The weird and wonderful limestone hills of the Guilin region are renowned throughout China and, increasingly, throughout the world. This strange landscape of karst mountains sprouting erratically from the earth spreads for hundreds of kilometers around the city of Guilin. The amazing natural scenery has been a favorite with backpackers for many years and is increasingly attracting more and more high-end tourists.
The city of Guilin, built on the famed Li River, holds a number of attractions. The green hills which dot the city center, presiding over the modern buildings and busy streets, are the principal drawcard. But Guilin is also famous for its incredible caves.The city also boasts some lovely parks, a lively pedestrian mall, a scenic riverside promenade and has benefited from the tasteful development of its ‘four lakes’ waterways. There has been a strong, coordinated effort to make Guilin into an attractive city.
In spite of its charms, Guilin as a city has something of a bad reputation with many travelers. Many tourists will arrive, label it as ‘just another city’, and quickly flee to Yangshuo or a similar spot in the countryside. As a result, Guilin is often treated merely as a transport hub or as a base for exploring the surrounding region.
This is somewhat unfair. While Guilin does suffer the standard city problems of traffic congestion and over-crowding, it certainly can’t be compared to any of China’s provincial capitals in this regard. Guilin is a pretty little city with a laid-back atmosphere. While it might not have the same magnetism or beauty as Yangshuo, it is not nearly as touristy either.
And therein lies the real allure of Guilin. While its economy might be dependent on tourism to a large extent, it still exists as a living, breathing, working city in its own right. Guilin is a real city that happens to be built around and within a truly magical landscape. Here the strangely-shaped hills aren’t merely an attraction; they are part of the urban fabric of Guilin.
Who should travel to Guilin?
Guilin is probably the most common addition to the classic itinerary of Beijing, Shanghai and Xian. It’s a great place to include as a visit to Guilin provides a chance to see one of China’s most stunning natural landscapes as well as a glimpse of rural life in the surrounding area.
How long is needed to see Guilin?
Any visit to Guilin will also include a stay in Yangshuo and perhaps a day-trip or overnight stay at the Longji Rice Terraces. One or two days would generally be enough in Guilin itself, but you would be looking at spending a good four or five days in the Guilin region.