You’ve booked your ticket to Yangshuo but a vague idea of the scenery will only get you so far.
Bringing home impeccable photos takes planning.
Yangshuo County provides some of the best rolling landscapes in Guilin. Between Karst peaks and the Li River, this is a vacation destination you won’t want to miss.
Knowing where to take gorgeous photos will help you make the most of your trip.
Let’s dive into the best spots in the region for photographers.
6 Must-See Yangshuo Locations For Photographers and 1 to Miss
1. Nine Horses Painting Hill – One to Miss
Located on the east bank of the Li River sits Nine Horses Fresco Hill. The hill is 400 meters high and 200 meters wide.
Local Chinese photographers love this location because the meaning, history and markings on the hill that resemble nine horses.
However, the expat’s pro photogs seldom visit this location, due to the composition and sunrise and sunset light angles. It’s best to capture while cruising down the Li River. The only reason you’ll read about it on website ‘Top places to visit’ is the Chinese perspective, and their nature to copy copy copy, meaning you can see this place features on lots of ‘Top 10 lists’. So we had to put it number one 😉
2. Laozhai Hill
You’ll find Laozhai Hill in Xingping along the Li River. Here, the Li River bends 90 degrees and flows into the town.
From the top of Laozhai Hill photographers can capture the best aerial view of the town. Photographers take advantage of this spot for stunning views of sunrise and sunset.
This is a really dangerous place if it has been raining or rains while you are up top, the uneven steep broken steps become very slippy, mainly because of mud, and leaves.
It will take you at least 45 minutes on a cool day, probably 1 hour to ascend on a hot humid day.
3. Xianggong Hill
Travel to Xianggong Hill in the early morning and witness the beauty of the Li River in a thin fog. Xianggong Hill sits between Yellow Cloth Shoal and Nine Horse Hill,
Guilin based photographers gravitate here for the spectacular sunrise, sunsets, sea of clouds and shadows. It is probably the best place in the area.
The problem is Xiang Gong Hill (Xianggongshan, Husband Mountain) is miles from anyway, takes at least 1:20 to drive from Guilin or Yangshuo, there’s… no public transport, …no tour groups, but on a good day, since local Chinese have all started to buy cars, it’s a morning drive out for the richer locals living in Guilin city, and you can sometimes have 10 or 100 people here. It’s busiest after the rain, when the weather forecast shows the 1st clear day of sun, as that’s the formula for the sea of cloud.
There are no tours of Xianggong Hill, but if you hire a photo guide you will need to leave around 3 – 4 am.
Be warned, just about every Guilin driver or taxi doesn’t know this mountain. The Yangshuo ones should, or about 30% in our experience. But whether you can rely on them to turn up at your hotel at 3:30am, that’s another question.
4. Yellow Cloth Shoal
The most famous part of Yellow Cloth Shoal is said to be a ‘crystal clear reflection’ in the Li River. It’s pretty good actually. Photography of Yellow Cloth Shoal dates back to the Qing era, and it’s depicted in Chinese art, which is why Chinese photographers love this place.
It’s not on tours, no tour cruises or boats come here, you need to be a dedicated photog to get here, but…. few locals know about it, and those that do might not be willing to wake that early. The secondary problem is due to the history in Chinese art, local photogs might already be at the locaation, I’ve run into a Chinese photo club and workshop, each having over 20 peoples on them. The locals love to travel in big groups, as it drives down the cost for each person. There is only space for about 20-30 people, and you might not have the choice of the best location. That said, the best locations change as the sun comes up, and you can quickly switch from tripod to hand held.
Arrive before sunrise, around 5:30 am. May and October are great months to photograph the reflection at Yellow Cloth Shoal, beyond that time the sun angle does not work.
5. Zhoubi Peak
On the east bank of the Li River, you’ll find the hill shaped like a triangle pen, so it’s called Zhoubi, in English Zhoubi Peak. The base of Zhou Bi Peak houses the world’s largest natural theater. Here, Impression Sanjie Liu takes place, although you can’t see that from the bridge top location.
