Things to Do in Yangshuo
- Yangshuo is a must-visit for outdoor enthusiasts, adventure travelers, and nature lovers.
- Bring a camera as there will be plenty of scenes to photograph.
- Don’t forget to bring sun protection and water if engaging in more active pursuits.
- Those planning on climbing should check the status of different walls ahead of time, as they are subject to closures from time to time, often as a result of a dispute with local landowners.
The Little Li River (Yulong River) is the largest tributary of the Li River and the most popular for travelers in Yangshuo County, China. The Little Li River starts in northern Yangshuo County near the town of Litang and meanders 22 miles (35.4 kilometers) to where it empties into the Li River near Ping Le. While the Li River is a major thoroughfare with motorboats shuttling passengers between Guilin and Yangshou, the Little Li is serene and slow-moving, just like the agrarian lifestyle of the denizens along the banks.
An excursion down the river starts a few miles south of Yangshuo’s town center. The two to three hour trip takes visitors through the towering limestone karst formations that make the area famous along shallow, crystal-clear water. During the hotter summer months, boatmen will stop at a few popular swimming holes to get a break from the heat. While a rafting trip down the Little Li is generally peaceful and relaxing, it can be quite exhilarating as well.
Impression Sanjie Liu is a unique outdoor night show directed by the renowned director, Zhang Yimou and staged at the Li River in Yangshuo. This is the world’s largest natural theater, using the setting of the Li River as its stage and the mist-shrouded karst hills as its backdrop – along with whatever weather the evening may bring. For this open-aired spectacle, which is performed twice every evening in the summer, the audience watch from designated terraces while hundreds of performers appear to float on the water before them. Most of these performers are fishermen from the villages along the river, and the show itself depicts the story of the history and culture of the local Yangshuo people. Throughout the performance, impressive lighting, sound, and special smoke effects blend in harmoniously with the natural landscape of the river and its surroundings, creating a truly mesmerizing experience.
Moon Hill (Yueliang Shan) is perhaps the best known and most recognizable of Yangshuo’s limestone formations. Named for the moon-shaped hole in the top of the karst, Moon Hill rises over 250 feet (76.2 meters) above the surrounding countryside. On a clear day, you can watch as clouds meander across the sky through the 164-foot (50-meter) tall moon hole.
Those willing to climb the 800 marble steps to the top of Moon Hill will be rewarded with one of the most spectacular views in the province. For travelers seeking an adrenaline rush, there are 23 routes to the summit and the karst and rock climbing enthusiasts will find everything from vertical climbs to serious overhangs on the way to the top.
Moon Hill is best visited in the late afternoon after the majority of Chinese tourists have come and gone and the hawkers have quieted down. If you’re feeling extra energetic, rent a bicycle and cycle there and back through the local villages.
If the Li and Little Li Rivers are the lifeblood of Yangshuo, West Street (Xi Jie) is the heart. This marble-paved street, the oldest street in Yangshuo County, is lined with boutique shops, Western cafes, Chinese restaurants and youth hostels. The traditional architecture and close quarters lend a sense of antiquity to the area in spite of the neon lights that illuminate the street at night.
By day, West Street has a sleepy vibe as travelers lounge outside cafes and hostels sipping on tea and munching on banana crepes, a local breakfast specialty. By night, the area transforms into a vivacious hot spot replete with busy night clubs, relaxed beer gardens and a seemingly endless array of restaurants serving the local favorite: beer fish, and shops touting all sorts of tourist souvenirs.
Visitors planning to do some shopping along West Street should plan to visit in the evenings when most of the smaller vendors have their stalls set up.
Just up the Li River from Yangshuo sits the tiny ancient fishing village of Xingping. While Yangshuo has a lively international community of Chinese, expatriates and travelers passing through, Xingping offers a quieter, more authentic and rural Chinese experience. Nestled amidst the towering limestone karsts, the village has been inhabited since 265 AD and retains several well preserved Ming Dynasty buildings.
Apart from wandering the narrow alleys of the village, visitors can make the ten minute walk to 20 Yuan Point, a spot along the river with the view of the karsts that is depicted on the Chinese 20 yuan note; or make the challenging climb to the Bird’s View Pavilion atop a karst just outside the village.
Xingping Village is often a stopping point on boat excursions down the Li River from Yangshuo, but you can also get there by buses departing from Yangshuo throughout the day.
At over 500 years old, the Fuli Bridge is yet another ancient stone bridge which can be found in the countryside around Yangshuo. While the Yulong Bridge is the biggest single arch bridge in the province and the Xiangui Bridge is the oldest passage across the river, the Fuli Bridge is the tallest one. When seen from a distance away, the bridge with its high arched back and the reflection created in the water form a perfect circle, called a full moon by the locals. Single-arched stone bridges were a common type of bridge built in ancient China due to their strength and sturdiness, and like many of them, the Fuli Bridge has survived thanks to its high resistance to weathering.
But although it is located only a short distance from the very touristy and popular Yulong Bridge, the Fuli Bridge is a barely visited gem. Only very few travelers come here and those who do, usually have the stunning stone arch completely to themselves.
More Things to Do in Yangshuo
Shanshui Park, located in the southeastern part of Yangshuo along the Li River and just a short walk from West Street, is home to one of the town’s most impressive limestone karsts, Green Lotus Peak (Bilian Feng). With an elevation of 977 feet (297.8 meters) and a relative height of 611 feet (186.2 meters), Green Lotus Peak is one of 8 notable karst formations along the Li River near Yangshuo. The peak has attracted visitors for well over a thousand years and was visited by Jianzhen, a Chinese monk who helped spread Buddhism to Japan, and Cao Ye, a Chinese poet and Yangshuo native. If you’re looking for a bird’s eye view of the river, climb to the base of Standing Cliff, located about halfway up the peak. Other notable sights in Shanshui Park include the Jianzhen Memorial and Yingjiang Pavilion, where visitors can view the peak in the observation gallery.
Located in the hills northwest of Yangshuo lies an area with the beautiful name Longji, which translated into English means “the rice terraces on the backbone of a dragon.” The glittering, green fields swing their way gently up the slopes to lofty heights that are far away from the noisy tourist regions in the lower altitudes. Probably due to the climbs up the steep stairs and walkways being not that easy, the rice terraces breathe a sense of tranquility that is rare in modern China. In the midst of these rice fields lies Ping’an village, a place where time has almost stood still.
The traditional wooden houses are crowded together, as if they want to be as close as possible, and on the front steps, old women feed chickens and dogs lazily guard door ways. Although the region is well developed and houses now have water and electricity, the lifestyle is very simple and the area around Ping’an village is home to the Zhuang minority.
Baisha Ancient Town is well known in the area for being the town of fruits, due to farming so many cumquats and exporting them throughout China. This tiny, oval-shaped Asian citrus fruit closely resemble oranges and throughout the year, the village turns from a sea of green in summer to a golden orange one in November as the cumquats ripen. Not only the glowing colors of the cumquat season, but also the picturesque landscape composed of ancient bridges, the slow moving Yulong River and the tall karst mountains in the background attract photographers to this spot. As the village is located right next to the famous Yulong Bridge crossing the Yulong River, Baisha has turned into a necessary stop for any bicycle tour around the area.
Starting from beneath the bridge in Baisha Ancient Town, you can also head out on bamboo rafts to go on a lazy float down the river, or watch fishermen practice the old school fishing method using cormorants.
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