Guilin, located in the north-eastern part of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, is one of the most-visited Chinese cities and has long been renowned for its limestone karst hills. The spectacular hills that sprout from a patchwork of verdant paddy fields and glistening streams were formed over 200 million years ago when the oceans receded from the area and created an awe inspiring seductive landscape that has long been the subject of famed Chinese artists.
Beside the few hills and caves in Guilin city that can be explored, the main reason to visit the area is to undertake the Li River cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo, which remains one of top river journeys in the world.
The many ethnic minorities represented in the region include the Zhuang, Yao, Hui, Miao, Mulao, Maonan and Dong enrich the cultural life of the city. Each minority has its own unique customs and festivals and this means that they are much more abundant here than in many other places elsewhere in China. It is also a great spot to watch the unique cormorant fishermen.
Guilin's overwhelming popularity does have a downside – it can get extremely busy especially when China celebrates national holidays in the first weeks of May and October and it can get very hot and quite wet here in July. But it is definitely still worth visiting if this is the only time you can go.
We recommend also staying in the town of Yangshou located at the end of the Li River trip, an altogether much more relaxed and less commercial town from where you can explore picturesque local villages with cobbled streets and traditional fan making either by river trip or bicycle.