Yangshuo Adventure Travel (Part 1)
This part of China is a walking wonderland and hikes can be as relaxed or strenuous as you like. There’s nothing to stop you from just heading out into the fields until you feel like turning back, as there are great views from the paddies. However, if you need more of a goal or want to get a sense of scale, hike up one of the ominous-looking outcrops.
♥♥ Moon Hill (90 min up and down)
This huge limestone peak with a moon-shaped hole eroded through its middle makes for a short, steepand rewarding ascent. You can take a bus or taxi from Yangshuo, but it’s only half an hour by bicycle longthe main road.
On arrival you’ll have to buy a ticket and, as on so many walks in China, you may be accompanied by a farmer/vendor trying to sell you drinks, trinkets or postcards.
Unless you want them to lead you all the way to the top (which they will happily and helpfully do, providing you buy something), make it very clear that you don’t want anything, or buy a drink at the bottom and save them the effort.
Yanshuo Moon Hill
Or if you want to see a bit more of rural life after your climb, you could accompany one of them to their home for a meal (around ¥20). The food is generally excellent and spending time at a local farm gives real insight into the lives of the people.
Mama Moon is a friendly farmer guide found at the base of the hill who can arrange this for you – she is something of a local celebrity and has appeared on television and in the newspapers! If you don’t want to trek off to a village there’s also a café at the bottom of the hill, which is a good spot to enjoy a well-earned beer after the climb.
The trail to the top is easy to follow, but divides quite soon after you start to ascend – both trails head to
the top but the one on the right is shorter. Half an hour to an hour later, you’ll emerge at the bottom of the moon from where there are good views.
But, for the full panorama, follow the trail through the moon and look for a small path leading off to the left. This track can be muddy and slippery and there are some steep drops, so don’t attempt it if you don’t have the energy or are worried by heights. That said, if you continue, 15 minutes later you’ll find yourself in a Chinese poem, with the river often glimmering in the sunlight, meandering its way through the patchwork of paddies, all of it dwarfed by the limestone towers stretching as far as the eye can see in every direction.
This little excursion ties in well with a swim or a snack at the Mountain Retreat, a mile or so back toward Yangshuo, on a small track signposted from a bridge over the river.
♥♥ Yangdi to Xingping(5-6 hrs)
This is a beautiful hike that takes in some of the Li River’s finest karst scenery. The riverside trail is mostly flat, but it’s a long hike and there are some beautiful spots along the way so it’s worth taking a picnic with you to enjoy en-route. Although you’ll find a few villages along the way, make sure you stock up with water, particularly in summer.
To begin the hike you’ll need to take a local bus to Yangdi, which takes around an hour. At Yangdi you’ll need to buy a Li River entrance ticket, which costs ¥16, and then take a boat across the river where the southward trail begins.
You’ll need to cross the river another couple of times on the route down, once at Wave Stone Hill and then again when you reach Nine Horses Hill a little before Xingping. The first two crossings are included in the ticket price but the last one costs ¥4. At Xingping you could stop for a drink or a snack at one of the cafés near the docks before taking another hour-long local bus back to Yangshuo.
In spite of the other-worldly tower karst peaks of the region, the area around Yangshuo actually offers quite flat terrain and a maze of cart tracks, which are ideal, if bumpy, for explorations by bicycle.
As with walking, you can just head out into the fields and be prepared to get lost, but for guaranteed picture-postcard moments and closer cultural interaction, a local guide is a good idea. Such guides normally speak basic English, can help you to arrange bicycle rental and will be able to take you toQing Dynasty villages, ancient bridges and to eat in farmer’s houses, along with the more easily found caves and beauty spots.
The real advantage of these guides lies in their ability to help you get away from it all. As soon as cycle route becomes established, postcard vendors and more tourists find their way there. Local guides are continually developing new “secret” routes to stay ahead of the pack and the contact you have with locals along the way will be more genuine and facilitated by translation.
Such guides congregate at the junction of West Street and Pantao Lu and generally charge around ¥30 per person for a half-day excursion. For a cut above the average, Rose Mo (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a qualified guide with excellent English who also runs a cooking school out at Gaotian village near Moon Hill. Jessie Lu (email@example.com) is another great guide with excellent English who can help you arrange almost any kind of trip; she can be found at either Seventh Heaven or Buffalo Bar.
If you’d rather enjoy the scenery by yourself, there are a variety of reasonably easy trails to follow and if you choose to come in winter, you should have these all to yourself. Bike Asia is another good source of information on local routes and has the best rental bikes in town. You can also combine bike rides and bamboo rafting trips.
♥♥♥ Moon Hill (2-hr circuit)
On the main road, the journey to Moon Hill is only 20 to 30 minutes by bike, and some people choose to take this easy option since the climb on foot is fairly strenuous in itself. However, the back route is far more rewarding and takes around an hour.
Biking out of Yangshuo : Turn left at the end of West Street onto Pantao Lu and continue up the hill, down the other side past a Y-intersection. After a few minutes you’ll reach a large traffic circle. Turn left here and already you’re leaving the hubbub behind.
As the narrow road undulates, you’ll pass rice paddies and duck ponds, wizened old men in Mao jackets and tractor rickshaws full of faces. After 15 minutes you’ll cross a bridge and then, just before Aishan village, you’ll see a small road leading off to your right along the river. Turn down this road and soon you’ll come to a weir that you can walk down to.
