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Yangshuo (阳朔) and Xingping (兴坪) Travel Guide

Yangshuo (阳朔) and Xingping (兴坪) are two of China’s most iconic places. This article will give you useful information to organize your trip.

sunrise in Xingping Damianshan

In this article, you will find my travel guide to Yangshuo and Xingping, while in this post, I wrote a travel guide focused more on photography. Hopefully, it will be useful, especially for those who plan to visit Xingping. You’ll also find directions to get to a “secret” place where you can take the picture you see above.

Guilin(桂林), when is the best time to go

pomelos harvesting in guanxi guilin

This part of China is extremely hot and humid, especially in summer. This means it’s also very difficult to find clear skies (here, you find all the weather-related data for Guilin). I visited the area in November, and the weather was perfect: clear skies and no clouds. In addition, November is the season of the Pomelos harvest: a very interesting thing to photograph.

If possible, it’s better if you avoid the summer season entirely: it’s really hot and humid, and it’s also the high season, so there will be a lot of tourists. The best three months to go to Guilin, Yangshuo and Xingping are November, December, and January, but be careful to avoid the weeks around the Chinese New Year, usually between mid-January and mid-February.

Guilin(桂林) vs Yangshuo (阳朔) vs Xingping (兴坪): a bit of clarity

sunset in xingping

On this trip, I chose NOT to visit Guilin (mainly because I didn’t have much time), and I stayed instead in Yangshuo and Xingping. Each of these three cities is interesting, but if you have to choose one, I suggest you stay in Yangshuo. Below, you will find detailed information to clarify the main differences between these three cities and what you can do and see in each one.

Guilin(桂林) travel guide

Useful info

guilin bei train station

Guilin is the most famous city in the area and the starting point for most people who want to visit Yangshuo. But it is also very touristy and has little to offer regarding landscapes. Almost all the photos you find on the internet of the typical karst hills are taken in Yangshuo or Xingping and not in Guilin.

Top things to do

There are some interesting activities to do even in Guilin. You can take the cruise on the river Lijiang (漓江 and that has nothing to do with another Lijiang, 丽江 one of the most famous destinations in Yunnan province), visit the Reed Flute Cave (芦笛岩), or see the famous rock formation called Elephant Trunk Hill. Guilin is also the starting point for those who want to visit the Rice terraces of Longsheng (龙胜梯田), also called Longji (龙脊梯田). Here’s my guide.

Compared to Yangshuo and Xingping, Guilin is the city best connected with the rest of China. In addition to an airport at the moment, there are three train stations: the north station called Guilin Bei (桂林北站), the west station Guilin Xi (桂林西站), and the main station Guilin (桂林站). On this site, you will find a detailed guide about the train stations in Guilin.

If you have time, you could spend a day in Guilin. Otherwise, I suggest you go directly to Yangshuo or Xingping.

Where to stay in Guilin

Since I didn’t spend much time in Guilin, I have no particular hotel to recommend. You can find some good deals on Booking.com or Trip.com.

Xingping (兴坪) travel guide

Useful info

sunrise in xingping yangshuo

Xingping is the most beautiful place among the three and, strangely enough, at the moment, the least tourist. In Xingping, you’ll find the place portrayed in the 20RMB banknotes. In Xingping, the Li River has the most spectacular part; in Xingping, you can always find the famous cormorant fishermen (you will find more detailed information about them in the next article).

Most people do a day trip to Xingping while staying in Yangshuo. I recommend staying at least two nights in Xingping instead.

Top things to do

sunrise in xingping

The city of Xingping doesn’t have much to offer, and at the moment, it’s a huge construction site with many buildings undergoing renovation and new hotels popping up everywhere. But those who visit Xingping certainly don’t do it for the city.

One of the most famous destinations in Xingping is the hill called Xianggong Hill (相公山), where you can watch the sunrise. If you plan to go there to photograph the landscape with a tripod, be prepared to face a crowd of photographers.

