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When planning a Guilin tour, you should 1) choose a good time to come, 2) find the best way for you to get here, and 3) once you've decided what attractions you want to see you can decide how long to stay. Lastly come the finer details of hotels, meals, local transport, etc.
Guilin is located just north of tropical latitudes, so, generally speaking, it has a humid and warm climate. It has different appeals to its scenery in different seasons.
April–June: In this period, you can appreciate the misty and rainy scenery of the Li River. In the middle of May to the beginning of June, the Longji Terraced Fields are well watered, and the reflection of water in the rice fields attracts many photographers. Though Guilin is rainy for most of that time, the increasing heat makes the rains a welcome respite.
July–October: This period is the best time to see the scenery along the Li River clearly under bright sunshine. And in late September to early October, the rice on the Longji Terraced Fields is ripe for harvesting, making the terraces look like carpeted steps of golden yellow.
Avoid the Peak Times: There are two "golden travel weeks" in this period, the first weeks of May and October. In these two "golden weeks", most popular destinations including Guilin are filled with Chinese travelers.
Also, because July and August is the summer holiday of schools in China, destinations like Guilin are quite crowded in those months.
The Low Travel Season: November–March
November–March, winter in Guilin, is typically cold/cool and damp, but can by dry and even warm.
Seasonal Weather and What to Pack
Spring (March–May): Spring is the beginning of the rainy season (April to July) in Guilin. The weather is humid and changeable, rapidly transitioning from cool to hot. Prepare warm coats and sweaters in your pack. A light rain coat or umbrella is also necessary.
Summer (June–August): Guilin's summer is hot and wet. T-shirts and shorts are enough. Take an umbrella in case of rain. Sunglasses, hat, long-sleeve shirt, and sun cream may be needed to protect you from the strong sun.
Autumn (September–November): Autumn in Guilin is pleasantly mild and dry. Be mindful of the big difference in temperature between day and night. Prepare a jacket, sweaters, long shirts and pants. Locals consider the weather dry enough to require lip balm.
Winter (December–February): Guilin winters rarely have snow, except on the high mountains, like in Longsheng, but it feels very cold with the dampness. It's alternately damp and chilly or warm/cool and dry. A down jacket or overcoat, along with thermal underwear, is needed on many days for protection against the cold.
More on Guilin weather and seasonal things to do>>
Guilin Liangjiang International Airport, Guilin North Railway Station, and Guilin Railway Station connect comfortably with many of the main cities in China. Consider using China's ever-expanding bullet train network.
Guilin has flights from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xi'an, Kunming, Chengdu, and other major cities. And it has international flights from Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Macau.
If Guilin is your first destination in mainland China, then you could choose Hong Kong or Guangzhou as a nearby transfer airport.
Airport bus: It takes about 1 hour from the airport to the city center. The bus fare is 20 yuan.
Guilin has trains from Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Tianjin, Xi'an, Changsha, and other major cities.
Guilin Train Station is in the city center and Guilin North Railway Station, about 8 km north, has a new bullet train link between Guangzhou and Guizhou.
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 in Longsheng. There are hundreds of attractions in Guilin. The most famous attractions in Guilin are the Li River, Yangshuo and the Longji Terraced Fields.
Guilin is famous for the fantastic natural scenery of the Li River — the essence of Guilin landscape. Green mountains, clear water, grotesque caves, and beautiful rocks are the four features of the Li River. See more on how to enjoy the Li River.
It's well known that Yangshuo has the most attractive scenery of Guilin Prefecture. There are many attractions in the countryside around Yangshuo town and riding a bike is a popular way to visit them.
After a day among the attractions, enjoy a leisurely evening at the "Western" bars and restaurants of West Street. Impression Liu Sanjie is a minority musical extravaganza, lit up on the waters of the Li, that should not be missed.
From Guilin's city center: about 70 km south, 1½ hours' drive
Activities: Go cycling among the rice paddies, fruit orchards, karst hills, and tranquil villages; have a leisurely time in the bars of West Street; climb Moon Hill; feast your eyes on the Impression night show.
Longji's terraced fields have both natural scenery and ethnic culture. The wooden houses clustered among the cultivated terraces make a beautiful mountainside picture. The local Yao and Zhuang people in their unique costumes will introduce you to their colorful minority culture.
