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The complete photographers guide to Xingping (兴坪) and Yangshuo (阳朔)

Xingping (兴坪) and Yangshuo (阳朔) are two of the best destinations in China for photography. In this article, you can find my complete guide on where to take the best photos.

sunset in wuzhishan yangshuo

I wrote the complete travel guide to Yangshuo and Xingping in the previous article.

However, I haven’t talked much about the places where you can take the best pictures. That’s something I’m going to discuss in this post. If you need general information, such as where to stay and how to get to different places, check out the previous post.

Best places to take pictures in Xingping (兴坪)

pescatore cormorani xingpipng cina

Xingping is one of the best places in China to take pictures. You can find the characteristic karst landscapes with the Li River and the famous cormorant fishermen. I recommend you spend at least 2 nights in Xingping as there are at least two places to shoot the sunrise.

The cormorant fishermen

xingping fisherman cormorant

You have two options if you want to take pictures of the cormorant fishermen. You can try to organize the photo session by yourself, maybe ask for some help at the hotel where you stay, or you can rely on one of the many local photographers who will take care of everything (in this case, I recommend this photographer). The main difference is the price. The fishermen charge about 300RMB per session (400RMB if you want them to use the net, as shown in the picture above). If you hire a local photographer to arrange the photo session, you can expect to pay at least twice as much.

Pro tip: if you see another photographers while you are in Xingping you can ask him if he is interested in photographing the fishermen so that you will share the cost. That’s what I did. 🙂

pescatore xingping yangshuo

Fishermen are used to working with photographers, and you most likely won’t have to tell them anything, but hiring a local guide can be helpful if you need to communicate with them since they can’t speak English.

Besides being almost 90 years old, the fisherman I photographed was almost completely deaf, so communication was quite challenging.

You can choose whether to take pictures at sunrise or sunset. I chose the sunset because I had planned to shoot the sunrises in a different location. The fishermen will stay a short distance from the main pier of Xingping, so in the evening (towards sunset), many boats will pass by in the background.

It will also probably happen that other photographers will try to sneak in and take some shots behind you, but the fishermen will tell them to stop (quite aggressively).

cormorant fisherman

Taking these pictures will probably not be the most authentic experience, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth the effort and the money. Also, remember that this is the only place in the world where you can see these fishermen with the iconic karst hills.

Regarding the photography gear, remember that the sun sets quickly, and having a camera that performs well at higher ISOs will make a difference. I recommend two lenses: the 24-70 for the portraits and a wide-angle lens for wider shots. I took all the pictures with an old Canon 70D (not excellent over 400 ISO) and 24-105 and 10-22 lenses.

Sunrise at Xianggong Hill (相公山)

sunrise a xingping

Xiangong Hill is the most popular location to shoot the sunrise in Xingping, which means you’ll find hundreds of photographers. The composition is quite forced, but the landscape is still fantastic. Get ready to get up very early in the morning. I arrived an hour before sunrise, and all the best spots had been taken.

sunrise in xingping

As you can see from this photo, there are several terraces (this is very common in China in places to photograph the landscape), and the best shot is from the top terrace. I was in the lower one…

To access the mountain, you must buy a ticket; it takes about half an hour to get to the top. The whole trail is made with concrete steps (this is also very common in China), so I recommend bringing a water bottle. As for the equipment, you will need a tripod, a wide-angle lens, and a longer lens.

Sunrise in Damianshan (大面山)

sunrise in Xingping Damianshan

Damianshan is “my secret place”; honestly, it’s also the place with the best view of the Li River. Hardly anyone knows about it, and if you decide to get there, you will be
the only person (unless this article goes viral).

The main reason it’s not so famous is that it’s hard to find and quite tiring to get to the top of the mountain. The best way to find him is to stay in this guesthouse owned by the man who built the path that leads to the top of the mountain (he spent his own money to do it, and he doesn’t even ask to pay an entrance fee, unlike Xianggong Hill).

To avoid getting lost while still dark, I decided to hike the mountain the day before the shooting. Finding the path is not too difficult in daylight, but it’s not that easy in the early morning. So my suggestion is to either do what I did or ask to be accompanied early in the morning by someone working at the hotel I mentioned before, but it might cost you up to 200RMB.