Impression Sanjie Lie extends the performance that made the Li River famous. It shows the ‘impressions’ of the daily life of the people living around the Li River.
As a photographer, you will not want to miss out on this location, especially if you in a weather system change and the forecast is for sun the next morning. A nice sky here can yield a beautiful landscape shot.
Journey to the Yangshuo Bridge for the best shots of Zhoubi Peak. The fact that it is a bridge location, near the town, means it’s an ideal ‘sleep in’, after those 3-4am early starts those special remote locations demand.
6. Shutong Hill
Shutong Hill, or Schoolboy Hill, rises about 328 feet from the ground, making it the smallest hill along the Li River. Locals boast that this hill looks like a young schoolboy reading a book in his hands.
The locals recall a legend about an evil dragon that once lived along the Li River. The schoolboy from Shutong Hill? He obtained a book in hopes of defeating the dragon.
When the dragon caught glimpse of the boy with the book and fell into the hill. Fearing the dragon was only playing dead, the boy turned himself into a hill to protect the villagers.
And so schoolboy hill took its name in memoriam.
These fairytales enrich any photographers work. The best time to photograph this special peak is in late autumn once the leaves turn red.
7. Yulong River
In Northen Yangshuo County lies a tributary of the Li River, Yulong River.
Yulong River is a photography destination for those seeking shots of karst hills, bamboo forest, and even water buffalo.
Three ancient bridges worth visiting cross over the Yulong River. The Yulong Bridge, the Fuli Bridge, and the Xiangui Bridge are over 500 years old. Their mossy exteriors highlight the karst peaks in any photos.
Types of Shots and Where To Take Them
Now that you know some of the finer places in Yangshuo, you may be asking, “how will I know where to take the best sunset?” or “where can I capture the best scenery in spring?”
We’ve got you covered.
The best spots to capture your perfect sunrise are Green Lotus Peak, Laozhai Hill, and Hebao Hill.
Journey there in June to August or October to December for the best views. Make sure to arrive early. Usually about 30 minutes before sunrise will do.
The best days are sunny with a thin film of clouds, fog, or light rain.
For sunsets, venture to Gaotian or Anshan nearby the Gongnong bridge.
The best time of year to photograph these spots are before and after the summer storm season.
Fisherman & Fishing Lights in the Li River
One of the most popular subjects of photographers is the fishing lights along the Li River. The best spot to capture these shots is in nearby Xingping or the Yangshuo Bridge.
At dawn, you can see fisherman turn on their lights one by one. At nightfall, you can catch fisherman floating along the river with oil lamps to guide them.
If you are likely you can get help to arrange a 4-5 generation authentic local fisherman to come out and pose in traditional attire for you, but be careful, as if you want the last authentic ones you will need to work closely with a local pro photo guide with a very good relationship with them, such as my guide, Andy Beales. The last of the authentic ones, who ware the traditional clothes, who are in their 80’s don’t work with tour companies, but only work with pro photographers. They are all retired and it’s all about relationship, respect and don’t be confused by tour companies, shows, or ‘cormorant fishing shows’, it’s not the same thing! You’ll end up with guys in red silks, or a plastic boat of tourists in Yangshuo etc…
Mist On The Li River
The misty rain that falls on the Li River entices photographers worldwide.
The best sites to capture this rain include:
- Xianggong Mountain
- Yangshuo Bridge
- Green Lotus Peak
- Laozhai Hill
- Yellow Cloth Shoal
Prepare for humidity over 80% when taking these shots. Take advantage of higher ground for a wider shot, or find your way to the hidden off-road trails alongside the river.
Photographing caves benefits from no seasonal limitations. In any weather, photographers can take advantage of beautiful caves in nearby Lotus Cave and Silver Cave in Lipu.
Bring your own torch as shooting with flash is not allowed inside the caves.
Yangshuo provides photographers with endless opportunitie for breathtaking photographs.
From shots of the Li River at sunset and sunrise to capturing moments on the Zhoubi Peak, the region offers photographers the best of landscape photography and portrait photography.
Take advantage of these tips and bring your Yangshuo photography to life!