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If you aren’t from China, then you probably haven’t heard of Yangshuo. Located in the south of the country and close to Guilin, Yangshuo is an up-and-coming tourist city that’s seeing a huge boom.
Yangshuo isn’t like most Chinese cities. It’s relatively small by Chinese standards, which means less pollution, noise and traffic. In fact, it’s more like a vacation town, filled with waves of tourists who come and go.
It also sees a lot of backpackers who are on the Hong Kong to Kunming overland route and the China part of the Banana Pancake Trail (an unofficial budget trail through southeast Asia).
There are good reasons for all this attention. Yangshuo is surrounded by truly spectacular natural landscapes. With amazing karst scenery, rivers, temples and towering mountains, this is a destination that will leave you in awe at what the natural world can create.
This natural scenery more than makes up for the tourist crowds you may encounter in and around the city.
Most of the best things to do in Yangshuo are just outside of the city, so be prepared to get out there and explore!
Yangshuo’s caves are famous and once you explore them, you’ll see why.
There are numerous caves boasting heaving stalagmites and stalactites, hot springs, and serene waterfall pools.
The best caves to explore in the area are:
Silver Cave is the largest karst cave in the area but also the tackiest with colored lights and guides who will rush you through. The kids might like it though!
Taking a boat ride on the Li River is more popular, but it’s also crowded. For a more peaceful, isolated experience, take a bamboo raft along the Yulong River.
Along the way you’ll be surrounded by karst formations interspersed with lush, dense rainforest. And the river holds just enough surprise drops to keep your trip interesting.
This popular tourist street is bursting with stalls selling almost any type of Chinese souvenir you can imagine.
But it’s more than a place to buy gifts for loved ones back home. The street also contains architecture that dates back more than 1,400 years, so it’s a great place to learn about China’s past while you shop.
You should expect this street to be crowded with tourists during your visit. If you’re not into crowds, try to visit during quieter times rather than weekends and holidays.
Located on the edge of the city in Yulong River Park, Moon Hill is part of the Guilin Mountains and has an unusual, moon shaped hole. It’s an extremely distinctive hill and the unusual shape makes it popular among mountain climbers and hikers both domestic and international.
There’s a lot to do at this spot. You can go rock climbing and try out one or all of the 14 rock climbing routes on the hill’s north-western side. They range from beginner to advanced and are very popular among travelers.
There’s also the ‘Appreciating Moon Path’ to hike, which will take you up 800 paved steps to the curved rock formation, known as the Moon Palace.
And if you’re visiting during Mid-Autumn Festival, then make sure you join the locals in releasing lanterns into the Li River for good luck.
The name of this place isn’t very accurate – you probably won’t find love here.
But what you will find is a theme park that showcases the historic culture and folk customs of the Guilin area. It opened in 2018 and is a great place to let the kids run off some of their energy.
The park’s most popular attraction is the indoor theater, where you can see musical and light shows with hundreds of performers. But it also has a water park area, arcade, haunted house, and great street performances.
This probably isn’t the kind of attraction you should visit if you’re a backpacker or not traveling with kids, as it’s fairly expensive. But it’s a great place to visit if you’re looking to entertain the younger members of your travel group or you love cultural performances.
This light and music show is held on the Li River and it’s one of the most popular things to do in Yangshuo.
The performance tells the story of Liu San Jie, a folk singer from the Zhuang minority. She lived during the Tang Dynasty (618–907) in Guangxi province and was dubbed the Song Fairy for her uncanny ability to defeat her oppressors through song.
The performance is choreographed by famous Chinese film director Zhang Yimou and uses ethnic dances, songs, music and lights to tell the story of this famous songstress.
The story of Liu San Jie was also made into a film in 1960.
Hiking is one of the most popular things to do in Yangshuo because it’s the best way to explore the stunning landscape!
There are several popular hiking spots in and around the town. Just be aware that some of the surrounding mountains are karsts, so not all of them are good for hiking.
Here are some popular hiking spots near Yangshuo:
Want even more inspiration on things to do in Yangshuo? Take a read of Fiona’s blog about visiting Yangshuo.
