Bamboo forests and lakeside bliss: unearth the gems of Guilin

Take your most idyllic image of China and Guilin may well fit the bill. With its lakes, rivers and otherworldly limestone mountains, which rise into the sky like jagged teeth, it seems to occupy an almost mythical landscape. Guilin is also China at its most relaxed, where you can get into nature and take in the culture at a truly laidback pace.  

Things To Do

Lace up your boots for a day of hiking, pausing at the peak of Xianggong Hill for an Insta-worthy panorama. Explore underground caverns like the magical Reed Flute Cave, whose reeds have been used to make small musical instruments. Hop on a bike and cycle past rice fields, keeping your eyes peeled for water buffalo. And if you visit in spring or autumn, have that camera at the ready: the tiered rice terraces become a patchwork quilt of spectacular colours.

Guilin is a place where you can really soak up the healing power of water. Take a boat trip along the Lijiang River to appreciate the sheer scale of its limestone peaks, whose names (like Solitary Beauty) match their uniqueness. Dial up the adrenaline with a spot of paddle boarding, or sit back while you’re propelled along Yangshuo’s Yulong River on a bamboo raft, where the water reflects the emerald green of the mountains. 

Simply getting out into the countryside will give you a glimpse of Guilin’s more traditional way of life. But you can also see local customs like bamboo rice making and the region’s iconic diaojiaolou (houses on stilts) on day trips to more remote mountain villages. When you’ve worked up an appetite, savour deliciously local cuisine, from beer fish and nourishing duck stews to slurp-able bowls of mifen (rice noodles).

Top Tip from SLH

Wake up with a cup of the region’s famous ‘oil tea’, which is concocted with fried tea leaves, garlic, spices and peanut oil.