If you want to go alone, once you arrive at the guesthouse, ask someone working there to show you the beginning of the trail (about 5 minutes from there). Keep following the trail. You’ll be surrounded by pomelo and lime trees for the first part.

damianshan sentiero

After about 20 minutes, you will reach the end of the area where the pomelo trees grow and enter a small groove. After 5 minutes, you will get to the places in the picture below. Turn left.

daminashan path

You can’t get lost: about 50 meters after turning left you’ll see the beginning of the concrete steps that will accompany you until the top of the mountain. The path is steep but entirely cemented: not too difficult but tiring. Towards the end, you will have to climb these iron steps:

After about an hour from the beginning of the trail, you will reach the top of the mountain. Continue until you get to the end of the path. You will find a concrete platform and one of the most beautiful views in China and, I would say, worldwide.

sunrise in Xingping Damianshan

The concrete terrace has no protection, so be careful. If you don’t want to go for a walk in the dark, waking up at 4:30 in the morning, you can always consider camping on the terrace. I met a Chinese photographer who did it.

Regarding the camera and lenses to bring, you can follow the suggestions I gave for Xinggong Hill.

Sunset in Laozhai (老寨山)

laozhai shan xingping

Another great place to take photos at sunset is Laozhai (老寨山). The beginning of the path is easy to find, as it’s just a few meters from the Xingping pier. It’s an “unofficial” viewpoint, so the trail is challenging, especially if it rains.

It takes about 45 minutes to reach the top. Once you reach the small temple, I suggest you continue climbing on the rocks nearby to reach the best position to place the tripod. Keep in mind that the descent will be completely in the dark, so bring a torch.

From this viewpoint, you won’t need to pay an entrance fee, but it’s a bit more famous than Damianshan, which in my opinion, remains the best place to take pictures in Xingping, so you probably won’t be the only photographer.

A huge thanks to Stefano Zaccaria for giving me this information.

Where to take the best pictures in Yangshuo (阳朔)

sunrise in yangshuo

Yangshuo is another popular destination among landscape photographers. Even if it doesn’t have the same photographic opportunities as Xingping, there are still some cool places to photograph.

To make the most of your trip, I suggest staying in Yangshuo for at least two nights.

Sunset in Wuzhishan (五指山)


Wuzhishan is about 40 minutes north of Yangshuo, but there is no public transport to get there, so you must pay a driver or a taxi. You can ask the hotel where you are staying (I recommend this one) and they will find you a driver.

Wuzhishan is the name of a mountain from which you can take the picture you see above. Unsurprisingly, you will find the usual very steep steps that will take you to the top of the mountain after about half an hour, where you’ll stand on a concrete terrace. You have to buy a ticket to access the mountain.

The mountain is located in the heart of the Chinese countryside, the authentic countryside without hotels and KTV and with people still living like 100 years ago. In retrospect, I might have arranged to stay there for half a day.

As in the case of Xianggong and Damianshan, bring a tripod and the usual wide-angle and zoom lenses.

Fuli Bridge (副理桥) and villages along the Yulong River

fuli bridge yangshuo

If you read my previous article, I recommend staying outside Yangshuo and renting a bike to explore the area. You’ll pass through many villages that are worth photographing.

The Fuli Bridge is one of the most interesting things to see in the area. It’s a really beautiful stone bridge. Probably a bit touristy, but at least you won’t have to buy a ticket, and there are no stairs to climb… 🙂

Other places to photograph

sunrise yangshuo

There are many other famous places to photograph, such as the TV tower in Yangshuo (from where you can have a panoramic view of the city), Moon Hill, Elephant Rock, and the Flute Cave. I won’t mention them in this article because they are very popular but not great, especially compared to the places I wrote about.

With a drone, you will have many more options to take unique pictures, especially in Yangshuo. Here, you can find more info about international drone regulations.

sunrise village yangshuo

This picture and the previous one were both taken with a drone

Surely, there are other places I don’t know about. Please comment with useful info if you’ve been there, and I’ll update this article.

As a last tip, remember that if your main goal is to visit Yangshuo and Xingping to take good pictures, it is fundamental to choose the right months. Statistically, November to January is the best: fewer overcast days and not much rain.

If you want to book a hotel, check out It has way more options than

If you still have some days, you might want to consider visiting the Longji rice terraces (here’s my travel guide).

Here, you will find more pictures I took in Yangshuo and Xingping, and here is my complete travel guide to China. It is very useful if it’s your first time in the country. Last but not least, don’t forget to get a VPN before you leave, or you won’t be able to access most Western websites.

3 thoughts on “The complete photographers guide to Xingping (兴坪) and Yangshuo (阳朔)”

  1. Mich

    Hi Fabio, thank you very much for your article. I found it very useful. Your photographs are amazing.

    We have already bought flight tickets to go to China for the beginning of April, which I now realise can be rainy. I wonder if you have any ideas or suggestions for someone who is going to Guilin in April? Should I even go to Guilin in April?

    Thank you and happy travelling!

    1. Hi Mich, happy to help. The weather in the past few years has been quite weird. It’s really hard to say. Maybe you are luck and won’t get any rain.

      1. Mich

        Thank you for your reply, Fabio.

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