guilin mountain

Top 10 Enchanting Guilin Mountains: Nature’s Pinnacle of Beauty

Embark on an adventure through the stunning Guilin Mountains, where locals boast, “Guilin scenery is the best in the world.” In this guide, I’m uncovering the 10 must-visit peaks that showcase the magic of Guilin. From the majestic Elephant Trunk Hill to the jaw-dropping views of Xianggong Mountain, Guilin’s karst formations are a feast for the eyes. Explore the charm of overlooking the cityscape, be amazed by the Li River in Xingping Town, and soak in the tranquility of Yangshuo’s rural landscapes. Get ready for a journey through Guilin’s most mesmerizing mountain vistas that defy imagination!

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⭐ The Ultimate Great Wall Travel Guide + The Best Sections To Visit

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Considering a last-minute trip to Guilin?

🇨🇳 Top Activities and Tours in Guilin:

1. Private Guilin Half Day Tour: Fubo Mountain, Reed Flute Cave and Elephant Hill
2. 1-Day Guilin Tour to Reed Flute Cave, Xianggong Hill, Bamboo Boat and Night Show
3. Private Tour: Yao Mountain and Tea Plantation from Guilin

🌐Make sure to install ExpressVPN in advance for unrestricted internet access during your stay in China!

Recommendation: ★★★★★
Recommended Visiting Time: about 1-2 hours

☀️ What Makes it Magical: The hill is renowned for its distinctive shape, resembling an elephant drinking water from the river with its trunk. This unique natural formation has made Elephant Trunk Hill one of Guilin’s most iconic and recognized landmarks. The magical aspect lies in the combination of natural beauty and the imaginative shapes formed by the karst formations.

📸 What to Visit:

  • Water Moon Cave: A semi-circular cave that passes through Elephant Trunk Hill, resembling a full moon when the water level is high.
  • Puxian Pagoda: Situated on top of the hill, this ancient pagoda was built during the Ming Dynasty and offers panoramic views of the surrounding area.
  • Love Island: A small island in the shape of an elephant’s eye, connected to Elephant Trunk Hill by the “Trunk Hill Bridge.”
  • Yunfeng Temple: One of Guilin’s renowned ancient temples, its second floor houses the Taiping Army’s assault on Guilin exhibition. On display are artifacts such as weapons, shells, battle flags, clothing, and imperial seals once used by the Taiping Army.

🔥 Insider Tip: The hill is particularly enchanting during sunrise or sunset when the soft sunlight bathes the karst formations and the Li River in warm hues. This is a prime time for capturing stunning photographs.

🎫 Admission ticket: CNY 55
📍 Location: Minzhu Road, Xiangshan District; just a 10-minute drive from downtown Guilin

Recommendation: ★★★★★
Recommended Visiting Time: about 0.5 hours

☀️ What Makes it Magical: The name Nine Horse Fresco Hill originates from its distinctive appearance, featuring nine interconnected peaks that resemble a vast painted screen. From a distance, the rock formations above, below, left, right, and on the fish tail peak give the impression of nine horses, giving the hill its name. This site is renowned as one of the captivating landscapes along the Li River in Guilin and is a significant destination for tourists.

📸 What to Visit:

  • River Drifting through the Canyon: Tourists can embark on a bamboo raft journey from Xingping, drifting along the river surrounded by layered mountains and reflections on the water, offering a sensation of “journeying within a painting.”
  • Nine Horse Fresco Hill Cliff: With a height exceeding 400 meters and an area larger than 11 football fields, this cliff stands as one of the most picturesque and challenging climbing routes in the country.

🔥 Insider Tip: Xingping Ancient Town nearby, with a history of over 1700 years, is a noteworthy visit. Preserving ancient structures like bridges, ferries, opera stages, pavilions, and villages in distinctive Ming and Qing architectural styles, the town also hosts traditional cultural events such as lion and dragon dances, along with traditional opera performances.

🎫 Admission ticket: free
📍 Location: Xingping Town, Yangshuo County; about 50 km from downtown Guilin

Recommendation: ★★★★★
Recommended Visiting Time: about 1 hour

☀️ What Makes it Magical: The attractions in Guilin are predominantly situated along the banks of the Li River, with Lord Hill standing out as the premier vantage point, drawing in a multitude of photographers and photography enthusiasts. At the summit of Lord Hill, the rolling peaks and ethereal clouds weave a captivating panorama, particularly enchanting during rainy days when misty landscapes resemble an ink painting, fueling the imagination. This location is especially conducive for observing sunrise.

