- In simplified Chinese: 桂林
- In pinyin: Guìlín
Guilin is considered by many major websites to be the 4th best city in China to visit (behind Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi’an) and has been called by poets and emperors one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Its name translates to “Sweet Osmanthus” – also known as sweet olive or tea olive – as it is the dominant species among a diverse plant life.
Guilin is located in the Guangxi autonomous region in the southern part of China, and boasts a population of 850,000. Of roughly a dozen small ethnic groups that live there, the Zhuang is the most populous.
Guilin is generally mild with four distinctive seasons – a sunny spring, foggy and rainy summer, pleasant autumn, drizzly and cool winter. Most of the rain falls in early summer with the highest precipitation in May and June, and the average temperatures are 46° F (8°C) and 82° F (28°C) in the coldest and warmest months respectively. The ideal time to visit is during April, September, and October.
- Railway– Guilin has two main rail stations: Guilin Railway Station (South Station) and North Railway Station (North Station). The North Station is in the suburbs and is much less convenient and more difficult to get to, while at the South Station there are more trains connecting to more places, including the Guiyang-Guilin-Guangzhou High Speed Railway.
- Air – Guilin Liangjiang International Airport is 17.4 miles / 28k from city center and hosts about 50 airlines connecting to domestic and close international airports. The airport shuttle runs between the airport and the Civil Aviation Mansion at No.18 Shanghai Road (20rmb), and from city center, it runs every 30 minutes between 6:30 – 20:00. A taxi from the downtown center will cost about 80rmb.
- Bus– There are three stations in Guilin: the Chief Bus Station (a 10 minute walk from South Station with most busses going to surrounding cities coming here), the Chengnan Bus Station, and the Beimen Bus Station. At the Chief Bus Station, there are long-distance busses going to Yangshuo departing every 15-20 minutes between 7am and 6pm for 14rmb.
- Bike– you can usually rent a bike for 15rmb per day to get around, as the city is so compact.
- Li River – best views in the city are from the river. You can hike along the bank of the river, take a river cruise, or ride on a bamboo raft – the hiking being the cheapest but most limited option, the cruise having better facilities and a longer distance covered, and the rafting being more private and flexible but with a shorter distance covered
- Karsts of Guilin – depending on the time of day and weather, the topography can appear different, human-like as it seems to change through the day; made of limestone, believed certain areas had been submerged completely under ocean
- Elephant Trunk Hill – located on the Li River in the south-central area of Guilin, this rock formation resembling an elephant drinking from the river has become a symbol of Guilin and the surrounding Karst landscape. There are two caves here, the Water Moon Cave with the famous carved poem by Lu You and the Elephant Eye Cave, as well as the Ming Dynasty Puxian pagoda at the top of the hill.
- Yangshou – a two-hour bus ride to this city includes activities such as rock climbing, cooking lessons, kayaking and tai chi.
- Longshen Rice Terrace – about 2.5 hours drive north of Guilin, the terraced rice fields are a site not to be missed in Guilin. There are in fact several different rice fields, including the first and most developed and touristic Ping’an Zhuang Terraced Fields and the more traditional Longji Ancient Zhuang Village. This will involve some amount of hiking up steeper hillsides.
Guilin cuisine is known for its delicate use of spices and sweetness and its use of plants and animals that are not typically eaten in the West.
- Yangshuo Beer Fish – 阳朔啤酒鱼– fish from the Li River cooked in a local beer with vegetables; often you will find the fish served whole.
- Gingko Stewed with Old Duck – 白果炖全集– one of the most famous dishes in Guilin and a common meal for locals. Gingko is also a famous Chinese medicine.
- Guilin rice noodles – 米饭– this is the most popular local snack and can be enjoyed for any meal. There are several variations, considering you can add more toppings and spices yourself in most places. However the most common is the Gravy Dry Noodles (卤菜粉) which are served with gravy, oil, friend peanuts, chopped scallion, pickled beans, and some slices of meat.