Sites in Yangshuo County
There is such a variety of things to see and do within easy reach of the Secret Garden that you are bound to find many ways to keep yourself amused. We’ve included a brief description of as many activities as possible. These are arranged according to activities we highly recommend; night time activities; other enjoyable activities; and those we recommend if you have a lot of time to fill.
We highly recommend:
One of our favourite activities is to rent a bicycle and head off into the beautiful countryside. You can either hire a local guide to take you on a pre-arranged route or get a Yangshuo County map and make your own way.
Motorbikes are also available, but these are not approved by the police and some routes are difficult if you are not a competent rider.
There are lots of walks you can do around around the village, either along the river or on the small paths through the fields.
For longer walks you can:
- hike to the abandoned village of Baisha Po
- hike along either side of the Yulong River to the Dragon Bridge
- climb up a nearby hill to see the stone ruins and views from the top (a bit of a strenuous and tricky climb)
- or simply go exploring the beautiful countryside.
It’s best to take a Secret Garden business card and your phone with you in case you end up further away that you intended.
This 400 year old arched stone bridge is located in a beautiful setting on the Yulong River near Baisha Town. You can cover the scenic 7 km trip from our hotel easily by bike or on foot. The route follows the Yulong River past fish ponds, rice paddies and farmhouses. Alternatively you can take a taxi or bamboo raft.
BAMBOO RAFTING ON THE YULONG OR LI RIVER
Relaxing on a bamboo raft is a great way to experience the beautiful local scenery. We recommend the trip on the Yulong River from the Dragon Bridge to Xiatang (about 1km from our hotel), or the trip on the Li River in Xingping. It is now almost an essential outing amongst Chinese tourists, so we recommend early morning or late afternoon trips (also more comfortable in summer when midday temperatures can be high). A 2-3 hour trip is usually enough for most people. Life jackets are supplied and laminated photos of your trip are available for sale. The rafts on the Yulong River are usually poled by hand whilst those on the Li River are motorized.
If you love Chinese food as much as we do you may want to learn to cook some Chinese dishes yourself. We think the 2 best cooking schools in the area are the Yangshuo Cooking School and Cloud 9 Cooking School. Both schools offer quality cooking classes taught by local teachers who are fluent in English and have in-depth knowledge about the many nuances of Chinese food. They incorporate a tour of the local Yangshuo market and introduction to the ingredients you will use, as part of the course. Courses are hands-on, with detailed explanations so you should be able to produce real Chinese food back home. Classes last 3 to 4 hours.
TAI CHI and CALLIGRAPHY CLASSES
If you would like to learn a few skills in other areas of Chinese culture, teachers are available to instruct you in the arts of Tai Chi, Kung Fu, calligraphy and watercolor painting. Most of these classes take place in Yangshuo and are available upon request. If you would prefer we can arrange for one of the Masters to come and teach you at the hotel. A class typically lasts for around one hour. Why not start your day with early morning Tai Chi or learn to write your name in Chinese characters.
Night time activities
LIU SANJIE LIGHT SHOW
The hour long Liu Sanjie show is well worth watching, not only for the costumes and performances of the local farmers, but also for how the incredible scenery is incorporated into the spectacle. The show, with a cast of 500, is conceived and directed by Zhang Yimou – responsible for the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony. It is based on a 1961 Chinese musical movie which told the legend of a woman called Liu Sanjie (3rd sister Liu) who had a voice so beautiful it could raise the dead.
Yangshuo’s West St and surrounding area is filled with bars, nightclubs and karaoke places that are very popular with Chinese tourists. There are some quieter bars in the lane along the canal parallel to West St. Away from the hustle and bustle of West St there is a market selling all the regular nicknacks in Binjiang Street next to the Li River. Occasionally locals gather to practice ballroom dancing in Sun Yat Sen Square in the same street.
Cormorant fishing is a tradition that dates back hundreds of years. Fishermen train cormorant birds to dive under the water and catch fish. They are prevented from swallowing any but the smallest fish by a piece of string tied loosely around their necks. Cormorant fishing isn’t for everyone as some people feel the birds are not treated well. It is also often banned by the local police.
Moon Hill (named after the semi-circular hole in its top) is one of the region’s most visited karst formations, and is best photographed from afar. The hill has an old stone path and steps all the way up to the hole and can be climbed in around half an hour (depending on your fitness level). Since the path is a bit uneven you need to take care, especially on the way back down. Unfortunately the once peaceful route is a bit spoiled by people constantly trying to sell drinks, postcards, etc. Views from the viewing platform through the arched hole and down the Yulong River valley are great.
Yangshuo’s beautiful karst landscape is making it a world famous destination for climbers. There are currently hundreds of routes available with different levels of difficulty, catering for all skill levels from beginner to expert. There are a number of climbing centres in Yangshuo of varying standards, so be sure to select one that has experienced and certified staff who put safety first.. Climbing is possible all year, but can be dangerous during rainy weather.
LOCAL MARKETS and VILLAGES
We think a visit to a local market is a fascinating insight into the differences between Chinese and Western notions of shopping. Not for everyone, you may want to avoid the meat section. Markets are usually bustling with people and other distractions so you need to beware of pickpockets – we recommend storing your valuables in the hotel safe. Markets are held in different villages on different days and people from surrounding villages travel to the market to buy and sell their wares.
