Armchair Travel – The Karst Mountains of Yangshuo, China

Come on a virtual trip from your lounge room! While most of us are stuck at home and unable to travel, I thought I would put together visual trips of some faraway places. This way we can all participate in some photography escapism and remind ourselves of how big and diverse this world really is. And who knows?  You may just get some inspiration for a future trip.

So sit back, relax and let me take you on a journey!



Yangshuo, near the Chinese city of Guilin was our last stop in China as part of our three week G Adventures tour, before we crossed into Hong Kong. I knew very little about the area before we arrived blurry eyed on a public bus. It was after our last (and longest) overnight train from Yichang. As the bus hurtled past rice fields we noticed these unusual looking mountains, cliffs and crags popping up. We would soon learn that the Yangshuo County is famous for these karst mountains.

We arrived into downtown Yangshuo, a cute little town, with the main street dating back to the 1400s. Unlike other areas of China we had recently been in, Yangshuo was much more tourist friendly, with an abundance of English signs and menus and a wider variety of cusine. It felt more similar to areas of Vietnam and Thailand than China.

After checking in to our hotel and grabbing some lunch, our afternoon activity was a boat ride down the Lei River, which surrounds the town of Yangshuo. By boat, I mean floating raft made out of PVC pipes! Four of us were loaded onto each boat and we motored down the river past the magestic mountains. Our guide pointed out this viewpoint that features on the 20 Yuan Chinese currency note.

The river was crowded with similar raft boats taking tourists down and up the narrow, shallow river. After about an hour of cruising we stopped at a little island, more like a sand bar. I’m not sure what the purpose was of stopping, maybe to give the drivers a rest? There was an option to have your photo taken with an old Chinese man with a cormorant chained to his yoke, for a fee of course. We opted out of that one. Across from us on the banks were little stalls set up, but we didn’t get the option to go over there and see what goods they were spruiking. Just another moment in China where we were just muddling along not exactly sure what we were doing!

The next day we headed off on an all day bicycle tour of the country side. 14 bicycles and 2 scooters later, we left town and soon began driving past rice paddies, ponds of lotus flowers and of course many, many karst mountains all around us.

We rode through some rice fields and then stopped for photos. Then we piled our boats onto a tractor, which would be taken 5 kilometres down the road. Perplexed, we queried – weren’t we riding?

Turns out we had a surprise booked for us, while our bikes were being driven away, we learned that we were near another section of the Lei River, and that we would have our own private rafts to punt us down the river!

It was the best ninety minutes, a highlight of the day. We were punted by guides while we sat in little deck chairs. Every now and then you would go down a little slide, lift your feet so they don’t get wet! I mentioned I was thirsty (it was so hot) and before you knew it our punter had summoned a lady in her her boat who sidled up to us and was selling drinks. Winning!

Eventually our scenic raft ride ended. We thanked our punter for his hard work and then it was time to get back on the bikes to our next stop, lunch!

After lunch we rode a short way down a main road to some caves that were located inside one of the Karst mountains. Inside was a whole bunch of limestone caverns, complete with stalagmites and stalactites lit up in all different colours.

Apparently the highlight of the cave system was getting to swim in a hot spring – correction, a mud spring? Is that even what you’d call it ? Irrelevant, it was pretty gross! The slimy tepid water was waist deep, not warm and comforting at all. If you tried to move around you just kept falling over. We did not enjoy the ‘swim’, but we did enjoy getting out and washing off all the mud in a boiling hot underground shower!

After our swim, and a snack (another pineapple shaped ice block for me) we rode back to town. We returned our bikes and headed out for our last night in Yangshuo.

The next morning, we wandered about, visiting the most scenic McDonalds, walking along the river and visiting a tea shop. We then had to say goodbye to Yangshuo – and China as we caught a train to Hong Kong.

I was so glad that this little region of China was my last stop! It was definitely a highlight of the whole three weeks. I definitely recommend putting it on your list!


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1 thought on “Armchair Travel – The Karst Mountains of Yangshuo, China”

  • Wow! This is a picture-postcard place. The Karst Mountains look so amazing that one has to start dreaming of visiting it. I am very happy to see and know about this place. Thanks a ton for bringing such a lovely place to my notice.

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