Discover the Beauty of China’s Li River on a Scenic Cruise

Learn about the local culture and history while relaxing on board

Lijiang or Lijiang is the name given to the source of the Gui River in northwest Guangxi, China. It is part of the Xijiang Water System in the Pearl River Basin. The 164-kilometre-long Li River flows from Xing’an County to Pingle County, with famous Li River cruises highlighting karst mountains and river attractions.

The Li River was recognized for its cultural value in 1982 when the State Council of China designated the Li River Clean Area as a place of great beauty and historical significance.

History of the Li River

The Li River originates in Mao’er Mountain in Xing’an County and flows south through Guilin, Yangshuo and Pingle. The Lijiang River joins the Lipu River and the Gongcheng River at Pingle, flows south into the Guijiang River, and empties into the Pearl River Xijiang at Wuzhou.

Drifting tourist boats depart from Yangshuo County on the Li River

The ancient Ling Canal connects the upper reaches of the Li River to the Xiang River, which flows north into the Yangtze River; in the past, it made the Li and Gui Rivers extremely important waterways linking the Yangtze River Basin and the Pearl River Delta a part of.

The Li and Kwai rivers stretch for 439 kilometers (273 miles) and are surrounded by green hills. Eel fishing is often associated with Lijiang (see Bird Intelligence). The 4,444 Li River cruises from Guilin to Yangshuo are famous and attract millions of tourists every year.

The Li River
The Li River

Geology the Li River cruises

The Li River and its tributaries drain the region from Guilin to Yangshuo, dropping from 141 meters in Guilin to 103 meters in Yangshuo. The average flow rate through Guilin is 215 cubic meters per second, and alluvium deposits consisting of well-sorted gravels overlaid by silty sand produce floodplains and terraces throughout its course.

However, the Guilin Basin’s 2,600 m of Devonian and Carboniferous limestones and karst topography provide the area with striking scenery. Fengcong and Fenglin karst are two separate forms of karst that formed during the last 10-20 million years throughout the Cenozoic period.

Fengcong karst, which dominates the Li River’s course, is characterized as a collection of limestone hills with a shared limestone foundation and deep depressions or lines between the summits and is also known as peak cluster depression karst. This terrain contains hundreds of caverns, with 23 having passageways longer than -1 km in the Li River canyon. The Guanyan Cave System stretches from Caoping to Nanxu and is the longest.

Fenglin dominates the places south of Guilin and is defined as solitary limestone hills separated by a flat limestone surface often covered by loose sediments and is frequently referred to as a peak forest plain. The towering karst near Yangshuo is the most well-known feeling.

These towers are made of solid and massive limestone with nearly vertical sides and base diameters less than 1.5 times their height. Tower heights in the center basin range from 30 to 80 meters but can reach 300 meters near the Fengcong. Fenglin evolved from Fengcong by slow and persistent tectonic uplift related to the Himalayan orogenic zone and much slower tower erosion.

Notable features of the Li River cruise
Notable features of the Li River cruise

Notable features of the Li River cruise

  • Reed Flute Cave is a limestone cave rich in stalactites, stalagmites, stalactite-stalagmites, rocky curtains, and cave corals.
  • Seven-Star Park is Guilin’s largest park.
  • Mountain of Glorious Colors: a mountain made up of numerous layers of variously colored rocks.
  • Elephant-Trunk Hill is a hill that resembles a massive elephant sucking water with its trunk. It represents the city of Guilin.
  • Lingqu Canal: dug in 214 BC, it is one of ancient China’s three major water conservation projects and the world’s oldest extant canal.
  • Nanxi Park, Duxiu Peak, the Giant Banyan, the Taohua River, and the Huashan-Lijiang National Folklore Park are among the other attractions.

The Look at the Around the Li River

There are several sights along the Li River; the most convenient way to explore them is to take a boat. When travelling the Li, you may relax on the boat deck and take in the gorgeous scenery.

Li River excursions are often longer than 40 miles (64 kilometers). The voyage typically lasts four to five hours and is divided into three portions; however, different cruise companies may start at somewhat different spots along the conventional itinerary.

If you decide to take a Li River cruise, these are some of the attractions you can expect on each part of the journey:

First Section: Guilin to Ox Gorge
First Section: Guilin to Ox Gorge

First Section: Guilin to Ox Gorge

  • Elephant Trunk Hill (Xang b she): Noted for its resemblance to a real elephant trunk, this karst mountain provides an excellent photo opportunity when cruising along the Li River.
  • Daxu Ancient City (dà x g zhèn): On the east bank of the Li River, you’ll come upon the historic settlement of Daxu. Daxu, which was founded almost 2,000 years ago, was one of the most significant market towns in the region during the Ming Dynasty. Most of the town’s original old architecture has been preserved.

Second Section: Ox Gorge to Water-Dropping Village

  • The Nine Horse Fresco Hill (ji m huà sun): This enormous stone rock, also known as Mural Hill or The Painted Hill of Nine Horses, may be seen from the decks of passing boats on the Li River.
  • Yellow Cloth Shoal (huáng bù tn): Situated near Xingping Town, the panorama around the Yellow Cloth Shoal is without a doubt the most famous and possibly the most stunning of all the breath-taking vistas the Li River has to offer.
Third Section: Water-Dropping Village to Yangshuo
Third Section: Water-Dropping Village to Yangshuo

Third Section: Water-Dropping Village to Yangshuo

  • Xingping Ancient Town (xng png g zhèn): The ancient town of Xingping is home to several well-preserved Ming and Qing-era monuments, including antique residences, traditional temples, and Guilin’s oldest opera stage.
  • Yangshuo (yáng shu): Li River cruises terminate in Yangshuo, a picturesque town with a variety of activities for visitors, including walking down lively West Street, riding through the surrounding countryside, and visiting adjacent caves.

Best time of year to visit Li River

The best time of year to visit Li River is early autumn, from September to October. This is thanks to Guilin’s beautiful autumn weather, which is usually cool, dry and sunny. Although cruises are also available in late fall, cruises are sometimes interrupted when the water is too low to navigate.

Hotels near Li River

  • The Bamboo Leaf Yangshuo
  • Yangshuo Village Retreat
  • Yangshuo Dongling Resort
  • Yangshuo Mountain Top Retreat
  • CTN Garden Hotel
  • No.1 Yard Hotel Yangshuo
  • Yangshuo Sugarhouse
  • Mangguo Yishu
  • Yangshuo Jora Hotel
  • Chengdong Holiday Hotel
Hotels near Li River
Hotels near Li River

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