While its name might not be famous to most Westerners, Guilin (pronounced GWEE-lin) is arguably China’s most scenic area, and a major highlight of any tour of the country. The city of Guilin actually has about 5 million people, which you wouldn’t expect by looking at the scenic photos of the Li River like the one above. The main reason for coming is the excellent 4-hour boat cruise through the most scenic part of the Li River, and then a bus ride home. The boats are far more luxurious than you might expect.
Guilin is also extremely popular among domestic Chinese tourists, but there are enough foreigners here that finding menus and tour agents in English is easier than in most of China. The restaurant area near the main square in between the four lakes is particularly Western-friendly.
Hotels in Guilin are very good value, even by most Chinese standards. You can get a nice room in a 4-star hotel for much less than you’d pay for a 3-star hotel in Europe or the USA.
Food and drinks are also good value. If you aren’t on an organized tour you can still find sit-down meals starting below US$5 at most tourist restaurants, and much less than that at places where locals eat.