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Guilin Li River: 5 Ways to Explore Li River

Written by Senior Expert Celine Schneider|Updated: 2024-04-26

Li River, Guilin, a jewel in the crown of China's scenic spots, is renowned for its breathtaking beauty, encapsulating the essence of karst landscapes. The river, which originates from Mount Mao'er in Xing'an county, northern Guangxi, courses through charming villages, dense bamboo groves, and towering limestone peaks, before emptying into the West River in Wuzhou.

How can you better explore and capture the most captivating beauty of Guilin Li River? Typically, taking a 4-hour Li River cruise is a classic and leisurely way to admire the scenery along the route from Guilin to Yangshuo. Additionally, popular activities like bamboo rafting, hiking, cycling, and exploring ancient towns offer other exciting options. By exploring our 5 recommended ways to experience Li River, you can find inspiration for your upcoming Li River journey.

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  • triangleBasic Facts about Li River, Guilin
  • triangleLi River Cruise - Most Recommended & Relaxing Way
  • triangleLi River Bamboo Rafting Adventures
  • triangleLi River Hiking & Recommended Routes
  • triangleLi River Cycling
  • triangleLi River Cultural Experience to Ancient Towns
  • triangleExtending Your Li River Exploration
  • triangleBest Time to Visit Li River
  • triangleEmbark on a Li River Adventure with Asia Odyssey Travel

Basic Facts about Li River, Guilin

Location: The river stretches from Guilin to Yangshuo in South China

Length: 437 KM from Mao'er Mountain to Pingle County

Highlights: 83 Km (52 miles)

Tour Time: 1-2 days

What to Do: a Li River cruise, bamboo rafting, hiking, cycling, to cultural expeditions in ancient towns

Best Visiting Season: April-October

Li River Map: A detailed map of the Li River and its surrounding attractions can be found here

Guilin Karst Mountain
Karst Mountains of the Li River
Li River
Li River is one of the must-visit destinations Chinas

Li River Cruise - Most Recommended & Relaxing Way

Taking a traditional Li River cruise is the most recommended and relaxing way to explore one of China's most beautiful rivers. Standing on the deck of the boat, feeling the gentle breeze on your face, you gaze at the towering peaks and peculiar rock formations on both sides of the river. Ancient villages and fertile farmland pass by as you witness the fishermen skillfully maneuvering their small boats on the river's surface. Immersed in such breathtaking scenery, you indulge in a fusion of Chinese and Western cuisine while enjoying the comfortable environment and excellent service provided on board. This ensures a tranquil journey, allowing you to unwind and appreciate the unique charm of this world-renowned destination where nature and culture harmoniously blend.

Essential Information about Li River Cruises

How Long: 83 kilometers (52 miles)

Duration: 4 to 4.5 hours.

Departure Time: Usually depart in the morning between 9:00 and 10:00 am

Boarding Time: It is recommended to allocate around 1.5 hours for departure preparations, including traveling from downtown Guilin to the boarding dock.

Cruise Categories: 3-Star (Standard) and 4-Star (Deluxe)

Route: Guilin - Li River - Yangshuo

Best Time to Visit: April to October

The Li River cruise refers to a journey where travelers board a boat in Guilin and sail south along the Li River until reaching Yangshuo. The entire journey takes approximately 4 to 4.5 hours, covering a distance of about 83 kilometers (52 miles). The price of the cruise depends on whether you choose a three-star or four-star cruise, with prices ranging from 215 to 480 yuan. You can select a suitable cruise based on your preferences and budget. Here is a comparison between three-star and four-star Li River cruises:

Comparison between Three-star and Four-star Cruises

Whether you choose a 3-Star or 4-Star Li River cruise, the route and scenery along the way are essentially the same. The main differences between the two cruises in the departure pier, departure time, arrival time, arrival pier, price, cruise facilities, and comfort level.

