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How Long to Spend in Guilin (5 Top Itineraries and Side Trips)

Written by Mike Ho Updated Jun. 2, 2023

In China, there is a popular saying: 'Guilin's landscape is the best under heaven'. Guilin's picturesque karst landscape and idyllic countryside views attracts millions of travelers from China and abroad. But what would be your ideal Guilin trip? How many days are needed to explore Guilin's beauty? This article will help you plan your perfect Guilin itinerary.

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How Many Days to Spend in Guilin?

For a classic Guilin trip, most visitors choose a combination of downtown sightseeing, a Li River cruise, and stays in Yangshuo and Longsheng counties, which usually takes about 5–6 days.

If you have limited time, you could focus on downtown Guilin, a Li River cruise, and a trip to Yangshuo, which takes about 3 days.

If you have more days to spend (and are happy you have spent long enough in Guilin), we recommend you visit nearby complimentary places, such as Hong Kong, Guizhou, or Huangshan.

  • Hong Kong (3+ days to enjoy Hong Kong's numerous outdoor activities).
  • Guizhou (3+ days to explore diverse minority cultures in Guizhou).
  • Huangshan (2+ days to appreciate China's top mountain views)

The five itineraries below show how these day allocations would work out in practice and what could be covered in that time:

Guilin landscape

1. 5-Day Classic Guilin Highlights Tour (Most Chosen)

With 5 days in Guilin, you could explore most of the highlights and experience the local culture at a comfortable pace. Spend a day in downtown Guilin, and 4 days in the nearby counties of Yangshuo and Longsheng.

  • Day 1: Visit Guilin city's top attractions: Elephant Trunk Hill, Reed Flute Cave...
  • Day 2: Take a Li River Cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo, during which you would see celebrated mountain-and-river views.
  • Days 3–4: Yangshuo (cycling between the paddy fields, visiting a local farmers' house, cave exploring...)
  • Day 5: Longji Terraced Fields (visit the famous terraced fields and learn more about their peoples' culture and life.)

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For family travelers with kids, we recommend the numerous outdoor activities in Yangshuo, including cave exploring, rock climbing, cycling amongst the paddy fields, meeting local farmers and seeing their house, learning Chinese calligraphy, and cooking.

If you are interested in minority culture and hiking, our private guide can accompany/guide you on a hiking tour at Longji Terraced Fields and arrange many interesting things, such as ethnic Chinese cooking and rice farming experiences.

Our private tours are customized according to your time and interests. Here are some of the sample tours in Guilin.

2. A 3-Day Guilin Essence Tour (Good for Limited Time or Short Trips)

If you have about 3 days in Guilin, we suggest a tour to visit the downtown highlights and a trip to Yangshuo.

  • Day 1: Visit Guilin's top attractions (Elephant Trunk Hill, Reed Flute Cave…)
  • Day 2: Take a Li River Cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo to enjoy the breathtaking river-and-mountain views.
  • Day 3: Take a biking tour in Yangshuo to see some of the most beautiful countryside views representing the south of China. Enjoy some relaxing time in Yangshuo West Street, maybe having coffee in pubs or bars.

Inside tips: You can use Guilin's 72-hour (3-day) visa-free transit policy with this itinerary, if you then head to a third country/region, such as Hong Kong, where you can take a departure flight. For more on this, see the Guilin and Hong Kong itinerary below.

The Top 3 Side Trip Itineraries from Guilin

If you have a longer holiday to see Guilin, we recommend considering an extension trip from Guilin to see a similarly-themed or convenient destination, such as Hong Kong in the south, Guizhou in the north or Huagnshan in the east.

1. An 8-Day Guilin and Hong Kong Trip (Top Visa-Free Option)

Hong Kong Ocean Park

Guilin is near Hong Kong, which is a popular exit city after finishing a Guilin or China trip. And you can take a bullet train from Guilin to Hong Kong for about 3 hours.

Hong Kong offers rich kids-friendly attractions for family travelers. If you are transiting in HK to take advantage of the Guilin's 72-hour (3-day) visa-free transit policy (see above), then you must use Guilin Liangjiang International Airport, flying from Taipei, KL, Seoul, or Jakarta.

