Longji Rice Terraces, China

Rising out of the beautiful countryside of northern Guangxi Province, southern China, the Longji or Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces are a spectacular sight of innovative agricultural engineering  and majestic Chinese scenery. For centuries, the villagers here have carved terraces out of the hillsides to form rice paddies, some sitting over 1000m above sea level. Venturing up into these hills brings you into a network of minority villages, great hikes, stunning views, and some decent hotels and hostels to relax in.

The hike to Ping'an
The Longji Rice Terraces

Getting there

I travelled to the Longji Rice Terraces, Guangxi, from the equally picturesque countryside of Yangshuo, to the south. You can sign up for day tours from Yangshuo or the provincial capital, Guilin, heading back to your hotel in the evening, but that really doesn’t give the Longji Rice Terraces the time they deserve. Instead, you can pay for the transport and ditch the tour group when you arrive or make your own way there. I opted to tag along with the tour bus and sort myself out on arrival. It’s much easier than trying to navigate a series of buses and taxis from Yangshuo by yourself and not much more expensive.

Beautiful Chinese scenery, Longji Rice Terraces
Beautiful Chinese scenery, Longji Rice Terraces

Getting up into the Longji Rice Terraces

I was dropped at the entrance of the scenic area. Here you can leave your heavy bags for a small fee. I’d recommend leaving your luggage behind, either here or at your hotel in Guilin or Yangshuo if you’re going back, and packing your valuables and essentials in a smaller bag. All the villages require at least some uphill walking and it’s good to have the freedom to hike between the villages and not have to waste time retracing your steps to pick up luggage. Even if you trek to different villages you’ll leave by the same road you came in on and bus drivers are used to people asking to stop and pick up bags – although you may have to do some miming if you can’t speak Chinese! If you absolutely can’t be without your bag, you can pay a porter (usually a tiny old woman) to carry it up for you.

Looking down on Dazhai, Longji Rice Terraces
Looking down on Dazhai, Longji Rice Terraces

The minority villages

The Han Chinese are said to account for over 90% of the population of China but the villages among the Lonji Rice Terraces, Guangxi , are comprised of various different ethnic groups, including Zhuang, Miao, Yao and Dong people, each with their own distinctive languages, customs and clothing. There are a number of villages perched among the terraces and steep hillsides of the region. It’s good to have an idea which one you’re heading for before you arrive so you don’t get flustered when dropped at the entrance to the scenic area. The main villages are Ping’an, Dazhai and Tiantouzhai. Ping’an is the biggest, most touristy village. Dazhai is also only a short taxi ride and walk from the drop-off point. If you have time and are willing to hike for a bit longer I’d recommend Tiantouzhai, which sits further up the hills, offering fantastic views over the surrounding villages, valleys, paddies and forested hillsides.

The view from my room, Tiantouzhai
The view from my room, Tiantouzhai

Things to do at Longji Rice Terraces, Guangxi

After a sweaty hike up the hill to Tiantouzhai, I wasn’t up for doing much the day I arrived. There’s plenty of decent accommodation lining the pathways up through the village, each trying to better the views of those before it. I had to trek around for a good while longer trying to find accommodation so I’d suggest booking a hotel or hostel before you arrive. Many of the hotels have good views out over the terraces and are a great place to eat, drink, read, relax and take stock of your fantastic surroundings. When you’ve done a bit of that, there are great hikes to various viewpoints, through the villages and small settlements of the area, along the hillsides, among the giant, stepped fields, through thick pine and bamboo. While many of the hikes are well signposted, I definitely had to stop and attempt to ask for directions a good few times.

Hike along paths through the Longji Rice Terraces
Hike along paths through the Longji Rice Terraces

The final day, I left by hiking from Tiantouzhai over to Ping’an, before catching the bus back down to the entrance of the scenic area and picking up my bags. It took about 4 hours and was well worth the effort, hiking along pathways though lush green paddies, like perfectly trimmed golf greens or hotel infinity pools glistening in the early morning sun, perched at the top of the world. I was here in the summer, July to be precise, when the fields were brilliant green. Around October they turn autumnal yellows and in winter they can be white with snow.

Tell about your experiences of the Longji Rice Terraces or a recent trip to China. Or let us know about other stunning rice terraces or farming scenes from around the globe!

About James Gill

Born and raised in the UK, James got his first taste for travel on an inter rail trip, round Europe. Since completing his English Lit. degree, he has spent most of his time working and traveling in Asia. As well as the UK, James has lived in Thailand and southern China and is now trying his luck in Australia. He has backpacked throughout Southeast Asia and China and travelled in America, Australia and Europe. He is a keen reader and loves eating spicy food.

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