Years ago, when I visited the rice terraces of Yuanyang, I experienced what it means to compete with hundreds of Chinese photographers for a spot to place the tripod. I was, therefore, psychologically prepared, but unfortunately, I arrived in Xianggong Hill a “bit late” (“just” one hour before sunrise), and all the best spots were already taken. Keep it in mind if you have a tripod.

xianggong shan hill in xingping

The best option to get to Xianggong Hill is to ask the hotel where you are staying to arrange for a driver to take you there and back. Expect to pay at least 150RMB for the round trip. You’ll also have to pay an entrance fee to climb the very steep stairs (built by a local man years ago) that in 30 minutes will take you to the top of the hill.

Another activity for those who visit Xingping (especially for the Chinese) is the cruise on the Li River, which I don’t recommend: the experience is not authentic and overpriced.

Xingping is divided into two by the Li River, and to cross it, you can take a small ferry (at the cost of 5RMB) that, in 5 minutes, will take you to the other side. If you are not planning to do the cruise, the ferry can be a very cheap and short alternative.

xingping fisherman cormorant

If you love photography, in Xingping, you can organize a photo session (for a fee) with one of the fishermen who (used to) use the cormorants to fish. I don’t want to get into a debate about how morally correct or not it is to promote this practice, but it is part of the cultural heritage of these people, whether you like it or not.

How to get to Xingping from Guilin

The train station called Yangshuo is located in Xingping, which is regularly connected to Guilin by fast trains. It will only take you 20 minutes to get there. Alternatively, you can take a bus or a taxi from Guilin, but I don’t recommend it: the bus takes too long and is expensive.

Where to stay in Xingping

where to stay in xingping

Xingping is rapidly developing and will become increasingly touristy in the future. I strongly recommend staying in this guesthouse if you want to avoid tourists. It’s located on the hills just outside Xingping, and it’s like going back in time. The host is a fantastic person (also a very good photographer) who will give you many tips on what to see in the area. His wife is an excellent cook, and you’ll love her food. The only downside of staying in this guesthouse is that it’s located in a place not accessible by public transport, so you’ll have to ask the owner to take you down to Xingping if you plan to visit the city.

The guesthouse owner built the path to the mountain from where I took the article’s first photo. It took him over a year, and he spent his money on it. So far, he hasn’t charged people to get to the mountain (unlike Xianggong Hill). On Trip.com, you can find other options.

Yangshuo (阳朔) travel guide

Useful info

sunrise yangshuo

The city of Yangshuo is rapidly developing and is surrounded by spectacular mountains. It’s probably one of the most characteristic cities in China due to the unique karst hills surrounding it.

Top things to do

sunrise in yangshuo with drone

The center of Yangshuo is West Street, where you’ll find all sorts of things you can expect to find in any other tourist city in China: Starbucks, Bubble Tea shops, fast foods, and an endless amount of souvenir shops as well as many hostels and hotels to suit all budgets. In the evening, many bars turn into nightclubs. This contrasts very much with the surrounding landscape and is one of the reasons why I chose to stay outside Yangshuo.

About 8 km from Yangshuo, there is the famous Moon Hill, a hill with a middle hole resembling a crescent moon. You can get there by bike (it costs between 10RMB and 20RMB per day), and it takes about an hour. Alternatively, you can get there by taxi. You must pay a ticket to access the path (with over 800 steps).

What I recommend doing in Yangshuo is to rent a bike. The ideal starting point is from the hotel called Tea Cozy (which I recommend later in the article and that on the map is marked with the letter F). Then, keep riding northwards with the Yu Long River on your left side until you get to the bridge called Fuli (副里桥) (marked with the letter C).

fuli bridge yangshuo

I suggest you stop for lunch in the restaurant/hotel Secret Garden. All the staff speaks English, and you will find both Western dishes (which you will start to crave after a few days in China) and traditional Chinese dishes cooked well. The building is also located in a very characteristic village with few tourists.

From the Secret Garden, continue north to the point shown on the map, where you will find the Fuli Bridge. Keep in mind that Google Maps is not very accurate in China. The Fuli Bridge, for example, is not present, but I still marked the village where it’s located. You will also find directions along the way. From the Fuli bridge, start riding back until you get to the area marked with the letter D (Yulong Bridge Scenic Area) and then cross the river. From that bridge onward, keep riding south, staying on the river’s west bank. You will pass through many villages and characteristic areas where you will most likely be the only tourist.

yangshuo bike itinerary

Most of the route runs along the Li River, and you’ll see that many Chinese tourists choose to take a “cruise” on one of the bamboo rafts. I found them quite boring and also expensive: about 300RMB. If you want to try it, you can ride your bike north until you get to the pier, leave the bike there, and get on the raft. The bike will be returned to the other pier at the end of the route.