Baisha market is about 4km away and the closest to the Secret Garden Hotel. The market is held on any day of the month that ends in 1; 4; or 7 (eg. 1st, 11th, 21st, etc.). Apart from the usual foodstuffs; plants; clothing and farm implements, you may also be able to spot basket makers, barbers, doctors or dentists. A visit to the market can be included in a trip to the Yulong Bridge.
Fuli market is about 8km east of Yangshuo (on the road to Xinping). The market is held on any day of the month that ends in 2; 5; or 8. The old town still has lots of traditional houses, some of which are now used as painting workshops. Here you can see the various stages of production of traditional scroll paintings and fans. .
Xingping market is around 20km North of Yangshuo. The market is held on any day of the month that ends in 3; 6; or 9. Locals arrive early by boat, bus, truck,etc. The village itself has a long history and still has some lovely Qing and Ming Dynasty buildings. The scenery is also beautiful and featured on the Chinese 20 yuan note. You can also do a raft ride here.
Yangshuo has a few daily markets, the most popular being not far from the bus station (on the opposite side of the road). It’s most active earlier in the day and sells mainly fruit, vegetables, meat, spices, etc. If you take part in a Chinese cooking class you will visit this market.
Apart from the market, other free attractions in Yangshuo include the Sun Yat Sen Square on the edge of the river (where ballroom dancing often takes place at night) and Yangshuo Park (where you may be able to watch early morning Tai Chi, cards, boulles, etc. or set you kids free in the amusement area).
KAYAKING ON THE LI RIVER
Kayaking is a fun and slightly more physical activity for 2 or more people on the Li River. The usual route involves being transferred to Fuli from where you can paddle to either Liugong (the 7km route takes about 2 hours) or Puyi (about 3 hours). From there you will be transferred with the kayaks back to the hotel, unless you decide to make your own way back. You should take sun protection; plenty to drink; and something waterproof to protect your valuables.
SWIMMING IN THE YULONG RIVER
If you fancy braving one of the local rivers for a swim, the water in the Yulong River is definitely cleaner than that in the Li River. In our opinion one of the best places to swim is in Xiatang, about 1km from our hotel. There is a walled off area next to the small concrete bridge where the current is not very strong and the water not particularly deep. If you go swimming it’s best to leave cameras and valuables at the hotel unless you have someone who can keep an eye on them at all times.
Water flowing underground has carved out numerous caves in the limestone mountains around Yangshuo. Some of the more accessible caves are amongst the most impressive in the province.
Silver Cave is one of the more impressive caves as far as stalagmites and stalactites are concerned and is the one we recommend visiting. It is about 20km from Yangshuo on the road to Lipu. The network of caves has several levels with paths and steps that wind their way between the specific scenic spots, all illuminated with multicoloured lights.
Butterfly Spring is named after a huge stalactite in the shape of a butterfly. This huge cave is on the road to Moon Hill and can be easily spotted as it has a massive butterfly sculpture stuck to the cliff face. Inside the cave is lit (to dramatic or tacky effect, depending on your viewpoint) by artificial lights. There is also a large butterfly enclosure outside the cave.
Longmen Cave is interesting because you can take a boat on an underground stream in the cave as well as do some climbing. Most travellers take a mud bath if they visit the area in the summer.
Buddha Water Cave is close to Moon Hill. It is vast in size and full of unusual rock formations.
Assembling Dragon Cave is a nice small cave opposite Big Banyan tree that is popular with domestic tourists. You can take a small boat trip in the cave to view the stalactites and stalagmites.
Dragon Water Cave is a large caves about 20 kilometers from Yangshuo. Apart from its natural beauty, the cave is also popular for its mud bath and hot spring in a natural stone basin.
If you’re staying awhile
LI RIVER CRUISE FROM GUILIN TO YANGSHUO
A scenic but slightly overcrowded way to get from Guilin to Yangshuo. The scenery along the way is so beautiful that this hundreds of cruise boats now make the 4 hour trip every morning. Not worth it if you’re in Yangshuo already as you have to head to Guilin very early to catch the boat. You’re better off doing a boat trip locally.
WHITE WATER RAFTING
The best place to go white water rafting is on the Longjing River, near Xingping. Transfers to and from Yangshuo, life jackets and helmets are included. There’s no paddles or instructors, you just bump your way down the waterways in a 2 person inflatable raft. It’s lots of fun if you enjoy getting wet.
BIG BANYAN TREE
The name says it all… it’s a big tree of the banyan variety. It is a popular stop amongst Chinese tourists on their way to Moon Hill since the tree features in the Liu Sanjie story.
GREEN LOTUS PEAK / TV TOWER HILL
Green Lotus Peak is located in the heart of Yangshuo, just behind West Street. There are paths to wander along and some pavilions to visit, but the 30 Yuan entrance fee tends to put people off. For views of Yangshuo Town (if you don’t mind a more strenuous climb) TV Tower Hill is a better choice.
Not the place of legends but a tourist site that’s about as mythical as a theme park. It incorporates some local architecture; a not-very-exciting minority show; a short boat ride; and a chance to buy local products. Not to everyone’s taste, it is one way to learn something about local minority groups if you don’t have time to visit Longsheng or Sanjiang. It’s best enjoyed with tongue firmly in cheek.