Must-Visit Attractions in Guilin

If it's your first or second trip to Guilin, it can be pretty overwhelming when you try to choose among all the enticing attractions beckoning you to check them out. To get a feel for the city, start with this list of its top attractions and landmarks. Many of the attractions on this list are iconic Guilin institutions and could very well be on your bucket list. So get ready to check a few off and get a feel for one of the greatest cities in China. These picks are in no particular order; they're all top-of-the-list spots.

*Li River

Originating in Mountain Maoer in the north of Guilin, the Li River flows southeast for about 437 km before pouring into the South China Sea. The most scenic section is from urban Guilin to Yangshuo which stretches about 83 kilometers. Limpid water, spectacular Karst hills, traditional grey tiled villages, water buffalos and fishing cormorants are what you can see while standing on the opening deck or sitting inside the flat bottomed cruise boat. After a fantastic cruise from Guilin city to Yangshuo, you will believe that the scenery of Guilin is the best in the planet, and you’ll also find that the traditional Chinese paintings are nothing from imagination but real things. A 40-minutes- drive from Guilin city takes you to the Zhujiang Wharf where the start of the Li River cruise is, and after about 4 hours you will be arriving at Yangshuo. 

*Elephant Trunk Hill

Known as the symbol of Guilin city, the Elephant Trunk Hill is located at the intersection of the Li River and the Peach Blossom River. The park became a famous tourist attraction in Tang Dynasty. On the top of the hill is a two-story pagoda built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) surrounded by green trees. The north seat of the second floor is inlaid with an image of Bodhisattva Puxian. The pagoda looks like a precious vase on the back of an elephant seen from distance and many beautiful legends about the pagoda with good wishes are said among people. There are stone steps leading to the top of the hill where you can do get a view of the city, but climbing the hill is not recommended by us due to the steep steps.

*Reed Flute Cave

Plant called reed grew around the cave and local people made whistles out of it, the Chinese pronunciation of flute and whistle are the same, hence the name. There are stalactites, stalagmites, stone curtains, stone columns and stone flowers, which look like scenic pictures and human figures and make up more than 30 attraction spots. There is even a different view of the formation around each corner. The entire cave looks like a splendid and grand palace of precious stones, coral and jade. Water dissolved the limestone and deposited in the cave and after millions of years the stalactites came into being gradually. All the attraction spots in the cave are natural and original formation without any human trace, so the cave is reputed as Art Palace of Nature.

The cave was discovered in 1959 and opened in 1962. It is not only famous for its natural beauty but also was given cultural connotation. There are 170 ancient rock writings and poems of 1000 years ago discovered and many of them were about tours and narrations by intellectuals, monks and travelers. There had been more than 300 national leaders and foreign leaders that had visited the cave by 2017, so the cave is also reputed as State Guests Cave.

*Fubo Hill

Fubo Hill is located on the western bank of Li River. It gets its name as the hill stands half on the bank and half on the River, but some other people say because a general of Han Dynasty called Fubo returned pearls near the Pearl Return Cave. There are Pearl Return Cave, Sword Testing Stone, Thousand Buddha Cave, Thousand Men Pot and Bell Pavillion in the park. Thousand Men Pot and Bell Pavillion were built by the order of daughter of Dingnan King in 1669 in memorial of the achievement of the king. In the Pearl Return Cave and the Thousand Buddha Cave there are hundreds of Buddha statues carved on the stone surface. A climb of 320 steps leads to the top of the hill where you may see the great view of the city which stands among those green hills.

*Diecai Hill

About 1 kilometer to the north of Fubo Hill, is located on the west bank of Li River. It consists of Mingyue Hill, Xianhe Hill, Yuyue Hill and Siwang Hill. From distance it looks like piled silk, hence the name. Also it was called Osmanthus Hill and Wind Cave Hill as there were many osmanthus trees and there was a cave on the half way up which is always windy. There are Diecai Pavilion, Yuyue Pavilion, Memorial Tablet of Zhai and Zhang, Yangzhi Hall, Wind Cave, Wangjiang Pavilion and Cloud Catching Pavilion. For over 1000 years it has been reputed as Perfect Combination of River and Hills. A climb leads to the top-Cloud Catching Pavilion where you are rewarded a fantastic view of urban Guilin which stands among green hills.

