Li River

One of the most popular activities in Guilin
Li River

Li River is the mother river for people in Guilin. It is not only because the river is the water resource for most people in Guilin, but also because thousands of Guilin natives are working in the tourism, which are developed based on the river.

Quick Facts
  • Chinese name: 漓江 Lí Jiāng
  • Duration: 2-4 hours
  • Entrance Fee: Free
  • Opening hours: Full day
  • Best time to visit : All year round

What to See along the Li River

Hills and Trees along the Li River

Hills and Trees along the Li River

Hills and Trees along the Li River

The hills and trees along the Li River look like traditional Chinese paintings. They are combined so beautifully and perfectly that tourists may think it was done by human beings, but actually it was combined by the nature. Lots of world celebrities have visited the Li River since 1950s, such as Chairman Mao, former US President Bush and Clinton, Bill Gates and Buffett.

The hills and trees along the Li River are not tall, but exquisite. When the unique shape of the hills and trees are reflected in the green water of the Li River, it looks like they are painted on the river. Thousands of tourists come to Guilin to see these “paintings” every year.

Ancient Villages along the Li River

The ancient villages along the Li River are renowned for their ancient buildings, foods and local cultures. Most villagers are senior people or children, because most young adults are working in big cities. Their lifestyle is almost the same with a century ago. Some of the buildings in these villages are around 100 years old. The decoration in these building is telling a story of the development of these villages. The villagers will usually promote their home-made foods or sauces to tourists. These local delicacies can never be found in the cities. The Fuli and Xingping are two very popular ancient villages along the Li River

Fishermen’ Work with Cormorants

Fisherman and Cormorant

Fisherman and Cormorant

The fishermen’s work on the Li River is special. They fasten ropes on their cormorants’ necks (not very tightly) and their cormorants will jump into the water to catch fishes from the fishermen’s bamboo rafts. When the cormorants catch the fishes successfully, they cannot swallow the fishes due the ropes on their necks. So they have to go back the bamboo rafts and disgorge the fishes they caught. The fishermen are the actual owners of the fishes. The cormorants that catch the most fishes will be awarded several fishes. This activity is very interesting. Lots of tourists often ask for taking photos with the fishermen, or even the cormorants, when their fish-catching show ends.

How to Visit the Li River

Li River Cruise

Li River Cruise

3-star Li River Cruise

The Li River section between Guilin and Yangshuo are the most popular routine for Li River Cruise. The section in 83 kilometers long and the cruise takes about 4.5 hours. The mirror-like water and the hills with unique shapes are the highlights during the cruise. The Nine Horses Painting Hill is the most renowned attraction during the cruise. The outline of the hill looks like nine horses, so local people call it Nine Horses Painting Hill. However, only a few tourists can point out all the “nine horses” when their cruise ships pass this hill. When a cruise ship passes the Xingping Village, tourists will see the ancient horses along the Li River. Former US president Bill Clinton made a speech in the village in 1998. Lots of tourists tried to imitate Clinton’s speech when their cruise ships passed the village.

Li River Hiking

The most popular hiking section along the Li River is between the Yangdi Port and Xingping Village. It is only 20 kilometers long, but all the attractions along the cruise section can be seen more clear and longer when hiking. Most energetic tourists chose to hike rather than cruising along the Li River.

For tourists who are always willing to challenge themselves, the 50-kilometer-long hiking itinerary from Guilin City to Yangshuo County is the best option. It takes two days to finish this itinerary. Tourists will spend a night in a tent beside the Li River. Both ancient villages and natural views on this itinerary are excellent tourist attractions.

Li River Motorized Raft


Taking a traditional water vehicle down the Li River makes your tour to Yangshuo fulfilled. The motorized raft is made of plastic piping in the shape of bamboo, bigger and steadier than the traditional bamboo raft. A maximum of four passengers occupy one raft, which is open around the sides but has a cover on the top protecting passengers from the sun or rain. Life jackets are necessary for safety. The motorized raft does not run from 10:00 to 12:00, when the big cruise boats sail by. The age restriction is between 7–70 years old. Unlike the big cruise ships which only start from Guilin, the motorized raft docks at Yangdi Village and Xingping Ancient Town. It operates flexible sailing routes, downstream from Yangdi to Xingping or vice versa.

Downstream: You should travel to Yangdi Pier first, which is about 1.5-hour drive from Guilin or Yangshuo. The raft will take you from Yangdi pier to Nine Horses Painted Hill for about 45 mins; then you will switch to take an electric cart to Xingping Ancient Town for about 20 mins. You will pass Langshi Village, Half-side Pier and Nine Horses Painted Hill on the raft. Yellow Cloth Shoal (image on the back of the 20 RMB Chinese note) appears on your roadway to Xingping. You can then either stay overnight in Xingping Ancient Town or continue going to Yangshuo County by local public buses.

Upstream: This upstream tour is a return trip between Xingping Ancient Town and Nine Horses Painted Hill. You can start either from Guilin or Yangshuo. It is about 2 hours’ drive from Guilin to Xingping and 45 mins from Yangshuo to Xingping. The return rafting tour is about 1 hour. Along the journey, you will admire the breathtaking scenery of Yellow Cloth Shoal and Nine Horses Painted Hill.

Best Time to Visit the Li River

There is usually less rainfall in December and the water level of Li River might be too low for a cruise. Other months are all ok for a cruise. For hiking fanciers, the best time is between April and October, during which there is enough rainfall and the temperature are high enough.

Hiking or cruising in tender rain is the best experience for tourists. The Li River is usually covered by mist in tender rain. The hills along the river seem to be connected with the sky in the mist and tourists may feel like they are cruising or hiking from the river to the sky.

By Shirley Li
Web Editor
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