Home Guilin Tips & Articles Guilin's Karst Landscape: Formations and Scenery

Guilin's Karst Landscape: Formations and Scenery

Karst hills along the Li RiverKarst hills along the Li River

A famous Chinese saying says that “Guilin's scenery is the best in the world” and foreign sources say that Guilin is world-famous for its karst landscape and formations.

So, what is Guilin’s karst landscape, why does it make Guilin’s scenery the best in the world, and where can you best see these marvelous views? Read on to discover the answers.

Karst Formations in Guilin

A karst formation is a general term for surface and underground morphology formed by the dissolution of soluble rocks (mostly limestone) by water.

According to statistics, karst landscapes cover about 10% of the world’s total land area but only Guilin has unique scenery that includes hills and rivers. How was this scenery formed?

Hundreds of millions of years ago, you would have needed a diving suit to tour Guilin because it was deep beneath the surface of the sea, in a relatively deeper basin.

For a long time, calcareous sediment was deposited in the “Guilin basin” (just like putting food into a bowl) and formed the limestone rock, which became over 3,000 meters (10,000 ft) thick.

Then, because of the movement of Earth’s crust, the seabed rose to form dry land.

In Guilin, the limestone rock was thick but had a lot of fissures containing other sediments, making it very easy to be dissolved by water. Due to higher temperatures and plenty of rainfall in Guilin, the rock was carved extensively, forming the rivers (seated on fine sediments washed from the rock), hills, and caves you can see nowadays.

In other parts of the world, karst landforms are just bare limestone structures resembling stone forests, for example the famous Stone Forest near Kunming or islands such as Halong Bay, Vietnam. In Guilin, however, the landforms are a combination of hills, rivers, and caves.

This is the world’s rarest type of karst scenery, which you can only see in Guilin, and is the top reason to visit the city.

Famous Karst Mountains in Guilin

Elephant Trunk Hill (象鼻山)

Elephant Trunk HillElephant Trunk Hill

Elephant Trunk Hill is the symbol of Guilin and its karst landscape. It looks like a huge elephant stretching its trunk and drinking water.

The arch of “the elephant’s trunk and head” was carved by natural erosion. The arch is called Water Moon Cave because when seen with its inverted reflection in water, it forms the shape of the moon.

  • Location: near the center of Guilin (about 10 minutes’ drive from the downtown area)
  • Open: 6:30am–9:30pm (April–November); 7am–9:30pm (December–March)
  • Time: Go there in the early morning to see the hill surrounded by mist or at night to admire the night view. The visit takes about 1 hour.

Find out more interesting information about Elephant Trunk Hill.

Nine Horses Fresco Hill (九马画山)

Nine Horses Fresco HillNine Horses Fresco Hill

Nine Horses Fresco Hill stands on the most scenic stretch the Li River, which is plied by cruise boats. The side of the mountain facing the river looks like a huge screen.

The pattern of the darker rock of the hill looks like a picture of nine horses. However, most people cannot find all of the horses. The legend says that the more horses a person finds, the smarter he/she is. So, would you like to take up the challenge?

  • Location: about 50 km (30 mi) downstream from Guilin
  • Travel tip: You could see the mountain while on a Li River cruise. Cruise boats slow down to offer enough time to admire the horse images on the cliff.
  • You don’t need to buy an extra ticket for the Xingping Scenic Area, which includes this hill.

Other best karst mountains in Guilin include the Xianggong Hill, Fubo Hill, and Folded Broacade Hill.

Best Guilin Karst Caves

Reed Flute Cave (芦笛岩)

Reed Flute CaveReed Flute Cave

Reed Flute Cave is praised as being ‘nature’s art palace’. Travelers can walk for about 240 meters into the cave and feast their eyes on countless fantastic shapes of stalagmites and stalactites.

Some of them look like lions while others look like pagodas. As you go deeper into the cave, you will find stone palaces or even stones that resemble snowcapped mountains.

  • Location: about 5 km (3 mi), 15 minutes’ drive northwest from downtown Guilin)
  • Open: 8am–5:30pm
  • Tour time: 1–2 hours
  • Activities: Enjoy your journey through the cave and walk around the tourist area to see the rural scenery.

See other highlights of Reed Flute Cave.

Silver Cave (银子岩)

Silver CaveSilver Cave

Silver Cave is a huge karst cave system, which goes through 12 hills.

The stalactites in the cave are milky-white or crystal-like, just like the Milky Way has fallen from the sky or you’ve walked into a treasure cave filled with silver and diamonds.

Silver Cave offers 2,000 meters of karst cave adventure, and travelers can see breathtaking scenes of stone waterfalls, stone harps, stone umbrellas, and more.

  • Location: about 85 km (2 hours’ drive) south from downtown Guilin, half an hour south of Yangshuo
  • Open: 8am–5:30pm
  • Tour time: 2–3 hours
  • Activities: Visit the karst landform cave and attend events in the surrounding tourist area.

Popular Ways to Visit Guilin’s Karst Landscape

Guilin City Day Tour with a Private Car

Tourists say that Guilin’s residents are lucky because we live in such a scenic area. Those in Guilin can actually visit a series of karst hills without going out to rural areas.

Take one of our day trips with an expert guide in a private car and you can have an in-depth encounter with the surreal scenery.

A Li River Cruise

Take a boat to travel Li RiverTake a boat to travel Li River

A Li River cruise is perhaps the most popular and unmissable activity in Guilin. The sapphire-like river and emerald-like karst hills attract tourists from home and abroad.

As you travel downstream on your riverboat, you will see the ‘Ten-Mile Gallery’ slowly spreading before your eyes.

Interested in this experience? Read more about the Li River cruise.

Ride a Bike Around the Yangshuo Countryside

Yangshuo is a county in south Guilin where travelers can cycle amid karst landscapes that are like painted scrolls.

If you like outdoor activities or are fond of cycling, it is a wonderful experience to coast among the hills and fields.

Admire Guilin’s Karst Landscape with Us

Enjoy Guilin Karst landscape with usEnjoy Guilin Karst landscape with us

Discover Guilin's karst landscape with our Guilin tours. View the best caves and most iconic peaks, and even climb some of them for spectacular views.

Alternatively, you may tell us your requirements and we’ll create a uniquely tailored tour of Guilin.

You can also check the itinerary samples below for reference (all of our tours can be customized):