International Travel, Itineraries & Trip Planning, Travel Photography

What to Do in Yangshuo in 2 Days

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click on one and purchase something, I may receive an affiliate commission — at no extra cost to you.

It’s completely catered to tourists, especially westerners, I was told. Great, exactly the type of place I dislike, I thought as I made my way to the southern Chinese city of Yangshuo. It turned out to be true that Yangshuo’s downtown does cater extensively to western tourists, but there’s so much more to the city than the restaurants and bars of West Street. I kept away from Yangshuo’s tourist center as much as possible and fell in love with its gorgeous surroundings and scenic bike paths. If you’re in Guangxi or Guilin, you’ve got to spend some time in Yangshuo. (For me, it’s second only to the Longji Rice Terraces.) Here’s a two-day itinerary on what to do in Yangshuo to get you started so you can explore all its natural beauty.

What to Do in Yangshuo – Day 1:

Enjoy Yangshuo’s Yulong River by Bamboo Raft

While the Li River is more famous, get introduced to Yangshuo via a slower trip down the Yulong River. A tributary of its more famous neighbor, the Yulong River is where you can actually experience bamboo rafting, which is no longer an option on the Li River.

Yulong River bamboo rafting

The rafts hold two people, cost ¥320 per raft for a full-length trip, and is hand-rowed by one of the many local oarsmen waiting in rotation. At launch, the river can feel a little crowded as there are also rafts for hire for shorter loops on the river. But once you get past the first 5-10 minutes, it becomes a peaceful and calm trip down the Yulong River.

Yangshuo Yulong River

Like its bigger cousin, the Yulong River is lined with many karst formations covered in lush greenery. The river isn’t very deep, and there are small drops along the way that your oarsman will expertly navigate without getting you wet. The drops feel a little like the Thunder Mountain roller coaster at Disney.

Yulong River waterfall

Trips are one-way. Your driver can pick you up at the finish, or if you biked or drove yourself, you can hitch a ride back with the raft operators.

Visit Picturesque Villages and Ancient Bridges

Yangshuo is surrounded by picturesque villages that are fantastic for a peaceful walk or for a fun photo shoot. In fact, the region is dotted with ancient bridges that are popular with local couples getting engagement or weddings photos done. It’s not hard to see why, with their symmetrical architecture, lush overgrowth, and serene waterways. Here’s Fuli Bridge, one of the most famous, in the village of the same name.

fuli bridge yangshuo

Cycle Through the Scenic Ten-Mile Gallery

Rent a bicycle for your afternoon adventure for roughly ¥10 a day and ask your hotel or hostel for directions toward the Ten-Mile Gallery, known in Chinese as Shili Hualang. So named because walking or cycling down the scenic stretch of road seems like you’re inside a painting, the Ten-Mile Gallery is packed with viewpoints and natural attractions. For most foreign visitors, the north gate of the Ten-Mile Gallery Scenic Area will be the closest entrance. Follow the asphalt road and the clearly marked signs as you pass farmers working in their verdant fields and see the Yulong River from another angle at Gongnong Bridge.

Yulong River Gongnong Bridge
The view of Yulong River from Gongnong Bridge

The scenic area is free to visit, though all the attractions along the path require varying amounts of admission. There are butterfly springs, caves with mud swimming pools, ancient banyan trees, and more.

Yangshuo moon hill
Moon Hill

You can choose to exit the Ten-Mile Gallery Scenic Area via the south gate and return to Yangshuo via an alternate route or turn around and go back the way you came. There are so many minute details of beauty and wonder that this was one path I didn’t mind repeating. If you have ample time and are interested in further exploration, you can also follow the dirt and cement roads to visit local villages.

What to Do in Yangshuo – Day 2:

Cruise Down the Li River

No trip to the Guilin-Yangshuo area is complete without a cruise down the Li River. While actual cruise boats are available on the Li River if you’re doing the entire Guilin-to-Yangshuo route, I’d suggest a shorter rafting trip unless you have time and money to spare.

