Guilin Travel Guide – 2020
A beautiful city interspersed with nature, Guilin is a top tourist destination in China. Unlike other popular cities, Guilin is surrounded by rivers, lakes, and mountains, which makes it a great location for fresh air. So if you’re tired of the air pollution and smog usually found in China, Guilin is a great place to get away from it all. Explore the vast culture, magnificent landscapes, and tasty food with our Guilin travel guide.
Located in south China, Guilin is somewhat distanced from other major cities. But even with its surrounding nature, Guilin has numerous transportation options to get you everywhere. It is accessible by plane, train, and bus from many of China’s main cities.
Within Guilin, most tourists use public transportation, since you must have a local Chinese license to rent a car. Many of the parks and river spots are accessible by bus, which is perfect for those traveling on a tight budget. Taxis are also available, but make sure to request they use the meter.
Travel Tip: all bus lines starting with the number 5 are free
Before you travel:
You should know that China has a ban on many popular websites that we use on a daily basis (think Gmail and Facebook). The only way to access those sites is to use a VPN that you purchase beforehand. Keep in mind that not all VPNs work in China, and the ones that do should have servers in Asia. Check out our 5 best VPNs for China in the graph below and make sure to have a compatible VPN, so you can start posting pictures the moment you arrive.
What to See:
Guilin is known for its many natural and beautiful landmarks. However, there are also local centers and museums that dive into the fascinating culture. Below are the top destinations to visit in Guilin.
Reed Flute Cave
Probably the most popular attraction, the Reed Flute Cave is filled with various stalactites, stalagmites, stone pillars, and rock formations. Named from the verdant reeds growing outside that are used to make flutes, this 240 meter cave exhibits some spectacular views. Special, colorful lighting is used to illuminate the various rock formations, and visitors can explore some tunnels on their own. Be sure to check out the ink inscriptions written inside the cave, which date back as far as 792 AD in the Tang Dynasty and shows the history of the caves since ancient times. The tour is between one to two hours, and the floors might be a little wet. You might also have difficulty taking pictures, since flash photography isn’t allowed in the cave. Don’t forget to buy a souvenir flute on your way out.
Reed Flute Cave
Elephant Trunk Hill
The famous landmark of Guilin, Elephant Trunk Hill (also known as Xiangbishan) looks like an elephant drinking water from the river. A boat tour is the best way to see this elephant sight, especially since it takes you through Water Moon Cave. From there you can hike up the steep hill and visit the Puxian Pagoda, a perfect spot for a picnic. There’s also a laser show at night that projects different lights onto the various areas of the landmark.
Elephant Trunk Hill
Sun and Moon Pagodas
These tall towers are definitely a fun attraction in Guilin. Lying at the heart of Riyue Shuangta Cultural Park, the Sun and Moon pagodas are a national landmark. The Moon Pagoda resembles a glass tower, standing at 35 meters tall. The Sun Pagoda is made with 350 tons of copper and reflects yellow light with its silver, gold, and copper details. Lit up at night, the area is especially wonderful to walk around. There is also an underwater tunnel that links the two structures with paintings and pictures.
Sun and Moon Pagodas
Li River Folk Custom Center
If you’re looking to experience the ethnic culture of Guilin, this is the place to be. The community center showcases folk customs, traditions, and arts from the region’s 11 nationalities. It also hosts numerous dance performances and costume shows. Be sure to taste the special cuisine offered there and buy some ethnic handcrafts.
Peach Blossom River
A site for peaceful relaxation, this river got its name for the thousands of peach trees sitting along the bank. If you’re looking to catch them in their prime, the best time to visit is during the spring when the blossoms bloom or in the fall when the branches are coated with millions of red leaves.
Seven Stars Park
A beautiful nature reserve, Seven Stars Park is a miraculous forest filled with mountains, clear water, animals and plants, and deep valleys. Visitors can spend hours wandering around the park visiting beautiful scenery and sights. Some of its main attractions are Seven Stars Cave, Camel Hill, Crescent Mountain, and Flower Bridge, the oldest bridge in Guilin that is surrounded by stunning blooming flowers in the spring and summer.
Seven Stars Park
Jingjiang Princes’ City
History radiates from this palace, a popular place to visit in Guilin. Built in the 1300s, Princes’ City was originally the official residence of the great nephew of the first Ming dynasty emperor. Although that might seem a bit distanced from royalty, this palace hosted 14 kings from 12 generations in its lifetime. The layout of the palace is a stunning display of Chinese architecture, as well as the many gates that surround the area. The summit next to the palace, known as Solitary Beauty Peak, is the best spot to see the panoramic view of Guilin.
Where to eat:
Whether you’re in the mood for some rice noodles (Guilin’s popular dish) or you’re craving a burger and fries, Guilin has plenty of great restaurants and eateries to satisfy any taste. These are five of the most popular restaurants in Guilin.
Rice Noodles Pub
Praised by tourists as the best place for delicious noodle dishes and fried rice, Rice Noodles Pub mixes a modern ambiance with great service. Be sure to try their rice noodles, which are a local specialty.
Rice Noodles Pub, No.142 Zhengyang Pedestrian Street, Guilin, China
Zhengyang Tang Cheng
Located along the busy Zhengyang Pedestrian Street, the two-floor restaurant offers an impressive 30 types of soup. Specializing in Catonese-style, they provide the perfect meal after a day of traveling. No wonder it has a reputation as Guilin’s top soup restaurant.
Zhengyang Tang Cheng, No. 8 Zhengyang Road, Guilin, China
Kali Mirch Indian Cuisine
If you’re not in the mood for Chinese, Kali Mirch – which means black pepper – is known to have some of the tastiest Indian food in the city. The location is a bit tricky to find, but their authentic Indian spiced food is worth the trouble.
Kali Mirch Indian Cuisine, No.15 Shan Shui Street, Xiufeng District, Guilin, China
A quaint little café located near the Sheraton hotel, Café Nissi hosts a peaceful reading spot with comfortable sofas and pillows. A gem for those who want comfort food, Café Nissi serves favorites like chicken burgers and milkshakes. Take your drinks and food outside on the veranda for a pleasant experience.
Café Nissi, 18 Binjiang Road, Xiangshan District, Guilin, China
Jin Bu Huan Suan Dian
Pickled vegetables are another delicacy in China, and this small restaurant sells the most delicious ones in the area. Even though it’s more like a kiosk than a restaurant, Jin Bu Huan Suan Dian is always filled with tourists and natives.
Jin Bu huan Suan Dian, 30-5 Shongshan Road, Guilin, China
Where to stay:
There are hundreds of hotels in Guilin with different prices and locations to choose from. Most of them are located in city center, especially on Zhongshan road, which is bustling with hotels and restaurants. Some of the top hotels include the Shangri-La Hotel, the Sheraton Guilin Hotel, and the Lijiang Waterfall Hotel. The International Youth Hostel is also a nice place for its value, but it all depends on your preferences. Check the location of your hotel before you book it.
When to go:
Since Guilin is located in a subtropical zone, the rainy season is long and lasts from April to October. If you’re going during this time, it is important to have waterproof clothing and an umbrella or raincoat. In the summer it gets hot and humid, so be sure to bring light clothes as well. The winter season, which lasts from October to March, sees less rain. The days are typically warm in the fall, but the nights can be chilly, so pack accordingly. It also gets quite cold in the winter, and ice may form on the streets. The best times to visit are September to November and late March to May when the weather is most mild.