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How to Plan a Trip to Guilin — Everything You Need to Know

Mountains in GuilinMountains in Guilin

Quite different from the big impressive cities like Beijing and Shanghai, “small” Guilin will impress you with its karst landscape, idyllic countryside, and rich minority culture.

Use this page to help find inspiration and prepare for your upcoming trip.

The Best Things to See and Do in Guilin

Guilin is famous for its natural scenery. The highlights here are the hills, rivers, and caves of the stunning karst landscape, and the ethnic culture and terraced mountainsides of Longsheng.

The most famous attractions in Guilin are the Li River, Yangshuo, and the Longji Terraced Fields.

Top Places to See in Guilin

The Li River

The Li RiverA local fisherman on the Li River

The Li River is the essence of Guilin’s landscape. Verdant karst mountains, clear water, amazing caves, and remarkable rocks are the four features of the river.

Three popular ways to explore the Li River:

  • Take a cruise ride from Guilin to Yangshuo or Xingping.
  • Take a bamboo raft on the river.
  • Hike along the river from Yangdi to Xingping.

If you are lucky, you may witness cormorant fishing, a traditional way of life on the Li River in the past. See more on how to enjoy the Li River.

Yangshuo

yangshuo countryside cyclingRide a bike to enjoy Yangshuo's beautiful countryside scenery.

The main attraction of Yangshuo is its beautiful countryside scenery. It is a heaven for outdoor activities lovers.

From Guilin's city center: about 70 km south, 1½ hours' drive
Recommended minimum stay: one night
Things to do:

  • Go cycling among the rice paddies and tranquil villages.
  • Take a bamboo raft on the Yulong River.
  • Visit a local village and join in local farming activities.
  • Have a leisurely time in the thematic shops, cafes, and bars of West Street.
  • Feast your eyes on the “Song Fairy” Impression night show.
  • Revel in a rock climbing paradise.

The Longji Terraced Fields

The Longji Rice TerracesTwo women of the Yao ethnic minority in Longji show their long hair.

Longji's terraced fields have both spectacular scenery and ethnic culture. The wooden houses clustered among the cultivated terraces make a beautiful mountainside picture.

Distance from Guilin city center: about 100 km, 2 hours' drive
Recommended minimum stay: one night
Things to do:

Read more on how to visit the Longji Terraced Fields.

Guilin City

Guilin scenery The scenery of Guilin city

It is worth spending some time in Guilin city after your arrival or before your departure flight.

On your arrival day, you could have a lovely stroll around the “Two Rivers and Four Lakes” scenic area, in the heart of the city. Taking a river and lake cruise is a great way to unwind.

If you have time to take in the city highlights, three attractions are recommended first of all: Elephant Trunk Hill, Fubo Hill, and Reed Flute Cave.

How Long to Stay: 4–7 Days

To cover all the highlights of Guilin, you’re recommended to stay 4 days, one night in Guilin, one night in Yangshuo, and one night in Longji.

If your time is limited and are not interested in ethnic culture and rice terraces, you can consider missing out Longji.

Join in farming activity in Yangshuo.Join in a farming activity in Yangshuo.

A sample itinerary for inspiration:

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

See our full 4-day Guilin itinerary with detailed descriptions and vivid pictures.

If you want to have an in-depth exploration of Guilin, spending an extra 3 days is recommended to include the old town of Daxu and more of Guilin city, Yangshuo, and Longji.

Have a close contact with local people in Daxu Old Town.You can still find some traditional ways of life in Daxu Old Town.

A sample itinerary for inspiration:

Day 1: Guilin Arrival
Day 2: Daxu Old Town and Guilin Highlights
Day 3: Guilin to Longji
Day 4: Walking Among Rice Terraces; Longji to Guilin
Day 5: Li River Cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo
Day 6: Yangshuo Countryside Tour
Day 7: Guilin Departure

See our 7-day Guilin itinerary for more information.

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 Go

The most popular period to visit Guilin is from April to October when the weather is warm/hot and the scenery is charming.

Li riverThe Misty Li River in April

Please book in advance if your plan to go in the first weeks of May and October (national holidays), and July and August (summer vacation in China).

The low travel season from November to March is also regarded as a good time to visit, because tour prices are cheaper and attractions are less crowded. But, if you want to visit the Longji Rice Terraces, this period is not a good time.

Based in Guilin, we know Guilin best. Year in year out, the overall top time to visit is from mid October to the end of November. This short autumn season boasts comfortable temperatures, beautiful scenery, and lacks the crowds.

More on Guilin weather and seasonal things to do

How to Get to Guilin

Guilin is accessible by air and train. Travelling 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.

See more on Guilin Transportation.

Get to Guilin by plane

Recommended Hotels

There are three areas to stay according to your Guilin itinerary: in the city center, in Yangshuo, or in Longsheng.

In the city center, the hotels range bountifully from small inns to 5-star hotels.

In Yangshuo, most hotels are boutique hotels with unique designs.

In Longsheng, the facilities and service in the mountainside hotels are unable to compare with those in Guilin and Yangshuo. But you’ll be compensated with spectacular views of the terraced fields and rural culture of ethnic villages.

Yangshuo Alila  Alila Yangshuo

Some recommended hotels hand-picked by our specialists:

In Guilin

  • 5-star: Guilin Shangri-la Hotel; Guilin Sheraton Hotel
  • 4-star: Lijiang Waterfall Hotel

In Yangshuo

  • 5-star: Alila Yangshuo
  • 4-star: Yangshuo Mountain Retreat

In Longsheng

  • Longji Ping An Hotel
  • Longji Panorama House Hotel

Famous Local Food You Should Try

Guilin foodGuilin rice noodles

Guilin cuisine is characterized by its sour and spicy taste. The most famous local foods are rice noodles, beer fish, and braised pork with taro slices.

You can find many restaurants and snacks in East-West Alley (东西巷) and Shangshui Cuisine Street (尚水美食街).

Western food is also available in Guilin. It's not hard to find Western restaurants in the popular tourist areas of Guilin and Yangshuo.

Discover Guilin with a Local Expert

China Highlights is based in Guilin, so we know our neighborhood’s hidden stories and most authentic experiences very well.

GuilinOur clients are learning to make a local delicacy in a minority village of Guilin. 

Just tell us your interests and requirements. One of our travel experts will give you insider’s recommendations and work for you to tailor-make your unique Guilin tour.

Here are some sample itineraries for your inspiration.