Of all the places I’ve visited in China, Yangshuo remains one of my favourite destinations. There’s nothing like getting on a bicycle and cycling through the paddy fields and old villages, which seem to be frozen in time.

Breathtaking views ensure you’ll enjoy Yangshuo at any time of year, be it in the crispy cold winter, or at the height of sweltering summer. Here’s my list of top things to do in Yangshuo.

1. Eat: Yangshuo Beer Fish.

Beijing has 北京烤鸭(Běijīngkǎoyā),Yangshuo has 啤酒鱼 (píjiǔ yú).

It’s delicious. You get exactly what you’d expect – river fish fried in local beer. Lovely.

2. Stay: Yangshuo Mountain Retreat 阳朔胜地

Check out that view. That’s what greets you upon arrival at the Yangshuo mountain retreat (well, it does if you arrive at 4am). Absolutely stunning hotel. If you go in winter, get the ginger tea.

Photo taken from the balcony of my room.

I couldn’t find my photos of the hotel itself, but trust me when I say the building almost equals the views of the mountains surrounding it. As a sustainable hotel, they made their own beds from local bamboo, and support the local community by providing farm to table meals (which are delicious).

More details can be found here: Website

3. See: Karst Mountains, Moon Mountain

A karst mountain seen from Western Street

It seems a bit silly to mention this, given that it’s the main draw to the area – but these mountains need to be seen to be believed. They loom above you as you explore Yangshuo, and seem to almost pop up out the ground as they scrape the skies above.

One mountain enjoys more fame than the others – Moon Mountain. Named for the crescent-shaped hole at its summit, it’s worth the twenty minute walk through the bamboo forest.

4. Do: Bamboo rafting

No trip to Yangshuo would be complete without partaking in a leisurely cruise down the 遇龙河 Yùlóng Hé.

You have a few options for your route. Last time I visited, there seemed to be a crackdown on independent raft operators, and we were required to buy tickets ahead of time. Looks like it’s become a huge business since I first visited seven years ago! Your best bet is to ask in your hotel for ticket info.

1. Upper Yulong rafting: Jinlong Bridge – Jiuxian Village, about 2½ hours
2. Lower Yulong rafting: Chaoyang Wharf – Gongnong Bridge, about 2 hours
3. A shorter rafting: Chaoyang Wharf – Shui edi Dock, about 1 hour

5. Day Trip: Fuli and Xingping

Fuli is a small village/town on the way to Xingping. Both of these locations can be reached by hopping on one of the small busses that go through the high street in Yangshuo. Listen out for the ticket ladies shouting “Xingping, Xingping” and jump aboard.

Often overlooked due to Xingping’s famous 20 Yuan note view, Fuli was once famous for its art studios that line the small streets. The resident artists make the most beautiful ink drawings of traditional Yangshuo/Guilin river scenes, as well as decorative fans. If you hang around long enough, you’ll be able to buy a huge scroll of a painting that you saw drawn in person. Incredible.

As with many rural Chinese villages, the younger generations seem to have left for the cities. The result is a sleepy, older way of life that hasn’t changed in all the years I’ve been visiting, and long may it remain that way.

Xingping, aside from its obvious appeal of appearing on the 20 yuan note:

Is also a great place to relax, and eat (the beer fish in the first photo was consumed here)

6. Zhang Yimou’s Impression: Liu Sanjie

You might well recognize the name. Zhang Yimou brought us such beautiful movies as ‘Raise the Red Lantern’, ‘Hero’, and ‘House of Flying Daggers’.

This live action show, set on the waters of the Li River, with the lit-up karst mountains serving as a dramatic backdrop, is truly spectacular.

The story of 刘三姐 (liú sān jiě or ‘the third Liu daughter) is a love story that begins at the nearby Big Banyan Tree (also worth a visit!) and is part of the local Zhuang people’s song festival. All of the actors in the performance are from the Zhuang minority, and performances are daily in the summer months, and closed in winter. Get your tickets from your hotel reception as early as possible!

Have you been to Yangshuo? Did I miss something worthy of a mention? Leave your comments and suggestions below!

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