📸 What to Visit: Lord Hill’s observation platform features four tiers. Ascending the mountain via a narrow path before daybreak, visitors witness the gradual illumination of the sky, providing unobstructed views of the meandering Li River and charming peaks. The sunrise amid the sea of clouds is a breathtaking spectacle, with the distant peaks and delicate mist forming a picturesque and poetic landscape.

🔥 Insider Tip: Keep in mind that Lord Hill doesn’t offer sunset views. Visiting Lord Hill can be challenging, lacking direct transportation or taxi access. Thus, it’s crucial to enlist the help of a local guide for logistical arrangements. Lord Hill showcases diverse scenic allure across different seasons, offering abundant opportunities for photography enthusiasts captivated by mountain landscapes.

🎫 Admission ticket: CNY 60
📍 Location: Xingping Town, Yangshuo County; about 57 kilometers from downtown Guilin

Recommendation: ★★★★
Recommended Visiting Time: about 1-2 hours

☀️ What Makes it Magical: Moon Hill, with an elevation of 380 meters, features a hollow rock at its summit, creating a perfect circle resembling a bright moon hanging in the azure sky, hence the name Moon Hill.

Due to a circular small hill on the north side of Moon Cave, when people walk along the moon-viewing path directly facing Moon Hill, the circular hill gradually obscures the front of Moon Cave. From different angles, one can observe scenes of a full moon, half-moon, and crescent moon.

📸 What to Visit:

  • Moon Cave: A path with over 800 stone steps is embedded in a lush grassy area, winding its way from the foot of the mountain to the “Moon Palace” (Moon Cave). The Moon Palace is expansive, measuring approximately 50 meters in height and width, while the mountain wall is only a few meters thick. The cave’s two walls are smooth, and adorned with various stalactite formations hanging from the ceiling.
  • Rock Climbing: Moon Hill is the earliest, most attractive, and distinctive natural rock climbing site in Yangshuo. The climbing routes face northwest, featuring 14 internationally renowned climbing routes with pre-placed expansion cones. Eight routes are on the vertical wall, two are on the left and right sides of the Moon Hill arch, and the remaining four are in the transition zone from the arch to the vertical wall. They vary in degrees of overhang, allowing visitors to appreciate Moon Hill’s changing shadows.

🔥 Insider Tip: Within the Moon Hill scenic area, there is the famous Nixon Trail. Legend has it that in 1972, U.S. President Richard Nixon and his wife visited Moon Hill to verify the authenticity of Moon Cave. After personally climbing Moon Hill to admire the surrounding scenery, Nixon was captivated by the towering mountains and winding streams, exclaiming that “God has given Yangshuo too much.” Since then, the Nixon Trail has been established.

🎫 Admission ticket: CNY 12
📍 Location: Gaotian Village, Yangshuo County; about 76 km from downtown Guilin

Recommendation: ★★★★
Recommended Visiting Time: about 1-2 hours

☀️ What Makes it Magical: Folded Brocade Hill derived its name from the rock formations on the hill, resembling colorful folded silk brocade. The entire Folded Brocade Hill Park is like a colossal museum with numerous ancient inscriptions, Lama-style stone pagodas on the Toad Stone, natural slides, and cliff carvings from the Song Dynasty.

📸 What to Visit:

  • Fengdong Cave: Folded Brocade Hill preserves 33 alcoves and 88 sculptures, mostly featuring slender and melancholic figures in the style of the Song Dynasty. This once-thriving religious site has transformed into a historical relic for visitors to explore.
  • Mingyue Peak: Ascending from Fengdong Cave, Mingyue Peak offers the best vantage point to admire the scenery along Fubo Mountain and the Li River. On clear days, numerous photography enthusiasts equip themselves to capture stunning views.
  • Xianhe Cave: Located midway up Xianhe Peak, this cave penetrates from east to west. The cavern is spacious, and its walls are adorned with numerous cliff carvings. The east and west openings of the cave serve as framed windows for scenic views. During sunset, many tourists come to the cave for photography and to enjoy the evening sun.

