Guilin is a small scenic city located in the southern part of China, boasting some of the most beautiful karst landscapes in the world, as well as idyllic countryside and rural life.
Our travel experts here in Guilin share their tips on how to plan a Guilin trip. It should be a perfect tour if you are willing to spend a little time planning and have an expert to help you.
Best Things to See and Do in Guilin
1) Indulge in the scenic Li River by cruising, bamboo rafting, or hiking
The Li River is the essence of Guilin's landscape and is included in almost all the Guilin classic tour itineraries. Verdant karst mountains, clear water, amazing caves, and remarkable rocks are the four features of the river. There are three main ways to visit the Li River:
- Take a Li River Cruise boat for a relaxing 4-hour trip from Guilin to Yangshuo.
- Take a motorized 'bamboo' raft with seats and a canopy for a one-hour experience, though it can be a bit noisy.
- Go on a light hike along the river, which takes approximately 3-4 hours and is particularly popular among families with teenagers.
2) Discover a 100% real limestone cave with your family
You will explore an amazing limestone cave that has never been touched by ordinary tourists, using a professional rope system and with the help of your caving guides.
The magnificent stalactites and stalagmites in the cave will tell you the age of this cave and show you the power of the water that has dissolved the rocks for millions of years. The limestone will only be lit up by your torch. Listen to the dripping water — it seems as though the sound is from millions of years ago. You will feel like this is a private journey to an amazing underground world.
See 5-Day Dynamic Guilin and Yangshuo Tour (Most Recommended for a Family Summer Tour)
3) Escape to the peaceful countryside in Yangshuo
The main attraction of Yangshuo is its beautiful countryside scenery. It is a heaven for outdoor activities lovers.
- SUP Experience on Yulong River in Yangshuo
- Go cycling in the countryside. If you are not fond of cycling you can enjoy the countryside too, as we provide other means of transport.
4) Challenge yourself with Ferrata and Zip-Lining in Yangshuo
5) Walking on the small paths among the Longji Rice Terraces
Longji's terraced fields have both spectacular scenery and ethnic culture. The wooden houses clustered among the cultivated terraces make a beautiful mountainside picture. Don't worry if you are not fond of hill walking, we could take an electric van up to some of the best view spots.
You can also visit a local family and learn to make a local delicacy, bamboo rice.
How Long to Stay for a Guilin Trip: 4–7 Days Recommended
We believe an enjoyable travel experience is not about hurrying from one place to another to cram in the sights. To travel at a relaxing pace, you will need at least 4 days to experience Guilin's highlights. Guilin tours of 2–3 days either miss key attractions or are hurried.
- Day 1: Guilin arrival
- Day 2: A day tour to the Longji Rice Terraces
- Day 3: The Li River cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo
- Day 4: Sightseeing in Yangshuo, and departure
Or if you want to explore deeper into Guilin and its surrounding areas, you could refer to our 6-Day Guilin, Longsheng & Yangshuo Relaxation.
Unlike other travel agencies, who only sell fixed Guilin tour itineraries, we create unique experiences. Our tours are typically private and personalized. Just contact us to create your itinerary based on your travel length, interests, and requirements.
If you meet the requirements of the visa-free policy, you may stay in Guilin for 3 days without a visa. See our suggestions for planning a 72-hour visa-free tour of Guilin.
The Best Time to Visit Guilin
The Guilin can be visited all year around, but the scenery varies according to the seasons: misty in spring with hills and river veiled like in a painting, sunny in summer with vibrant vistas of small villages with old buildings set among green karst hills, cool in autumn, and quiet in winter.
The best time to visit Guilin weather-wise (also the busy travel season) is from April to October when it is warm/hot and the scenery is charming.
The low travel season from November to March, however, is regarded as a good time to visit if you prefer a quieter experience.
Busy Times ( Tips to Avoid Crowds)
As Guilin is very popular with both foreign and Chinese travelers, you should expect to experience crowding at peak times.
- Chinese Summer holiday (July and August)
- Chinese Mid-Autumn festival (a few days in September/October)
- National holiday (October 1–7)
It is difficult, or impossible, to avoid crowds during these periods if you don't have help from a local travel expert who knows the times/routes that have fewer people. Otherwise, a frustrating experience, like having to wait for 3 hours for a Yulong River bamboo raft, is quite likely to happen.
- 3-Day The Essence of Guilin and Yangshuo
- 4-Day Guilin Scenic and Ethnic Discovery
- 5-Day Guilin Off-the-Beaten-Path Tour
start planning your tailor-made tour with 1-1 help from our travel advisors.
How to Get to Guilin
Guilin is accessible by air and train. Traveling by air is more convenient and time-saving from popular destinations like Beijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai.
Travel to Guilin by air: Guilin Liangjiang International Airport, about one hour's drive from the city center, operates flights to and from major cities like Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xi'an, Kunming, Chengdu, and Hong Kong.
Travel to Guilin by train: Guilin has three railway stations, serving overnight trains and high-speed trains to Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Xi'an, Changsha, and other major cities.
Where to Stay in Guilin
Reviews and rankings on TripAdvisor sometimes may not help you choose the best hotel for you, as people with high expectations give hotels very low scores when they don't meet their preconceptions.
Hotels in Guilin: Re-opened to the foreign travel market in the early '80s, Guilin has two international chains hotels: the Sheraton and Shangri-La. The former has a great location by the Li River; the latter is a new hotel offering great comfort.
There are several small boutique hotels in the city. If you are not sure which hotel is best for you, ask your travel advisor and tell him/her what you prefer. They will give their suggestions from their years of experience working for foreign travelers.
Hotels in Yangshuo boast a great location in the countryside with a scenic outlook on the Yulong River and limestone hills. Imagine enjoying a cup of coffee in the hotel garden by a clear river surrounded by karst hills, bamboo, and rice paddies.
Read more about Where to Stay in Yangshuo: 12 Outstanding Hotels
In the mountainside hotels in Longsheng, the facilities and services are of a lower standard than in the city of Guilin. For example, they only provide very simple Chinese breakfasts. (Though we have prepared Western breakfasts for our customers in Longsheng when required.) However, you'll be compensated with spectacular views of the terraced fields and rural culture of ethnic villages.
Discover Guilin with a Local Expert
To plan a great trip to Guilin is difficult and time-consuming if you don't know the area well. Many tourists find out too late they're on a second-rate Li River cruise among large Chinese tourist groups.
We live here and our Guilin tour guides have explored every corner of the city and its surrounding rural areas.
"Le Le, in Guilin, couldn't have been more helpful. He anticipated our every move and gave many helpful tips."— Victor and Mary Ann Cognato, China Highlights customers
Just tell us your interests and requirements. One of our travel experts will give you insider recommendations and work for you to tailor-make your unique Guilin tour.