View of the Li River (Lijiang River) and Yangshuo Town

Li River National Park – Our Tips on Exploring This Great Region

This post was last updated on August 10th, 2019 at 10:04 am

The Li River National Park is one of the highlights on the to-do list of many travelers. This park, located near Guilin, has a beautiful landscape, one of the most beautiful in China. The highlight in the park is the 83 km (51.5 miles) long Li River that flows from Guilin to Yangshuo. A boat trip here comes with spectacular landscapes and impressive views.


For many people this is one of the places they would like to see during their trip through China. Therefore, read this page carefully. We teach you the following on this page about this beautiful area;


The unique world of the Li River

The Li River National Park does not give you the feeling of walking in a National Park. It is very different from the urban style in Beijing or Shanghai. If you cruise across the river in your boat, you will see an unprecedentedly beautiful landscape.


For many travelers, the Li River National Park is the highlight of China. The river winds through a dazzling landscape with karst hills, steep cliffs, special caves, green grass landscapes, and characteristic boats lined with bamboo.


You can float over the river with a bamboo raft. We recommend it!


The Li River is famous for its green mountains, picturesque river, and mysterious caves. Along the river you see a beautiful landscape with thousands of rocks and sparkling waterfalls. The rocks that reflect in the water make it seem like you’re dreaming.


The Li River National Park has been the model for many paintings, but you will have to go there to see with your own eyes how incredibly beautiful and magical the landscape is here.


Sunrise view of the Li River by Xingping
Sunrise view of the Li River by Xingping


5 things to do at the Li River

Most people who come to Li River mainly come here for the beautiful nature. There are a number of things to do, especially around the two most important cities in this region; Guilin and Yangshuo. The attraction here is the boat trip on the Li River, the river that flows through the landscape.


# 1 Take a cruise on the river

This is by far the best way to explore the beautiful landscape of the river. The cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo is one of the most popular activities during a vacation in China. You sail past a landscape of grazing water buffalo, farmers working their fields, locals who keep half-submerged bamboo rafts above water and a few small villages, each with a unique architecture and culture.


The peaks of the karst hills always remain in view, with the peaks between Caoping and Xingping as the highlight. It is a beautiful way to see the landscape, but also a fairly popular one. Certainly in the high season (May to August) and on weekends it can get very busy here.


Useful info

Different cruises can be booked. You can choose between a boat and a kind of bamboo raft. Most opt ​​for the boat because of the comfort, but a raft is much more fun (more on that later). 70 to 80 people go on a boat and they are full quickly!


  • Route You sail from Guilin to Yangshuo.
  • Group cruise price Normal = $74 | Superior 1st floor = $116 | Superior 2nd floor = $30.
  • Private cruise price $200 per person.
  • Departure Between 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. | Arrival is between 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.


View of bamboo raft sailing through a reflective river
Taking a bamboo raft across the Li River


# 2 Take a bamboo raft instead of a boat

Exploring the Li River with a boat is of course beautiful, but it is actually much more fun to cross the river with a bamboo raft. We must add that the bamboo rafts are not actually made of bamboo. They look like it, but it’s plastic. You could say it’s a typical Chinese craft 😉


A bamboo raft is a traditional way of transport and you are much closer to the water and nature. It is another way to see the beautiful scenery of the Li River, and the route is shorter than that of the large boats.


Useful info

The route you sail is different. You sail from Yangdi Village (40 kilometers, 25 miles, from Guilin) ​​to the village of Xingping. Although it is a raft, it does have a roof to protect you from the sun and seats so that you can “just” sit. There can be 4 to 6 people on a raft.


  • Route You sail from Yangdi to Xingping.
  • Note Rafts DO NOT sail between 11:30 AM and 1:00 PM and with bad weather.
  • Price Varies between US $8 and US $25 per person.
  • Time The trip takes 2 hours incl. the famous Nine Horse Mural Mountain.


A very nice way to discover the region is a Boat ‘n’ Bike Combo. You then travel by boat from Yangshuo to Xingping. You cycle the stretch back (15 to 20 km, 9 to 12 miles) through the beautiful valley. You can book this trip in Yangshuo.


Bamboo rafts under an overgrown archway
Bamboo rafts relaxing on the river under an archway


# 3 Go hiking in nature

The beauty of the Li River can easily be seen from a boat, but you can see more on foot. Hiking through nature you can see the gigantic rocks, the green mountains, old villages, green rice fields (in the autumn) and impressive viewpoints.


The two routes

There are two well-known hiking trails nearby. One between Xingping and Jiumahua Hill (7 kilometers, 4.3 miles) and one between Jiumahua Hill and Xingping (5 kilometers, 3.1 miles). Both routes are great to walk because the paths are in good condition. On the latter route you will also pass the Nine Horse Mural Hill, one of the most famous sights of the Li River.


TIP – Xingping is an hour’s drive from Yangshuo. A bus costs around US $3. A minivan costs around US $10.


Tourist boat on on the river between karst mountains
If you’re lucky it won’t be that busy on the river!


# 4 Wait until the sun goes down

It is clear that the Li River is one of the most beautiful places in China. And every place in the world becomes even more beautiful during the sunset (or rise). This is also the case with this river. We recommend waiting until it starts to get dark.


Find a nice spot in the mountains, at your accommodation or on the water and enjoy the biggest show of Mother Nature. The sky slowly turns orange and with the mountains in the background, the local fishermen on the water and the Li River turn into a fairy tale landscape.


TIP – In Yangshuo you have the Li River Night Show every night. You can’t miss it 😉


A fisherman and his osprey friend during a sunset
A fisherman and his osprey friend during a sunset


# 5 Other sights

There is a lot to see around the Li River. Well-known points are Reed Flute Cave: a limestone cave with stalactites. Mountain of Splendid Hues: a mountain that consists of colored rocks. Elephant-Trunk Hill: a hill that looks like a water-drinking elephant.


Li River flowing through karst mountains and farms
It’s really like a fairy-tale


Best time to visit

Since the Li River is the highlight of their trip to China for many, it is good to know what the best time is to visit the park. There are 3 different periods.


April to June

This is often seen as the best period. A cruise through the river is best in the wet and humid months. These are April to June. In these months the landscape is the most beautiful (read green) and the river is the deepest so that the boats can go further than in the dry season.


July to October

This period is the best time to see the landscape along the river. During sunny days you can see the reflection of the hills in the water. July and August are the hottest months. You have more problems with rain, but this is often only short lived. September and October are the warm and dry months.


November to March

This is the worst period to go. It is winter and low season and the water level is much lower, so cruises are shortened to around 2 hours. There are a few sunny days, but otherwise it is cold and damp.


Average temperature and rainfall at the Li River
Average temperature and rainfall at the Li River


How do you get there?

The most important places to get to the Li River are Yangshuo and Guilin. Yangshuo is most suited to tourists and from here you can go up the Li River with boats. You can also explore the region by bike or car. Yangshuo can be reached by bus, train or plane.


TIP – Check out our Yangshuo page for more info about how to get here.


Location of the Li River National Park

Google Map of Li River National Park, China

Click the image to view the location in Google Maps!


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