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No visit to Guilin is complete without a visit to Yao Mountain (Yao Shan). It is the highest and largest of Guilin city’s mountains (within a radius of 20 km) and can be seen as a prominent landmark from many places in the city and suburbs.
Although not a typical karst peak the ascent and summit afford spectacular views over the karst formations of the Guilin landscape.
Yao Shan and the surrounding area have many aspects, features and attractions that make it an unmissable visit. Yao Shan even has it's own golf course!
Yao Mountain is located in the eastern suburbs of Guilin, about 10 km (6.2 miles) from the city center. It is famed for spectacular views, diverse wildlife, and ancient tombs. Its main peak reaches 909 meters (accessed by the mountain road plus a path off to the north), but the lower south peak is the one that has been developed for tourism.
There are superb views during the ascent and from the top, which you can get to either by cable chairlift or with a hike up the hill itself.
The direct hike is a rough stepped walking path on both sides of the chairlift, if you fancy a 1-hour cardio-vascular workout! Travelers can take the cable lift (40 RMB one-way, 75 RMB return) to reach the top of the hill. The cable-way has a length of 1.4 km (0.9 miles), and one-way takes 20 minutes.
It is the first tourist cable-way in Guangxi. There is also a rough stepped walking path on both sides of the chairlift you fancy a cardio-vascular workout!
There are other ways to get to the top. You can literally walk or take a bike all the way to the top via a road! If you do this, once at the top, the gate entrance fee is just 10 RMB.
You can also walk to the top via the road route as many local people and students do regularly, or you can hire a bicycle or an electric scooter quite cheaply from the local village if you want a quicker journey!
Walking or biking to the top is quite safe, and once at the top, the gate entrance fee is just 10 yuan. Pedal bicycles are available to hire locally – as well as electric or E-bikes (around 4 yuan per hour) from the local village of Leng Shui Tang (‘ Cold Water Village’ ).
Taking the road-based route to the top is also good for smoother walking and you will be able to see vineyards and various different types of horticultural activity including the tapping of the fir trees for their sticky resinous sap. There are also natural spring waterfalls which you might only get to see via the main road route.
About 450 meters above sea level is Yao Temple, built during the Qin Dynasty (221–206 BC), which gave the mountain the name. At an altitude of about 700 meters is Bailu Temple, once the residence of a famous monk in the Tang Dynasty (618–907).
At the summit, there are various attractions including a set of beautiful golden statues, a viewing telescope, a sundial and amazing views over the unique peaks of the Guilin karst landscape.
There are various shrines and a temple at the top. There’s also entertainment in one of the various visitor buildings, with ethnic Chinese dancers and musicians, alongside stalls selling local crafts and gifts.
Walking and cycling in spring, summer, and autumn when the mountain is a rich tapestry of exotic butterflies, birds and wildflowers are highly recommended.
There are even a few troupes of rhesus monkeys! (They generally shun human contact so not always easy but there are a few ‘characters’ that regularly visit the university campus below who ‘cajole’ students into supplementing their winter diet!)
The journey down is no less interesting and even rather thrilling depending on your taste for adventure!
The toboggan run! Yes, really! Aside from the cable car and walking, going down offers the fun alternative of a wheeled toboggan run that can take you down the last half of the mountain on a metal chute track!
The toboggan run was completed in 1996, with the second longest such run in China and the first in Southwest China. (The speed is limited for tourist use) It runs through dense inclined forests that would otherwise be inaccessible and you can stop for a look around.
You can take the 24 bus from the first stop on Jiefang East Road, where it crosses Zhongshan Road on the way to Liberation Bridge. If the weather is fine and you choose the chairlift there’s a pleasant 10-minute stroll from the Tombs of Prince Jingjiang stop to the Yao Mountain chairlift entrance for a chairlift ascent.
The road leading to Yao Shan recently had a facelift and is a pleasant journey - peppered as it is with unique karst peaks en route.
At the foot of the mountain where the chairlift terminates, you will find Guilin’s very own Geological Museum which houses a very fine collection of minerals, rocks, precious stones and fossils.
There are many fascinating displays that really are worth the visit in their own right – some astounding exhibits and some fun stuff too!
This is a much overlooked but highly recommended visit! Genuinely amazing and rounds up the trip to Yao Shan very nicely! See more on Guilin's Geology.
Guilin Tea Science and Research Institute, which can be found along the newly face-lifted route to Yao Shan, is also worth visiting. There you will get to know different types of tea, the production process, and enjoy a tea ceremony while sipping small cups of various teas.
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There's so much to see and do - you may want to stay longer... Start planning your tailor-made Guilin tour here.
Guilin is 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 more on Guilin Visa-Free Travel - How to Make the Most of It.