China is one of the biggest countries in the world, not to mention the most populated, which means that a trip to explore China can be incredibly daunting because you just can’t get everywhere. Most people who take on the challenge of navigating through China, tend to optimize their time by picking the most famous cities and landmarks. This typically includes Xi’an to see the Terra Cotta Warriors, Beijing because you can’t go to China and not see the Great Wall, and Shanghai, the biggest of the Chinese cities with a staggering population of 22 million and a dazzling skyline.
However, some of the most beautiful scenery in China belongs to one of the lesser-known cities in the south: Guilin. It’s one of the smaller Chinese cities with a population of only 1.34 million, but Guilin has a lot to offer. Here are 7 reasons Guilin should be included on your Chinese itinerary:
Guilin has an abundance of natural beauty. Nearly everywhere you go, there are rolling mountains, rock formations and lush plant life. The scenery is so beautiful that it is often the inspiration for local artists who sell paintings and embroidered art of the landscape. If you can barter well, you can end up with one of these pieces for a decent price.
There’s something about being able to get up close and personal with animals and if you’re lucky, you can catch a glimpse of some of the wildlife around Guilin. Head to the Seven Star Park and you may just be able to see some of the locals strolling about or taking a break.
Once you start traveling around China, it becomes clear really quickly that foreigners are looked at as easy targets. This includes all sorts of scams and ways for you to spend more money than you meant to. Now, I’m not saying that Guilin DOESN’T have that, because they do. However, it is the one place where I could consistently get a taxi where they would automatically run the meter. This may not seem like that big of a deal, but when you are constantly hassled for higher prices, it’s a relief to have a taxi who doesn’t demand 4 times the amount of what it should actually cost.
It’s sub-tropical climate
After traveling in the north of China and to various mountains where the temperatures can get pretty frigid, the sub-tropical climate of Guilin makes you never want to leave. All sorts of unique vegetation grows around the city and did I mention that monkeys live here??
Something I didn’t expect, being that Guilin is a smaller city, was the amount of people I ran into who could speak a little English. In other cities, the language barrier is not only notable, but such an issue that you wonder how you will even be able to get something substantial to eat. It wasn’t as big of an issue in Guilin and even some of the people selling things on the street would try to entice us by saying English numbers.
One of the best things about Guilin is that there is so much to explore for nature lovers. Take a hike up one of the mountain peaks or float down the Li River for unforgettable views. Take a day trip to the Longji rice terraces or head down to Yangshuo by boat or bus to experience a small town buzzing with shops and stalls. Escape into the countryside on bicycles or scooters to see some of China’s raw beauty and explore an ancient town. Or you can hop on a bamboo raft to float down the Yulong River.
It’s hard to find a hotel that is up to par with Western expectations. A lot of Chinese 5-stars usually hit around the 3-star range on the Western scale. Usually, the components are there, but it still lacks in either customer service or room quality. Our hotel in Guilin was pleasantly on point—the rooms were nice, comfortable and modern, the restaurant staff was incredibly attentive and accommodating, and the location was right across from Elephant Trunk Hill (a main attraction).