Zhangjiajie or Guilin: Comparison by Experts' Real Experience

Zhangjiajie and Guilin are two renowned tourist cities in China, famous for their beautiful natural scenery, showcasing different types of karst landforms.

Recently, lots of our customers asked travel experts which of the two places they should go for their first China tour. Having been to both firsthand many times, our experts drew a comparison to clarify how to choose between Zhangjiajie and Guilin. Read on and find what you want!

Typical Scenery in Zhangjiajie and GuilinTypical Scenery in Zhangjiajie (Left) and Guilin (Right)

Firstly, Let's tabulate the differences to make it clear:

Tour Days3-5 Days4-7 Days
Best Time to VisitApril to OctoberApril to October
Landscape FeaturesUnique Mountains, Peaks, and CanyonsCombination of Mountains and Rivers
  • Avatar Mountains in Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
  • Tianmen Mountain
  • Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon
  • Li River
  • Yangshuo Countryside
  • Yulong River
  • Longji Rice Terraces
  • Mountain Climbing
  • Canyon Trekking
  • Skywalk & Glass Bridge Crossing
  • River Cruise
  • Bamboo Rafting
  • Countryside Cycling
  • Terraced Hill Hiking
Physical RatingStrongModerate
Suitable toAdventure lovers, nature lovers, photographers, hikersPeople of all ages, relaxing tour lovers, nature lovers, photographers

April to October: Though both can be visited all year round, the best time to visit Guilin and Zhangjiajie is very similar because both places are hot and humid in summer and cold/cool in winter, lying in the subtropical monsoon climate zone.

In Zhangjiajie, the temperature difference between day and night is pretty big, as it has a mountain prototype climate. So even in summer, you should bring a thin jacket to keep you warm at night, which is unnecessary in Guilin's summer.

May-July is the rainy season of Guilin, which is suitable for viewing mysterious hill mists. But make sure you bring an umbrella or raincoat.

Zhangjiajie National Forest ParkZhangjiajie National Forest Park

Zhangjiajie is known for its mountains, forest, and canyon beyond imagination, while Guilin features its exquisite combination of mountains and rivers, as well as various ethnic customs and rural scenery.

Zhangjiajie's Attractions

  • Zhangjiajie National Forest Park features the sandstone peak forest of thousands of knife-edged pillars, which inspired the Hallelujah Mountain of the award-winning movie Avatar.
  • Tianmen Mountain is the highest peak of Zhangjiajie and possesses one of the longest cableways in the world. The biggest highlights are its stairway to heaven with 999 steps and the glass skywalk.
  • Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon is a natural oxygen bar with beautiful natural scenery, and its world-class glass bridge across the canyon is the perfect place to feel the enormous drop in terrain.

    Tianmen Cave, The "Heaven's Door" of Tianmen MountainTianmen Cave, The "Heaven's Door" of Tianmen Mountain

Guilin's Attractions

  • Li River is known for the Chinese landscape-painting-like natural scenery with bamboo-clad mountains and turquoise waters, appreciated by Chinese literary giants since ancient times.
  • Yangshuo's rural scenery allows you to feel the harmony between man and nature, and the Yulong River nearby is worth a leisurely rafting.
  • Longji Rice Terraces crystallize the farming wisdom of the local ethnic minority villages, of which the unique shape reclaimed from the hillside will blow your mind.

    Longji Rice Terraces Longji Rice Terraces

The scenery of Zhangjiajie is suitable for viewing from above, while that of Guilin is suitable for viewing from below. Therefore, Zhangjiajie is full of adventure and thrill. Activities in Guilin are more relatively relaxing and leisurely.

Activities in Zhangjiajie

  • Mountain Hiking: Zhangjiajie is ideal for mountain hiking. At the National Forest Park, you can admire nature's artistry and explore its unique peaks. At Tianmen Mountain, you can walk along the Avenue Towards "Heaven's Door" and reach the top to enjoy the breathtaking garden in the sky.
  • Cliff-Hanging Walkway & Glass Skywalk: The plank road and glass skywalks built along the cliffs of Tianmen Moutain offer an extraordinary view of the deep valley, giving you a special experience.
  • Across the Glass Bridge: Experience the thrill of walking on a glass bridge over the Grand Canyon and feeling the excitement of the abyss beneath your feet.
  • Real-Scene Musical Drama: Tianmen Fox Fairy is an evening musical show with Tianmen Mountain and its deep valley as the background. You can enjoy a combination of local music and ancient love story with the marvelous valley.

