Guilin Prefecture is one of the most famous places in China and a must for both independent travelers and those who travel the country in organized groups. Especially for the latter, when your trip includes a visit to Guilin, it always refers to the Li River cruise (also called Lijiang, “jiang” means “river” in Mandarin), the best way to appreciate the karst landscape of Southern China, as it is a relaxing and accessible way to enjoy this fabulous environment.
- The most common: hire an excursion. All the accommodation and travel agencies of Guilin and Yangshuo offer the excursion ranging prices between 350 and 500 ¥, just choose an establishment with a good reputation. We made it through our hostel, the Guilin Central Wada Hostel, and we were very satisfied. All excursions include transportation from our accommodation to the boat and the first or second class boat ticket, according to our preferences. Once in Yangshuo, three possibilities are usually offered, each with a price:
- We can stay there, finishing the tour.
- Take another small excursion by bus, usually to villages with ethnic minorities in the area. After this mini excursion, you return on that same bus to Guilin, taking about 90 minutes.
- Or free time in Yangshuo, subsequent bus pick-up, and transfer back to Guilin. It is what we did.
- Or on our own: you have to take a taxi to the boat, buy the cruise ticket there (subject to availability), and then look for transportation back to Guilin if we plan to do so, or stay in Yangshuo.
Guilin and Yangshuo are two cities, the most tourist ones, of Guilin Prefecture, the first 60 kilometers north of the second, in Guanxi Province, south of China. To go from one to another can be done by road, a section by train or what all tourists come to do, by boat. For detailed information on how to get there and get around in the prefecture, see the article TRANSPORT IN GUILIN.
Although the Li River passes through the very center of Guilin City, cruise ships are not taken there. They leave from two docks, Zhujiang and Mopanshan, on the Li River, very close to each other, but about 25 kilometers southeast from the tourist area of downtown Guilin City.
To reach the docks in Zhujiang or Mopanshan you must go by road, it takes about 40 minutes:
- There is no public transportation; A taxi from Guilin City center will cost us between 70 and 120 ¥.
- In case of hiring a tour, we will be picked up at the door of our accommodation.
SCHEDULES, PRICES AND INFORMATION ABOUT BOATS
The boats leave between 9:00 am and 10:00 am and take 4 hours to reach Yangshuo. Prices are as follows:
Price per adult
|Zhujiang||Luvury (air conditioning)||April-November||CNY 270|
|Super Deluxe||April-November||CNY 450|
Although for some strange reason, my ticket is ¥ 245. Our full name and assigned seat will appear on the ticket.
The boats are very spacious and clean. The price of the trip includes a small but sufficient lunch. In the superior category lunch is a free buffet, the seats are somewhat larger and the views are better from our seats, but in the same way most of the time we will spend standing on the upper or front decks, so I do not recommend buying first class.
Although we had a very cloudy day, and we had already visited similar mountains in Huangshan or Zhangjiaje, the Li River cruise is one of the best experiences of a trip to China. The rocambolesque forms of the peaks of the region have some of their best examples in those that can be seen from the boat. They make up a spectacular and relaxing vision alike, which can be enjoyed with enough time. Even so, we should not get too relaxed, since that time when we have decided that we have already seen enough peaks, it could be the moment when we miss some mountain even more superb than the previous one.
The first part is however the least interesting. We will begin to see how the peaks gradually become more frequent and elevated progressively.
An hour after starting the cruise we will arrive at Yangdi village, where the mountains are increasingly diverse. The next hour runs along the part considered to be the best of the route, until it reaches the middle of the tour, where Xingping is less and less ignored, but is still much quieter and more rural than its neighbors, it is on its way to becoming the new Yangshuo though. In case of touring the area on our own, Xingping is a stop to take into account, since from the town there are trails that take us to the top of some surrounding mountains, with the most spectacular views of the region and all China, like Mount Xianggong.
Although till Xingping is considered the best area, for the rest of the tour we will continue to see mountains that are worth it. Personally I don’t get tired of observing this landscape.
ARRIVAL IN YANGSHUO
The boats stop at a small pier one kilometer north of downtown Yangshuo, from where you have to walk along a riverside or take a tricycle. There are many souvenir stands, and at the end of the walk there is the Yangshuo ticket sales office, much more modest than Guilin’s.
BAMBOO RAFT EXCURSION
Some will prefer to avoid crowds, experience a certain sense of authenticity and get a little wet, making part of the river by bamboo raft. There are two types, somewhat wider rafts with 4 seats and a roof, and other very basic and narrow ones where only two more people and the captain feat, without seats. Most begin in Yangdi and end in Xingping; Although it is the best part, there are no views to three quarters of the route. The price per adult is 220 ¥ and the departures are at 8:30 am and at 12 noon, always from Yangdi, since although the river is very calm, they try to keep the small rafts not going against the current. Takes 2 hours.
If you prefer this option, there are direct buses from Guilin Central Bus Station or from Yangshuo North Bus Station to Yangdi Dock for 22 ¥, it takes one hour.