The Best Town in China for Outdoor Activities
By Lance Devore
You probably know Beijing’s Great Wall and Imperial Palace, as well as Shanghai’s Bund and Pearl Tower. You probably even know Xi An’s Terracotta Warrior Army. These are well-known for a reason, and make for good memories and some great photos. But beyond China’s mainstream tourist spots, there are still many incredible adventures for you to have. One place in particular is known to many as the best town in China for outdoor activities- Yangshuo, China.
Yangshuo is located in Guangxi province in southern China. The larger area is more widely known as Guilin county, but the scenery of Yangshuo specifically is what has made Guilin world-renowned.
Yangshuo was once a cluster of simple farming villages nestled amidst thousands of karst mountains, with two rivers surrounding it. But as more travelling rock climbers and hikers found this small town, news of Yangshuo’s stunning landscape caught the ears of adventurers around the world. The villages, mountains, and rivers still remain, but hotels, restaurants, and activities have sprung up all throughout Yangshuo.
Activities for outdoor enthusiasts & adrenaline junkies
Some of the most popular activities include rock climbing, hiking, swimming, cycling, cave exploring, mud bathing, bamboo rafting, white water rafting, ziplining, learning Tai Chi, riding horses, helicopter riding, and hot air balloon riding.
If you’re not a professional rock climber with your own gear, no worries. There are plenty of English-speaking outdoor guide groups available. They’ll take you to the best climbing locations and provide you with gear and training.
If you have your own gear, ask around for directions to Treasure Cave. It’s a secluded cave that sits high up on a karst mountain overlooking the countryside, and is free from tourists. The interior of the cave makes for a perfect climb.
Gold Water Cave
If you enjoy exploring caves that go deep underground, check out Gold Water Cave. This is a cave for tourists (and can get a little crowded in peak seasons), but near the end of the cave is big mud pool for you to bathe in. There are showers for you to rinse off after the mud bath, and hot springs to soak in after the showers. Bring a swimsuit! (Chinese tourists usually don’t get in the mud bath, so it isn’t crowded. Hope you don’t mind them taking pictures of you, though!)
For bamboo rafting (very smooth, not white water rafting), head to the Yu Long River. At any point where a road intersects with the river, you’ll be able to board a bamboo raft with a guide and take it down stream. Each raft is situated with two chairs.
Some people also enjoy doing cultural learning while in Yangshuo. Anyone interested in learning Chinese cooking, Tai Chi, or Mandarin can get in contact with the Yangshuo Cooking School, Yangshuo Traditional Tai Chi School, or Omeida Chinese Academy for class bookings.
For young children
Young children may have fun at the Guilin Romance Park – a small theme park with an interactive arcade, a small beach and swimming area, a haunted house, a ropes course over a pool of water, and a theatre performance with wonderful choreography and light displays.
A must-see for everyone visiting Yangshuo is West Street (downtown Yangshuo). West Street is along the Li River, and packed with alleyways full of restaurants, shops, and other things to do. At night it’s completely lit up with neon lights. There’s lots to explore at West Street, but be aware it may be a bit crowded!
What most people love about Yangshuo is the rural setting. If you’ve visited other Chinese cities, you’re likely familiar with the skyscrapers, crowded subway cars, and not ideal air quality. But the 1000+ foreigners who live in Yangshuo have found solace in the relaxed lifestyle- riding a bicycle or scooter in the fresh air, or hanging out by the rivers in the evenings. The town actually doesn’t allow structures to be built more than six floors high, so you can always feel the mountains on all sides.
Some stay even longer in Yangshuo..
Many come to Yangshuo to just spend a couple weeks touring the area, but others settle down for an extended stay- rock climbing, studying long term at the Yangshuo Tai Chi School, studying Mandarin at a local Chinese language school, or teaching English. Some have even opened their own international restaurants and hotels. These can be found both in the countryside near the rivers or downtown in the West Street shopping area.
No matter what you’re coming to Yangshuo for, our best recommendation is to rent a scooter and simply drive in any direction out of the town. Around any corner you turn, you’re bound to run into a mountain to hike, a river to swim, a village to walk through, a cave to explore, a waterfall to bathe in, or best of all: some surprise that you never expected.
To learn even more about what to do in Yangshuo, follow this link: Yangshuo things to do where you can read about 22 different things to do in Yanghsuo, China.
Writer, Artist & Marketing Manager
Lance has lived in China for 4 years in different cities, and currently calls Yangshuo home.
Getting To Yangshuo
The closest International airport is Guilin Liangjiang International Airport. This is around one hour and ten minute to one and a half hour’s drive from Yangshuo centre, depending on which route you take.
An obvious choice to make is to travel via Hong Kong. However this is a good bit more expensive than coming to Guilin via Shenzhen. This is because Shenzen is a domestic flight whereas Hong Kong is an international flight with higher taxes.
If you fly into Hong Kong, you can get a boat to Shenzhen and then catch a shuttle bus to take you to the airport.