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Three Ways of Exploring the Li River

Last updated by chris1993 at 2016/8/22; Destinations: Guilin Edit Delete

The Li River, one of the most beautiful rivers in China, is the soul of Guilin. There are three ways to explore the beauty of the river: the Li River cruise, the bamboo raft and hiking. Taking a boat or a raft to blend into the picturesque scenery are more popular. And due to security reasons, hiking has been temporarily suspended.

Boat Cruise vs Bamboo Raft


Boat Cruise

Bamboo Raft

Time needed






In bad weather

Still possible/enjoyable






Toilet, seat with table, costlier but better quality

Comfortable bamboo chair, disembark for more

Li River Cruise – Enjoy the River from Guilin to Yangshuo

Traveling by boat, you can enjoy some of the quintessential parts of the Li River on the stretch from Guilin to Yangshuo. Air-conditioned boats will provide you with a relaxing and weatherproof tour.  

  • Time needed: 4-5 hours (depending on the water speed)
  • Boarding time: 9-9:30am
  • Route: Zhujiang Pier or Mopanshan Pier to Yangshuo
  • Suitable for: families, friends, couples, individuals
  • Scenery: Elephant Trunk Hill, Wangfu Rock, Yangdi Village, Mural Hill, Yellow Cloth Shoal, Xingping Old Village and Schoolboy Hill

Two Types of Boat

There are two types of boat available to tourists: normal boats and luxury boats.

  • Similarities: same scenery, seating at tables, restrooms, public deck, tour guide, lunch.
  • Differences: the normal boats and the luxury boats leave from Zhujiang Pier and Mopanshan Pier respectively. The luxury double-deck boats are better decorated, with more leg room than the normal boats. English-speaking tour guides on luxury boats will point out and explain the scenery to you. Higher prices also correspond to better lunches. But please do not expect too much from the lunch; you may even want to bring your own food just in case.


Peak Months – from April to October

In April, the river and mountain peaks wear misty ribbons, like a blooming young girl, too shy to show off her beauty. The tranquil morning with hazy drizzle and the soft twitter of birds from the mountains, adds more mystery to the river. Despite the damp, April temperatures may be just fine for a boat trip.

From May to September, rainfall is abundant and the water level in the Li River reaches its highest. Sometimes during stormy days, the river will become muddy. Summer in Guilin can be hot and crowded (school summer vacation is from July to August), but this is the best time to change into your swimming suit and enjoy the cool river.

October provides more comfortable temperatures than other months, with cooler and drier air. Many people choose to come at this time because bright sunshine and azure skies make for clear and splendid reflections of mountain peaks in the river. What’s more, the whole city basks in the alluring scent of osmanthus flowers. Other months, from November to March are slow and quiet. As the deep winter in Guilin can be cold and wet, if you cannot bear the cold but want a more private tour, we’d recommend November or March.

See more about China’s Climate.

Service – Leaves Much to Be Desired

Even though service on the boat may lead to some complaints, it will not spoil the wonderful views. Some tour guides will use microphones, because of the buzz on the boats. For a commission, they may peddle food or souvenirs. It’s good to be aware that they are selling stuff at inflated prices.

Before and After the Cruise

Visitors need to book tickets in advance, either with us or with a local guide. We will pick you up at your hotel in the morning and drive you to the pier. Anyone who does not have a private tour guide needs to go to the pier by taxi or to rent a car (there is no public transportation there). It takes about 50 minutes from the city and costs about 70 yuan.

The two types of boat dock at different piers in Yangshuo. The normal boats stop at Longtoushan Pier and the luxury boats drop you off at the Shuidongmen Pier, which is closer to West Street (at the center of the town).    

Good to Know

  • The cruise is a one-way trip; you can travel back to Guilin by bus.
  • There is no stop on the cruise.
  • You can bring your luggage on the boat or have your private tour guide transfer it to your hotel in Yangshuo. 

Bamboo Raft – Close Up to the Water

Instead of the four-hour boat cruise, you may prefer to take a more adventurous bamboo raft. If the river is swollen, it’ll make for a choppy experience, and you will probably end up a damp sailor.

