Guilin, a picturesque city in southern China, is known for its stunning natural landscapes, including the famous karst mountains, crystal-clear rivers, and lush greenery. This vibrant destination attracts travellers from around the globe, offering a unique blend of natural beauty, cultural heritage, and adventure. If you’re planning a trip and looking for the best things to do in Guilin, this comprehensive guide will provide you with all the necessary information to make your journey unforgettable. Additionally, we’ll guide you through the process of obtaining a China visa, ensuring a hassle-free travel experience.

Getting to Know Guilin

Guilin’s Location and Climate

Guilin is located in the northeastern part of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China. It is situated on the west bank of the Li River, surrounded by limestone karst mountains and lush vegetation. The city’s strategic location makes it easily accessible by air, rail, and road.

The climate in Guilin is characterised by a subtropical monsoon climate, with mild winters and hot, humid summers. The average annual temperature is around 19°C (66°F). Spring and autumn are considered the best seasons to visit, as the weather is pleasant, and the scenery is at its most beautiful.

The Iconic Karst Landforms, Mountains & Caves

Guilin is renowned for its stunning karst topography, which is formed by the erosion of soluble rocks such as limestone over millions of years. The city is surrounded by countless karst peaks, often shrouded in mist, creating a surreal and otherworldly landscape.

Visitors can explore these karst mountains by taking boat cruises along the Li River, which offers breathtaking views of the towering peaks, verdant forests, and tranquil waters. Additionally, there are numerous caves to discover, such as the Reed Flute Cave, known for its incredible stalactites, stalagmites, and colourful lighting.

Riverside Charm: The Li River and Yangshuo’s Countryside

The Li River is one of Guilin’s most iconic features and a must-visit destination. Taking a scenic cruise down the Li River allows you to immerse yourself in the region’s natural beauty. The picturesque landscapes of limestone peaks, emerald waters, and rural villages will leave you mesmerised.

Once you reach the town of Yangshuo, located downstream from Guilin, you can further explore the countryside and experience the rural charm of the region. Renting a bicycle or taking a bamboo raft ride along the Yulong River is a popular way to soak in the tranquil surroundings and witness the local way of life.

Guilin’s Cultural Heritage: Historic Sites and Minority Ethnic Groups

In addition to its natural wonders, Guilin boasts a rich cultural heritage. The city has a long history dating back over 2,000 years, and it has been an important cultural and political centre throughout various dynasties.

Travellers can explore historical sites such as the Elephant Trunk Hill, a famous landmark resembling an elephant drinking water from the Li River. Fubo Hill and the Solitary Beauty Peak are also worth visiting for their cultural and historical significance.

Moreover, Guilin is home to several minority ethnic groups, including the Zhuang, Yao, and Dong. These communities have preserved their unique traditions, arts, and crafts, providing visitors with an opportunity to learn about their customs and way of life. The Longji Rice Terraces, cultivated by the Zhuang and Yao people, showcase breathtaking terraced fields that change with the seasons.

When to Visit Guilin

When are Guilin’s Four Distinct Seasons?

Guilin experiences four distinct seasons, each offering a different ambience and natural beauty.

Spring (March to May)

Spring in Guilin brings mild temperatures and blooming flowers. The hills and fields are adorned with colourful blossoms, creating a vibrant and picturesque landscape. The average temperature ranges from 15°C to 25°C (59°F to 77°F).

Summer (June to August)

Summers in Guilin are hot and humid, with temperatures ranging from 25°C to 35°C (77°F to 95°F). The region receives more rainfall during this season, making the vegetation lush and vibrant. Despite the heat, summer is a popular time to visit for those who enjoy outdoor activities and water-based adventures.

Autumn (September to November)

Autumn is considered one of the best times to visit Guilin. The weather is mild and pleasant, with temperatures ranging from 15°C to 28°C (59°F to 82°F). The hills and forests transform into a breathtaking tapestry of autumn colours, making it an ideal season for photography and hiking.

Winter (December to February)

Winters in Guilin are relatively mild, with temperatures ranging from 8°C to 15°C (46°F to 59°F). While the landscape may not be as vibrant, the region exudes a serene and tranquil atmosphere. Winter is an excellent time for exploring the caves, enjoying hot springs, and experiencing local festivals.

The Best Time to Visit Based on Weather and Festivals

The best time to visit Guilin largely depends on personal preferences and the kind of experience you’re seeking.

Spring (March to May): This season is ideal for nature lovers, photography enthusiasts, and those who want to witness the colourful blossoms and enjoy pleasant temperatures.

