Yangshuo (陽朔) is a lovely spot, surrounded by the most famous examples of south China’s dramatic limestone karst scenery (the reverse side of the 20 yuan note features a picture of the limestone karst along the Li river, just outside Yangshuo). This kind of scenery can also be seen across Guizhou and Hunan provinces, but it is here in Yangshuo, Guangxi province, that it’s both at its most dramatic and most easily accessible. Yangshuo train station opened in 2016 on the new high speed Guangzhou – Guiyang line, allowing journey times of 2 hours to Guangzhou, 30 minutes to Guilin (桂林), 3 hours to Guiyang (which is on the Shanghai – Kunming high speed line), and 5 hours to Chongqing. This is all a far cry from when I went to Yangshuo – it was 24 hours from Shanghai to Guilin and then a 90-minute bus ride from there. There’s also a river cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo, but I didn’t do it and I don’t know much about it… the bus worked fine for me then, and if I go again I’ll take the bullet train.
There’s plenty to do in and around town, and you can spend your time in Yangshuo hiking, rock climbing, cycling, bamboo rafting, cormorant fishing, going to the evening light show (which I didn’t see, but heard was overpriced yet impressive), and eating, shopping & drinking along the town’s main walking street (very much a tourist street – Chinese tourists as well as overseas visitors – the restaurants and bars are decent, but the nightclub we visited was dreadful)
I spent one of my days in Yangshuo hiking along the river from Xingping (兴坪) to Yangdi (杨堤) by myself, a lovely hike of about 24 km which took around five hours. You can take a bus to/from Yangshuo to/from either village to start and finish the hike; I started from Xingping because that’s the closer to Yangshuo and I didn’t make a particularly early start. Those villages both have restaurants and shops, but there wasn’t anything available in between – you’ll want to carry plenty of water and snacks for the walk. The scenery is just absolutely jaw-droppingly gorgeous in places as you walk through scenes of daily rural life, and you need to jump on a raft to cross the river at one point; make sure your camera battery is fully charged!
Xingping to Yangdi hike:
There are several other Yangshuo hiking trails, and on another day I joined a motley band of travellers (three Irish, one Greek, and a New Yorker) to cycle to Moon Hill (月亮山, yueliangshan), about 10km south of town. Once at Moon Hill, you pay an entry fee and hike up to the arch formation which gives it its name. It’s a short and easy hike up a long flight of steps but the views from the top are great, and combined with the cycling makes for a nice day out. On the way back to town we passed a pond where you could pay to float on the water in giant inflatable balls – our Irish contingent tried to do battle in them, but it was pretty hilarious watching them just try to stand up.
Cycling to Moon Hill:
Although I wouldn’t really recommend Yangshuo specifically as a hiking or trekking destination, I highly recommend it as a general travel destination and the region is one of the highlights of China, and I’d strongly suggest doing a spot of hiking in Yangshuo while you’re there.
I’d also recommend a visit to the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces, located a few hours away on the far side of Guilin. For other hiking ideas in China click below:
Huashan (near Xi’an)
Fragrant Hills (Beijing)
Have you been hiking in Yangshuo? How was it? Any questions? Leave a comment below and I’ll get back to you.
See Chinatrainguide for train schedules
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