*Tunnel Hill

Located on the east bank of Li River and 6.5 kilometers from city center, covers an area of 53.8 hectares. There is a cave on the half way up, hence the name. There are 5 peaks and some amazing caves and among them the Tunnel Hill Cave is the most special. There are numerous stalactites, stalagmites, Eguan stones, tree branch like stones, stone flowers and the stone shield of 4 connected which listed on the Guinness Book of the world records.

There was a legend about the hill. General Fubo was sent to Guilin when Kingdom of Zhuchi invaded the Eastern Han Empire. The general chopped a piece of stone at the Fubo Hill, which made King of Zhuchi fear and start to negotiate. The king promised to withdraw a distance that an arrow could fly. Standing at Fubo Hill, General Fubo pulled his bow and let his arrow fly. The arrow flew through the Tunnel Hill, Moon Hill in Yangshuo and then reached the boarder of the countries. War was ended and the Moon Cave of the Tunnel Hill was said to be the first cave that the arrow broke through.

In 1637 the famous traveler of Xu Xiake in Ming Dynasty came to Guilin. He crossed the Li River to the east bank and walked to the Tunnel Hill, and then he climbed to the Moon Cave for the view of Pagoda Hill. The composer of Chinese national anthem, drama expert Ouyang and the painter of Xu Beihong once lived at the foot of the Tunnel Hill during the anti-Japanese war for the national cultural movements of anti-Japanese. Tunnel Hill has been always a liked tour place.

*Two Rivers and Four Lakes

Extending 7.33 kilometers and covering an area of 385.9 thousand square meters include Li River, Peach Blossom River, Wooden Dragon Lake, Osmanthus Lake, Banyan Lake and Fir Lake. 09:00 -21:30 every half hour, a boat tour around the four lakes and two rivers of Guilin city. At night, the scenery is spectacularly flood lit. At the mid-point in the tour, there will be a demonstration of traditional cormorant fishing. It is the best activity at night. Tours last about 90 minutes.

*Seven Star Park

Covering an area of 120 hectares and located on the east bank of Li River, Seven Star Park is the largest comprehensive park in urban Guilin. From the Liberation Bridge you can see the 4 peaks of Putuo Hills and the 3 peaks of Yueya Hills which appear to look like the Big Dipper, hence the name. There are green hills, clear water, and deep cave in the park, including the Flower Bridge, Putuo Hills, Seven Star Cave, Camel Hill, Yueya Hills, Hidden Dragon Cave, Stone Tablets and Chinese Civilization Wall which are the must-see for tourists.

*Jingjiang Princes Mansion

Jingjiang Princes Mansion is located at the foot of Solitary Beauty Hill. It used to be the mansion for princes of Ming Dynasty and once called imperial city as the emperor Zhu Youlang of Southern Ming stayed here once. Zhu Shouqian of the grand grand child of Ming Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang became Jingjiang King in 1370, and the mansion was built since 1372 and finished 20 years later. The mansion was built according to the principles of local king’s mansion, including Chengyun Gate, Chengyun Hall, living hall and ancestor temples. There are 4 mansion gates, 556.6 meters long, 335.5 meters wide. The city wall is 7.92 meters high, 5.5 meters thick, paved by stone bricks and filled with stone slabs and concrete. There were 11 generations and 14 kings for over 270 years. Zhao Gou of Song Dynasty and Shun Emperor of Yuan Dynasty both once had stayed here at the foot of Solitary Beauty Hill before they came to throne, so the mansion was considered as a sacred place of hidden dragons. The mansion was named Guangxi Examination Mansion in Qing Dynasty. Dr. Sun Yat-sen stationed here and made it as headquarter for Northern expedition in Republic of China. It became Guangxi Provincial Government by Li Zongren and Bai Chongxi. For over 600 years the mansion still stands after all these historical changes and is the best preserved prince mansion and a national protected relics unit. The Solitary Beauty Hill is located within the mansion and 66 meters above the ground. The earliest poem of Landscape and Scenery of Guilin ranks first under heaven was carved on the surface of the hill. Nowadays tourists can visit city wall, Solitary Beauty Hill, mansion and the examination place.

