The Li River, in Guilin, is considered to be the most beautiful river in China. There are three ways to tour the Li: taking a cruise boat, a bamboo raft, or hiking. While a cruise is the most popular way to explore the river, a bamboo raft is a more sedate, flexible, and natural. But hiking is enjoyed by an increasing number of travelers.
The beauty of the Li River cannot be fully appreciated on a boat. Instead, hike slowly along the river, stopping here and there by the river, and immerse your feet in the water. Follow the trail through bamboo groves, treading between golden rice fields (in early and autumn), and even camp for one night to experience the sunrise and sunset. This is how to fully appreciate the beauty of the Li Jiang.
The entire hiking route is about 15 kilometers long, divided into two sections: Yangdi – Jiumahua Hill (10 km) and Jiumahua Hill – Xingping (5 km). (Jiumahua is the famous 'Nine Horse Fresco'.)
The most popular Li River hiking route is from Yangdi to Xingping. The 15 km route covers the essence of Li River. It crosses the Li River three times and passes six villages. The entire hike takes four to six hours, with scenic spots, such as Langshi Scenery, Nine Horse Mural Hill, and Yellow Cloth Shoal.
There are three choices for visitors planning to travel this section of the Li River, using hiking and bamboo rafting.
Yangdi is 46 km from Guilin, about one hour by bus. Hikers can enjoy Guilin rice noodles (a bowl costs only 2 Yuan) in many small restaurants at Yangdi ferry while waiting for boats. Many villagers sell items with bamboo baskets, including taro, zongzi (sticky rice in leaves), chicken and duck eggs, and rain gear. Prices are slightly higher, but still very reasonable. The beautiful Yangdi ferry is surrounded by a bamboo forest.
There is a public toilet near the ferry which is of great significance for you, as you won't find a more decent one on the way. Toilets indeed are available in some villages you will pass, but you may want to avoid them, due to their primitive condition.
After crossing the river at the Yangdi ferry, there is a fairly long section of dirt path, which becomes very muddy after heavy rains. About 30 minutes walk by the a riverside is Langshi Village. Scenery around this area is marvelous. The river has pinnacles lining the sides.
The second crossing point is often very busy and crowded, and expect to see long queues. Many locals take advantage of the developed tourism in the area, stopping their small bamboo rafts at the ferry for business. Travelers are suggested to avoid this local means of transportation for safety reasons.
The road condition after the crossing is a bit tough with many sloping sections. Many vendors offered their services in this part. Steamed sweet potatoes, fried peanuts, and steamed eggs are on sale. Cross the river for the last time at Lengshui.
Along the bank further downstream from Lengshui is Nine Horse Mural Hill, which is one of the highlights of the river. It was so named because of the naturally shaped image of nice horses in different positions on the cliff.
You only need to walk along the field path for about an hour to reach Xingping. When almost at Xingping, you will come across a famous sight, Yellow Cloth Shoal, that serves as the pattern on the 20 yuan bill.
Xingping is around 50 minutes' drive away from Yangshuo, and there are regular buses from Xingping Bus Station to Yangshuo.
Due to changes in Li River management, hiking tours between Yangdi and Xingping were unavailable [Sep. 2015]. Hiking this stretch is possible again, currently. [Mar. 2016] Please contact us for the latest information.
This bamboo raft ferry crossings were closed temporarily due to safety concerns. If this happens again, what you could do is take a local bus or private transport and do a section of the hike without the ferry crossing.
We most recommend the Xingping to Nine Horse Fresco Hill (Jiumahuashan) section, as this is what’s known as the cream of the Li River scenery, and it's most accessible. Take a bus from Yangshuo to Xingping (or take a bullet train to the new “Yangshuo” HSR station 6 km from Xingping), then walk to Nine Horse Hill and back.