From Yangshuo, you can take minibuses to the town of Xingping where you can take a rafting trip along the most famous parts of the Li River. Like many other tourist attractions in China, the rafts here are now controlled with an official ticket, which means it’s harder to bargain than previously. Bamboo rafts are no longer available here, replaced instead by PVC pipe rafts. Each raft holds 4 people and costs ¥216. If you’re fewer than 4 but want a private trip, the vacant seats can be bought for ¥25 per seat, paid directly to the boat handler. If you want to save some money, book the night before via a travel agent in Yangshuo. We paid ¥110 per person including roundtrip transport.

By the launch dock is one of the most famous landmarks on the Li River: the karst mountains featured on the back of the ¥20 note.

Li River 20 yuan

Pro tip: Take this photo on the walkway before you go down to the dock. The river can get quite crowded, and once you’re on the water, it’s much harder to get a clean photo without other rafts (and thus the mandatory orange life jackets).

Another major landmark is that of the Nine Horses Fresco Hill. Some imagination required, but concentrate hard and you should see all nine horses.

li river cruise

Get a Workout and an Aerial View with Laozhai Mountain

Most people will go on their way after the raft trip on the Li River, but one of the best views of this famous waterway is actually on land, specifically from the summit of Laozhai Mountain in the town of Xingping. Once you disembark from the Li River raft, head over to town and ask for Laozhai Mountain. Because the mountain trails are no longer regularly maintained, there are also no clear signs pointing to it. Fortunately, as Xingping is a key launch point for the Li River, there are plenty of English-speaking tour guides who can point you in the right direction.

Be careful as you hike up Laozhai Mountain. Again, there’s no regular maintenance here (though there are plenty of signs reminding you of this) — so step carefully and steadily. A note for those with a fear of heights: near the top there’s a steep, narrow ladder you’ll need to climb to continue on. Once up top, there are fantastic views from the pavilion. Or, if you’re more daring, you can climb the last pile of rocks for a 360 view, though there are absolutely no safeguards there and folks have been known to have a hard time coming down afterward.

The bird’s eye view is absolutely worth the climb!

Li River Laozhai Mountain

Hit Up West Street

As much as West Street is packed with tourists, both domestic and international, it would be amiss to leave Yangshuo without checking out West Street. Go early to allow yourself some exploration time before the crowds rush in. The oldest street in Yangshuo, the ancient West Street is truly east-meets-west, modern with the ancient. You can find restaurants selling the local specialty “beer fish” next to German beer gardens, and consider buying some artisan pottery right after you get some freshly made osmanthus cake.

West Street Yangshuo local eats
Specialty snacks from local minority groups

Take it slow on West Street and its surrounding alleys. Try some local specialties, browse the multitude of shops, and just take in the lights and the crowds as your time in Yangshuo comes to a close.

west street yangshuo vendor basket fruit

Have you been to Yangshuo? What would interest you more, Yangshuo or Longsheng?

Pin it to share it!

What to Do in Yangshuo in 2 Days

27 thoughts on “What to Do in Yangshuo in 2 Days

  1. Your photos of Yangshuo remind me of some places in the mountainous regions of north Vietnam. Guangxi has lots of beautiful attractions to visit, and I think Yangshuo is definitely one of them 🙂

    1. It’s quite similar, isn’t it? I almost skipped parts of northern Vietnam while on the same trip because they seemed so similar. Definitely different culturally though!

  2. Hi, I am heading here in a few weeks, very excited! Just have a few questions I was wondering if you could help with – is the 10 mile cycle gallery doable in one day or is this too rushed?

    Also are there any less steep mountains you recommend to hike up?

    Thanks!

    helena

    1. Hi Helena,
      The 10-mile cycle gallery is absolutely doable in one day unless you plan on stopping and visiting every single attraction along the day. Even if you do, it’s possible you could do it in one day, though it’ll feel pretty rushed. If you just pick a few, there’s definitely enough time. The cycling itself is pretty easy as it’s all flat roads.

      As for hiking, probably Moon Hill within the 10-mile gallery. There used to be a lot more hiking along the river between Yangdi to Yangshuo but they’ve mostly closed off all of the trails these days.

