An old saying goes that “Guilin's scenery is the best in the world, and Yangshuo’s scenery is the best in Guilin”. So people ask the questions: “Where should I stay: Guilin or Yangshuo? Should we go straight to Yangshuo and miss out the city of Guilin?”
Here is the quick answer:
Guilin city is best for transport and is convenient for a one/two-night stay and to do some city sightseeing. Yangshuo, with better scenery and more attractions, hotels, and restaurants, is a place you can settle down to enjoy your vacation.
Read on to find out more about the reasons for staying in Guilin or Yangshuo, and to see a sample itinerary for inspiration.
3 Reasons to Stay in Downtown Guilin
1. It’s the Area’s Transport Hub
Guilin city has 12 surrounding counties including Yangshuo and Longsheng. Guilin City is located between Yangshuo and Longsheng. The main airport, train stations, and bus stations are all located in Guilin City.
It only takes 40 minutes’ drive to get from the airport to the downtown area. It takes about 1½ hours to get to Yangshuo and 2 hours to get to the Longji Rice Terraces from the airport.
Guilin is the transport hub for people to travel around the area. Because of this, Guilin City may be worth a stay to break up a journey, especially for those who take a late flight or train in, or an early one out.
2. Guilin is the Start of the Li River Cruise
The Li River is the most popular and picturesque scenic area in Guilin. It is listed as one of the “world's 15 best rivers for travelers” by CNN Travel. It is no exaggeration to say that the Li River is the main reason for most tourists to visit Guilin.
The best way to visit the Li River is to take a cruise boat from Guilin to Yangshuo. Cruise boats usually depart at 9:30am and 10am every day. The boarding point for a Li River cruise is about 30 kilometers or 45 minutes' drive from Guilin city center, but 2 hours from Yangshuo, so staying the night in Guilin to take the cruise in the morning makes sense.
3. Guilin Is a Place with Much to See
In Guilin City, there are some top sights. Reed Flute Cave in the suburbs is the most popular and attractive cave in Guilin.
Elephant Trunk Hill and Fubo Hill in downtown Guilin offer their own iconic attractions: a hill shaped like an elephant and panoramic views of the Li River and Guilin City.
The Two Rivers and Four Lakes water system in the center is stunning and colorful at night. Taking a cruise on the four lakes is a popular nighttime activity.
Daxu Ancient Town, 20 kilometers southeast of Guilin City, is also worth a visit. The bluestone paving and ancient houses will take you back to the Ming and Qing dynasties.
3 Reasons to Stay in Yangshuo
1. Beautiful Karst Scenery
Surrounded by karst mountains, winding rivers, and beautiful scenery, Yangshuo is much like a huge national park. You can stay from one night to several nights, or even settle down for your vacation there.
Yangshuo offers various ways to admire the karst landscape. You can take a bamboo raft on the Yulong River to immerse yourself among the karst mountains or climb up Xianggong Hill for a stunning bird’s-eye view of the Li River.
2. Rich Activity Options
Beyond the karst scenery, there are many outdoor activities you can do in Yangshuo. You can bike around the countryside, or go hill/rock climbing, caving, rafting, kayaking, or hiking. Read more about Yangshuo outdoor activities.
Yangshuo also has a variety of traditional Chinese classes to offer, such as a calligraphy and painting class, a tai chi class, and a cookery class. These classes offer a good opportunity for you to learn about the different culture.
To have close contact with the local people, you can visit a village and try some farming activities, such as planting vegetables and plowing a field.
Just let us know which kind of activity you are interested in and we can add it into your Yangshuo tour.
3. A Wide Range of Hotel and Restaurant Options
Yangshuo is popular among foreigners not only for its beautiful scenery but also for its foreigner-friendly atmosphere. You can find a wide range of hotels from luxury to boutique to guesthouses, and many restaurants offering various cuisines including Chinese, Western, Indian, Thai, Italian, and vegetarian.
It is very popular to stay in a scenic hotel along the banks of the Yulong River or in a boutique hotel with a rich cultural ambience that’s hidden away in a local village.
Around West Street there are countless cafés and bars to unwind in.
A Sample Itinerary Including Guilin and Yangshuo
Simply put, Guilin and Yangshuo are both worthy of a stay. Whether you stay for a longer or shorter duration depends entirely on your schedule and interests.
Here is a sample itinerary for Guilin and Yangshuo:
Day 1 - Stay in Guilin: Arrive in Guilin and do some sightseeing in the city.
Day 2 - Stay in Yangshuo: Take a Li River cruise in the morning and explore Yangshuo in the afternoon.
Day 3 - Depart: Stay longer in Yangshuo or get back to Guilin for your departure flight.
See our detailed itinerary.
If you would like to visit the Longji Rice Terraces, you should add on an extra day. There are hotels and guesthouses available on the terraced fields, but most of them are basic. Visitors who have high requirements for hotels or want to enjoy the city’s nightlife are recommended to return to Guilin City.
Tour Guilin and Yangshuo with a Local Expert
We, at China Highlights, are based in Guilin and we know the tourist scene here as well as anyone. We have customized thousands of Guilin tours to help our customers maximize their stay in Guilin. Here are some sample tours for your reference. They can be modified according to your interests and preferences. We'd be happy to create a tour just for you.
What's a Tour With us Like?
A family of four that moved from US to China just released a video about their time in Guilin with us in October, 2021. Contact us to send a free inquiry.