If you suffer from chlorophobia (fear of the colour green), you’ll have a panic attack just talking about Guilin in southern China. With the grassy peaks of Diecai Shan and Yaoshan Hill Park surrounded by the Li River and with more lakes than Venice has canals, the only problem is that Guilin’s verdant topography draws so many tourists it makes the traffic as dense as the bushes.
But on those humid days where thick hazes obscure the scenery, Guilin has a few other options. Fork out for a tour to the Longsheng Rice Terrace, or give in to the old-world charms of the dilapidated Daxu Ancient Town. The Western world is no stranger to cashing in on beauty, and deservedly smug Guilin proves that our Eastern cousins can do exactly the same thing.
Guilin’s Top 10
10. Guilin Art Museum If you’re got room in your suitcase, you can even buy paintings from up-and-coming Chinese artists here.
5. Returned Pearl Cave The 1,000-year-old carved Buddhas are actually more interesting than the legend behind this cave.
9. Ocean Aquarium Bloodthirsty piranhas and friendly sea lions live in harmony at one of Asia’s biggest aquariums.
4. Seven Star Cave The extensive limestone cave network almost makes Guilin’s above-ground topography look boring.
8. Qixing Park Guilin’s most-comprehensive park has remained clean and green for hundreds of years.
3. Yaoshan Hill Park Hike to get to the top of Guilin’s tallest peak (or cheat and take the chairlift).
7. Banyan Lake Guilin’s bright city lights can’t be good for the environment, but they sure make this inner-city lake look stunning.
2. Reed Flute Cave This huge cave has been around for 180 million years, although not always with artificial lighting.
6. Jing Jiang Princes City Apparently a royal castle wasn’t enough – these princes got an entire city.
1. Elephant Trunk Hill It really does look like an elephant drinking out of the Li River. Cameras to the ready…
- Central Square - A huge gathering place located in the town centre. Tourists here can witness the beautiful artificial waterfall every evening.
- Jingjiang Prince City - A tiny forbidden city located in the city centre.
- Moon and Sun Pagodas - The pagoda’s exterior and its surrounds offer a welcome respite from Guilin city centre.
- Returned Pearl Cave - This cave is home to 200 etched Buddha images, some of which date back more than 1,000 years.
- Thousand Buddha Cave - A Guilin holiday highlight. This attraction features stone statues from the Song and Tang dynasties.
Guilin Art & Culture
- Guilin Art Museum - This museum is a must-see for those fascinated by art.
- Guilin Museum - This impressive museum is home to more than 20,000 items.
- Li River Folk Custom Centre - This centre is home to local shows of music and dancing.
- Ziyuan River Lantern and Song Festival - Located in nearby Ziyuan County, this annual festival is held in the middle of July.
- Guilin Scenery, Culture and Tourism Festival - This eight-day festival, held in mid-November, features a stunning opening ceremony.
- Zhongshan Zhonglu - Guilin’s main shopping district.
- Central Square - The shops here are interspersed by countless eating establishments and other places of interest.
- Zhongshan Zhonglu Night Market - A bustling market open from early evening until midnight.
- Guilin Department Store - A seven-floor building selling quality products from across China.
- Guilin Weixiaotang Department Store - A shopping complex that is home to a beauty salon, a supermarket, a bookstore and a food court.
Gay & Lesbian Guilin
- No. 8 Club - A mixed club frequented by tourists and locals. The club lacks a dance floor, perfect for those with two left feet.
- Lv Club - A mixed club that gets extremely busy after 11 pm. This bar is popular with tourists and locals alike.
- Ragazza Pub/Yi Ren - A mixed Guilin club that becomes livelier after 11 pm.
- Guilin Theatre - This theatre hosts regular acrobatic performances.
- Dadu Hui - A disco in which visitors can dance the night away and mingle with like-minded locals.
- Black Hill Botanic Garden - This botanic garden is one of the oldest in China.
- Seven Star Park - A huge park featuring a small zoo. Children will love seeing the pandas here.
- West Hill Park - Located just 2km west of the city centre, this park features a stunning lake, as well as temples and Buddhist statues.
- Xiongsen Bear and Tiger Mountain Village - This large Guilin area is home to lions, tigers, bears and other wild animals.
- Gudong Waterfall - A magnificent waterfall whose water derives from local springs.
- Visit Yaoshan Hill Park and watch the tobogganing down a part of the mountain.
- Take a Two Rivers and Four Lakes tour and enjoy a demonstration of authentic cormorant fishing.
- Take pleasure in a dance performance at Butterfly Cave.
- Catch a round of golf at the Golf Course at the Guilin Merryland World Resort.
- Watch Wupai River Drifting in Ziyuan County.
March’s Cherry Blossom Festival isn’t just another senior citizen flower show. Marked by games and art performances, it’s one of Guilin’s biggest events.
Hamburgers are off the cards in May for the Zhuang National Cattle Festival, where cattle are groomed, fed and covered in flowers.
The best things in life are free, including the noodles at June’s Guilin Rice Noodles Festival.
Guilin is humming in July or August during the Ziyuan Song Festival. The locals sing and release lanterns onto the river to remember their forefathers.
The annual Guilin Scenery Tourism Festival takes place in November to highlight the city’s scenic beauty and culture. It’s an easy sell.
When To Go
Snow does fall in Guilin, but rarely. Winter lows are normally around 4ºC (40ºF)
May and June are Guilin’s wettest months.
July is the hottest month, with temperatures hovering around 32ºC (90ºF)
A cruise along the Li River is the most scenic way to explore the city.
If daily boat rides are out of your price range, buses are relatively cheap and frequent.
The best way to really explore the city is by bicycle. Most of the peaks and parks are within riding distance.
Guilin has a wet monsoon climate with humid, rainy summers and mild winters.
- Winter (December to February) 4-16degC
- Spring (March to May) 10-28degC
- Summer (June to September) 21-34degC
- Fall (October to November) 11-27degC
Sometimes lost within the epic scale of development in China, where seismic demographic shifts to new urban areas seem to occur overnight, is a sense of natural beauty. China is not all super-skyscrapers after all. A small city in comparison to Shanghai and Shenzhen, with just 1.3 million people, Guilin is a reminder of how scenic China can be, without all the steel and glass.
Many of the city's best attractions derive from the natural environs, from the magnificent limestone cave complex of Seven Star Park to Elephant Trunk Hill. The Longsheng Rice Terraces provide a wonderful education on agrarian China and date back to the Ming Dynasty. Other attractions in Guilin include the lovely Li River and a small network of ornate pagodas that line the cityscape. A trip to Guilin must include a culinary tour of the myriad food stalls and superb restaurants that line the lively streets.
Attractions & Activities
Restaurants & Nightlife
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