Summer (June to August): Despite the heat and humidity, summer is a great time to visit if you’re interested in water activities, such as river rafting and swimming. It is also the season when the famous Guilin International Tourism Festival takes place, featuring cultural performances and exhibitions.

Autumn (September to November): Autumn offers mild temperatures, stunning foliage, and fewer crowds. It is an excellent time for outdoor activities like hiking and exploring the countryside.

Winter (December to February): Winter is a quieter season in Guilin, making it perfect for travellers seeking a peaceful and less crowded experience. It is also a time for festive celebrations, including the Winter Solstice Festival and the Lantern Festival.

Planning Your Itinerary

The recommended duration for exploring Guilin and its surroundings depends on the depth of your exploration and the activities you wish to engage in. However, a typical itinerary would range from 3 to 5 days.

For a shorter visit, you can focus on exploring the city of Guilin itself, including attractions like Elephant Trunk Hill, Reed Flute Cave, and Seven-Star Park. You can also take a Li River cruise to Yangshuo and spend a day or two exploring the countryside.

If you have more time, consider extending your itinerary to include the Longji Rice Terraces, known for their stunning beauty, or visit the nearby town of Xingping, famous for its idyllic landscapes and ancient streets.

What are the Must-See Attractions when you Visit Guilin?

If you’re looking for the best activities and things to do in Guilin, then you won’t be short of options.


Guilin City

Explore the charming city centre, and visit landmarks such as Elephant Trunk Hill, Fubo Hill, and the Sun and Moon Pagodas. Stroll along the scenic lakes and immerse yourself in the local culture.

Longji Rice Terraces

Journey to the terraced fields located in Longsheng County, a scenic area about 2 to 3 hours from Guilin. Marvel at the cascading rice terraces carved into the hillsides and learn about the unique farming practices of the local Zhuang and Yao ethnic groups.

Reed Flute Cave

Discover the natural wonder of Reed Flute Cave, a limestone cave with stunning stalactites, stalagmites, and illuminated pathways. Admire the colourful rock formations that resemble various shapes and creatures.

Elephant Trunk Hill

Visit the iconic Elephant Trunk Hill, a hill shaped like an elephant drinking water from the Li River. Explore the park surrounding the hill and enjoy panoramic views of the city.

Li River Cruise

Embark on a scenic cruise along the Li River, which takes you from Guilin to Yangshuo. Admire the dramatic karst landscapes, lush green hills, and traditional fishing villages along the way. This leisurely boat journey is a highlight of any visit to Guilin.

Xingping Ancient Town

Make a day trip to Xingping Ancient Town, located downstream from Yangshuo. This picturesque town is known for its ancient streets, traditional architecture, and stunning views. Climb up Laozhai Hill for a panoramic view of the Li River and the famous “20 Yuan” scenery depicted on the Chinese currency.

Moon Hill

Explore Moon Hill, a unique natural arch formation located near Yangshuo. Take a hike up to the top of the hill to enjoy a breathtaking view of the surrounding countryside.

Apart from these key attractions, Guilin offers a variety of other activities and things to do such as biking through the countryside, visiting local markets, experiencing traditional cormorant fishing, and attending cultural performances.

By planning your itinerary to include both the must-see attractions and off-the-beaten-path gems, you can ensure a well-rounded exploration of Guilin’s stunning scenery, cultural heritage, and local experiences.

China Visa Application Process

– Understand China’s Visa Policy and Requirements

– 3 Main Types of Visas: Tourist, Business, and Transit

– Step-by-Step Guide to Applying for a China Visa

  1. Determine your visa type and collect the required documents
  2. Complete the Chinese visa application form accurately
  3. Pay the visa application fee
  4. Schedule an appointment at the Chinese embassy or consulate
  5. Submit your application and attend the interview if necessary
  6. Track your visa application status
  7. Collect your passport with the visa

Top Tips for a Smooth Trip

– Always take safety precautions and buy travel insurance prior to travel

– Language and Communication: learn useful Chinese Phrases and use translation apps

– Be mindful of cultural etiquette and remember to have respectful behaviour

Why Should You Visit Guilin?

Guilin offers a truly immersive travel experience. By following our comprehensive travel guide, you can plan an unforgettable journey to explore the city’s natural wonders, discover both breathtaking and historical sites, and enjoy the local cuisine. Don’t forget to obtain your China visa in advance, following the step-by-step application process provided in this guide. Prepare yourself for an extraordinary adventure in Guilin, where nature’s beauty will leave you awe-inspired at every turn.

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