Rafting down the Li River in Yanghsuo, China with Karst Mountain Views

I don’t always have a story to share along with my photos, and even though that’s the case with my rafting trip down the Li River, it’s still one of my favourite memories from my travels in China.

The Li River (Lijiang) is a popular journey in the Guangxi province; many travellers choose to cruise the length between Guilin and Yangshuo, and it’s easy to see why – the landscapes are out of this world! Karst mountains rise up from either side of the river, giving way to one of the most magical journeys in the world. The place is so spectacular that it’s actually printed on the back of the 20 Yuan notes – that’s saying something.

Sam had already cruised down the Li River on one of his previous trips to China, but because his trip had been shrouded in fog and rain, he was happy to do it all over again. We got incredibly lucky with the weather that day – the sun was out and there was hardly a cloud in sight.

After snapping a few photos of the bamboo rafts (which are really made of plastic tubes!), we hopped aboard and grabbed a seat on the wooden bench. The scenery was incredible and I had to keep reminding myself to just put the camera down and soak it in with my own two eyes. I ooo-ed and ahhh-ed and kept poking Sam on the shoulder excitedly muttering, “Can you believe this? Are you seeing this?!”…and then I fell asleep.

Not very opportune timing, but that’s what I do when I’m on a boat, or a train, or a bus, or anything that produces a rocking motion. I was shaken awake by Sam about halfway through the journey, “Are you still seeing this?”

Yup…that’s how we roll.

But enough about that, here are a few photos from the river journey:

Rafting down the Li River in Yanghsuo, China with Karst Mountain Views: The bamboo rafts on the shores of the Li River.

Scenic karst mountains along the Li River in China.

This man perfectly positioned himself in my frame.

The plastic "bamboo" rafts that take you down the Li River.

Cruising down the Lijiang, China

Our captain on river cruise

Enjoying an afternoon on the Li River.

Yours truly rocking the orange vest.

Karsts as far as the eye can see.

You can see the Li River and the karst mountains pictured in the 20 yuan bill.

The journey down the Li River.

Me and the boy.

We had great weather that day.

Have you travelled down the Li River?
What were some of your China highlights?

Join the Conversation


  1. says: Frank

    Beautiful!! But have been in Cambodia the last week and the Chinese a hard bunch to take. A Belgian tourist next to me had remarked that she wished that photoshop had a ‘delete Chinese’ option. Not nice but a few hours of being pushed and shoved and having them shout at each other over everyone will do that…
    I asked our Cambodia guide who they consider the worst tourists. The Chinese actually come 2nd. He said the Koreans are the worst. He didn’t say anything about us Canadians but everyone loves us, right? 🙂
    Anyway, great photos.
    Frank (bbqboy)

  2. says: Katie

    Absolutely stunning pictures, Li River looks incredible! It’s too bad the “bamboo” is made out of plastic – haha. I also tend to fall asleep everywhere, glad I’m not alone 😉

  3. says: Marcus Eriksson

    I took that boat ride last year. Ended up on a boat where I was the only foreigner, but that actually made it even more fun. Didn’t get as nice photos as you though! 🙂

  4. says: Justine

    I have yet to make it to China but this scenery looks incredible. Some of your photos remind me a little bit of Halong Bay, Vietnam, and Vang Vieng, Laos. Someday I will make it to China and this rafting trip will definitely be on my list of things to do. It looks spectacular 🙂 And it’s nice to know if was one of your favorite China experience.

  5. says: Cole Van Horn

    I’ve done that cruise. Yangshuo is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. The scenery was incredible. I would suggest trying out some rock climbing while you’re there. One of the highlights of my time there was renting a motorbike (ours were 100 RMB per day, which I thought was a good price) and driving to a village called Xing Ping. It was actually the place where the picture on the 20 RMB note was taken. Beyond that village is just wide open country with a couple of sketchy river ferry’s that were a blast, and some of the most jaw-dropping scenery you’ll see. Also there’s orange farms all along the road there. You can bargain for them along the way. Sorry for going on so long, but I could definitely move there in a heartbeat. I almost decided to move down there after my contract was up in Hubei Province!

  6. says: Myrtle

    We loved the Li river and were lucky enough to see it in flood. The people along that stretch were really terrific fun. China highlights, Li River, Xian and the city wall Shanghai skyline, Yangshuo and the food everywhere especially Guilin beans.

  7. says: Kristen

    We visited this part of China back in 2005 – and it looks the same. Phew. Except we didn’t have to wear the lifejackets back then 🙂

  8. says: ChinaMatt

    Beautiful photos. Wish I didn’t have such crappy weather when I was there (didn’t see the sun for 5 days out there). It’s still one of my favorite memories of living in China.

  9. says: Nikki

    We spent a few weeks around Xing Ping and Yangshuo last year and it was beautiful. And not quite as crowded as it wasn’t quite peak season. We decided against the bamboo rafts as the river was so swollen, and cycled instead. Only problem was we got caught in a torrential thunderstorm. By the time we got back the street vendors didn’t even offer us waterproof capes and just laughed as we cycled past! It was loads of fun though and the sunset over Xing Ping (where the 20RMB note picture is) was spectacular!

  10. says: Clive Humm

    Not all the rafts on the Li River are made of plastic tubes. In fact I only saw, and was punted on, bamboo rafts.

    Whatever the raft is made from, it is an unforgettable experience!

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