By David McKenzie
For a long time, the mention of Yangshuo in China has conjured up romantic images of other-worldly landscapes, inspiring intrepid travelers to undertake vast journeys to witness its breathtaking natural beauty. Today, however, Yangshuo is a lot easier to get to than in the past, and it is one of China’s prime locations for luxurious getaways. Less than a two-hour drive from Guilin, which receives daily flights from around China, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur and Seoul, sleepy Yangshuo is a world away from the smog and bustle of Asia’s super-cities. Boasting high-end resorts, unmatched scenery and peaceful surroundings, Yangshuo is perfect for a revitalizing break from urban working life.
One place ideal for such a break is Yangshuo Mountain Retreat, which has long led the way in sustainable tourism in the area. Tucked away in awe-inspiring tranquility just 10 minutes from downtown Yangshuo, this elegant resort exclusively employs villagers from the surrounding area – which explains the chefs’ mastery of Beer Fish, a famous local delicacy containing chunks of local river fish braised in a beer-based sauce that attracts hungry visitors from all over China.
Banyan Tree, another exquisite resort, gives a touch of class to their daily excursions. Above all, they offer the best river cruise in town, providing luxurious private bamboo rafts that depart right from the hotel jetty, as well as on-board refreshments for an idyllic, relaxing way to take in the stunning limestone hills surrounding Yangshuo. These hills are famous throughout China and their misty majesty has historically inspired a wealth of painting and poetry – one spot nearby even features on China’s 20 Yuan note.
For active vacationers looking for some light exercise, the Village Retreat Hotel is an ideal base. They provide bicycles and offer private cycling tours to explore the flat plains extending out from Yangshuo, which are blanketed in pristine rice paddies and dotted with quaint traditional villages. After a day of cycling or a gentle climb through the karst hills surrounding this secluded resort, Village Retreat Hotel is the perfect place to relax and rejuvenate, with a traditional Chinese massage or a soak in the rooftop hot-tub that gives magnificent views of sunset through the hills.
For a dash of luxury in a slice of paradise, Yangshuo remains China’s standard-bearer.