The jagged karst peaks of Guangxi that stab their way skyward from a base of picturesque rivers and rice paddies are one of the most remarkable natural sights in a country that’s filled with them. Urban hubs such as Guilin and Yangshuo are predictably packed with tourists during peak months, but it is possible to shake off the hordes who flock to the area and witness stunning rural landscapes.
One of our favourite ways to escape the tourist melee is to hire a bike and head out into the surrounding countryside. Most places that rent wheels (there’s an abundance of cafés and hostels offering the service in Yangshuo) will also offer you maps of the area with well-worn cycle routes zigzagging around the region.
Really, it’s hard to make a wrong turn given that you’ll find pleasant villages, dramatic countryside and photo opportunities galore in any direction you choose to take.
Return flights from Shanghai to Guilin start from 750RMB on Ctrip
. From Guilin, the best way to get to Yangshuo is by boat. To maintain your distance from the tour groups, we recommend staying at the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat (www.yangshuomountainretreat.com
; rooms from 400RMB). Situated on a bank of the river, this peaceful eco hotel was founded by American Chris Barclay and is staffed entirely by local villagers. In addition to organising tours, rock climbing and cookery classes, the hotel rents bikes and, if the weather turns nasty, you can always unwind in front of the open log fire in their main communal lounge.