🔥 Insider Tip: The streets around Folded Brocade Hill are also worth exploring. Here, there are no bubble tea shops, no bars, and no malls popular among young people. Instead, you’ll find old residential buildings and small shops exuding a local atmosphere. Several reputable old shops, such as soy milk and fresh milk vendors, have established themselves here.

🎫 Admission ticket: CNY 25
📍 Location: Diecai District; about 9 minutes’ drive from the downtown area

Recommendation: ★★★
Recommended Visiting Time: about 1 hour

☀️ What Makes it Magical: Solitary Beauty Peak is situated within the Jingjiang Princes’ Palace, and it is renowned throughout the world because of the Jingjiang Princes’ Mansion. The peak rises 150 meters, standing alone and resembling an inverted spinning top, with only a staircase leading to its summit. Numerous cliff carvings, including the “Southern Sky Column,” the largest among over 2,000 cliff carvings in Guilin, can be found on Solitary Beauty Peak.

📸 What to Visit:

  • Peace Grotto: Located at the west foot of Solitary Beauty Peak, it is a natural grotto and a place for the Jingjiang Princes’ worship. The grotto has unique features, resembling a spacious room with a flat floor. Hanging stalactites and shining sandstone with peculiar shapes dazzle visitors. Inside Peace Grotto, there are carvings of the twelve zodiac animals and their protective deities. Most visitors try to find the protective deity corresponding to their own zodiac sign inside the cave.
  • Study Cave: Situated at the eastern foothill of Solitary Beauty Peak, it is a natural cave. During the Nan (Southern) Song dynasty (1127–1279), the renowned literary figure Yan Yanzhi, who served as the governor of Shi’an Prefecture (present-day Guilin), frequently read and wrote poetry in this cave, contributing to the scholarly atmosphere of Guilin. In commemoration of him, the cave was named “Study Cave.”

🔥 Insider Tip: Solitary Beauty Peak is connected to the Jingjiang Princes’ Palace, located beneath the peak. Built in 1372, the Jingjiang Princes’ Palace is a magnificent and grand architectural complex. It served as the residence of the prince with the longest duration in the Ming Dynasty, functioning as both a governmental and educational center. All structures feature East Asian hip-and-gable roof, yellow walls, and black tiles. Notably, it was constructed 34 years before the Forbidden City in Beijing.

🎫 Admission ticket: CNY 130
📍 Location: Xiufeng District; downtown Guilin

Recommendation: ★★★
Recommended Visiting Time: about 1-2 hours

☀️ What Makes it Magical: Fubo Hill stands on the west bank of the Li River, with an elevation of 213 meters. This solitary and elegant peak, partially submerged in the river and partially resting on land, utilizes its unique natural advantage to divert and slow down the river flow. Fubo Hill stands prominently within the city, offering a panoramic view of the entire Guilin cityscape from its summit.

📸 What to Visit:

  • Returned-pearl Cave (Huanzhu Cave): The essence of Fubo Hill lies in Returned-pearl Cave, situated at the eastern foothill of Fubo Hill. The hill boasts over 100 surviving stone carvings, mostly concentrated in Returned-pearl Cave. These carvings include inscriptions, pictorial engravings, and various calligraphy styles such as regular script, clerical script, cursive script, and seal script. The cave also features over 200 Tang Dynasty cliff statues of Buddha and inscriptions by renowned figures from different dynasties.
  • Thousand Buddhas Cave (Qianfo Yan): With a history of several thousand years, Thousand Buddhas Cave derives its name from the numerous cliff statues on its walls. The cave is divided into upper and lower levels, hosting over 300 stone statues, primarily dating from the late Tang Dynasty. The religious elements are less pronounced compared to the flourishing Tang period, incorporating more folk styles.
  • Sword-Testing Rock (Shijian Shi): This unique stone pillar, also known as Sword-Testing Rock or Top Scholar Stone, has a large upper portion and a smaller lower portion, with a gap in between. According to legend, every time this stone touches the ground, a top scholar will emerge from Guilin. Since the establishment of the imperial examination system, Guilin has produced eight top scholars. Visitors often try to fill the gap by inserting their fists, hoping for good luck and a photo opportunity.

🔥 Insider Tip: Overall, the scenery is excellent, providing beautiful views of the Li River and the city. The ascent is relatively easy, taking about 10-15 minutes to reach the summit. Visitors from outside the city need to purchase tickets, while Guilin residents enjoy free admission.

