Things to do in Yangshuo, China

Yangshuo is a town and county in southern China, near Guilin, in Guangxi province. It was my first port of call on a six-week trip round China and was one of the best places I visited in the country. Yangshuo County is known for its huge number of enormous limestone outcroppings, or karst, which sit among meandering rivers, lush rice paddies and small Chinese villages. These majestic mounds of rock peppered over the countryside, in the region around Yangshuo and Guilin, are a truly spectacular sight on any trip to China and should not be missed! Read on and find out the things to do in Yangshuo!

Things to do in Yangshuo: Moon Hill
Words don’t do justice to the views from Moon Hill, Yangshuo

Things to do in Yangshuo, China

Given a choice between Guilin or Yangshuo, most people recommend the latter as a great base for exploring the incredible countryside of the area. Many people arrive in Yangshuo after a ferry ride down from the larger city, Guilin, capital of Guangxi province, which takes you past one of the most iconic scenes in the region, near Xingping, found on the back of the 20RMB Chinese note. Over the years, Yangshuo has become more of a tourist centre than a traditional Chinese town and has been taken to, more so than most places in China, by an international community of backpackers, travellers and expats. It’s a lively, bustling place with tonnes of souvenir shops, bars, restaurants of all kinds and, of course, a wide range of accommodation in Yangshuo, for your stay in China. It’s also perfectly possible to get out of the hubbub of the town and stay a little further out, among the fields and stars.

Things to do in Yangshuo: The centre of town
Centre of Yangshuo

Hiring a bike in Yangshuo, China

One of the best things to do in Yangshuo County is to get out and explore the scenery, be it on a hired bicycle, motorbike, bus, on foot, by boat or in a car. The area is dotted with literally hundreds and hundreds of limestone karst, the Li and Yulong rivers winding between, farms and villages, rice paddies and orchards. It’s great to get out there on a bike and cycle the roads weaving amongst all this. There are plenty of routes and pretty much every guesthouse or hotel rents out bikes and can point you in the right direction. Do be careful as not all roads are well signposted and maps aren’t always that clear; take plenty of water, some snacks, sunscreen and try to keep well covered.

Things to do in Yangshuo: Cycling
Cycling on dirt paths through Yangshuo County, China

Take a boat or bamboo raft trip in Yangshuo, China

One of the other things to do in Yangshuo is to combine bike rides or hikes with trips down the Li River by boat or bamboo raft. This is a great way to go a little further and appreciate the unique landscape from a different angle. A great bamboo raft trip, which I did, was down to Fuli, a traditional Chinese village where they make Chinese fans and scrolls, and then on to Liugong, another small village by the Li River, before cycling back through more jaw-dropping scenery.

Things to do in Yangshuo: Shop
Chinese fans made in Fuli, just down the river from Yangshuo

Moon Hill, fun courses and doing nothing in Yangshuo

Other great day activities include a trip to Moon Mountain, a karst with a moon-shaped hole that’ll have you sweating through your clothes up the huge number of steps but rewards with breathtaking views out over the mind-boggling number of limestone hills. As a backpacker haven, Yangshuo is a great place to stop and stay. There are cooking courses and schools where you can learn some Chinese or Tai Chi. Many of the guesthouses and hotels, particularly those a bit out of the centre, are lovely places to relax with a book. There are some peaceful swimming spots, along the Li and Yulong Rivers and pleasant cafes in town to while away your time.

Things to do in Yangshuo: Li River swimming spot
A great swimming spot along the Li River, Yangshuo

Getting out of Yangshuo, Guangxi

There are a wealth of other tourist attractions and things to do in Yangshuo: rock climbing in Yangshuo, mud baths, live performances or going out early to watch cormorant fishing, to name just a few. With this in mind Yangshuo is a pretty difficult place to leave. Many people factor in a few days but end up staying much longer – some for decades – and it’s not difficult to see why. It does get busy so avoiding the national holidays and summer weeks isn’t a bad idea. That said, I was here in the summer and it was fine. There’s plenty of space in Yangshuo County so it’s easy enough to find accommodation a little out of the busy centre of town and to get away from the tour groups during the days. The town is fun and the scenery is truly immense – put it on your bucket list.

Have you been to Yangshuo? Share your experience and tell us about other great things to do in Yangshuo, China, and the surrounding area.

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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