Li River Cruise 3-Star Cruise 4-Star Cruise
Price 215 CNY/person 360-480 CNY/person
Departure Pier Mopanshan dock, Guilin (磨盘山码头) Zhujiang dock, Guilin (竹江码头)
Departure Time 9:30 AM 9:20 AM
Arrival Time 14:00 13:30
Arrival Pier Longtoushan dock, Yangshuo (龙头山码头) Shuidongmen dock, Yangshuo (水东门码头)
Seating Fabric/Leather Seats Genuine Leather Armchair
Deck Facilities - Upper deck for scenic views
Dining Simple Chinese Lunch (Self-payment, 30-50 yuan) Chinese and Western buffet meals

While the four-star cruise is priced higher, it offers the latest and best modern facilities, comfortable and spacious seating, English broadcasts and announcements, an upper deck for enjoying the enchanting scenery, and inclusive Chinese and Western buffet meals. These features make the four-star cruise more popular and recommended.

4-Star Li River Cruise
Luxurious 4-Star Li River Cruise
3-Star Li River Cruise
Standard 3-Star Li River Cruise

Booking a Li River Cruise

The most common ways to book Li River cruise tickets are online payment and in-person reservation at the departure dock in Guilin. It is worth noting that Li River cruises departing from Mopanshan are typically tailored for Chinese tourists, while the four-star or English-guided three-star cruises departing from Zhujiang Dock are recommended for English-speaking visitors. Please be aware that purchasing same-day tickets at the dock may be challenging, so it is advisable to bring your passport and make reservations in advance. Online booking can be done through the official Li River Cruise WeChat account (漓江售票处), with the option to book up to 7 days in advance.

Highlights of Li River Cruises

Li River Cruises offer a remarkable journey through some of the most captivating landscapes in China. The cruise can be divided into three distinct stages, each with its own highlights and unique charm.

Guilin to Yangdi:

The cruise begins in Guilin, where the Li River showcases its initial allure. As you glide along the river, you'll be surrounded by a panorama of majestic karst mountains, verdant hills, and picturesque countryside. The towering peaks, often shrouded in mist, create a dreamlike atmosphere that has inspired poets and artists for centuries. This section of the cruise is known for its iconic landmarks such as Elephant Trunk Hill, which resembles an elephant sipping water from the river, and Crown Cave, a fascinating natural cave with stunning rock formations. Enjoy the peacefulness and serenity as you soak in the breathtaking scenery.

Yangdi to Xingping:

Continuing from Yangdi, the Li River cruise enters a more dramatic and awe-inspiring stage. This section is famous for its iconic landscape that appears on the back of the 20 RMB banknote. The highlight of this stretch is the mesmerizing karst peaks known as the "Nine Horses Fresco Hill," where the mountains resemble galloping horses. The enchanting scenery along this part of the river will captivate your senses, with every turn revealing a new postcard-worthy view. As you approach Xingping, keep an eye out for the iconic "Reflection of Yellow Cloth Shoal" and the "Five-Fingered Hill," both renowned for their dramatic beauty.

Xingping to Yangshuo:

The final leg of the Li River cruise takes you from Xingping to Yangshuo, offering a blend of natural splendor and cultural exploration. The river winds through charming countryside, dotted with traditional villages and lush rice paddies. Along the way, you'll encounter landmarks such as the "Snail Hill" and "Shutong Hill," which add to the allure of the journey. In Yangshuo, you can disembark and explore the vibrant West Street, known for its lively atmosphere, local markets, and diverse culinary delights.

Check More Li River Cruises Information

Yangdi to Xingping
The Li River scenery near Xingping
Nine Horses Fresco Hill
Nine Horses Fresco Hill is a must-see on the Li River

Li River Bamboo Rafting Adventures

Different from the panoramic exploration offered by cruises on the Li River, Li River bamboo rafting provides a unique and up-close experience to appreciate the beauty of the Li River. It is an authentic and environmentally friendly choice that nature enthusiasts cannot resist.

