamboo-raft cruises, cycling, trekking and combinations of the various modes.

  • Yangdi-Xingping scenic area (杨堤 – 兴坪 Yáng dī – Xìng píng), (catch a direct river cruise from Yangshuo or get to Yangdi (90mins, ¥8) and Xingping (45 mins, ¥7, July 2013) by minibus from Yangshuo bus terminal, or cycle out there and then take boats or rafts to reach the scenic area). This stretch along the Li River is probably the most renowned and popular. The traditional bamboo rafts along this stretch have been replaced by rafts made of plastic pipe and two stroke motors. The “raft experience” is now a boom industry and hundreds of these small rafts cruise this route when the big tour boats have passed. The rafts are safe and the better operators provide life jackets. Touts in Yangshuo advertise prices as low as ¥88 for this trip, but equilibrium price is about ¥150 per trip. Expect incredibly aggressive hawkers when you arrive in Xingping. The more common Guilin-Yangshuo boat ride passes through this area. There is also a 24km (5 to 6 hours) track for easy hiking along the Li river. Although listed everywhere from Wikitravel and Lonelyplanet, the trekking experience is marred by aggressive farm touts who would follow you up to 4km just so they can charge you ¥50 for an illegal boat ride across the river. Not worth doing anymore. Edit: A very firm but polite ‘wo bu yong, wo bu yao lan fei ni de shi jian’ (I don’t want it and don’t want to waste your time) or basically any similar Chinese phrase is worth memorising and, whilst it may need repeating to multiple touts, tends to work first time in deterring all but the particularly determined. 
  • Yulong River valley (遇龙河流域 Yù lóng hé liúyù), (turn west into a small road from the main Yangshuo bypass road just south of the Sinopec petrol station at the junction of Pantao Rd 蟠桃路 Pántáo lù (there are road signs in Chinese). Or, use the road to Jinbao from Baisha town 9km north of Yangshuo on the main road to Guilin. Minibuses from Yangshuo bus terminal to Jinbao go near Yulong village). The pretty valley is said to rival the Yangdi-Xingping stretch in terms of beauty. Besides rafting down the river on bamboo rafts, another popular way of seeing the valley is by cycling along riverside tracks. The journey will bring you through many farming villages and past several stone bridges across the river such as the Yulong Qiao and Fuli Qiao. Be warned though that the track is complicated and it is easy to get lost; using a local guide will ensure you stay on track.  
  • Liugong (留公 Liúgōng), (Cycle (15km) in southern direction along the Lijiang, pass the light show and go left at the y-junction, cross the bridge over the Yulong river and take another left. 2 small hills and you’ll arrive in 木山 Mùshān, continue this road with on your left-side the Lijiang and the the right cliffs, after that the road turns away from the Lijiang and goes to 渡頭 Dùtóu, keep following this road until you see a big tree with a sign which says 留公 Liúgōng and then it’s 1 km to the village). The pretty village of Liugong lies on the Lijiang 15 km south of Yangshuo makes for an excellent half/day trip by bike from Yangshuo. The village has some old houses, an old town gate, a temple with pretty view, a mud cave and some excellent local farmer food from a terrace with a great view. It’s possible to swim or kayak in the Lijiang (kayaks are for rent). The road to Liugong is scenic and quiet, (rice paddies, water buffalo’s, karst landscape and farmers working their fields). The road is all paved and do-able for all levels of cyclists. There’s an alternative way back to Yangshuo, but too hard to describe in words.  
  • Fuli farmer market (福利 Fúlì), (Cycle (7km) to 渡頭 Dùtóu (see Liugong cycle description) and park your bike there. Take the ferry (3/5 rmb) across the Lijiang. You will arrive in the old part of town from where it’s a 1km walk to the new part where the market will be held. Just follow the crowd. Alternatively; take a bus from Yangshuo southern bus station (兴坪 Xingping bound busses stop in Fuli). The bus will stop in the new part of town.). The Fuli farmer market is one of the biggest farmer markets in the Yangshuo area. The market is held every 3/4 days (ask around in Yangshuo). Farmers often arriving by boat the sell their vegetables, fruit and livestock. The market is also known for it’s dog noodles. Best to go in the morning. Fuli is also known for the rice paper fans. These are used as wall decoration and exported through-out China. The workshops can be found in the old part of town. You can also see a sign indicating the water level during the 2008 flood. A trip to Fuli can easily be combined with a trip to Liugong.  
  • Moon Hill (月亮山 Yuèliàng shān), (take a Gaotian minibus Yangshuo bus terminal; if you plan to cycle, Moon Hill is about 8km south of Yangshuo on the road to Wuzhou). Another popular scenic spot south of town. The main attraction is a hill with a huge hole in the shape of a moon. The hills here can be climbed for spectacular vistas from the top. There is a ¥15 entry fee. (There is also another dirt trail to the right of the entrance; follow it left, hop over the barbed wire and follow the stone steps up to reach the main path for free.) It is not an incredibly long trek to the top but the gradient and strange angle of the steps can do something strange to your legs on the way down. The Moon Hill Cafe at the base of the hill sells fairly mediocre food at ridiculously high prices, and you may need something after the trek up and down. After you reached the top you can view the arch from underneath it, keep climbing up and you can view the arch from above and reach a nice viewpoint. The adventurer ones can try getting off the official road – on the way from the viewpoint beneath the arch to the viewpoint above the arch you will see a stone on the ground, to your left, with a sign forbbiding you to go the way behind that stone. If you choose to ignore this and follow this way you will climb for about 15 minutes (you will sort of climb the rocks between the trees, but the way is not hard to figure out) and will reach the spot that is on top of the arch, with a 360° panoramic view. Alternatively there are a few other places to choose from in nearby Moon Hill Village, and plenty of hawkers selling cool drinks. If it is a slow day, don’t be surprized if a hawker follows you up the mountain to make a sale when you are thirsty. The hawkers are mostly harmless old farm women, but they are aggressive. ¥5 is a fair price for two bottles of cold water. They will try to sell it for triple that price. On the road back to Yangshuo, not far from Moon Hill, is the ‘Big Banyan Tree’ scenic area. A ¥20 entry fee gets you into this popular park by the Yulong river, featuring a 1,400 year old banyan tree. Be sure to use the official entrance (ticket offices at the front), as hawkers will attempt to lure you into an alternative entrance that is lined with dozens of souveneir stalls. 
  • Assembling Dragon Cave (聚龙潭 Jù lóngtán), (is located 6 kilometers south of Yangshuo. It is in between the Big Banyan Tree and the Moon Hill). The karst cave was such named because the grotesque peaks outside the cave look like dragons among the clouds. Inside the Assembling Dragon Cave are beautiful formations of stalactites and stalagmites. They are lit by colorful neon lights, and sweet music plays in the background, making one feel like he/she is in fairyland! The Magical Stone Palace is located next to the exit of the Assembling Dragon Cave. The Magical Stone Palace is a big exhibition hall that sells many kinds of stones to tourists.

Edited by staff

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