  • Days 1–2: Guilin downtown sightseeing at Elephant Trunk Hill and Reed Flute Cave followed by a Li River Cruise from Guilin city to Yangshuo.
  • Days 3–5: Enjoy charming Yangshuo's karst landscape by bamboo rafting, biking in countryside, rock climbing, cave exploring, and so on.
  • Days 6–8: Hong Kong

In Hong Kong, Ocean Park is a must-visit attractions, especially if you are traveling with kids. It is a special experience to take a raft ride through a jungle landscape, which features alongside many other rides. The park also offers a plethora of animal exhibits, including a giant panda habitat, a shark aquarium, and a sea lion show.

If you would like to see the skyline of Hong Kong, you should visit Victoria Peak. The view from the top of Victoria Peak is undoubtedly an awesome attraction, which is great to visit at sunset. You can enjoy the panoramic views of the city and the harbor from the highest point in Hong Kong.

For most children, it would be great to finish with Hong Kong Disneyland, where you can view spectacular fireworks shows, parades, and live performances featuring beloved Disney characters.

2. An 8-Day Guilin and Guizhou Trip (Best for Ethnic Culture)

Guilin and Guizhou Trip

If you are interested in China's diverse ethnic groups and their fascinating culture, you are recommended to visit Guizhou province from Guilin, which would take you about 3 hours by bullet train. Guizhou is known for its stunning natural scenery, unique minority culture, and delicious cuisine.

  • Days 1–2: Guilin downtown sightseeing tour to Elephant Trunk Hill, Reed Flute Cave, and so on. Taking a Li River Cruise from Guilin downtown to Yangshuo.
  • Days 3–5: Discover Yangshuo's amazing countryside by bamboo rafting, biking in the countryside, rock climbing, cave exploring, and so on.
  • Days 6–8: Guizhou

In Guizhou, we would arrange a hiking tour in the biggest Dong villages in China to enable you to experience minority culture and life. See how the local Dong people make paper from wood pulp, and visit a village where people still carry on their forebears' trade of papermaking today.

In the village, you can learn how to make a piece of paper with a respected expert, step by step. Then make a piece of paper yourself and take the paper home as a souvenir. In a farmer's house, you can cook lunch with fresh local ingredients.

For a more relaxed time, stroll along the village's bluestone paths, and observe close-up the daily lives of minority people. Read more about our Guilin and Guizhou tour

3. A 9-Day Guilin and Huangshan Trip (Good for Photographers)

Huangshan tour from Guilin

If you are photography lovers, or even professionals, then this itinerary would be good for you. Our experienced photography guides would lead you to the best vantage points of Guilin's impressive landscapes and famous Li River. Take awesome photos of famous oddly-shaped rocks and pines and the seas of clouds among Huangshan's Yellow Mountain peaks.

  • Days 1–2: Guilin Downtown Sightseeing (Elephant Trunk Hill, Reed Flute Cave…)
  • Days 3–5: Yangshuo (Xingping Ancient Town, the Li River, Xianggong Hill)
  • Days 6–9: Huangshan

In Guilin, our photography guide would usually choose these three special places for photography: Xianggong Hill, Xingping, and the Li River.

On Xianggong Hill, our planning and our guide would help you take advantage of the comfortable nearby hotels so that you don't spend too much time on the road to capture the sunrise. There would be about a 20-minute climb up Xianggong Hill to photograph the breathtaking sunrise at the place where the Li River runs at a right-angled bend.

The Li River and Xingping Ancient Town are two must-visit places for photography. Xingping is the best place for rosy sunsets and an evening shoot with a fishing scene on the Li River — we'd organize a bamboo fishing boat, a cozy gas lamp, an experienced fishing man, and several cormorants.

Being different from Guilin's river-and-mountain views, in Huangshan, you would witness abundant breathtaking views of imaginatively named rocks and trees. To help you make full use of your time, our experienced guide would lead you to the best places to take pictures of sunrises, sunsets, and iconic views.

You could also experience local life there by taking part in many interesting activities, such as farming, cooking the regional cuisine, and learning more about local culture. Read more about our Guilin and Huangshan Photography Tour

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