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Guilin to Guizhou: Mountains and Ethnic Minorities of Southwest China

Travel off the beaten tracks into the real China that is hidden from tourist maps to experience and learn about the true ethnic and cultural diversities that currently exist in some of the most remote parts of the country. Starting from one of the more renowned cities, Guilin, you will be taken on a humble journey through the extreme topography that reaches up to 6000 feet above sea level, through the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau, located in the Southwest mountainous region of China. Witness the breathtaking views of infinite valleys and engage with the different ethnic groups, including the Miao, Dong, Zhuang, Yi and Zhao, which will give you a truly unique and informative trip into the cultural heritages that make up China. 

Highlights   Pricing
  • Take in the unique karst scenery of Guangxi and Guizhou
  • Travel from Guangxi through Guizhou to Guiyang, staying overnight in the houses of locals
  • Visit the local Zhuang, Dong and Miao minorities
  • Enjoy a special tour off the beaten tracks, with plenty of amazing photo ops 
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Day by Day Itinerary

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Day 1

Arrive in Guilin, on the west bank of China’s Li River, where you will be greeted and transferred by your private guide to the Yangshuo Resort. Fully-furnished in an authentic Chinese style, relax from a long flight in the comfort of your room before attending a delicious welcome dinner. Use your first night to get some rest for the eventful few days that lie ahead.

Day 2

You’ll start your day off  with a trip to the Reed Flute Cave, otherwise known as the “Palace of Natural Art”, where you’ll explore a mystical maze built up of stalactites and stalagmites. Continuing along the west bank of the river, a 20-minute climb will lead you up to the Ripple Riding Hill that provides exquisite views of city, before reaching the symbol of Guilin, known as Elephant Trunk Hill. After a tasty lunch, visit Yao Mountain and the nearby 500-year-old mausoleums of the Ming Dynasty. Your guide will then lead you to the largest park in Guilin where you will encounter the magnificent Seven-Star Cave. Once an underground river channel, the cave emerged through movement with the Earth’s crust to form the cavern present today.

Day 3

Wake up and fuel your body for the long, exciting day ahead. You will embark on a four-hour drive to one of China’s most iconic sites: the Dragon’s Backbone Rice Terraces. Here you will have ample opportunity to take photos of the 700-year-old terraces and immerse yourself in the spectacular views of the mountains. Enjoy a comfortable overnight stay in the Li-An Lodge, nestled in the quaint Zhuang Minority village of Ping An. Small restaurants, serving local Zhuang food, are scattered around the village and will give you an added reason to explore the local culture.

Day 4

Today you will have the opportunity to do as you please. Head out on one of many hiking trails with a group of fellow travelers, or take a peaceful solo tour of the terraces and their terrain. If you are not up for walking, take a relaxing tour of the town, interact with the local Zhuang people and learn more about their culture. Souvenirs can be bought from this friendly minority group, which will be a helpful and appreciated contribution to their community.

Day 5

Having gained a cultural insight into the Zhuang minority and their way of life, open your mind to a new experience offered by the Dong minority, located approximately 12.5 miles away from the Rice Terraces in Sanjiang. The town itself is not as exciting as Ping An, however the Wind & Rain Bridge at Chengyang, the longest of 108 wooden bridges that are over a quarter of a mile long, is a remarkable landmark built by the Dong minority themselves. After a tasty lunch, the Dong minority will entertain you with a traditional open-air performance to demonstrate their local customs.

Day 6

After a quick one-night rest in the province of Guangxi, gather your belongings before heading out on the beautiful 4-hour journey towards the remote province of Guizhou. The provinces are separated by long, winding valleys that channel stunning flowing rivers, which will guide you to Congjiang. Here you will spend one night in a local guesthouse and dine with locals, street side.

Day 7

After a pleasant stay with the local Congjiang community, get ready to be exposed to the daily life of Dong village members in Rongjiang. Here you’ll be hosted by local community members, in their basic living conditions, for the night. Local girls, dressed in traditional Chinese dresses, will excitedly congregate in the center of the town to perform several cultural dances. As you snap away with your camera, absorb this unique opportunity to experience a part of China that is completely new to the world of foreign visitors.

Day 8

Allow your local family to treat you to a hearty breakfast as you prepare for the longest leg of your trip. Your guide will transport you from Rongjiang to Xijiang by car, which will be a full day’s journey. The long trip will be worthwhile, as you are welcomed in one of the most stunning regions of China by the local Miao minority, renowned for their rebellious independence. Enjoy traditional dances performed in flamboyant costumes, complemented by the famous, oversized silver hats and jewellery.

Day 9

Today will be more relaxed, enabling you to absorb the beautiful scenery that surrounds. You will be heading away from the beaten tracks, to more civilized and touristy locations. Enjoy a traditional Chinese lunch in Kaili, before heading to the Capital of Guizhou: Guiyang.

Day 10

Wake up early and keep your camera handy as you head on a 2.5-hour journey to Huangguoshu, one of China’s largest waterfalls. This incredible mass of overflowing water, most prominent during the rainy season, drops down over 255 feet, providing a magnificent display of natural aquatic beauty and colorful mists. You’ll then be taken to the fascinating Tianxing Qiao Nature Park, where you take a two-hour hike deep into China’s wilderness. Before dusk, you will depart for Anshun, where you will spend three pleasant nights.