  • Time needed: 1-1.5 hours (depending on the water speed)
  • Boarding time: 8:00-18:00
  • Route: Yangdi – Xingping
  • Suitable for: families, friends, couples

guilin bamboo raft

Traditional Style Bamboo Raft

Originally all rafts were made of bamboo, but nowadays many are made from PVC pipes, expertly lashed together. The rafts each have comfortable bamboo armchairs for 4 to 6 tourists and a large sunshine canopy. Floating down the river, the raft is controlled by a skilled driver with a wooden paddle. An outboard motor is on hand in case extra power is needed. There is no restroom on the raft.

More Flexibility Comes with More Restrictions 

The season and weather will influence your rafting plans. In bad weather, especially in spring and summer, rafting can be cancelled at short notice. To ensure the safe passage of cruises, rafts are not permitted to run from 11:30am to 1pm. Passengers must be aged between 7 and 70 years.

It is possible to stop during the trip to take pictures of the scenery or for a simple lunch at local restaurants on the river bank. If you like, you can invite your raftsman to eat with you. Some local vendors driving their own rafts will sell you refreshments at high prices. Instead, you can easily buy drinks or snacks before leaving Yangdi, or have lunch after arriving at Xingping. 

How to Plan

The essential bamboo raft route starts from Yangdi and ends at Xingping. It takes about an hour to drive from Guilin to Yangdi and 50 minutes from Xingping to Yangshuo. You can take the bus from Guilin Bus Station to Yangdi Pier. After rafting at Xingping, there will be a free shuttle transferring you from the pier to Xingping Bus Station where you can choose a bus going on to Yangshuo or take one back to Guilin.

You can book your trip with a local guide, who will contact a raftsman and arrange the best time for you. If you prefer not to share a raft with others, or don’t want it to be fully occupied, that can be arranged, but you need to pay about 40 yuan extra for each vacant seat.

Good to Know

  • The raftsmen cannot speak English, so you’d better have your own guide with you.
  • You may want to bring sun cream and glasses, as the sunshine canopy provides only limited protection.
  • You can bring your luggage onto the raft but there is a chance it will get wet.

Hiking – Say Hi to the Locals

(Hiking has been temporarily suspended due to security reasons.)

Different Routes

There are various hiking routes. You can choose any sub-section of the trail from Guilin to Daxu to Caoping to Yangdi to Xingping to Yangshuo. The total length is 50 km and hiking from Guilin to Yangshuo takes two days, meaning you need to sleep somewhere – possibly under canvas, or local accomodations – overnight. The best part about hiking is that you can walk into the villages and visit real farmers.

Best Stretch: Yangdi-Xingping

The 15 kilometers between Yangdi and Xingping is the most popular hiking route. On this stretch, you can see the most famous scenery on the river and visit Xingping Old Village. It takes 4-5 hours and is suitable for families, friends, couples, and individual travelers. Hiking along this stretch, you need to take three ferries to cross the river. Each ferry costs about 5 yuan. There are many local restaurants along the road.

Good to Know

  • During rainy days, some lower places will be coverd by water , but it is okay to walk through on bare feet.
  • Walking on pebbles and stones may be slippery and may ache after a while. You should bring a nice pair of walking shoes.

Getting to Yangdi Pier

Plan A: Guilin Bus Station - Yangdi Pier Buses leave at 7:20, 8:20, 9:00, 9:30, 10:30, 11:30, 12:00, or 12:30. The journey takes about 70 minutes and costs 19 yuan. You need to buy tickets at the bus station at least an hour before departure.

Plan B: Guilin Train Station (South Station) - Yangdi Lukou - Yangdi Pier Take the bus to Yangshuo from the Train Station (South Station), and get off at Yangdi Lukou. The bus leaves every ten minutes (60 mins, 15 yuan). Then transfer to the bus for Yangdi Pier (20 mins, 3 yuan).

Plan C: Yangshuo Bus Station - Yangdi Pier Buses start running at 6:40 every day and leave every 20 minutes (60 mins, 10 yuan).