Scenic Beauty: Guilin, China (WITH VIDEO)

Guilin, China, World Heritage Site, treasure for all to witness.

For as long as people can remember, Guilin has always been celebrated for it’s scenic beauty. It is a true wonder and is an official UNESCO World Heritage Site. This city is surrounded by an amazing topography that never ceases to mesmerize those who come to see. Whether it’s people from all over China or people from all around the world, Guilin will always be known as a treasure of beauty.

Lai-Kuen Tang/

Once you see it, it’s etched in your mind for a lifetime. Guilin is the emblematic site of natural Chinese beauty. For centuries, foreigners who have traveled there praised it’s undescribable scenery. Guilin is a true giant in the world of scenic beauty.

Typical karst topography of Yangshuo county, in Guilin
Photo source @ instagram: jamesb0926

Guilin is a city of approximately 5 million inhabitants which, for China, is not particularly big. It is, however, one of the top ten tourist destinations in the country. While some visitors arrive by plane, I strongly recommend taking the world famous high speed train traveling at 350 KM/H to go there as well as most destinations, for it is comfortable and you will get to see the evolution of the scenery as the kilometers whiz by. As soon as you approach Guilin’s vicinity, you will start seeing the majestic karst pillars emerge from the earth’s surface. A visual whisper of what is to come.Another visual marker for the region definitely is the Sweet Osmanthus trees that abound all around. Those trees give their name to the city: Forest of Sweet Osmanthus.

Li river. Photo source @ instagram: jamesb0926

One of the key elements to the settlement of the area is the Li river. There have been established people on it’s banks ever since 300-200 BC. The river, therefore, remains central to the life in Guilin and it’s surroundings. It is on this river that most visitors choose to navigate on for a majestic view of the natural beauty of the land. Upon arrival in the Guilin city center, one can already witness the very special topography as many mounts surround it, and some karst peaks rise up in the middle of the city and can be visited. Still, the vast majority of tourists will go to Yangshuo county, to get a more complete perception of this world famous site. Outside the city center, there are many attractions, one of the most famous is the Reed Flute caves. These caves have had human presence since at least 792 AD, as some cave writings attest to. They are very large, containing lakes and spectacular geological features.

Cruising along the Li river. Photo source @ Instagram: jamesb0926

The main reason why Guilin is world famous is obviously it’s topography. This is why the best way to appreciate it is to go from Guilin center to Yangshuo county by boat along the Li river that connects the two locations. There are many different cruises offered, ranging from deluxe to cheaper options. For those not having sufficient time to spend an entire day on a cruise, sometimes overnight, it is possible to take a taxi to a scenic spot between the two points, for a short boat ride on the Li river amongst the sharp karst peaks. You may simply ask your hotel’s concierge, and they will gladly book a cruise or a driver for you. Be sure to not forget to make time for the famous outdoor performance on the Li river that happens almost every night. It is a great way to appreciate some of the ethnic uniqueness of this city.

Guilin is, like most places in China, mostly inhabited by Han people. There are also other ethnic minorities, that have lived there for centuries, most notably the Zhuang and Yao. It is while cruising down the Li river that one can imagine the daily realities that local people evolve in: mountainous terrain and living in symbiosis with the bodies of water.

Li river. Photo source @ instagram: jamesb0926

Making an effort to forget the noise made by your boat’s motor, it is time for silent contemplation. Do not take too many pictures, simply let yourself be immersed in the surrounding splendor. Peaks rounded by the work of the centuries of erosion, current wiggling through the forests of sweet osmanthus, this is a world much unlike most others on the planet. What a majestic sight to behold, mountains stand like a temple dedicated to the wondrous nature found in this world heritage site.

Once in Yangshuo don’t be surprised to find a very tourist oriented place. Many vendors will try to sell you all sorts of trinkets. Be prepared to bargain by offering a fraction of the demanded price, or simply to refuse. Nevertheless, Yangshuo is mesmerizing, quaintly nestled within it’s world famous karst topography. The county is where some of the most unique hotels and inns can be found, such as the Banyan Tree Yangshuo, an amazing hotel surrounded by beauty both within it’s walls as well as outside. In order to get a feel of the proximity with the environment, it is a good idea to stay overnight Yangshuo, quite a bit smaller and less busy than Guilin city center.

Guilin has been celebrated in ancient texts, sung in songs and praised by poets. Merely seing it on a picture already is quite pleasant, but going there makes one appreciate the unusual Splendors that nature harbors. The human factor is inseparable from the life of Guilin. This is why it is recommended to go see the show in Yangshuo, performed outdoors every evening, right on the Li river itself. There, you will see many interventions by the traditional ethnicities that have dwelled there for generations. It offers a glimpse into the daily life that slowly went by for such a long time. You will see dances, hear classic songs sung by the people of the land. A true ode to the emblematic nature of Guilin.

Photo source @ instagram: jamesb0926

Whether you will go there or not in the future, Guilin is rightly named a world heritage site by UNESCO. It is a pride for China, as it’s beauty radiates worldwide. Moreover, the place known as Forest of Sweet Osmanthus has a place in every human being’s imaginary world, as a reference point as to what true Splendor can look like on planet earth. Guilin has been appreciated by countless previous generations who either went there or merely heard about it and saw it’s magnificence transposed in a painting. Thanks to the many conservation efforts that have been deployed to keep this jewel pristine, it shall be enjoyed for countless future generations much like a pilgrimage, to a high place of scenic beauty.

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