Listed as one of the top 10 things-to-do in China, the River Li Cruise, should feature on your China travel itinerary. The cruise lives up to the hype created by travel portals and the local tourism department. The magnificent Karst mountains closing in on the Li River – as you cruise by – is an experience you’d find it hard to forget. In the months of April and May, during the time we visited, the mountains are misty with shadows of parallel running peaks. The weather is reasonably cool with an occasional bit of sun.

River Li Cruise – Chinahighlights.com

We made our reservations for a 4 hour cruise – from Guilin to Yangshuo – along with a drop back. The price is inclusive of a traditional Chinese meal. Guilin Airport has a help desk that allows you to make reservations. However, it’s cheaper to make a reservation at your hostel or hotel. Bamboo rafting is a more rustic and private way to explore the river. Many travellers choose to stay back in Yangshou – to experience rural China.

Our bus was late and finally picked us after 8 am. We reached the pier at around 9 am. It’s best to travel light as you will have to leave your baggage on the lower deck of the cruise. Chaos is inevitable and tour guides often squabble to get their tour groups the best seats. When you look out of the window – you realise it’s worth it.

After 15 odd minutes – it’s possible to stand on the open deck of the cruise. It’s hard to explain the feeling of viewing jagged mountains cut across grey skies. It’s nature at its best. After all those towering skyscrapers in Shanghai – we truly enjoyed every bit of green we saw.

The mountains resemble shapes of different everyday objects or animals. The cruise is divided into different such viewing points. In all honesty, I found it hard to recognise these shapes. Maybe, it was our seventh day of travel and my mind had given up. But, if you have a look at the pictures – you’d understand what I mean.

The Karst mountains are also home to a wide variety of birds. Mostly perched near the foothills of the mountains – it takes careful observation to spot them. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a water buffalo along the banks of the river. Around lunch – most of us headed back to the upper deck. A buffet of Chinese delicacies were on offer.


The cruise ends at 2:00 pm at Yangshou. We had a couple of hours before our bus dropped us back to Guilin.

Posted by:twobrownfeet

Writer-Photographer Duo. Now in Seoul.

11 replies on “Along the River Li

  1. What a fascinating adventure – gosh, the image of Karst mountains is fascinating!

    Thanks so much for the map too, I have no idea the cruise is only taking for 4 hours, I thought I have to stay over for a night on the boat when cruising the river Li 🙂

    1. Thanks Indah! It was an amazing experience. Though I wish the snaps had come better. During this period, it’s misty. And magical! 🙂
      I wasn’t able to get the map that actually shows the different points of interest on the way. But, this gives a rough idea what you can do. You need a week in Guilin. There is way too much to do. There are also cruises on which you can spend the night. Or stay at Yangshuo.

  2. Of all my travels, my trip to Guilin will forever be etched in my mind. I travelled along the River Li and wanted the boat journey to go on forever. Every scenery that opened out from the winter mist was a moment of discovery and wonder. Thanks for letting me relive those memories through your beautiful photos.

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