How to get from Guilin to Yangshuo

Yangshuo is well connected to Guilin. If you think of getting there by train, be careful because, as I said earlier, the Yangshuo station is in Xingping and NOT in Yangshuo. If you are not interested in visiting Xingping, this option is not the best since, once you arrive at the station, you must get to the bus station and take a minibus to Yangshuo. It will cost you too much and waste a lot of time. Here you can book the train ticket.

The best and cheapest option is to take a bus from Guilin Central Station (about 10 minutes from Guilin Main Train Station 桂林站). There are two types of buses: direct and local buses (which take longer because they make several stops). The buses leave approximately every 20 minutes. You will reach your destination in about an hour and a half (by direct bus).

If you want to get to Yangshuo from Guilin airport (which is located almost 30 km from the center of Guilin and about 80 km from Yangshuo), there are direct buses that depart about every hour and a half from 9:30 to 22:30. It takes about an hour and a half to get to the Yangshuo bus station. If you plan to travel between Guilin and Yangshuo with a private driver, you will spend at least 350RMB.

Yangshuo is also well connected to Xingping (about 30 km away) by minibuses that you can take from the Xingping bus station until 18:00. It will take about 40 minutes, and the ticket doesn’t cost much.

Where to stay in Yangshuo

where to stay in yangshuo

Yangshuo has no shortage of hotels. You’ll find options for every budget. I recommend staying outside the city at the Tea Cozy, a nice hotel in the Chinese countryside in a village called Xiatang (夏棠寨), just a few kilometers from Yangshuo. The hotel is located in the heart of the Yulong He River (遇龙河), also called Little Li River, a tributary of the Lijiang River in the Yulonghe Scenic Area (遇龙河景区). The entire area is closed to traffic for non-residents.

Useful tips to visit Yangshuo and Xingping

fisherman xingping
  • In Guilin and Yangshuo, taxis cost a lot (at least compared to the rest of China). Expect to pay 100 RMB for a few-kilometre ride. If you want to save money, you can use the taxi service Didi (the equivalent of Uber), but if you don’t live in China, it can be difficult to make the app work. Alternatively, contact the guesthouse I suggested in Xingping. The owner is very helpful, and he found me a private driver who saved me about 30% compared to the normal fees. In simple terms, if saving money is your priority, don’t be afraid of asking around.
  • As I wrote at the beginning of the article, pay attention to the season you decide to visit Yangshuo. It rains a lot and is hot and humid most of the year. If you can choose, I suggest you go there in November.
  • Before visiting China, don’t forget to download a VPN, as I explained here. Without a VPN, you will lose access to all Western social media and Google (including Google Maps). There are several options, and I recommend this one.
  • If this is your first time in China, you can check my complete travel guide here.

Here are some more pictures I took of Yangshuo and Xingping. If you are looking for other places to visit in China here you will find all my articles. Here’s my list of the top things to see in Tibet.

8 thoughts on “Yangshuo (阳朔) and Xingping (兴坪) Travel Guide”

  1. Nice article! But the taxi in Yangshuo is quite cheap compared to Hangzhou (where i live). Maybe you got ripped off? I used Amap to get taxis.

    1. Hangzhou is a big city. Yangshuo is not, so comparatively to the local purchasing power is way overpriced. Didn’t get ripped off: all the locals I talked to confirmed that taxis are way overpriced.

  2. Clara

    I’m in Xingping this week and your tips have been SO useful. I hired a bike from Tea Cozy today and did that cycle along the river. I’d never have worked it out on my own so thanks so much!

    1. Fabio Nodari

      Really happy it helped you Clara 🙂

  3. Daria

    Thank you for sharing these useful info!

    1. Salvatore

      Ciao,

      thanks for the useful article!

      Maybe I’m wrong but when you describe the bike tour in Yangshuo, you referred to the “Li river” instead of the “Yulong river” (keep riding northwards with the Li River on your left side). According to the map, the Yulong river is on your left side. Is this right? thanks!!!

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