Along the banks of the Li River (Li Jiang) as it winds south from Guilin, dramatic karst peaks, dense vegetation, and the winding river itself create magical vistas that loom large in the Chinese imagination, having inspired art and verse for centuries. From Guilin to Yangshuo, there’s never a dull stretch along China’s most beautiful river.
For many visitors, a Li River cruise between Yangshuo and Guilin ranks as a highlight of any trip to the area. While it’s possible to transfer between the two towns along the river, it’s also a popular option for a day trip from Guilin; you might combine a Li River cruise with a bamboo raft excursion on the Yulong River and a tour of picturesque Yangshuo, with its old-style houses along West Street. Come nightfall, the Li River serves as a stage for Zhang Yimou’s dreamy Impression Sanjie Liu show in Yangshuo.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Li River is a must-see for first-time visitors and outdoor enthusiasts.
- Don’t forget to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat.
- A typical Li River boat trip lasts four hours, while a full-day tour to Yangshuo from Guilin lasts upwards of eight hours.
How to Get There
While the Li River is much longer than the 52-mile (83-kilometer) length connecting Guilin and Yangshuo, these two towns represent the most popular access points. Cruises depart from Mopanshan Dock in Guilin and Xingping Dock in Yangshuo.
When to Get There
One of the best times to see the Li River is during autumn (September to November), when the weather is cool and dry. Cruises during the summer rainy season might be slightly shorter due to faster flowing water.
Sights Along the Li River
The stretch of river between Guilin and Yangshuo is packed with notable attractions, including several natural landmarks. Rice terraces where water buffalo roam are punctuated by named karst formations like Elephant Trunk Hill, Nine Horses Painted Hill, and Yellow Cloth Shoal. Beneath the karsts lie fascinating cave systems, including Reed Flute Cave and Crown Cave.