The natural scenery around Guilin is arguably China's finest. Almost dreamlike in its contours, the landscape is dominated by green, steep-sided karst hills, resulting in a set of formations so numerous and picturesque as to have become one of the country's most emblematic drawcards.
Winding through the region in serene curves, meanwhile, the Li River provides an enjoyable means of experiencing this beauty close up. Scenic cruises run along various stretches of the bamboo-flanked river, with the section around the small tourist-friendly town of Yangshuo particularly popular.
Bike hire is a good option here too. In the evenings, cormorant fishing cruises are offered - opportunity to witness the ancient practice of trained cormorants being used by their owners to catch fish.
Guilin itself is a traffic-heavy Chinese city with a number of decent hotels and restaurants; the busy street scenes are absorbing in their own way, but it's the mind-boggling surrounding countryside that people come for.
Where is it?
In Guangxi province in southern China, close to the Vietnam border.
What is it?
A timeless landscape of sharp green hills, bisected by a broad river.
Best time to visit?
April to October are the best months - try to avoid Chinese national holidays.
Yangshuo is by no means the secret it once was, but it provides a more atmospheric base than Guilin from which to take a river cruise.