In the foreground you may see water buffalos wallowing on the water’s edge, with phoenix tail bamboo giving way to the mighty oddities of the peaks themselves – it’s no wonder this is the subject of many a postcard. Back on your bicycle, the track winds its way through the paddies, which are beautiful at any time of year, whether burned yellow by the summer sun or a waterlogged mirror image of the grand scenery in spring.
Less than half an hour later, you should find yourself back on to the main road to Moon Hill and Gaotian. Turn left and after 10 minutes you’ll see the entrance to Moon Hill on your right.
To get back, head left out of Moon Hill and follow the main road all the way back to the traffic circle where you first deviated from it on the way out.Yangshuo is straight over.
♥♥ Puyi (2-hr round-trip)
Follow the instructions for the Moon Hill bike ride out of Yangshuo as far as Aishan village, but don’t turn off the road. Instead, continue along this slightly hilly road for another 45 minutes to the tiny market settlement of Puyi on the river and just out from the tower karst peaks.
You’ll see all manner of things for sale, from fruits and vegetables to dogs and cats (not the pet variety…) and traditional medicines. Market days here are those ending with 3, 6 and 9. A few years ago it was possible to take a boat here and back from Yangshuo, but the local government has put a stop to this, although inquiries by the river might yield a result if you’re lucky.
♥♥♥ Fuli(3-4-hr circuit)
This charming old market town lies just seven miles south of Yangshuo on the Li River. As with Puyi, in the past you could take small boats down here from Yangshuo, but now, while you can take a boat here, you can’t get off. Check with local agents to see if this has changed, but if not you have a choice of bus, taxi or cycling, the latter offering an exciting jaunt through the countryside.
Market days here are those ending with 2, 5 and 8. You can cycle the following route in either direction, though it’s preferable to take the main road there and the country tracks back, as you may have little energy left for the market itself if you do the reverse.
Note that if it’s been raining heavily over the past few days the tracks can become a muddy impasse and you’re better taking a bus or taxi or cycling the road both ways.
Out of Yangshuo. Again, starting from West Street, turn left onto Pantao Lu, up the hill, down the other side and then immediately as the road levels bear left onto Guanlian Lu toward a huge bridge in the distance. Go over the bridge, which gives good views of Yangshuo, and continue along the road for around 30 minutes.
While the scenery is still unquestionably beautiful, you’ll have to pass through quite a long tunnel and avoid the large trucks and buses that ply the route (it’s better to get this part of the ride over quickly – the treasure lies at the other end and on the return leg). Fuli is the second settlement of any size you’ll see along the road and it extends from the road down to the river.
On market days you’ll know you’ve arrived by the hordes of locals carting their wares to and from the market. The market is best visited in the morning, which sees most of the action before it gets too hot. It’s divided into a covered section nearest the road and open-air stalls beyond. Not a place for the fainthearted, Fuli market is the archetypal south Chinese market.
Hot, busy and packed with people and produce of every conceivable variety, it can be disarming at first, so mentally prepare yourself, lock your bike and be on the lookout for pickpockets. Carry your valuables in front of you and keep your money in your front pockets. People are friendly and helpful, however, all the more so if you buy something from their stall!
There’s a huge variety of enormous and colorful fruits and vegetables, fly-infested meat, chicks, dogs, cats and snakes for the eating, along with electronics, clothes, local tobacco, the cheapest (and possibly the worst) haircuts you’ll ever have, traditional healers using bamboo suction cups, fortune tellers, and hundreds of eager shoppers.
The market still performs an important social function in such places – it’s a gathering place and maybe the only occasion old friends see one another. This is evident in the crammed teahouses, canteens and open-air pool halls that skirt the market.
The Village. Once you’ve seen enough of the market you can follow the track that runs from the open-air end of the market through tiny flagstoned alleys passing Qing Dynasty structures and temples, down to the river. As an antithesis to the bustle of the market, the Three Sisters Café makes a great place to unwind over a drink and some food before the strenuous, but stunning, journey back.
There are also a few arts and crafts stores here where you can watch artists painting and traditional paper umbrellas being made.
Back to Yangshuo. From the café you need to maneuver your bicycle onto a local ferry across the river for the five-minute journey to the other side. Back on land ride up the hill away from the dock to a trail that leads through a village to the open country. At the end of the village cross over the basketball court and soon you’ll join a wider track running along a raised embankment between the paddies.
Follow this for a few miles until it abruptly stops and you’re faced with a choice of three smaller paths – take the middle one up the hill. It soon widens.
Bear right at a Y-junction and then right again at a T-junction, after which you’ll enter a village where there’s a small shop selling much-needed cold drinks. Just beyond the shop you’ll meet the river – magnificently ensnared by the giant peaks.
The grit track runs along the river for a little over a mile and then moves inland and into the villages. The track is pretty clear – turn left at the only notable junctions, one in the village and the other at the end of the settlement, which is easily identifiable by the large stone tablet facing you when you reach it. From here it’s only 10 or 15 minutes until you’ll arrive beneath the bridge you crossed on the way out. Turn right onto the main road and you’ll be back in Yangshuo.
See also Climbing, Caving, Water Sports, Ballooning
Yangshuo travel guide
Getting there & around,
Yangshuo cultural experiences
Maps of Yangshuo
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