Li River or Li Jiang is located in Guangxi Province. This gorgeous waterway starts from Guilin and after over 80 kilometers (52 miles) ends in Yangshuo. After this point, the river in Pingle is merged with some the Lipu River and the Gongcheng River and continues its way toward the south as the Gui River. The most famous activity in this river is the Li River Cruise.
The Li River Cruise stats from Guilin and ends in Yangshuo and you different options based on your budget to choose the best cruise fit to your needs. The cruise is highly recommended for anyone traveling to northeastern Guangxi Province. When you take the cruise, magnificent karst mountain peaks would surprise you at every turn of the river under the blue sky.
Although the river quiet and tranquil but traveling on it, you can encounter children going to school on bamboo rafts, fisherman, water buffalos, peasants working on rice fields and etc. The Li River will separate you from modern concrete metropolises and draw you in with breathtaking sceneries. No wonder this place is a top tourist destination in China.
Li River Cruise
This journey begins in downtown Guilin, from the dock south of Liberation Bridge. Then, we will go on Li River pristine blue waters for over 80 kilometers (52 miles) and it takes around four to five hours. But this time is filled with wonderful sceneries of China’s natural beauties and its rural life.
Chinese have a tradition of dividing long trips into smaller sections. A good example here could be the Three Gorges on the Yangtze River. After dividing the journey, then each peak will be given an imaginative name and in some cases, these names take a huge part of your imagination.
On the cruise, you can listen to the guide’s stories about each part as you are enjoying the landscapes. Most of these stories are mystical fairy tales and love stories. These sections are listed below and in order to better appreciate the landscapes you are seeing, it’s good to know their stories.
The First Section of Li River Cruise
Starts from Guilin to Ox Gorge and you can enjoy the following sceneries:
Elephant Trunk Hill
This hill looks like an elephant drinking water from the river with its trunk, hence the name Elephant Trunk Hill. It is located on the west bank of Li River and is considered Guilin’s top landscape and could be found on travel brochures and books.
If you go further from the Elephant Hill on the west bank for a little while, you can find a small hill topped with a pagoda. It is called Longevity Buddha Pagoda (Shoufo Ta). This hexagonal pagoda dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). On the second floor of this pagoda, stone Buddha figurines can be found on display. The hill is surrounded by Chuanshan Park and in autumn it looks very charming because of the red maples beautiful color.
It is located on the northern bank of Li River and is considered an ancient town. This old town has an antique style that resembles the ones from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). This town owns a flagging street lined with old residences, shops, and stalls which runs for two kilometers along the river bank.
If you want to search more into some shops, you may encounter some well-preserved residences hidden behind the street door. These parts are actually quarters for businessmen in the olden times. In this town, you can try various dumping snacks either from the stalls or from cars on the street and some of these will be a surprise to you both taste-wise price-wise.
People on Daxu Town are very kind to tourists. If you go further toward the south, you can see Longevity Bridge, a single-arched bridge. This town is a destination for those seeking off the beaten path destinations. When you opposite the town on the other side of the river you can see a rock resembling a millstone that with the running waters makes the scene of Grinding Grain.
The rest of this part of the cruise attractions are Forest of Odd Shaped Peaks, Rooster Fighting Hill, and Ox Gorge.
The Second Section of Li River Cruise
Starts from Ox Gorge to Water-Dropping Village and the following beauties are along its way:
Fisherman and Cormorants
There’s a rather odd activity happening here involving a fisherman and a cormorant. These birds are known for their dives under the water to catch fish. Here, the more sun-tanned fisherman, place a rope on the cormorant’s neck. Then, after the cormorant has dived in the water to catch a fish, the fisherman pulls the bird out of the water. The rope here does not let the bird swallow the fish in its mouth and the fisher takes the fish out and put it in a basket and the cycle goes on.
Crown Cave (Guanyan)
It’s named crown cave because there is a crag resembling a crown on the hill. The special thing about this place is its twelve-kilometer long water-eroded cave that makes the hill a worthy stop.
It is a nowadays for tourists to set foot inside this wonderland of various stalactite, stone pillars, and rock formations. This place is becoming an important site along the Li River. There is also the option of staying in the hotels and villas in the scenic area for tourists.
Half-Side Ferry (Ban Bian Du)
When you move from the Crown Cave on the western bank for a little while, you will encounter a huge rock has descended into the river and cut it off. Because of this, the villagers have to take a ferry to reach the other side to continue their way hence, the name Half-Side Ferry.
From Yangdi to Xingping
On the way from Yangdi to Xingping down the stream, the river continues as an endless procession of distinct peaks and bamboo groves decorated by stunning landscape.
This part is the highlight of the cruise. Peaks popping up that surprise visitors at each corner of the way. You can also see water buffalos living where they belong, ducks happily paddling in the waters; peasants harvesting rice in front of their houses; fishermen using fishing or returning home on their boats and kids singing songs on the way to their homes. All these bring a beautiful simpler life in front of you and making you forget about concrete cities even for a short while.
Mural Hill is a cliff face standing 100 meters high and a reputed attraction on this path. It features various shades of colors and has been rumored that these colors are a representation of nine horses and the people who can identify them, are smart.
Yellow Cloth Shoal
When you go further from the Mural Hill by Li River cruise for about 500 meters, the peaks start to be less and less and the river goes wider and quieter. When you reach there, you can see a huge yellow flagstone lying under the limpid waters.
There are seven green peaks around this attraction and it resembles the looks of a piece of cloth, hence the name Yellow Cloth Shoal. There is a fairy tale integrated with this place, just like many other places in China. The tale is about fairy girl descending from heavens to take a bath in the water but amazed by the gorgeous scenery, they stayed and became the seven peaks.
This place has been an inspiration for Chinese poets and painters and tourist also find the green peaks under the blue sky reflected on the waters quite attractive.
As we go further ahead and we reach Xingping, the river takes a large turn and beautiful poetic sceneries come to play. These magnificent landscapes have been featured in many Chinese paintings and also on the back of the new 20 RMB note.
On the banks the river there is a place called a “village” and it is worth the visit. This place has been an old castle complex standing for over 5 decades but because it is now occupied by villagers, it is called a village.
The general condition of this place is ok and if you look carefully you can see the remains resembling the Ming and Qing Dynasties and taking into consideration that the villagers have the family name “Zhao”, it comes to mind that they might be the descendants of the Song Dynasty imperial family.
This place has been visited by Dr. Sun Yet-sun, the pioneer of China’s democratic revolution and also the United States of America president, Bill Clinton on their visits to Li River.
Wangfu Rock (Yearning for Husband’s Return Rock (is another attraction on the way of the cruise in this part.
The Third Section of Li River Cruise
Starts from Water-Dropping Village to Yangshuo and alongside this part, you can enjoy the beautiful natural scenery.
is a rather small town that has earned its fame because of the Li River cruise and the foreign tourists on it. If you want to reach this place, you need to head south of Guilin for around 90 kilometers. It is the last place moving downstream in the cruise but definitely is not the least with its enchanted environment that has been considered as Guilin best.
West Street in this small town has western cafes, restaurants, and hotels which makes it a nice place for people looking to explore Chinese life. This area is also very good for hiking and cycling and if you like these activities in country villages, here is the best place for it and it gives you a chance to better understand the life in such places.
Before reaching the end of the cruise, you will also have the chance to see Snail Hill, Green Lotus Peak (Bilian Peak), and Schoolboy Hill (Shutong Hill).