Yangshuo offers a range of cuisines from across China as well as lots of Western-style restaurants to keep international tourists happy.
So, you really shouldn’t have any trouble finding something to eat in this city.
Just make sure you try some of the local favorites like:
This restaurant serves authentic Chinese food in a welcoming, family-friendly environment.
They even serve beer fish, one of the region’s specialties, and the prices are reasonable. You can also take a cooking lesson with the restaurant’s chef if you want to try to reproduce some of the dishes once you get home!
Address: Chengzong Road
This no-meat restaurant is reasonably priced, but the portion sizes are fairly small, so make sure you order enough to satisfy your appetite.
For a little taste of everything, try the Buddha’s Feast to try around 20 different types of non-meat dishes.
Address: 7 Die Cui Road
If you want to try some authentic Shanxi cuisine (northern China), then stop by this small eatery.
With simple décor, it’s easy to miss this tiny place, but the food is absolutely worth seeking out. Try the flat Shanxi noodles or just about anything else on the menu for a delicious and budget-friendly meal.
Address: 21 Diecui Lu 叠翠路21号
If you’re looking for more traditional food, then stop for a meal at this restaurant, also known as the Golden Lotus Sidewalk Beer Fish Stall.
You may have a little trouble communicating here, as the restaurant is mostly for the locals and there isn’t much English, but the delicious traditional dishes are worth the trouble.
(You may also want to take a read of how to survive China without speaking Mandarin).
Address: Diecui Road
There’s something about Chinese food that makes you crave something sweet after a good meal. And this café is perfect for satisfying that craving.
It’s small and homey and serves up homemade cake, wine, and coffee in an atmosphere that invites you to stay for a while.
Address: 23-24 Bingjiang Lu 滨江路23-24号
The food in Yangshuo is great in the restaurants, but there’s nothing like buying something sizzling hot off the grill at a night market.
This is one of the busiest shopping streets in Yangshuo County and it really comes alive at night.
Once the sun goes down, West Street fills up with shoppers looking for a bargain from the stalls and following their noses to the best smelling restaurants, so why not join them?
This night market is mostly for the locals, so you won’t find the kind of crowds you usually get at tourist markets. It also means you’ll see a range of foods and goods that will surprise and sometimes shock you.
You’ll find everything from snails to dog hotpot at this market, so make sure you know what kind of meat is in the dish you choose!
You can read more about some of the weird food you can eat in China here.
Address: Pantao Lu 蟠桃路
There are some great places to stay in Yangshuo, whether you want to be inside the city or in the beautiful natural areas surrounding it.
The How Flowers Hostel offers easy access to the countryside – it’s just 800 m (half a mile) from the Yangshuo Bus Station. And it’s only a 10-minute walk to popular West Street.
When you stay at this hostel, you’ll enjoy dorm rooms with Western-style bathrooms.
This hostel is one of the best places to stay in Yangshuo if you’re on a budget and is a friendly place to spend some time.
The Yangshuo Mountain Retreat is on the edge of the Yulong River, surrounded by beautiful karst mountains. It offers mountain views, shuttles into the city three times daily, and unique rooms with bamboo furniture and private bathrooms.
If you want to be just outside the city and enjoy the best natural scenery in the area along with a lovely garden, then this is one of the nicest places to stay in Yangshuo.
The Li River Resort offers Chinese-style accommodation right on the edge of the river. It’s a 25-minute walk from West Street and offers stunning views over the river and mountains.
The hotel has its own restaurant, free parking, and classic furnishings with private bathrooms. There’s also an outdoor swimming pool and garden on the property so you can spend as much time as possible in the great outdoors.
If you’re not part of a tour, arriving in Yangshuo can be a little complicated.
You can fly or take a train or bus to Guilin and then take the train to the Yangshuo Railway Station.
However, this means you’ll still be a long way from the city’s downtown. You will need to take a taxi or bus from the railway station to Yangshuo Town.
Another option is to take a bus from Guilin, which is slower but will take you directly to Yangshuo Town if you catch the right service.
