Mei & Kerstin
We're going to spend 8 days in Guilin, Yangshuo and its surrounding area in November.
We're going to visit Guilin city, Yangshuo town and also have a cruise on the Li River.
But our goal is to have a slow, stressless and an off-the-beaten path kind of cultural/scenery trip: to do a lot of hiking on the rice terraces, to discover ancient villages and to get in touch with the Chinese minorities.
Which villages or towns should we go to? The less crowded, the better…
Also, should we spend more time in Guilin or in Yangshuo?
Thanks in advance for your suggestions and advices, guys!! :)
Mei & Kerstin from
Hi Mer & Kerstin
I can give you some advice regarding 2 of your questions.
Most of travellers will go to Longji Rice Terrace for just a day trip either from Guilin or Yangshuo. If you're keen to hike instead of a 2-hour sightseeing, then you may hike for 2 days. You will leave from Guilin and then go straight to Xiaozhai village and hike from Xiaozhai to Tiantouzhai village for 3-4 hours and stay overnight at this village. There are quite a number of guesthouses, basic but acceptable. The following day you will walk from Tiantouzhai to Ping'an village for 5-6 hours. You can stay overnight here or get back to Guilin in later afternoon. The hiking hours depend on your fitness level, it's not difficult if you go gym occasionally. The scenery may be not as good as you've seen on photos as the harvest season had finished in November and there's no rice in the field.
One of the most frequently asked questions is Guilin vs Yangshuo. I would highly recommend Yangshuo instead of Guilin. There's not much places to see in Guilin except Reed Flute Cave, Elephant Trunk Hill. Yangshuo is the ideal place for relaxation. You can do cooking class, biking, bamboo rafting, kayaking, cormorant fishing, walking along villages and old towns etc., or just relax at the place. Try to avoid accommodation at the county town & West Street which is very busy even at off season. You're coming here for holiday, not commercial street. There are many reputable boutique accommodations along Yulong River, Li River which are real Yangshuo features.
Hopefully you will enjoy your experience in Yangshuo!
Personally I'd say Yangshuo, as I used to live in China (Yongzhou, Hunan province) and used to holiday there regularly just to relax and destress.
That being said, Yangshuo is way more Westernised than Guilin and most other cities in China, so it's not a 100% authentic Chinese experience. Don't let that put you off though! It depends on whether you're going for the natural beauty or the historical factor.
For Chinese history, Jingjiang Mansion in Guilin is an excellent way to connect with China's past. It's one of those lesser known tourist attractions too so it's rarely that busy. Avoid the Tiger and Bear Park like the plague, it's just a haven of awful animal cruelty that should be avoided at all costs.
Around Yangshuo, my favourite attraction was Yangshuo Big Banyan Tree James Joyce Coffetel. It's basically just this really big banyan tree but I found the whole area so relaxing. It backs onto an ancient town that is practically abandoned now and the grounds are an ideal place to have a picnic.
Another must for me were the mud caves nearby, although be careful not to get ripped off when buying your ticket! At most you should play about 200 yuan per ticket, but even that's pretty steep. Daxu Ancient Town
is within cycling distance from Yangshuo and really sticks out in my memory as perhaps one of the most beautiful place I've ever seen. It's not been geared up for tourism like most ancient towns in China so it's still really peaceful. You'll find plenty of locals chilling on their doorsteps, playing mahjong, or watching their ridiculously large HD TVs from within their tiny old houses.
Hope that helps! If you want more info, I wrote a short article about it in my Travel Diary here:
Looking forward to hearing how your trip goes!
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Guilin is very big and busy—be prepared for that. It was too big for our tastes, so we headed right out to Yangshuo, which in itself is pretty busy (we like things more laid back and secluded, too, and would not have stayed in either). We stayed a bit out of town at Giggling Tree in Aishanmen village, which was perfect—quiet, comfortable and easily within reach of hikes and nice biking routes. They can connect you to a good cooking class, among other things, and the staff are wonderful.
The Li River cruise is something that most everyone does and it still does not disappoint. The landscape is just as magical as you could hope for. You could also do a trip on the Yulong River. Xingpingzhen is so-so; there are some older buildings left standing, but it was described to us as this wonderland maze of old buildings and it's not. We didn't get a chance to go there, unfortunately, but Huangyaozhen was on my list of places to visit.
It's not too far a distance to the Longji Rice Terraces, where you will see the classic terraced rice fields, and can visit some smaller villages populated by Zhuang, Yao and Miao people. I know there are a number of accommodation options in Ping'anxiang and you can trek around and see smaller villages as you go.
It's easy to travel in the vicinity of Yangshuo/Guilin—there's plenty of tourism infrastructure and even without Mandarin, people pretty much know what you're after and are helpful.
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