Day 11

Having explored rice terraces, waterfalls and natural parks, put on some comfortable shoes as you head on a three-hour journey towards Zhijin Dong, where you can explore China’s largest caves. Impressive 600-foot hollow rocks allow enormous stalactites and stalagmites to hang from the ceiling. It’s recommended you take a tripod for your camera for this particular part of the journey, which can also be purchased nearby.

Day 12

Your last day will prove to be the icing on the cake as you take a relaxing wander through the amazing Longgong Dong Caves. Located on the outskirts of Anshun, enjoy a unique experience as you float through the watery cavern on a boat. You will glide through the remarkable stone corridors that weave between strong pillars, from one end of the cave to the other. It’s the perfect end to an unforgettable exploration into the ethnic minorities of southwest China.

Day 13

Say goodbye to the China you’ve uncovered as you are transferred to the airport for your international flight home.


Suggested Accommodations

Yangshuo Resort

Yangshuo Resort

Opened in 2009, the Yangshuo Resort sits on a scenic perch on the banks of the Yulong River. Each of the 236 rooms offer balconies with mountain and river views and feature complimentary Internet service. Guests can choose from three on-site restaurants whose menus range from traditional Chinese cuisine to continental style cafés. The Dragonfly Bar is also available for cocktails, wine or tea. Other amenities include bicycles to ride around the property, an oversized swimming pool, fitness center, spa, Chinese traditional massage sauna center, and a children’s playground. The Yangshuo Resort is approximately 90 minutes from the Guilin airport.

Li-An Lodge

Li-An Lodge

Li-An Lodge is the culmination of artist and traveler Keren Su’s decade-long quest to build a unique, luxurious lodge amidst the gorgeous Longsheng rice terraces. Su first discovered this area on a photography trip in 1997 and finally opened Li An eight years later; the entire lodge is built without nails and instead uses a traditional Chinese construction technique of fitting pegs into grooves to secure joints. There are 16 rooms, each with unparalleled views of the terraces and their own specific themes and designs. For example, the Harvest room features farming tools used by the local Zhuang minority in addition to other Zhuang-specific pieces, and the Rock room fitted with intricate stone carving and furniture. Although the rooms do not have Internet access, there is a high-speed connection in the business center. Li-An Lodge also has a restaurant that serves Western and Chinese food, as well as a bar and sitting room decorated with Su’s photography and other work.

Dong Village Hotel

Dong Village Hotel

The Dong Village Hotel is a classic wooden Dong-style building overlooking the river and the Chengyang Wind and Rain covered bridge. Each of the 21 rooms in the hotel has a private balcony, flat-screen TV, wireless internet access, and writing desk and the hotel is just a short walk from the iconic covered bridge. The owner, a local of Chengyang, established the hotel in 1998 and operates the hotel with his wife. The kitchen can prepare local Dong and other cultural dishes upon request, which can be enjoyed on the patios that overlook the river and bridge.

Cloud Country Hotel

Cloud Country Hotel

The Cloud Country Hotel is located in Xijiang, the largest Miao village in China. The hotel offers simple accomodation in a traditional Chinese setting. The non-smoking, air-conditioned rooms come with a telephone, mini-bar, writing desk, en-suite bathroom, and free internet. There are several dining options in the area, which are mostly local restaurants that serve Chinese and local cuisine.

Kempinski Hotel Guiyang

Kempinski Hotel Guiyang

Situated in Guizhou’s tallest building, this luxury five-star hotel provides guests with expansive views of the city’s classical architecture. Choose from any of the 366 incredible luxury guestrooms and suites, including Deluxe, Executive or Panorama suites, as well as one Ambassador and one Presidential suite on the 53rd floor. Dine in style at one of three restaurants that offer flavorsome international cuisine, mouthwatering regional Chinese specialities and fresh seafood, plated by world class chefs in show kitchens. Enjoy an array of pastries, cakes and chocolates as you sip on the famous tea offered at the hotel. Guests may also enjoy indulge in the hotel’s efficient room service. Kempinski Hotel Guiyang is conveniently-located within walking distance from the attractive city center, offering premier international shopping and entertainment experiences. Similarly, the hotel is just minutes away from Nanming River, leading to the 15th-century Jiaxiu Pavilion, Yangming Temple and Qianling Park. Enjoy day tours around the nearby national park where guests can go hiking and rafting, exploring rivers, mountains, caves and sightseeing in and around Guiyang. 

Tunbao Hotel

Tunbao Hotel

Located in the Chinese province of Guizhou, the Tunbao Hotel is nestled into the grounds close to the incredible Huangguoshu Waterfall. This waterfall is the largest and most profound of the ten waterfalls contained in Huangguoshu National Park, measuring 243 feet in height and 266 feet in width. The hotel offers stunning panoramas of the surrounding natural setting and is equipped with a swimming pool, bar and lounge, dining area that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, and fantastic service from friendly staff. Pets are allowed here, making for a convenient stay for those that want to include the whole family. The hotel has a total of 180 standard, deluxe and suite rooms, built in a villa complex style. The rooms are nothing particularly special, but offer a comfortable stay in a wonderful location.

Meet An Asia Expert
From Travelogues
Our co-founder & COO Jay Tindall is a former China resident and a true China expert. He loves visiting remote rural areas and meeting China's ethnic minorities.
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