The bamboo rafts are made from locally sourced bamboo poles, which are not only sturdy but also easy to maneuver, allowing you to navigate the gentle water flow of the river with ease. Nowadays, the rafts are reinforced with ten large plastic pipes, ensuring stability. You can sit back on comfortable bamboo armchairs and indulge in the breathtaking scenery of the Li River.

Departure Pier: Yangdi Pier (杨堤码头)

Arrival Pier: Xingping Chaobanshan Pier (兴坪朝板山码头)

Price: ca, 225 CNY

Duration: 80-100 minutes

Attractions along the way: Nine Horse Mural Hill, Yellow Cloth Shoal, 20 RMB Note

However, it is important to note that the quality of service and pricing offered by individual bamboo raft operators cannot be guaranteed. To ensure a smooth and enjoyable Li River bamboo rafting experience, it is recommended to choose reputable and authorized operators or book through our Guilin Travel service.

Bamboo rafting on the Li River
Experience the unique bamboo rafting on the Li River
Bamboo rafting to the 20 yuan scenic area

Li River Hiking & Recommended Routes

Hiking is an excellent way to discover the beauty of the Li River at a leisurely pace. Along the banks of the Li River, there are several hiking trails that offer stunning scenery and the opportunity to uncover hidden gems. Here are some recommended hiking routes for exploring the Li River:

Yangdi to Xingping: This is a popular hiking route and the highlight of the entire Li River hiking trail. Starting from the picturesque Yangdi, you make your way to Xingping. This trail offers breathtaking views of the Li River, towering karst peaks, the Nine Horses Mural Hill, and the reflection of Yellow Cloth Shoal. The entire route covers approximately 18 kilometers and takes about 6 hours to complete. The trail conditions are also quite good.

Xianggong Mountain: For panoramic views of the Li River, hiking up Xianggong Mountain is a must. This trail, located near Xingping, takes you to an observation point where you can marvel at the iconic karst landscape and the winding river below. The hike typically takes 1-2 hours, depending on your fitness level.

Yulong River Valley: Yulong River is a tributary of the Li River and offers a serene and picturesque hiking experience. The trail meanders along the river, passing through lush bamboo forests, ancient bridges, and traditional villages. You can enjoy the tranquility of the countryside and immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the area. The duration of the hike may vary depending on the section you choose to explore.

Xianggong Mountain
Overlooking the Li River from Xianggong Mountain
Xianggong Mountain Hiking
Hiking to Xianggong Mountain

Li River Cycling

Li River Cycling offers a unique and exhilarating way to explore the beauty of the Li River region. There are several cycling routes available in the Li River region, catering to different preferences and fitness levels. One popular route is the Yangshuo Loop, which takes you through the charming countryside, past rice paddies, karst mountains, and traditional villages. Another option is the Xingping to Yangshuo route, where you can cycle along the Li River, enjoying stunning river views and passing by iconic landmarks like the Nine Horses Mural Hill.

Li River Cultural Experience to Ancient Towns

The Li River region not only attracts countless tourists with its magnificent landscapes but also exudes fascinating cultural charm. Exploring the ancient towns is an essential part of experiencing the cultural allure of the Li River. Among them, the most recommended towns to visit are Daxu and Xingping. Take a leisurely stroll through the streets of these famous ancient towns, admire the well-preserved architecture from the Ming and Qing dynasties, visit local artisans' workshops, and even try your hand at crafting a beautiful painted fan, immersing yourself in the enchanting world of traditional arts.

Xingping Ancient Town

Xingping Ancient Town, located at the bend of Li River, is renowned for its picturesque scenery that graces the 20 yuan banknote. It is an unmissable destination for travelers exploring the Li River region. Immerse yourself in the charm of Xingping Ancient Town, where you can leisurely stroll along the narrow streets paved with blue bricks and stones, admiring the centuries-old wooden houses and experiencing the tranquil lifestyle of the locals.