*Yao Mountain 

The mountain got its name from the Yao Temple built on the west slope in Qin Dynasty. Yao Mountain, 8 kilometers away from city center and 909 meters above sea level, is made of earth and is the largest and highest in the city area, used to be an island in the ancient ocean while the other hundreds of hills of Guilin are lime stone. There are many cypresses as the soil on the mountain is fertile. From the top of the mountain, the other hills around it appear to be smaller and they review when it is sunny and hide when it is foggy. With a drive way built up to the top, there is a TV tower built on the top and a small hotel. Clouds, peaks, forests and flowers make up the colorful four seasons, especially when it is covered by the sea of azaleas in March. There is a well-equipped golf club to the south and the more than 300 Ming Dynasty tombs. 

*Daxu Ancient Town

“Daxu” literally means “a big market”. Daxu Ancient Town used to be one of the four ancient towns in Guangxi Province. The town developed from Song Dynasty (960 -1279), prospered in Ming and Qing dynasties (1368 -1911) and reached its peak during Republic of China (1912 – 1949). The only street of the town runs along Li River for 2 km (on the east bank of the river), flanked by traditional one- and two-story wooden houses. Walking on the stone-flagged street brings you back to the past when it was a busy trade and market town. Today, the town is well-preserved and still inhabited by the locals from generation to generation.

*Flying Tigers Heritage Park

Located in Lingui District of Guilin, Flying Tigers Heritage Park is built in memory of those American volunteers of the famed Flying Tigers, who devoted themselves to helping local people fight against Fascism during Sino-Japanese War. It’s also a place for descendants and friends of those volunteers to mourn for the history and their predecessors. 

*Crown Cave

Located on the east bank of Li River and about 40 kilometers from Guilin city, the cave got its name from the emperor crown shape of the mountain peak. It is a large underground river cave which originates from Haiyang Mountain and extends 12 kilometers. The current opened part for tourists consists of an underground river and dry cave, which extends 3 kilometers. Crown Cave was developed according to high levels and standards at the very beginning. There are auto light & sound system, tourist trains, river boats and sightseeing lift, which well co-ordinate the natural beauty of the cave.

*Guilin Shangri-la Park 

Set in beautiful scenery (Halfway along the road between Guilin and Yangshuo), this ethnic theme park tries to introduce visitors to the wide range of local nationalities and their cultures. A short boat trip will take you around the butterfly lake. On the way, various performances are staged on the shore of the lake, demonstrating different aspects of the culture. The boat will drop you off at the 'village' where you can see displays of local crafts including weaving, embroidery, buffalo horn carving and calligraphy. These crafts are produced on site and you may watch them working. 

*West Street in Yangshuo 

The West Street is like a winding path in the center of the Yangshuo County. You can buy many special souvenirs reflecting a unique local style, or enjoy fantastic nightclubs that offer a taste of many Western foods, or just hang out and relax and enjoy the leisurely atmosphere.

*Butterfly Cave in Yangshuo

A pair of sheer sided mountains surrounded by a butterfly themed park. One of the mountains has a cave running through the core of it. Inside this cave are many strange rock formations including stalagmites and stalactites. One particularly unusual formation is shaped like a butterfly, lending the hill its name. A rope bridge connects from the cave's exit over to the other mountain. At the side of the bridge, a waterfall cascades down the mountain side. The path takes you around the summit of the second peak and down to the gardens below. A dance performance greets each tour party here. The final stage is a walk inside a netted area in which a large variety of butterflies may be observed.

*Longji Rice Terraces

Longji (lit. Dragon’s Back Bone) Rice Terraces area is located in Longsheng County of Guilin. It is about 3-hour drive from urban Guilin. The rice terraces are among the mountains that are 1916 meters above sea level, the rice terraces are from 380 meters to 1180 meters above sea level and cover an area of more than 70 square kilometers. There are quite a few villages where the ethnic Zhuang and Yao people inhabit and mainly 3 villages for tourists to visit which are Ping’an Village, Jinkeng Village and Longji Village. The rice terraces were started being cultivated since Song Dynasty (960 - 1279) and the ethnic Zhuang and Yao people built the terraces on the slope of the mountains and grew rice generation after generation. The pieces of rice terraces are no bigger than 666 square meters and some smaller pieces are just enough for 2 or 3 rows of rice. For over 1000 years, after all the efforts and work the ancestors had done, the Longji Rice Terraces area shows a grand and amazing work and view and it is now reputed as one of the top 50 man-made wonders of ancient China.