      I hope that helps. If you have other questions, please let me know. Otherwise, have an amazing trip!

      Cheers,
      Rowena

  3. Great post! As I am currently planning a 3 – 4 days trip to Yangshuo and Longsheng terraces, your different posts have been very helpful.
    May I ask how the Li river rafts operate? Are you referring to the famous Yangdi-Xingping section of the Li river? Also, from your post it sounds like you both embarked and disembarked in Xingping. Is it the case?
    Thanks for your tips!

    1. Hi Chris,

      Thanks for reading!

      The Li River rafts are now all machine-operated. You can get on at Yangdi and take it to Xingping (216 yuan per person in Oct. 2017) or start/end in Xingping with an out-and-back trip (54 yuan per person, extra if you want a private raft). We actually wanted to do Yangshuo-Xingping but Typhoon Khanun got in the way and raft operations were ceased for that route?‍♀️ If that’s what you’re wanting to do, hopefully you get luckier with the weather!
      Have a fantastic trip!
      Rowena

  4. Hi! This post was so so helpful for me. I live in China and am planning on taking my family on this trip when they visit in March. Do you have to book the boats and rafts before you arrive or is it easy enough to do when you arrive?

    Also, do you have any recommendations for how to get from Guilin train station to where we are staying in Yangshuo? I would have liked to get a boat but it seems that isn’t possible!

    1. Hi there,

      Glad it’s been helpful! Just show up for the rafts. Line up and pay and you’ll be good to go.

      As for getting from the Guilin train station to Yangshuo, your best bet is taking the buses in between the cities. Check the Trip (formerly CTrip) app for buses. There’s no direct boat route. The closest would be to take a bus from Guilin to Yangdi, take the raft to Xingping, then a car from there to Xingping. However, if there’s inclement weather, they may close that boat route (happened to us).

      Cheers,
      Rowena

  5. Hi Rowena,

    I enjoyed reading your blog. I am planning to visit Guillin/Yangshuo in April 2019. From what I was told, you cannot get around there if you do not have a local tour guide if you are a foreigner and unable to converse in chinese. I always prefer a free and easy travelling as I do not want to be restricted with the itinerary. I do not mind getting a private car with a local driver. I am just curious how did you manage to get around in both cities? Did you have a local tour guide?

    Thanks very much 🙂

    1. Hi Norie,

      Thanks for reading!

      I do speak Mandarin, so in my case it was not an issue. It is harder to travel in the Guilin/Yangshuo area without speaking Chinese than it is in Shanghai or Beijing, but it is not impossible. Arm yourself with a good guide book and translation app, and you’ll be 80% the way there. (FWIW, I’ve been in tiny places in other countries where I didn’t speak their languages and they didn’t speak English, and it was still okay. Charades/miming go a long way.)

      If that feels a little risky, I would suggest going to West Street upon arriving in Yangshuo. There are many English speakers (Chinese and Westerners) who can hook you up with a local tour guide who speaks English. Unfortunately, I do not have any recommended guides for this region. (If you go this route and liked your guide, do let me know afterward and I can add them to this post for other travelers!)

      Cheers,
      Rowena

  6. Hi Rowena! Love your blog, it’s super helpful.

    We have 3 nights coming up over Easter travelling by train from Hong Kong. Do you suggest staying a night in Guillin and then 2 in Yangshuo? Or 3 in Yangshuo?

    Thanks 🙂

    1. Hey Darren,
      Personally, I would stay in Yangshuo the whole time, esp if you can take the train straight to Yangshuo (via Guangzhou).
      The caveat being if you want to head up to the Longsheng Rice Terraces, since that’s closer to Guilin (not sure if 3 nights is the total length of your trip or the part you allotted to this area).
      Enjoy!
      Rowena

  7. Hi great read as I sit here in Yangshuo surrounded by fog! An alternative to the bamboo rafting on Youlong is a bamboo ferry across the Li River from the dock just near West Street, only 4 Y single ticket. No rafting on Youlong yesterday due to to much water due rain the day before. I’m contemplating the rice terraces but its a long expensive way to go from Yangshuo to only be surrounded by fog and rain, plus no rice this time of year anyway. Perhaps another time! Thoughts on that!

