This post was last updated on April 24th, 2020 at 08:32 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 landscapes 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.
7 Best 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 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.
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.
2. Explore With a Bamboo Raft
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.
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.
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 Best Hiking 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.
4. Wait For the Sunset
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, there’s a Li River Night Show every night. You can’t miss it 😉
5. Discover Crown Cave
A lot of caves are hidden in the mountainous area along the Li River, but the Crown Cave is without a doubt the best known. The cave is 12 kilometers long and dotted with stalactites, stone pillars, and rock formations. The cave is particularly well equipped for tourists and almost looks like a small amusement park.
The rock formations are highlighted in all the colors of the rainbow, you can take a boat trip on the underground river, and with a special train, you can take a ride through the many mysterious spaces. You will find the cave near the village of Caoping, where most cruise boats will make a stop.
6. Cycling Along the Li River
A fun way to discover the Li River and the surrounding countryside is not from the water, but from a bicycle. Everywhere in Yangshuo, you can rent a mountain bike and take a trip along the river. Along the way, you will pass through small, sleepy villages, with green rice fields as far as the eye can see.
Make sure to stop in one of those villages for a short break and a traditional lunch. You can make a nice trip from Yangshuo to Xingping. And if you do not plan to stay there and do not feel like cycling back 20 kilometers, you can also make your way back with a bamboo raft.
7. Other Sights to See
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.
Best Time to Visit the Li River
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
The months from April to June are often seen as the best months to visit the Li River. A cruise through the river is amazing in the wet and humid months. In these months the landscape is the most beautiful (green and lush) 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 around the Li 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 per Month
How to Get to the Li River
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.