    Glass Skywalk of Tianmen Mountain, ZhangjiajieGlass Skywalk of Tianmen Mountain, Zhangjiajie

Activities in Guilin

  • River Cruise: The Li River Cruise from Guilin to Yangshuo Town is the best way to enjoy the essential scenic beauty of Guilin. The 52-mile trip takes between four and five hours and offers stunning natural views and glimpses of fisherman fishing form.
  • Countryside Cycling & Bamboo Rafting: In Yangshuo, you can enjoy countryside cycling through fields of canola flowers or go bamboo rafting on the Yulong River while listening to local fairy tales narrated by the boatman.
  • Terraced Hill Hike & Home Visit: In Longsheng, you can take a Longji terraced hill hike to visit the ethnic village and cook and sample bamboo tube rice with the locals.
  • Real-Scene Night Show: Impression of Sanjie Liu, directed by the renowned Chinese Director Yimou Zhang, showcases the stunning natural beauty of the Li River and Guilin Karst Mountains alongside Guangxi folk songs, ethnic cultures, and local life of the Yangshuo people.

    Bamboo Rafting in Yulong River, GuilinBamboo Rafting in Yulong River, Guilin

3-6 Days for Zhangjiajie: Spending at least 3 days exploring Zhangjiajie is recommended. The main attraction, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, deserves a 3-day visit due to its vastness. If you plan to visit Tianmen Mountain National Forest Park and Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon, allocate at least 3 additional days for a comprehensive tour.

4-7 Days for Guilin: 4 days is suitable for a Guilin classic tour. The main attractions of Guilin are spread across Guilin Downtown, Yangshuo, and Longsheng, while Yangshuo in the southeast and Longsheng in the northwest of Guilin Downtown. It is reasonable to spend 1 day in downtown Guilin and 2-3 days in Yangshuo and Longsheng. If you wish to explore the scenery and culture in greater depth, a 1-week tour would be needed.

Zhangjiajie and Guilin both have international airports and high-speed rail stations connecting to major cities in China. But Guilin has more air and rail routes, with 4 hours of direct high-speed rail from Hong Kong. Additionally, Guilin's 72-hour visa-free transit policy makes it easier for multi-country tourists to visit quickly, including tourists from America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.

Both the cuisines of Zhangjiajie and Guilin can be very spicy, but Guilin's is milder and more varied. You can sample spicy-free dishes or super-hot dishes in Guilin. Zhangjiajie belongs to Hunan, a big province of spicy food, so it's a paradise for spicy lovers.

Here's a little tip: If you are not a fan of spicy food, tell your chefs or servers, and they can make you a less spicy version. For foodies, you must try Zhangjiajie's representative dish, Sanxia Pot, or Guilin Rice Noodles and Oil Tea.

Zhangjiajie and Guilin are both famous tourist cities that offer a range of well-equipped lodging options, from 4-5 stars hotels to inns. However, if you are looking for high-standard accommodation, Guilin may be a better choice for you because it has a wider variety of high-end hotels, including Sheraton and Hilton, as well as some unique hotels that have been transformed from ancient buildings.

Tourists to Zhangjiajie usually find hotels in Wulingyuan or Zhangjiajie Downtown. Staying at Wulingyuan makes it easy for you to go to various attractions, including Zhangjiajie National Forest Park and Grand Canyon, while staying in Zhangjiajie City is closer to Tianmen Mountain and high-speed rail station, and the airport.

There are massive hotels in the Guilin city center area. Staying here ensures a comfortable experience, various nighttime entertainments, and a suitable distance from all attractions. But if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city, you can stay in Yangshuo County or inns in Longji Rice Terrace to enjoy the peace of nature and the countryside.

Yangshuo West Street, GuilinYangshuo West Street, Guilin

Plan Your Trip to China for These Natural Wonders

Depending on your situation, you may have your own preferences. We hope this article provides valuable information. If you find both places very attractive, you can take a high-speed train between the two cities, taking this opportunity to experience Chinese high-speed trains and enjoy the stunning scenery. Or you can send your specific requirements to our travel experts and let them help you make the best plan.

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