Yangshuo is a small countryside town, located about 65km from Guilin, in the Southern province of Guangxi, South-China. Both Yangshuo and Guilin are characterised by their unique natural landscape of hundreds of limestone peaks dotted around the countryside and their preserved ethnic diversity that provides travellers with a most interesting travel destination and a cultural insight into local life of villagers in China like it has been for centuries.
Whilst Guilin has a similar culture and landscape, it has grown over the past decade to become a large Chinese city with 5-6 million inhabitants, while Yangshuo still retains its charm of a laid-back countryside town and should be the centre of activities for a visit to the area. For more information about Guilin please refer to our Guilin China page.
The Yangshuo Insider is here to give simple, practical advice on how to make the most of Yangshuo. Either avoiding the more commercial side, or embracing it and going with the flow.
Location & Geography
Yangshuo is in Guangxi, an autonomous region in the south of China, Guangxi shares an international border with Vietnam. Yangshuo is roughly 65km south of Guilin and about 800km from either Hong Kong to the south east or the Vietnamese border to the south west. It’s easy to get from Guilin to Yangshuo and it’s easy to get to Guilin from most large cities in China.
The mountains and towers you will find in Yangshuo are made of limestone, left behind following the retreat of an inland sea. Limestone forms the karst landscape since it is soluble in water it is easily eroded into the cave s and rock formations you see today.
There are two rivers that converge in Yangshuo, the Li River (漓江) and the Yulong (Dragon) River （玉龙）. These rivers have shaped the lives of the locals here for centuries, providing communication and transport to other towns, a fishing industry and more recently attractions for tourists.
The Zhuang minority are to be found throughout Guangxi province and there’s a Zhuang population of around 30,000 in Yangshuo County. The influence of their culture can still be found in the few remaining silver jewellery shops on West Street. Whilst traditional Zhuang culture is having less and less of an influence on life in the centre of Yangshuo, it is still easy to find a slower more traditional lifestyle in the outlying villages surrounding Yangshuo.
The Yao minority are based in Dazhai and are noted for their colourful clothes, their black or red turbans and the style of architecture found in the region around Dazhai and Longsheng. A visit to the rice terraces of the area is a particular highlight as part of a visit to Yangshuo.
Other cultural activities, whilst not necessarily of the Zhuang or Yao people, are easily found in Yangshuo, whether that be a traditional tea ceremony, cormorant fishing, Chinese cookery or the practice of Tai Chi. We’ve prepared in depth information on culturally focused activities in Yangshuo for you.
As a hub for international tourism in the area, Yangshuo offers myriad choices for the hungry traveller. Guilin rice noodles were a creation borne of war-torn Guilin as an alternative to the spicy southern cuisine. Its popularity today keeps it available all over Yangshuo, these days it’s a popular breakfast choice.
Beer fish is somewhat of an enigma. Extremely popular with Chinese tourists Beer fish is considered a traditional dish in Yangshuo, however its origins are a little unclear, some say it is as young as 15 years old. Perhaps the creation of a quick thinking cook who had an accident with a beer in the kitchen and proclaimed the creation of a new dish? Who knows, still worth a try, tomatoes, peppers and onion fried with cubes of fish from the Li River in a tasty (albeit beery) sauce. The fish is not filleted so it can be a test of skills for the novice chopstick user!
Our favorite restaurants that serve local food are Cloud 9 (corner of West Street and Mc Donalds), Chong Qing (Sichuan Chinese) and the Chun Ji restaurant (Roast Goose) on Diecui Lu.
International restaurants are abundant in Yangshuo. Thai, Indian, Italian, Korean, English or Japanese amongst others. Some stand out restaurants are the Alley Restaurant (Pizza, pasta, steaks), Rock n Grill (Thai, Chinese and Western) and Pure Lotus (Vegetarian Chinese).
Some good all-rounders are to be found on Guihua Lu. Cafés serving breakfast, lunch and dinner as Kelly’s café, Minority café and just recently the Demo bar has been producing the goods.
As a backpacker’s destination for quite some time now Yangshuo has a host of budget hostels. With dormitory prices from 30Y a night you can stay in Yangshuo in reasonable comfort very cheaply. At the other end of the scale there are major, all-inclusive resort complexes out of town where you may never feel to step out of the hotel grounds. And of course there’s everything else in between.
Choosing accommodation in Yangshuo can be a bit of a minefield, since there are so many choices with varying comfort, service and locations. As a general rule, down-town Yangshuo will be noisy until the small hours pretty much every day of the week, not just weekends. The further away from West Street you go the more peaceful your nights will be but the more isolated and costly any taxi transfers will be for which you would depend on your hotel for. Ultimately the trade off is between convenience of location and quality of sleep.
With this in mind we’ve collated a few different hotels and hostels together on our Yangshuo accommodation page where you can book any accommodation in Yangshuo as well.
Yangshuo‘s attraction is diverse and subjective. Every visitor to Yangshuo will find their own memorable experience during their stay. We’ve categorised activities in to the following groups: Gorgeous Scenery, Cultural Insights, Active and Rewarding, Relaxing Treats, Keeping the Kids Happy and finally Learn Something Local. Whilst they are fairly self explanatory there is some css over between categories, for example kayaking is featured in both the Gorgeous Scenery and Active and Rewarding categories.
Among the top choices are bamboo rafting on the Yulong or Li rivers, a visit to Moon Hill, exploring one of the many caves in the area and taking a cycling tour. Whilst these are certainly very popular choices we like to give the “inside” information and would suggest the often overlooked 7 Star Tea Plantation, Stone Village, Huangyao old town centre, Dazhai village and not in least our own guided tours where we aim to provide a blend of the best experiences yangshuo could offer.
For the more active visitor rock climbing is a sport that is growing rapidly in China. Some of the best climbing in China (possibly the world) is to be found in Yangshuo. For some, coming to Yangshuo and not climbing would be like going to Beijing and not seeing the Great Wall. There’s heaps besides climbing too, Kayaking on the Li River is a great alternative to bamboo rafting, cycling a more adventurous route through the hills to the north or the amazing Longjing River Driftage.
We can make all the necessary arrangements for you whatever the activity, whether it be one or several, we can plan your itinerary, including transportation, to the last detail.
Recommended Length of Stay
Any trip through China, regardless of duration, should have a minimum of three nights in the area around Yangshuo. A great way to arrive into Yangshuo is on the Li River Cruise from Guilin. Since this requires an early start in Guilin, an overnight stay there would allow you to see some of the Guilin sights before taking the cruise the next morning.
The rice terraces of Longsheng are quite a distance from either Yangshuo or Guilin, whilst it’s not impossible to get there and back in the same day that does mean a lot of time on the road. An overnight stay at the rice terraces is advisable, and offers the chance to view sunrise over the terraced hills.
Based on a minimum of three nights, we would suggest to skip Guilin, stay one night at the rice terraces and 2 nights in Yangshuo. If your schedule permits a 4th night we would add that to Yangshuo as well and anything beyond could add nights to both Guilin and Yangshuo.
Yangshuo Travel Tips
As with any tourist destination there are positives and negatives to consider. Be sure to read our Yangshuo travel tips with the most important things that visitors should be aware of when visiting Yangshuo.
The positives of a stay in Yangshuo by far outweigh the pitfalls and this guide is here to give advice to any visitor, not just to keep them safe but to make sure they get the most out your visit to Yangshuo no matter how long you intend to stay. We’re always available to answer general questions about the area or specific activity based enquiries which we try address within 12 hours.