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The Li River, in Guilin, is considered to be the most beautiful river in China. There are three ways to tour the Li: taking a cruise boat, a bamboo raft, or hiking. While a cruise is the most popular way to explore the river, a bamboo raft is a more sedate, flexible, and natural. But hiking is enjoyed by an increasing number of travelers.
The beauty of the Li River cannot be fully appreciated on a boat. Instead, hike slowly along the river, stopping here and there by the river, and immerse your feet in the water. Follow the trail through bamboo groves, treading between golden rice fields (in early autumn), and even camp for one night to experience the sunrise and sunset. This is how to fully appreciate the beauty of the Li Jiang.
The old Yangdi to Xingping Route is no longer fully doable due to ferry crossing closures.
Part of the old Li River hiking route was reopened in June 2019: the Quanjiazhou–Lengshui riverside trail. Now there is a 11-km (6½-mile) or around 3½-hour hike from Quanjiazhou to Xingping:
From Guilin, it’s about 1½ hours by road to Quanjiazhou village (全家洲). From there, hike about 2 hours (7 km or 4 miles) on a winding road/track between hills and the river to the Lengshui village pier opposite Jiumahua Shan (九马画山 ‘Nine Horse Painting Hill’). Then take a bamboo/pipe raft ferry across the Li River.
Continue on the riverside walk downriver for about 1½ hours (5 km or 3 miles) to reach Xingping (兴坪). You can also take a battery car (10 minutes) to Xingping from Jiumahua Shan.
According to the latest information [Oct. 2016] the operating “official Li River Hiking route” has changed to Xingping – Xianggong Hill – Lengshui Village – Nine Horse Fresco Hill – Xingping (12 km / 7 mi).
There are three choices for visitors planning to travel this section of the Li River, using hiking and bamboo rafting.
This new route is good as it makes the hike a circular walk starting and finishing at Xingping, which is better for access and facilities than Yangdi. Also if you get tired there's plenty of local transport (golf carts and rafts to get you back to Xingping Ancient Town. The scenery is probably nicer too, taking in the fishing village and cavey hills behind it.
First ferry across the Li from Xingping Ancient Town to Xingping Fishing Village, and see cavey, tooth-shaped hills behind it. Then walk 4 km (2½ mi) upriver to Xianggong Hill, where many fantastic photos have been taken. Continue upriver to Lengshui Village, and take a pipe raft ferry across the Li to Jiumahua Hill.
Along the bank further downstream from Lengshui is Nine Horse Mural Hill, which is one of the highlights of the river. It was so named because of the naturally shaped image of nice horses in different positions on the cliff.
You only need to walk along the riverside path/road for an hour or so to reach Xingping, but taking your time is recommended. When almost at Xingping, you will come across a famous sight, Yellow Cloth Shoal, that serves as the pattern on the 20 yuan bill.
Xingping is around 50 minutes' drive away from Yangshuo, and there are regular buses from Xingping Bus Station to Yangshuo.
These cavey hills are located opposite Xingping Ancient Town, looming over Xingping Fishing Village, in a beautiful bend of the Li River. This photo was taken from Laozhai Hill in Xingping Ancient Town, well worth the steep half-hour climb.
Due to changes in Li River management, hiking tours between Yangdi and Xingping became unavailable [Sep. 2015]. Hiking this stretch was possible again in early 2016. [Mar. 2016] But, later in the year, only the Xingping to Nine Horse Hill section was "officially open" for hiking. [Oct. 2016] Please contact us for the latest information.
Bamboo raft use for tourism was suspended in various places on the Li from 2015 due to safety concerns. If this happens again, what you could do is take a local bus or private transport and do a section of the hike without the ferry crossing.
We most recommend the Xingping to Nine Horse Fresco Hill (Jiumahuashan) section, as this is what’s known as the cream of the Li River scenery, and it's most accessible. Take a bus from Yangshuo to Xingping (or take a bullet train to the new “Yangshuo” HSR station only 6 km from Xingping), then walk to Nine Horse Hill and back.
Need an some advice? China Highlights should be your top choice. Our headquarters is only 1½ hour’s drive from the Li River Hiking area.
Take a look at our sample itineraries below. They can be customized to include Li River hiking.
We are tour design experts. If you are interested in doing something quite different, you can just tell us your interests and requirements, and we will create a unique tour with you.