Mountain Biking in Yangshuo, China
Will Ross, March 1, 2018
Tucked away on the banks of the Li Jiang and Yulong rivers, Yangshuo retains a Chinese character in the nation’s booming tourism sector. The town has catered well to western tastes, somehow managing to balance drinking spots with a stunning karst landscape and healthy pursuits on foot or by mountain bike. Even if you just want to pass through Yangshuo as part of a longer itinerary, or are looking to stay for while, make sure you get on a mountain bike at some stage during your visit. With a collection of roads heading through paddy fields, terraces and other agricultural features, Yangshuo has a breadth of green vistas that are as photogenic as they are ridable.
If you’re looking to base yourself in Yangshuo, be aware that the numerous rental agencies in the town offer only entry level bikes. While these are cheap and function for short rides in the local area, you should look to finding a better services through an established operator like Bike Asia (header image). They have a fleet of decent mountain bikes for rent and can help you with routing and paid-for itineraries. Their seven-day ‘Mountains and Minorities‘ trip looks particularly appealing if you want to do an mini-expedition.
Even if you do go for cheaper bikes independent from any tour operators, ask for a map and explore the valley. Routes are flat and take you through some very rural areas. For a day out of the saddle visit one of Yangshuo’s large caves through a local operator. We spent a great afternoon wandering between stalagmites and stalactites before splashing in some muddy water – suitable recovery treatment from our not-so-challenging mountain biking.
There are a collection of small hotels and guesthouses in Yangshuo itself, with more adventurous options within the karst landscape itself. Yangshuo Mountain Retreat was built in 2000 using locally sourced materials and labour, right on the Yulong river. The hotel’s waste control is stringently reduced and solar power is used to heat the water. Originally the hotel was well ahead of its time but now represents a good push by tourists to become more respectful of natural environments.
A more recent industrial conversion comes in the form of the Alila Hotel (photo above), a converted sugar mill that combines modernism with a space that’s sympathetic to its surroundings. The mill’s main buildings and out houses have been converted to create one of Asia’s most sought after resorts.
Getting to Yangshuo requires a shuffle to your way to Guilin by train or air then catch a bus to Yangshuo town centre.