Editor's Pick

Heaven's gate

Updated: 2011-02-18 10:12

By Yan Yiqi (China Daily European Weekly)

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Guilin is one of China's landmark tourist destinations for good reason

For more than 800 years there has been a famous Chinese saying: "Guilin's scenery is the best under all heaven." The idiom is not far from the mark because Guilin is easily one of China's most picturesque places to visit. The area consists of Guilin city, Yangshuo county and Longsheng county as well as 10 other small counties and has been a favored destination for travelers and inspiration for poets and artists for thousands of years. 

Heaven's gate

Elephant Trunk Hill is located near the Guilin downtown
area and gets its name from its distinct shape.
Jian Hua / For China Daily

The famous karst mountains, the beauty of the Lijiang River and the fun nightlife in Yangshuo, have made Guilin world famous.

Spectacular countryside backdrops and friendly ethnic group villages attract hundreds of thousands visitors each year and it is said that it is impossible to take a bad photograph in Guilin.

According to Chinese tradition, the combination of mountains and rivers or lakes is a symbol of good fortune. That is why this scene is commonly reflected in the traditional Chinese landscape paintings.

When former US president Bill Clinton visited the city in 1998, he said it made him "think of all the traditional Chinese paintings he had ever seen".

A river cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo is the centerpiece of any trip to area, with hundreds of hills rolling alongside the emerald waters. Most cruises start from Zhujiang Wharf, which is about 40-minute drive from Guilin city.

Visitors can then take a four to five-hour cruise to the fascinating county of Yangshuo.

Located in the northeast of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region, Guilin has an average elevation of 150 meters above sea level.

The region has a subtropical climate, with mild winters and long, hot, and humid summers.

The monsoon is long lasting from March to August, and a pronounced dry season occurs in fall and winter. Here are five favorite spots worth visiting.

1. Lijiang River

Heaven's gate

Originating from Mao'er Mountain in the north of Guilin, the Lijiang River winds its way south for about 440 km, passing through Guilin city, Yangshuo county, Pingle county and Zhaoping county, and finally meets the Xijiang River at Wuzhou.

All the way along the 83 km-long waterway from Guilin to Yangshuo county the outlook is stunning.

The landscape is decorated with sloping hills, steep cliffs, enchanting caves and farming villages, and the river is lined with bamboo. As a Chinese poem goes: "The river is a green silk ribbon, and the hills are jade hairpins".

2. Elephant Trunk Hill

Elephant Trunk Hill stands in the downtown area of Guilin city. The name of this hill comes from its shape - it looks like a giant elephant dipping its trunk into the river.

Elephant Trunk Hill is regarded as the symbol of Guilin.

The hill towers 55 meters above the Lijiang River and stands 108 meters tall.

Atop the hill, there is a pagoda with a history of more than 400 years, surrounded by hundreds of osmanthus trees.

At night, the moon, the hill, the river and the reflections form the most famous picture of Guilin, echoed by the Moon Rock in the south.

3. Reed Flute Cave

The cave is named after the verdant reeds that grow outside it and local people also make flutes from these plants.

This spectacular cave is located 5 km northwest of the downtown of Guilin, and it is a must see for any visitor. Over millions of years, dripping water has eroded the cave to create a special world of various stalactites, stone pillars and rock formations.

The caves are adorned by colored lighting creating a magical atmosphere along this 240-meter-long cave. Walking through the stone pillars, tourists will feel they have been transported back in time.

The sightseeing route is U-shaped and it takes about an hour to wander around the whole cave. Every rock has a romantic name and story behind it. By listening to the colorful tales of the formations, tourists can have a better understanding of these Chinese traditional legends.

4. Seven Stars Park

Seven Stars Park covers an area of more than 120 hectares and is the largest park in Guilin City. Located at the east bank of Lijiang River, the park is 1.5 km from the downtown of Guilin and was so named because of the seven peaks, which resemble the form of the Big Dipper constellation.

The park is endowed with elegant mountains, clear water, stone forests, deep and serene valleys, many animals and plants and cultural relics. The site has been a popular spot since the Sui (AD 581-618) and Tang (AD 618-907) dynasties.

5. Yangshuo County

If Guilin's vast array of scenic spots are the best on Earth, then the scenery of Yangshuo is the best in Guilin.

The county is situated 65 km southwest of downtown Guilin, and is home to 12 ethnic groups.

In Yangshuo, visitors can experience a wonderful combination of natural scenery and cultural relics. For example, it has the oldest stone arch bridge in Guangxi.

Traditional Chinese and modern Western cultures meet in this tiny county because Yangshuo is filled with foreigners.

Xi Jie (West Street) is one of the largest English corners in China.

Foreign visitors will feel at home in this block thanks to the bars, restaurants, and handicraft shops, which provide bilingual services. Even the old ladies selling fruit on the street speak fluent English.


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