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Three Ways of Exploring the Li River

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

Boating and rafting, blending into the picturesque scenery, are more popular. For security reasons, there is only one road segment good for hiking, from Husband Hill to Xingping.

Boat Cruise vs  Rafting vs Hiking

Boat Cruise



Time needed

4-5 hours

1-2 hours

4 hours


Guilin to Yangshuo

Yangdi to Nine-Horse Hill;

Xingping to Nine-Horse Hill (round trip)

Husband Hill to Xingping

In bad weather

Still possible/enjoyable






It depends.


Toilet, seat with table, costlier but better quality

Comfortable bamboo chair, disembark for more

It depends.

1. 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: 9:00-9:30am
  • 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 Ancient Village and Schoolboy Hill

1.1 Two Types of Boat

4-Star Boat

4-Star Boat

Two types of boat are available: normal (three-star) boats and luxury (four-star) boats.

Similarities: same scenery, seating at tables, restrooms, free Wi-Fi, public deck, tour guides, lunch.

Differences: higher prices correspond to better service and better lunches.

  • The normal boats have standard facilities, assorted food for lunch (please do not expect too much from it), and travel from Mopanshan Pier to Longtoushan Pier.
  • The luxury boats are better decorated with more leg room, Chinese/Western-style buffet lunch, and travel from Zhujiang Pier to Shuidongmen Pier (closer to West Street).

1.2 Peak Months – from April to October

Cruise Pier

Cruise Pier

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.

1.3 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.

1.4 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).

Click the Essence of Guilin Tour to experience the Li River Cruise!   

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. 

2. Rafting – Get Close to the Water

Scenery on the Chinese 20-Yuan Banknote

Scenery on the Chinese 20-Yuan Banknote

Instead of the four-hour boat cruise, you may prefer 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.

The route from Yangdi to Xingping has been temporarily suspended, but there are two other routes for bamboo rafts on the same river, where you'll  have opportunity to see the scenery on the Chinese 20-yuan banknote.

  • Time needed: 1-1.5 hours (depending on the water speed)
  • Boarding time: depends on which route
  • Routes: 1) Yangdi to Nine-Horse Fresco; 2) Xingping to Nine-Horse Fresco (round trip)
  • Suitable for: families, friends, couples

2.1 Updated Rafts

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.

2.2 More Flexibility Comes with More Restrictions 

Bamboo Rafting

Bamboo Rafting

The season and weather will influence your rafting plans. In bad weather, especially in spring and summer, rafting can be cancelled at short notice.

  • Route Yangdi to Nine-Horse Fresco Hill (optionally move on to Xingping by electric vehicle): available from 7:40-8:20 and from 12:30-16:00, closed from 8:30-12:30
  • Route Xingping to Nine-Horse Fresco Hill: available from 8:00-9:20 and after 12:30, but closed from 9:30-12:30

It is possible to enjoy some photo stops during the trip or to enjoy a simple lunch at a local restaurant on the river bank. If you like, you can invite your raftsman to eat with you.

Some local vendors with 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.

2.3 How to Plan

Sightseeing along the River

Sightseeing Along the River

It takes about an hour to drive from Guilin to Yangdi and two hours from Guilin to Xingping. You can take the bus from Guilin Bus Station to Yangdi Pier.

When 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 extra for each vacant seat.

Good to Know

  • Passengers must be aged between 7 and 70 years.
  • 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.
  • Every bamboo raft is equipped with life jackets.
  • Motorized bamboo rafting is unavailable during the rainy season, when the Li River may be flooded.

Wanna TAILOR-MAKE your private raft tour with us?

3. Hiking – Say Hi to the Locals

Hiking the Li River gives a great opportunity for travelers to see the gorgeous landscape close-up and the rural life of the farmers who live by the river.  For security reasons, there is only one route available for hiking at present.

  • Time needed: 4 hours
  • Whole journey: 12 km (at a medium pace)
  • Route: Husband Hill (Xianggong Mountain) to Xingping Ancient Town Xingping
  • Suitable for: families, friends, couples


Say Hi to the Locals

Say Hi to the Locals

After a 1.5-hour drive from Guilin, you will arrive at Xianggong Mountain, which is the starting point. You can have a panoramic view of the karst mountain peaks along the Li River and marvel at the postcard-worthy vistas of the noteworthy river bend.

Usually 30 minutes is enough to go up and down Xianggong Mountain. Then you start the hike to Xingping Ancient Town.

The total length is 50 km Hiking along this route, you will pass some small villages, and see rice fields and orchards with many seasonal fruits and unique karst mountains, as well as green bamboo and local people washing clothes by the river...It is peaceful, as there are few tourists on the way.

Good to Know

  • You need to take three ferries to cross the river on the hiking route, and each costs about5 yuan.
  • Ther are many local restaurants along the road.
  • 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 7:30, 9:00, 10:30, 12:30. The journey takes about 80 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 (and takes 60 minutes, costing 15 yuan). Then transfer to the bus for Yangdi Pier (taking 20 minutes, costing 3 yuan).

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

You may be interested in The Best of Guilin Tours.