Cruising Li River from Guilin to Yangshuo

Tourist boats at Xingping Wharf, Li River near Yangshuo
Tourist boats at Xingping Wharf, Li River near Yangshuo

Undeniably the Li River landscape between Guilin and Yangshuo belongs to one of the most memorable experiences of any visitor to China. The river gently meanders amidst limestone mounds that everyone etches in his mind forever. Names of hills, towns and villages along the river add to the nature’s masterpiece that this part of China is – Elephant Trunk Hill, Pagoda Hill, Grotesque Peak Village, Daxu Ancient Town, Gudong Waterfalls, Mopanshan Wharf, Wangfu Rock, Mural Hill, Yellow Cloth Shoal
Xingping, Snail Hill, Lotus Crag and finally Yangshuo.

Li River cruise boats returning from Yangshuo to Guilin.
Heavy traffic of Li River cruise boats returning from Yangshuo to Guilin.

Not for all visitors cruising on Li River is a pleasant experience thus a warning is a must. While the landscape is bewitching, the boat traffic on the river is “bumper to bumper” with each boat teeming with tourists. Boats’ roaring engines somewhat negate the stunning landscape they navigate. The Guilin Li River Tourism Cruise Company
runs nearly 100 boats with capacity of nearly 9,000 seats with the annual total of over 3 million passengers. With that kind of numbers it is not hard to visualize the traffic and the spectacle that this romantic river has become. During summer, between June and September, the peak of annual tourist arrivals, the river traffic and the hordes that disembark in Yangshuo are best avoided. Spring and Fall are great periods to visit but make sure you will not schedule your visit to coincide with the key Chinese holidays, the Labor Day, celebrated the first week of May, and the National Day, taking place the first week of October, when Guilin to Yangshuo and the entire Li River watershed is overrun by Chinese tourists. Needless to say tourists come all year long, native visitors above all, included during the Chinese New Year between January and February.

Early evening on Li River, a rare moment of silent river without boats.
Early evening on Li River, a rare moment without heavy boat traffic.

While taking a boat downriver from Guilin to Yangshuo is what most visitors come here for, spending a few days along the river, visiting the many sites at your own pace, preferably from a base in Yangshuo, is a best way to soak in this truly unique natural wonder and its cultural ambiance.

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