Guilin's limestone karst mountains and Yangshuo's laidback setting have long drawn backpackers and nature enthusiasts. With the Li River serving as a backdrop, the surrounding area is an emerald waiting to be explored.
"Guilin's scenery is the most beautiful under heaven”, so goes a Chinese saying describing the immortal beauty of Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region's Guilin. Boats float down the charming Li River as limestone karst mountains jut from the ground like dragon's teeth. This immortal scenery can be seen on the back of the RMB 20 notes.
While Guilin is far from the crush of other Chinese cities, it is becoming developed and is a major tourist destination. Like many places in China, its history can be traced further back than many nations in the West. During the Han dynasty, Guilin became the political and economic center of Guangxi and continues to thrive today.
Although Guilin is a city, many sights are located within the town or a short distance away. The Solitary Beauty Peak, located on the campus of the Guangxi Normal University, projects out from the ground like giant spike. The climb to the peak is steep, but the view from the top is worth the effort as you'll be able to take in the surrounding countryside and the Li River. At the bottom of the peak is the Wang Cheng, which was a Ming dynasty palace where the regional imperial exams were held.
With half its base sticking out into the Li River, Wave-Subduing Hill (also known as Fubo Hill) is located in the northeast of Guilin, near Solitary Beauty Peak. The hill is dotted with many interesting caves, one called Returned Pearl Cave has a thousand-year-old image of Buddha etched into the wall along with many others from the Tang and Song dynasties. Among the best carvings is a self-portrait by painter Mi Fu, and a poem by Fan Chengda, both from the Song dynasty.
Folded Brocade Hill, another well-known peak, offers cool relief with the aptly named Wind Cave. Reed Flute Cave has some of the best scenery in Guilin with stalactites and stalagmites casting distorted shadows that contort to the shifting multi-colored lights. Seven Star Park is a large park with many attractive trails that wind around seven peaks in the shape of the Big Dipper. To the south of town is Elephant Trunk Hill, Guilin's best known sight.
Finally, there is the Ling Canal, in Xing'an County 70km north of Guilin. Built from219 to 214BC, it's considered one of China's three engineering marvels beside the Great Wall and the Dujiangyan irrigation system in Sichuan. The canal can be seen in the market town of Xing'an.
Memorable Experience for Guilin Holiday
Exploring Elephant Trunk Hill Park in the evening while listening to the birds.
Doing TaiChi in Mulong Pagoda in the early morning as the mist slowly gives way to the gorgeous surroundings cenery.
Eating local dishes from food stalls in the Zhengyang Pedestrian Mall then soaking up the culture at the various arts and crafts stalls.