    Regards,

    1. Hi Paul,
      Thanks for reading and for the new info! I’ll have to check out that bamboo ferry option.
      Yes, the rice terraces can really look different depending on the time of year — but from photos I’ve seen during this time of year, it can still be stunning!
      Enjoy your time down south!
      Rowena

  8. Hi Rowena

    Thank you heaps for this blog, very helpful.

    I am from Australia, and will be taking the fast train from gz to yangshuo station at 7am Tuesday and returning back to gz via train at 8pm Wednesday.

    Given this and the fact that the station is actually close to xingping as I’ve read through my resesrch, how would you recommend I structure my itinery ? I’d let to see as many of the sights and hikes as possible in xingping and YS.

    Should I check out xingping straight away after I arrive and then head to YS at night for my stay there ? Or should I head straight to YS, check in do a hike and then spend the Wednesday in Xingping before getting back on the train ?

    Also is it possible to take a ferry from xingping to YS one way , and vice versa ?

    Cheers
    Des

    1. Hi Des,

      I think you can certainly do either or. Both would work assuming you have only a backpack that you can hike with.

      Do you speak Mandarin Chinese? If so, it should be easy peasy no matter which way you choose. If not, I would suggest going to Yangshuo first. That way you don’t have any issues getting to your lodging and can always find an English-speaker the day after to get you back to Xingping.

      On the ferry — unless things have changed, no, you cannot take a ferry between the two. The rafts are now all out-and-back trips that embark and disembark at the same dock.

      Have a fantastic time!
      Rowena

  9. Hi Rowena,

    Thanks for your helpful sharing.
    Wonder if you could help me with the following queries:

    1) After taking a bus from Yangshuo to Xingping, how do I get to the place for the rafting along Li River? Will there be direction signs or is it very visible from point of alighting?

    2) Do you have any recommendations for accomodations at Yangshuo?

    3) May I know how long did the bamboo rafting at Yulong river take?
    And how long for the motorised rafting at Li River take?
    For these rafting trips, do I book through the hotel or I can do it through online myself?

    Regards,
    Grace

    1. Hi Grace,

      1) It’s fairly easy because Xingping isn’t very large. I don’t remember specific signs, but if you just ask around, someone will point you there. Alternatively, if you don’t speak Mandarin and there aren’t any English speakers around, just follow the crowds. Most people who go there just go for the rafting.

      2) I honestly popped into a hotel and don’t remember anything good or bad about it. So can’t have been amazing, ha. I’m a big fan of using Booking so maybe one of these will fit your criteria? (link embedded, not sure why it doesn’t show up as blue)

      3) The Yulong river rafting depends a little on the flow of the river when you go. I believe ours was just over an hour long. The raft ride at the Li River is ~20 min. I’m sure you can find a third-party website to book through, but I don’t believe there’s an official site. Your best bet is to just go and buy tickets that day from the ticket kiosks.

      Hope this helps, and enjoy your trip!
      Rowena

  10. Hi Rowena, thank you for this lovely description and taking the time. I do have a follow up question. I’ll be coming from Shenzhen over there (likely via train). If I spend two days in Yangshou, how many days would you recommend for Guilin, and any specific itinerary. We plan to travel there mid August?

    Thanks, Raj Oswal

    1. Hi Raj,

      Personally, I would only do 1 day in Guilin unless you have a lot of time and just want to take a slow and walk around to experience the town without anything particular in mind.

      The beginning of this post has a little more on Guilin. https://www.anomadontheloose.com/guilin-yangshuo-longsheng-longji-rice-terraces/ Mostly, my fav in Guilin was eating the local specialty – Guilin rice noodles, esp. the spicy variations!

      August is one of the hotter months in Guilin, so make sure to stay hydrated!

      Cheers,
      Rowena

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.