🎫 Admission ticket: CNY 20
📍 Location: Diecai District; about 10 minutes drive from the downtown area

Recommendation: ★★★★
Recommended Visiting Time: about 1-2 hours

☀️ What Makes it Magical: Yao Mountain is located in the eastern suburbs of Guilin, 8 kilometers from the city center. The main peak has an elevation of 909.3 meters, making it the highest peak in Guilin. It is named after the Yao Emperor’s Temple built on the mountain during the Zhou and Tang dynasties.

Yao Mountain is a earthen mountain with a continuous mountain range stretching for dozens of kilometers, a rarity compared to many standalone, rocky peaks in Guilin. Additionally, it was the location of the Ming Dynasty Jingjiang Prince’s mausoleum, making it an auspicious place.

📸 What to Visit: The Yao Mountain scenic area boasts the richest karst landform types and the world’s largest natural reclining Buddha landscape. The scenery varies with the seasons, featuring different plants such as azaleas, chrysanthemums, maples, and bamboo at different times of the year. Yao Mountain is also home to the most intact Ming Dynasty royal tomb group in the country—the Jingjiang Prince’s Mausoleum, with over 300 tombs. The plum vases unearthed here gained widespread fame.

🔥 Insider Tip: You can drive to the summit of Yao Mountain. From the foothill, it takes about half an hour to reach the parking lot, bringing you within approximately 500 meters of the highest peak. If you choose to walk, it will take a minimum of three and a half hours to reach the summit. However, most people opt for the cable car to enjoy the breathtaking mountain valley scenery, and then take a car down to appreciate the views along the way.

🎫 Admission ticket: CNY 110
📍 Location: Lingchuan County, Qixing District; about 10 km from downtown Guilin

Recommendation: ★★★★
Recommended Visiting Time: about half a day

☀️ What Makes it Magical: Mao’er Mountain, with its main peak at an elevation of 2141.5 meters, is the highest peak in the southern part of China and the first mountain recorded in the “Shan Hai Jing” (Classic of Mountains and Seas). It derives its name from the mountain’s peak resembling a cat.

This area serves as the source of the Li River, Zi River, and Xun River, featuring vast undeveloped virgin forests. Frequently shrouded in mist and clouds, the summit of the southern part of China provides spectacular views of sunrise and sunset. Due to its high elevation, even in the summer, the mountaintop can be as cold as winter.

📸 What to Visit: The best time to appreciate Mao’er Mountain is from December to February, especially witnessing the spectacular scenes of the lake and the silver-coated hemlock in the snow. The hemlock trees are said to be a rare species found only above 1700 meters, typically unseen in the southern regions. Another highlight is the sea of clouds, which takes on different forms in various seasons.

🔥 Insider Tip: The stairs near the summit are steep, forming almost right angles, while other paths are relatively easy to traverse. Mao’er Mountain is a natural oxygen bar, protected by the local government. Ordinary vehicles cannot directly ascend the mountain and must be parked at the mountain’s base.

🎫 Admission ticket: CNY 109
📍 Location: Gaozhai Village, Xing’an Town; about 100 km from downtown Guilin

Recommendation: ★★★★★
Recommended Visiting Time: about 1-2 day

☀️ What Makes it Magical: The mountain path leading to Laozhai Hill is said to have been constructed by a Japanese tourist. During a chance visit to Laozhai Hill in 1996, he was captivated by the breathtaking scenery and decided to stay in Xingping. With the approval of the Xingping town government, he voluntarily built a mountain trail with over a thousand stone steps.

Two pavilions were erected along the path and at the mountaintop—named Pingting (Peace Pavilion) in the mountains and Youhao Ting (Friendship Pavilion) at the summit. He later settled in Xingping and operated a hotel near Laozhai Hill. Thanks to him, Xingping transformed from an unknown town into a somewhat renowned tourist destination.

📸 What to Visit: Laozhai Hill has an elevation of over 300 meters, and despite not being very high, it features more than 1,100 steep steps. Reaching the summit, visitors will find the Friendship Pavilion, offering a stunning panoramic view. Standing at this high point and looking into the distance, one is awestruck by the gorgeous landscapes on both sides of the Li River.

The chaotic rock pile near the Friendship Pavilion is the best vantage point, allowing a distant view of numerous towering peaks while the Li River gracefully curves at the foot of the mountain. Tour boats navigate the river, surrounded by captivating mountain ranges in the distance.

