During the planning of our China itinerary, my boyfriend and I weren’t always agreeing on everything. Luckily, there was one thing we did agree on: we were definitely going to Yangshuo. Not because it is such a great city to visit, but because of the beautiful limestone karst mountains surrounding it. The Yangshuo karst mountains are the face of the 20 Yuan banknote and one of the most well-known sights of China. We booked an awesome tour in which we explored the mountains by bike, on foot, and even by bamboo raft!
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Biking around the unearthly Yangshuo karst mountains
Yangshuo is actually perfect for Dutchies like me because the best way to explore this landscape is by bike. Under the guidance of a local guide (a lovely lady named Lilly), we took a couple of bikes and cruised around for the day. The first part of the route took us through Yangshuo itself. Not a particularly pretty part, but I did see some beautiful wall paintings. Soon the route kept on getting better and better. We left the city behind and cycled deeper into the rice fields. I went crazy when I saw my first karst mountain. It was so huge, green and weird! The shape is almost unearthly, I have never seen anything like it.
Sailing along the Yulong river on a bamboo raft
After a while, we traded our bikes for a bamboo raft. Lilly had arranged this for us. A lot of tourists take a ride on a raft and most of them do this on the busy Li River. Our raft crossed the Yulong river. Still touristy, but a little bit quieter. Our raft came with a singing boatman who thought he was doing us a favor by singing (he was not). Luckily, the scenery was really beautiful and we enjoyed the mountains and water buffalos on the riverside. To my disappointment, the boat ride came with a bit of commerce like the many photo stops along the way and the beer sale on the raft. Just learn to ignore this and enjoy the amazing landscape.
Climbing the steps to the top of Moon Hill
Time to get a closer look at those karst mountains. Lilly took us to the entrance of Moon Hill. She pointed to the top and said that from there we had a beautiful view of the mountains, rivers, and villages. What she didn’t tell us is that we had to climb 1,251 steps with the burning sun in our necks. Covered in sweat and out of breath I arrived at the top. The woman selling water took one look at my head and quickly used her waver to cool me off. ‘So hot, so hot!’ I let it happen, while my boyfriend found it all hilarious. Luckily the climb was worth it because the view was absolutely breathtaking. Together with a small group of Chinese teenagers, we were the only two westerners at the top. So, of course, the teenagers seized this not-so-charming moment to take a selfie with us.
Bonus: having lunch with the locals
While we conquered Moon Hill, our guide Lilly had gone home to prepare us a lunch. She had invited us to her home to eat a local meal. Of course, we were happy to come. Unfortunately, Lily had missed or didn’t understand the concept of being a vegetarian. She had put tiny pieces of meat through the dishes. Oh well, I ate my way around it. After all, we were guests in her home. Still, it was the perfect ending for a perfect day.
Exploring Yangshuo with a tour
I can highly recommend exploring the Yangshuo area with a guided tour. Click here to book a classic Yangshuo bike & raft tour. It is also possible to rent a bicycle in the center of Yangshuo and organize your own little tour. There are plenty of bicycle rental places. Expect to pay around 20 – 30 CNY for a city bike and around 50 CNY for a mountain bike.
Would you want to visit Yangshuo?
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