Not only is Yangshuo blessed with a hot and sunny climate, a bustling town, and beautiful Karst mountain scenery, it also boasts the impressive 83km long Li Jiang river and the slightly smaller Yulong river (35km) flowing off it. But what kind of activities does each offer, and which one is the one to visit?
Li Jiang River (Li for short)
The river Li flows originates in the Mao’er Mountains and flows South through Guilin, Yangshuo and ends in Pingle. For those wanting a scenic and impressive entrance into Yangshuo, the Li river can be used as a transportation point from Guilin to Yangshuo. There are daily cruises varying from luxury to budget. Each cruise lasts around 4-5 hours and departs from Zhujiang Wharf at 9.00-9.30 AM. Since June 2017 it became compulsory for foreign passengers to show their passports upon boarding. You will arrive Yangshuo between 13:30 – 15:30 (summer/winter).
Extra luxury cruise ship runs once a day and is targeted mainly at foreign tourists and offers a decent lunch, full air-conditioning, and spacious seats. It can also be privately chartered for big groups, so it can only be guaranteed 15 days prior to departure.
The original luxury cruise ship is a step-down but still offers air-conditioning and an edible lunch, while the extra budget cruise offers a less than average service that isn’t the most reliable either. Prices range from approx. 68-120USD.
No matter which ship you take, you will be taken aback as you leave the city and head down the river enshrouded by the unique and unusual Karst mountains. These dragon teeth like structures are formed by the dissolution of soluble rocks such as limestone, dolomite, and gypsum. It is characterized by underground drainage systems with sinkholes and caves, also providing another attraction along the river to explore after getting back into town.
The River Li is a lot bigger than the Yulong and a lot more developed. There are motorboats that frequent the river often
The river starts in Northern Yangshuo County near Litang and runs through small villages of the Yulong River Valley, including Litang, Chaolong, Yima and Gaotian town, before joining onto the river Li.
It differs greatly from the river Li since at 5 meters it is very shallow and only 25 meters wide. Because it floods easily, there is little civilization or industrial areas surrounding it, making for a very peaceful river trip. You will only see the occasional small rural village on its banks. There are no motor boats on the river, reducing both waste and sound pollution, allowing for a great swim or chill along the riverside.
Replacing the motor boats you’ll find on the Li river the Yulong plays host to a number of bamboo rafts that have become a major tourist attraction in recent years. If you haven’t already come in on the river Li, this is a great river cruise to go on. The rafts are built together with a few planks of bamboo and come complete with two make-shift seats on top. They are driven by skilled locals with a long bamboo pole. This trip will get you much closer to nature and give you a more peaceful, authentic cruise down the river. On the Yulong, you’ll be cruising the river with a few other rafts and therefore also lots of tourists. Upon a cruise ship on the river Li, you’re all in one boat and there won’t be another one in sight.
Raft cruises begin at the Yulong Bridge, a 400-year-old stone bridge, otherwise known as ‘Dragon Bridge’ to the locals. The longest raft route starts at Jinlong Bridge and ends at Gongnong Bridge. It takes about 6 hours. Most visitors prefer to choose a shorter section of the river for a raft ride.
Apart from cruising on the water, there are many cycle and bike paths along the river to be enjoyed. Roads and cycle paths are being constantly developed allowing for a much easier ride. There is also an ever growing number of places to stay, small shops, cafes, and restaurants located in the small villages along the Yulong River cycle and bike paths where you can rest and enjoy the scenic views.
Both rivers have very convenient access from West Street in Yangshuo center.
Great for: Long haul cruises. Impressive views. Non-tourist atmosphere.
Great for: Swimming. Bike & Cycle rides. Raft cruises. Peaceful and rustic ambiance.