There’s no airport in Yangshuo, so if you arrive by air, then you’ll probably start your trip in Guilin. You can travel from Guilin to Yangshuo by bullet train, regular train, or bus.
There’s only one train station in Yangshuo, the Yangshuo Railway Station, and this is a popular option for getting to the city.
The long-distance bus system is extensive and is probably the easiest way to get directly to Yangshuo Town and to other cities in the area.
However, be aware that the buses can be slow and very crowded, and you may struggle if you don’t know basic Mandarin.
There are two main bus stations in Yangshuo:
Yangshuo’s local bus system boasts environmentally friendly, electric-powered carts that travel all over the city. Just flag them down on the road and pay a small charge depending on the length of your trip.
You won’t find much English in the city bus system, so these can be difficult to navigate if you don’t speak the local language.
There are also minivans that you can hail that will take you to places like Moon Hill and Dragon Bridge.
If you’re fit enough, then you can explore Yangshuo on a bike and enjoy the scenery without any barriers. You can hire a bike from hotels or stalls on West Street.
You will need to pay a deposit, which you will get back, and bikes are generally between 5-20 CNY a day depending on the time of year.
There are a few taxis in Yangshuo and they can be a convenient way to get from A to B.
However, be aware that the taxi drivers have a bad reputation for scamming tourists or overcharging them, so be very sure that you negotiate your price and your destination.
Downloading the Didi app (China’s Uber) might be a better way to get around. You can check out all the best travel apps for China here.
This is a good way to get from Guilin to Yangshuo as the scenery is amazing. The boats usually leave at 9 am and the trip takes about four hours. Snacks and drinks are provided on the boat for an extra cost.
If you’re looking for some good Yangshuo day trips, then here’s where you should go.
Most travelers who visit Yangshuo go to Guilin as well. Both towns are relatively close to each other (90 km or 55 mi).
One of Guilin’s famous landmarks is Elephant Trunk Hill, which you can leisurely cruise past or take a photo near. The Sun and Moon Towers are worth checking out too, and are also by the water.
If you want to see more caves, the Reed Flute Caves are just out of Guilin and are very popular. They’re illuminated in typical Chinese style.
See the full Guilin Travel Guide.
Located between Guilin and Yangshuo, Xing Ping is an ancient village on a peninsula on the Li River.
Its history goes back more than 1,300 years and the village is full of Ming Dynasty architecture and beautiful wood carvings. The village also offers amazing views over Yangshuo and is filled with tiny shops and restaurants for you to explore.
Getting to the village is easy, as you can take a bus from Yangshuo Bus Station.
Fuli Ancient Town is around 8 km (5 mi) from Yangshuo on the Li River’s north bank. It offers some of the most stunning scenery in the region as it’s surrounded by lush mountain forest on three sides.
This town is also the hometown of China’s famous painted fans, and the locals create large fans that are painted with images of landscapes. Each of them is beautiful, unique, and well worth taking home as a souvenir.
You can get to Fuli by bus from Yangshuo Bus Station.
Located around 12 km (7 mi) north of Yangshuo, this tea plantation is nestled in the mountains. To get there, you’ll have to travel through countless beautiful hills and mountains that will almost put your ultimate destination to shame.
Once you’re at the tea plantation, you’ll be able to pick your own tea leaves and learn how to roast and brew the tea at the hand of the experts.
You can also participate in a tea ceremony and let the plantation staff recommend some new tea flavors for you to try.
Get a visual taste of Yangshuo before you visit!
Follow British expat Nico’s adventures in China. In this video, she shares the top six things to do in the area.
Nico is also mentioned in our article on the best China YouTube channels.
And if you want to feel like you’re walking along West Street, check out this video. It’s quite mesmerizing!
It’s easy to forget a thing or two before you head to China.
So, here are a few reminders for you:
Have a wonderful time in Yangshuo. And don’t forget your VPN!
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Page last updated 23 April 2022. Main image credit: Timon Studler on Unsplash. Commercial relationship disclosure: The Helpful Panda has commercial arrangements with organizations that may appear on this page, such as affiliate links. See our terms for more info.
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