To capture the exact backdrop featured on the 20 yuan banknote, take a short hike or bike ride of approximately 2 kilometers to Yuanbao Mountain. Here, you can capture the same breathtaking scenery depicted on the currency. For enthusiasts of light hiking, the nearby Laozhai Mountain is a must-visit. Following a scenic 30-minute trail, you'll reach the mountaintop, where you can marvel at the majestic sight of Li River making a 90-degree turn at the foot of the mountains, resembling a meandering ribbon as it flows southward. This vantage point offers one of the best perspectives for capturing the essence of Li River and Xingping.

Sunset is another highlight of Xingping Ancient Town. Take a leisurely stroll along the Li River as the sun sets, casting its golden glow upon the peaks, the water surface, and the shallow areas, creating a mesmerizing painting-like atmosphere. Additionally, the mountaintop of Laozhai Mountain is an ideal spot to witness the sunset in Xingping, attracting many visitors seeking to admire this natural spectacle.

If you wish to gain a deeper understanding of local life, venture into the nearby villages. Here, you can witness hardworking farmers toiling in the rice fields and experience their simple yet beautiful daily lives. Additionally, a visit to Xingping Fishing Village is a must. Witness firsthand the cultural fishermen utilizing the traditional technique of fishing with cormorants, providing a unique and ancient fishing cultural experience.

Xingping Acient Town
Well-preserved stone streets and wooden houses in Xingping
Xingping Fishman
Get close to the life of a fishing village in Xingping

Extending Your Li River Exploration

When extending your exploration of the Li River, there are various attractions and activities that offer a diverse range of experiences, allowing you to delve deeper into the region's natural wonders and cultural treasures.

Explore Enchanting Caves: Visit captivating caves like the Reed Flute Cave, where illuminated stalactite and stalagmite formations create a magical underground world. Be awed by the stunning natural beauty and learn about the geological wonders of the area.

Discover the Longji Rice Terraces: Take a day trip to the Longji Rice Terraces, also known as the Dragon's Backbone Rice Terraces. Marvel at the cascading terraced fields that create a mesmerizing sight. Interact with local ethnic minority communities and gain insights into their fascinating cultures.

Capture Memorable Moments: The Li River region offers abundant photography opportunities. From stunning landscapes to traditional architecture and vibrant local life, every corner is a photographer's dream. Capture the beauty and essence of the region through your lens.

Best Time to Visit Li River

  Weather Forecast  

The best time to visit the Li River is generally considered to be from April to October. During this period, the river is abundant with water, the climate is mild, and the scenery is at its most beautiful. Both spring and autumn offer pleasant weather, stunning landscapes, and fewer crowds, making them the ideal choice for most travelers. Summer brings lush foliage but also higher temperatures and larger tourist crowds. Winter provides a peaceful and less crowded experience, perfect for those seeking tranquility and unique photography opportunities. Consider the experience you desire and plan accordingly to fully enjoy your visit to the breathtaking Li River.

Embark on a Li River Adventure with Asia Odyssey Travel

Based in China, with our office conveniently located in Guilin, the local team at Asia Odyssey Travel is dedicated to providing exceptional service to ensure an unforgettable experience for those who visit this beautiful Guilin. We offer a variety of carefully designed Guilin tours, including Classic Guilin Tours, Li River Tours, Yangshuo Tours, and Longji Rice Terraces Tours, tailored to meet your needs and desires. Whether you prefer a private tour with a flexible itinerary or a small group tour without compromising on quality, Asia Odyssey Travel has the perfect tour for you, ensuring that your journey to Guilin is a worry-free vacation.

If you're looking to extend your stay in Guilin into a longer vacation, Asia Odyssey Travel also offers a range of inspiring ideas through China Tour Packages with Guilin. Our professional travel consultants are ready to assist you in customizing a tailor-made Guilin Tour at the best local price. Don't hesitate to contact us to start planning your dream trip to Guilin today!

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