🔥 Insider Tip: Many tourists are initially daunted by the rugged and uneven terrain of the Laozhai Hill path, especially during rainy weather when the trail becomes slippery. Visitors should prioritize safety, considering there are no lights on the mountain. After witnessing the sunset, it is advisable to descend before darkness falls.

🎫 Admission ticket: free
📍 Location: Xingping Village,Yangshuo Town; about 66 kilometers from downtown Guilin

In wrapping up our journey through Guilin’s 10 best mountains, it’s clear – this place is a natural wonderland. From Elephant Trunk Hill to Laozhai Hill, each spot is a visual delight. Guilin’s mountains offer more than just scenery; they’re tales of beauty etched in the landscape. Whether you’re into city views, river serenity, or rural charm, Guilin’s got it all. These peaks aren’t just sights; they’re stories waiting for you to explore and cherish. Guilin’s mountains truly make for an unforgettable adventure!

China Travel Planning Guide&FAQ

🎫Do I need a visa for China?

Yes. Most visitors to China will need a visa to enter the country. The type of visa you need will depend on the purpose and duration of your trip, as well as your nationality. If you are a resident of the US, you must apply for a Chinese visa at the Consular Office in the country. On the other hand, inhabitants of countries like Japan, Canada, and the UK can request a visa through the Chinese Visa Application Service Center.

🤔Why is it necessary to install a VPN in China?

In China, the government has strict regulations on internet access, leading to the blocking of popular websites and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Google, and YouTube. To access these sites, a VPN is suggested as a means of bypassing the restrictions. It is important to choose a reputable VPN provider and use caution while doing so. ExpressVPN has been historically deemed the most reliable VPN for this purpose, despite being heavily targeted by China’s censors. Nevertheless, it is still a widely preferred option owing to its ease of installation and user-friendliness.

📲Is it necessary to have a Chinese SIM card while in China?

Yes. It is crucial to acknowledge that accessing the internet in China may pose limitations due to certain websites being prohibited or filtered. To ensure uninterrupted connectivity while staying in China, purchasing a local SIM card is advisable. For optimum results, acquiring SIM cards from either China Unicom or China Mobile is recommended. While China Mobile has the most comprehensive coverage in China and is a market leader, China Unicom is more compatible with foreign phones, enabling 3G and 4G services. Or you can purchase a SIM card online.

🔮Should I buy China travel insurance?

Yes. Although China is generally a safe country for travel, it is still possible to encounter accidents or other unexpected occurrences. Therefore, obtaining travel insurance can provide a sense of security and financial protection. In my research, I have found that World Nomads is a reputable travel insurance provider that covers a wide range of activities and is recommended for the average traveler. Nevertheless, I advise you to compare insurance quotes from various providers before making a decision.

🚙Can you rent a car in China?

Unfeasible. Obtaining a Chinese driver’s license to rent a car and self-drive may seem like an option, but it is not a practical choice for most foreigners. Therefore, many prefer to opt for a driver or public transportation when navigating China, as it proves to be more convenient.

✈️What’s the best site to purchase flight tickets for China?

I suggest using Trip for affordable flights to China. As a China-based company, they often offer lower prices compared to foreign companies. Additionally, they offer English-speaking phone support in case of any issues.

🏡What is the best way to book hotels in China?

Not only does Trip offer a wider range of flight options, but it also provides a greater selection of hotels to choose from. Moreover, Agoda is a reliable resource for hotels throughout Asia.

🎒What do I pack for China?

Travel adapter and converter: China uses a different electrical system than many other countries, so it’s important to bring a travel adapter and converter if you plan to use electronic devices such as phones, cameras, and laptops.  
Sunscreen: The UV index in China can be high, particularly during the summer months, and prolonged exposure to the sun without protection can cause skin damage and increase the risk of skin cancer.
Deodorant: It should be noted that finding deodorant in China may not be a simple task.

📚Can a guidebook for traveling to China be useful?

Yes. If you’re planning to travel to China for the first time, a travel guidebook can be a valuable resource, and Lonely Planet is one of the most reputable guides available globally. Its comprehensive itineraries and recommendations take into account your personal preferences and can save you both time and money. The insider tips are also extremely helpful in navigating China’s unique cultural landscape like a local.

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