Drive to the Yulong River, a quieter tributary of the Li River, for a short, private cruise on a bamboo raft through the beautiful valleys of the Guilin area. The steep green hillsides and dramatic limestone spires that line the rivers here have inspired generations of Chinese landscape painters.
Visit one of Guilin’s most well known rock formations, Xiangbi Shan, or “Elephant Trunk Hill,” so named because of its resemblance to an elephant drinking from the adjacent Li River. Learn about the local legend that explains how this “elephant” came to reside here permanently. If you wish to climb the path to the summit of the rock, it is about 100 meters (328 feet) high.
Visit a school in Huangluo village where you can play with the children and speak to their teachers about the Chinese school system. Learn more about rural life in China through the eyes of the Zhuang minority, the largest ethnic minority in China with a population approaching 16 million, or roughly that of Australia.
Take a short hour hike through the Longsheng rice terraces for an idyllic morning marveling at these agricultural feats of engineering. End your hike at a scenic ridge where you can rest your legs and enjoy a picnic lunch.
Explore Ludi Yan, or “Reed Flute Cave,” which is situated about 5 kilometers (3 miles) northwest of the center of Guilin. One of the foremost natural wonders of Guilin, the caves consist of tunnels measuring 10 meters (33 feet) in diameter that run for roughly 500 meters (1,640 feet) through Guangming Hill. The caves derive their name from a type of reed once found growing within, which were made by local residents into flutes.
Inside the caves are inscriptions dating back more than 1,000 years; in the 1940s, Guilin residents hid in the caves during the Japanese invasion of China. Today, the caves many stalactites, stalagmites and inscriptions are illuminated by lighting of various colors.
An iconic sights in central Guilin, Fubo Shan, or “Wave-Calming Hill,” is so named because this Buddha-topped rock is believed to subdue the waters that rush below it.
Visit Xiaozhai, one of a number of remote villages where the Yao minority people live. The Yao are one of 56 minority peoples recognized by the Chinese government and they are known for their brightly colored textiles and their musical tradition. Take part in a singing ritual, watch villagers work on traditional fabrics, and see an informal cooking demonstration before sitting down to a lunch of typical Yao dishes.
Explore Xinping, a small town on the Li River, famous for its setting amidst karst pinnacles, prehistoric rock formations known throughout China for their beauty. Bicycle through the village and stop at farmhouses to chat with the locals through your guide.