Apart from breath-taking scenery and funny shaped mountains, I didn’t really know what to expect from the Li River boat cruise we’d booked. Like a proper history nerd, I’d read up about all the sites we visited in Beijing and Xi’an, but I’d not really prepared for this part of our trip.
I was starting to feel a bit ‘citied out’ by this stage in our China vacation, so a leisurely river cruise was just what I needed to relax.
Li River Boat Cruise Departure Points
It’s a 45 minute drive from Guilin to Zhujiang Pier, the departure point for the river cruises. Expect an early start as cruise boats start to depart from 9 am. There are simply masses of them so it’s good to be there extra early if you’ve not pre-booked.
Prepare to ‘run the gauntlet’ of the usual touristy tat shops on the walk from the coach park to the dock. As you’ll expect, prices here are higher than in Guilin. But if you’ve forgotten to bring a sun hat or fruit for the journey, it’s good to stock up.
When we arrived, there were more 50 cruise boats moored up, ready for the day and the dock area was heaving with people. It’s all very well organised though with an efficient booking system and you’ll have allocated seats on the boats.
Li river boat cruises typically last 4-5 hours as you gently wend your way from Guilin to Yangshuo. You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the picturesque karst landscape, described by National Geographic as ‘One of the world’s Top 10 Watery Wonders’ by National Geographic.
What The Boats Are Like
With large, comfortable seats and wide picture windows, you’ll have a great view of the river from the cruise boat seating area. There ares also outside deck areas to enjoy, which are perfect for taking stunning photos.
While there are 3 star and 4 star cruises available, most Westerners are offered the 3 star cruises. Local tour companies vie to offer the most competitive prices! 4 star cruises offer a buffet lunch, whilst 3 star ones offer a pretty basic brown bag sandwich and drink option.
Don’t forget to take loo paper/wipes with you! It’s in very short supply on board. After a 5 hour cruise, there’s none left…
Some of the sights you’ll see on the trip include:
- The Nine Horse Fresco Hill (see if you can spot all 9 of the ‘horses)
- Yellow Cloth Shoal (natural markings in the rock that look like a large yellow fish)
- 20 Yuan Bill Hill (the view that inspired the artwork on the 20 Yuan note)
- Xingping Town
I hope this inspires you to visit Guilin and try a Li river cruise. Let me know in the comments if you’ve been or are planning to go.
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