One of the world’s “Top 10 Water Wonders”, the Li River has the most popular and picturesque scenery in China. This is Guilin’s pride and joy: Li River a long winding waterway that cuts through the Guangxi province of Southern China, flanked by unusual hills and clusters of ancient villages. The river flows 437 km down to Guilin city and on to other counties like Yangshuo and Wenzhou.

To experience the river at its best, we took a river cruise. Boarding a modern three-storey boat, we cruised through the most scenic section of the river, from Guilin to Yangshuo: a 80km journey that takes just over four-five hours to complete.

The Best Times to Visit

Li River is suitable for travelling all year round, especially from April to October. The most important thing to know about Li River weather is that it can get very hot, humid, and it rains a lot!
April to June — Misty and Rainy
July to October — Clear and Sunny
November to March — Cool and Quiet

Li River boat cruises and bamboo rafting are two great options. And hiking along the river from Yangdi to Xingping is a good chance to get closer to nature and local life.

1.The Li River Cruise

The best way to appreciate the beautiful scenery of a river is to take a cruise. The cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo is one of the most popular activities.
Currently, the most popular boats on the Li River are the luxury riverboats. Comfortable seats, air condition, lunch.

2.Li River Bamboo Rafting

Taking a bamboo raft is more traditional and a way to get closer to the water, but more weather sensitive and the route is shorter than for the big boats.
It is a different way to see the beautiful scenery of the Li River.

Things to know about rafting on the Li river:

-Li River rafts are made from plastic pipes in the shape of bamboo. They are powered by a motor, which will make some noise.
-A raft has 4 or 6 passenger seats. If you want an entire raft to yourself, you need to pay an extra per vacant seats.
-The rafts protect passengers only from the sun and rain.
-To ensure the safe passage of cruises, rafts are not permitted to run from 11:30am to 1pm. In bad weather, especially in spring and summer, rafting can be cancelled.
-Do not expect too much of the raftman’s service. The raftman may shorten your rafting trip, that he could have more time for other clients, but if you do it, the scenery along the river will never disappoint you

Cruise vs. Rafting

The cruise covers a longer distance, so less road travel. Facilities are better (bathroom, air-condition, viewing decks, lunch provided). More sociable, you can meet new friends from other countries, though you may feel it’s too crowded to see the scenery well on the deck.

Rafting is more private and flexible: you can travel the Li River with a select group of friends/family. It’s a more relaxing way to appreciate the beauty of the Li River. There are two options to get to Yangshuo: 2 hours rafting plus 1 hour by road, or 5 hours rafting.

On the River

As we sailed deeper into the horizon, what was previously a misty mountain range is now in full view. Peaks upon peaks of green hills flank the river, forming an imposing backdrop – the setting so paradisaical I can imagine it to be an inspiration for myths and legends. The reflections of the hills in the clear and green water are so perfect they almost look like paintings. These landscapes were formed 300 million years ago underwater and it is often been compared to those at Halong Bay, in Vietnam, but this is clearly much better preserved and protected.

At this time of the year, the temperature soars up to 30 degrees Celsius. Over 10 villages are scattered along the banks, each of them with population of around 2,000 to 8,000.

As we meander further, we stumble upon several fishermen on small bamboo rafts. Although the tourist boat that we’re on almost seems too kitsch and commercialized, it definitely feels like the safer choice.

Our journey comes to an end at the charismatic town of Yangzhou that still retains a tinge of ancient Chinese charm. We leave Li River behind and continue to explore the city but no matter where we go, we always end up on the riverfront, watching bamboo rafts float by. Perhaps that is the charm of the Li River – it just keeps you coming back for more.

The cruise is only one way to Yangzhou and for the way back to Guiling we used a bus for 1.5h.


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