Thanks to its spectacular natural location, Yangshuo has well-established guides for any number of organized activities. Freelance guides work Yangshuo’s streets and cafés; all claim to have unique, untouristed places to take you for lunch with a farming family and offer insights into village life. Some have been doing this for years, including the English-speaking, cheery and helpful “Wendy” Li Yunzhao (1319 7638186, [email protected]). Expect to pay about ¥50–75 per person per day depending on the size of the group.
For cookery classes, contact English-speaking Linda at Cloud 9 restaurant (t 135 07838851; a 3hr class costs ¥120). For the more serious, the Yangshuo Cooking School (137 88437286, yangshuocookingschool.com) runs one- to four-day courses, including a vegetarian one.
Bicycle rental and tours
Accommodation or operators at the western end of Yangshuo’s West Street rent bicycles for ¥20–30 a day, depending on whether you want an ordinary rattletrap or an off-roader with decent springs: ¥300 or your ID may be asked for as a deposit. The excellent Bike Asia (bikeasia.com) is based in town too, at 8 Guihua Lu – they rent out the best bikes for ¥70 a day including maps, helmets and repair kits, with high-end mountain bikes costing more at ¥150. They also run guided bike-tours in English around Yangshuo of around 30–40km which cost ¥150 and leave daily at 9am.
Along the Li River
Accommodation can arrange bamboo raft trips between Xingping and Yangdi (2hr; ¥200) and full-day kayak trips (¥200); or in hot weather you can simply buy a rubber tube from shops along Diecui Jie and head down to the water for a splash – but leave it until the last ferries have departed upstream around 4pm. The now badly named Secret Beach, a couple of kilometres upstream, down a small track, is the nicest place for a swim. For those brave (or foolish) enough, another great experience is to jump off the 9m-high Yulong Bridge (玉龙桥, yùlóng qiáo), which is 15km northwest of the town, and a 2km stroll from Baisha Town (白沙镇, báishā zhèn).
Yangshuo has become a martial arts hangout, with the long-established Budi Zhen school founded by the incredible, ancient Mr Gao and now run by his twin sons. Visit their training hall (步地真功夫馆, bùdì zhēngōngfu guǎn) off West Street (1397 7350377, [email protected]), to study a whole range of martial disciplines at around ¥80 a lesson. For tai ji try the Yangshuo Traditional Taichi School (阳朔传统太极学校, yángshuò chuántǒng tàijí xuéxiào), housed in a Qing-dynasty farmhouse at Jima village close to the Yulong River (152 9592 0102, traditionaltaichischool.com). They teach courses up to instructor-level and also offer accommodation and food, with lessons costing ¥70 per hour and up, though for long-term students discounts are available.
Yangshuo is a popular rock-climbing centre with over four hundred mostly short but very tough graded climbs on local peaks ranging from 5.6 to 5.13. New climbs are being pioneered all the time and the Yangshuo Climbing Guide available from climb-shops will show you most of them, along with detailed climbing info too. For experienced climbers, equipment-rental is around ¥180 a day for two, with one-day beginners’ courses starting at ¥450 a day per person. Insight Adventures, at 53 Xianqian Jie (0773 8811033, insight-adventures.com) are the most established operator, and although slightly pricier than most, have foreign guides and a good safety record. The Karst Cafe on Xianqian Jie is the spot to go to socialize with other climbers and get the latest info.