Distance from Guilin city center: about 100 km, 2 hours' drive
Activities: Hike the ancient paths between the terraced paddies; watch folk performances in the villages.
Read more on how to visit the Longji Terraced Fields.
Elephant Trunk Hill in Guilin city is the city's emblem and a must-visit sight. Seven Star Park is the largest and most attraction-packed park in Guilin city, with seven karst hills, a cave complex, cultural reliefs and activities, and a zoo with pandas. The city has several interesting peaks to be discovered.
Guilin is now 72-hour visa free. Travelers from 51 countries with an onward flight from Guilin to a third country/region are able to benefit from this policy. If you are able to use Guilin as your transit airport, why not plan in an up-to-3-day tour of Guilin? See our suggestions for planning a 72-hour visa-free tour of Guilin.
Guilin now offers 6-day (144-hour) visa-free transit to ten ASEAN countries. Passports holders from Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), Singapore, Brunei, and the Philippines can enjoy the new visa-free transit policy.
Three days are enough if you only want to see the karst landscapes. A recommended itinerary is as follows:
Day 1: Sightseeing in Guilin
Day 2: Li River cruise to Yangshuo
Day 3: Yangshuo's countryside
If you want to explore the ethnic culture in Longsheng as well, you will need a day or two more.
Day 4-Day 5: The above plus Longji rice terraces
Day 6-Day 7: The above plus 1-2 extra days in Xingping or Yangshuo for relaxation/photography
There are three areas for you to choose from 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.
If you spend a night in Longsheng, you should stay in the hotels on the terraced fields, which have spectacular views.
As a long-standing Guilin-based tour operator, China Highlights offers the best hotel booking service. Below are some recommended hotels in Guilin city.
Guilin Shangri-la Hotel #2 on Trip Advisor
Guilin Yi Royal Palace #6 on Trip Advisor
Guilin Sheraton Hotel #10 on Trip Advisor
Grand Bravo Hotel #13 on Trip Advisor
Guilin Bravo Hotel #8 on Trip Advisor
Guilin Park Hotel #12 on Trip Advisor
Lijiang Waterfall Hotel #7 on Trip Advisor
Opposite the Li River on Binjiang Road in downtown Guilin, the house has a perfect location, where you have a river view from the bedroom window. You will stay in a spacious twin-bed bedroom with your own wash room. There is a family garden on the roof, where you can enjoy an afternoon tea break.
The hosts are a very hospitable family of three. The father is a retired middle school English teacher, so there will be no communication barrier between you and this family. They are happy to share their lives and tell you more about Chinese culture. China Highlights can arrange the home stay if you book a Guilin tour with us.
Guilin cuisine is characterized by its sour and spicy taste. There is a moderate use of spices, particularly chili. The common cooking methods of Guilin cuisine are stir-frying and steaming. Fresh natural ingredients are used in Guilin dishes, including some wild plants and animals which are rarely eaten in the West.
Western food is also available in Guilin. It's not hard to find Western restaurants in the popular tourist areas of Guilin and Yangshuo.
Some local Chinese restaurants and most "Western" restaurants have English menus. If you have special dietary requirements, it's advisable to get e.g. your guide or hotel staff to write them down in Chinese.
Big department stores in the city center and many convenience stores will meet your daily shopping demands. At night the night market in Xicheng Road sells all kind of souvenirs. Remember to bargain when shopping at the night market.
Nightlife in Guilin is colorful and relaxed. You can visit the night market in the downtown or have beer in a bar on the pedestrian street. Walking along the lakes or taking a lake cruise at night is popular. If you're going to stay in Yangshuo overnight, then the Impression show is a must-see.
Most attractions in downtown can be reached by public buses. For some in the suburbs, you should take a taxi. There are many buses to Yangshuo and Longsheng every day from Guilin Bus Station and Guilin Railway Station.
China Highlights offers private chauffeured transport as a more comfortable and convenient alternative to public transportation. Our private tours come with a private vehicle and driver suited to your group size, and an English-speaking tour guide for all your communication needs.
China Highlights is based in Guilin, and we know tourism in Guilin better than anyone else. Our travel experts are glad to help you tailor-make a Guilin tour based on your interests and requirements.