Guilin is a relatively large city in the South-China province of Guangxi. Decades ago Guilin used to be somewhat the small town that is Yangshuo today, admired for its pristine natural landscape of forests, lakes, rivers and mountains, but through the rapid growth of tourism and the expansion of the Chinese economy it has now grown to become a large city with about 5-6 million residents today.
The name Guilin has two parts to it, the “Gui” part refers to sweet osmanthus. This is a really fragrant tree, the blossoms of which are used in the production of teas and flavoured rice wine. Sweet osmanthus trees are found throughout the city and fill the air with their characteristic aroma. The “Lin” part simply means forest, so we have Guilin – Sweet Osmanthus Forest.
Guilin still counts as one of the major transportation hubs to the region. Guilin airport is served by all major airports in China by domestic airlines and offers international connections with the largest cities in Asia. In 2014 the Guilin train station has been expanded to connect with China‘s high speed train network linking it with the province capital Nanning in the south, Guizhou’s capital Guiyang in the northwest and Guangzhou near the border with Hong Kong in the east. These bullet trains have cut the travel time between those cities from 5-10 hours to just 2.5 to 3 hours. We provide more detailed information about all the various ways on our getting to Guilin page. For all the Guilin to Yangshuo options check our Guilin to Yangshuo page.
Culturally Guilin is heavily influenced by the Li River and the lifestyles of the locals have revolved around the fishing industry for hundreds of years before tourism really took off in China.
There are several minority groups in Guilin, the 4 most highly represented are the Zhuang, Yao, Miao and Dong minorities. Each group has its own traditions, clothing and festivals. Some of the more notable examples are silver jewellery, colourful clothing and extremely long hair.
Guilin cuisine is heavily influenced by the spicy foods of Sichuan and Hunan Provinces, but also by the milder Cantonese food of Guangdong (Canton) province. Famous in Guilin are the “Three Treasures”, a chilli sauce made from red chillies, garlic and fermented soya beans, a “three Flower Wine” (sanhua jiu) which a kind of rice wine, and pickled tofu.
Perhaps its most famous food of all are the Guilin Rice Noodles, cooked in a light broth with pork and fried soya beans (or peanuts), topped with a delicious sauce of which the recipe is heavily guarded as a secret passed on to family members only. Generally consumed for breakfast many will have it for lunch or dinner as well. Anywhere in Guilin you will find plenty of these small local noodle shops along the road where you can sample this truly unique taste and enjoy a meal for just 5Y per person. A must try when you are in Guilin.
As is expected of a major tourist destination hotels and hostels are abundant. Popular hotels in Guilin are the Sheraton and the Guilin Sapphire Hotel. Personally we love the Guan Ming Lou Museum Hotel of a Chinese art collector who exhibits his personal collection of true antique handicrafts and valuable art works throughout this well designed medium sized hotel. It offers a prime location near the centre and train station of Guilin with many rooms and the common restaurant offering views over one of its beautiful lakes. Among the most popular hostels in Guilin are the Guilin Wada Hostel and the Ming Palace International Youth Hostel.
You can check the latest reviews and book the best Guilin accommodations here.
Guilin is the start point of the famous Li-river cruise to Yangshuo and the most notable examples of Guilin‘s karst topography are the Elephant Trunk Hill, the Brocade hills and the Reed Flute Cave however none of these scenic spots we consider to match their counterparts in Yangshuo such as Husband Mountain (Xianggong Hill), Moon Hill and the Silver Cave where access and scenery above and below the ground is more more relaxed and stunning.
Guilin seems to be the ideal starting point for trips to the northwest Longsheng Rice terraces that are located closer to Guilin than to Yangshuo in the southeast however it all depends on the activities you plan and your arrival and departure time at the Guilin airport.
Travellers who would like to enjoy the Li-river boat cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo or just the most scenic stretch by a smaller motorised bamboo raft, and travellers who arrive on a late flight in Guilin better come to Yangshuo first and then head straight to the Longji rice terraces and back to Guilin afterwards. More info and tips how to integrate a visit to the the rice terraces are provided on our Yangshuo to Longji rice terraces page.