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Guilin doesn’t seem to be a very popular city and most travelers head straight to Yangshuo, a smaller town about one hour down the road, which offers much more nature in a more relaxed and less smoggy setting. I didn’t like Guilin that much either, my throat was hurting from the fumes and smog I was inhaling and the city felt very crowded, loud and dirty. Still, I did find a few awesome things to do in Guilin or rather, I found some attractions to escape from just these aforementioned downsides of the city. You can see it all in a day, but if you want to spend some time in Guilin without hurrying from attraction to attraction, here are my favourite three:
In the Morning: Explore the Reed Flute Cave
The Reed Flute Cave is a limestone cave just 5 kilometers outside of downtown Guilin. It is located a bit away from the loud honking, the smog and the crowds of the city and sits in the midst of the karst landscape surrounded by green nature and a lake. The cave gets its name from the reeds growing outside, which can apparently be made into flutes. As can be deducted from the many poems and inscriptions left behind in the stone, the beautiful underground world of stalactites and stalagmites was already popular during the Tang Dynasty over a thousand years ago. But soon after, it was forgotten for hundreds of years and only got rediscovered after a group of refugees stumbled on it in search of shelter in the 1940s. Now, the cave is the perfect place for a two hour excursion out of the city. It is lit up beautifully in all colours of the rainbow and you can either join a tour and have the cave system and its features explained to you, or set off on your own.
How to get there: Take bus number 3 or 58 to the Reed Flute Cave station.
In the Afternoon: Climb Diecai Hill
This park, often called the Folded Brocade Hill, is also a bit of a refuge from the busy, smoggy city and surprisingly a barely known jewel among western tourists in Guilin. Covering a big karst peak, the park includes several walking paths, viewpoints, and a few small caves with beautiful stone paintings. Diecai Hill’s best feature though, is that from those viewpoints you get some amazing views of the sprawling city among the limestone peaks.
How to get there: Take bus number 2 or 58 to Diecai Shan Station and walk down Diecai Road until you see the entrance to the left.
In the Evening: Visit the Sun and Moon Pagodas
Located on two islands on Shanhu Lake are two pagodas, a silver and a golden one. The 41 meter high Sun Pagoda with its nine floors is made of solid copper and the highest copper pagoda in the world. The Sun and Moon Pagodas are lit up as night falls and make for great photo opportunities. The lake was once part of the city moat and protected the town from intruders, but today it has been simply turned into a green spot to relax in. The twin pagodas are connected by an underwater tunnel and can be climbed, but it isn’t really necessary to do so and taking a walk along the path around the lake, surrounded by green fir trees, is a much nicer, and also free activity.
How to get there: The Sun and Moon Pagodas are located right in the middle of downtown, only a short walk from Guilin’s central square and can easily be reached by foot.