“You’re going to the rice terraces in November? But there’s nothing to see”. That was the reply we’d got used to hearing when we were chatting with hosts and locals about our China southwest travel plans. We were heading to the Longji Rice Terraces and apparently when we got there, there would be nothing to see. Spoiler alert: but they were wrong. Sure, there was no rice growing but there was the most incredible mountain scenery from the Longji Rice Terraces near Guilin and Yangshuo.
About the Longji Rice Terraces
When researching for our trip to China, one place, in particular, caught our eye: the Longji Rice Terraces, China.
What are rice terraces? Simply put, it’s where and how you grow rice! They’re usually up in the hills where it rains a lot and the fields are terraced into manageable sections in which to grow and manage the rice.
The Longji Rice Terraces are also known as the Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces and the Longsheng Rice Terraces. They’re called the ‘Dragon Backbone’ as the terraces are a little like a dragon’s scales and the mountain ranges look like the dragon’s backbone. Whatever you think they look like from up high, it’s easy to see why these are supposed to be the most amazing rice terraces in China, if not the world.
What makes the rice terraces even more special is that they’re not just a tourist attraction. They are still in use to this day and you’ll see villagers going about the daily tasks of growing rice on your visit whether that’s weeding, ploughing or harvesting. It seems there’s always something to be done and it looks like a back-breaking task!
Since the rice terraces are so close to Guilin, you may hear them referred to as the Guilin rice terraces or even the Yangshuo rice terraces. It’s these terraced rice fields, together with Yangshuo, that are the reason people suggest you visit Guilin more than the city itself so make sure you add a visit here to your Guilin itinerary!
Top tips for visiting the Longji Terraces
- Travel independently to save money and, if you can, book a night’s stay in the village (see below for my top picks). It’s fantastic to wake up to these Chinese rice terraces before they get busy for the day.
- Remember to take plenty of cash as there aren’t any cash machines in the village and not many places will accept cards as with most of China (unless you have a Union Pay card).
- Prices in the village are quite high. Don’t forget about the 100RMB entry fee per person.
- Oh, and don’t worry about what time of year you visit, I hope I’ve managed to show that it really doesn’t matter!
How old are the Longji Rice Terraces?
The Longji rice terraces are around 700 years old and they’re sure looking great for their age.
The Longji Rice Terraces were first built during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). It continued into the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) when it was finally completed.
I can only imagine how hard it must’ve been to get these terraces carved into the mountainous landscape.
How big are the Longji rice terraces?
They’re carved into the mountainside looking down on Heping River and at their highest, they’re 1,100m above ground. Rather extraordinarily they also cover 66km squared of land! That’s a lot of rice.
It’s extremely rare to come across rice fields in China as big as the Longji Rice Terraces. With every corner turned and hill summited you’re presented with more and more rice terrace. Each is as beautiful as the last as they peek out of the clouds, reflect the sky in the pools of water and shine in the ever-changing golden light.
Where are the Longji Rice Terraces?
The rice terraces location is in Longsheng County which is about 100km from Guilin in Guangxi, China.
There are a couple of villages within the Longsheng Rice Terrace area and the one we stayed at was Ping’An. There’s also the village of Dazhai.
When’s the best time to visit China’s Longji rice terraces?
The best time to visit the Longji rice terraces is during spring when they’re full of water. The water creates a pool in the terraces which then turn into mirrors for the sky above.
In summer, the green shoots of rice start to spring up and in autumn at the rice terraces, the rice goes golden ready for harvest. And, when the winter snow comes the terraces are blanketed in white.
Honestly, this area is beautiful whatever time of year you visit. We visited in November and everything we read beforehand said: “not much to see”. There there wasn’t any rice but the terraces are clear to see and you can’t fail but be impressed.
How to get to the Longji rice terraces
There isn’t a train station near the Longji Rice Terraces so you’ll need to travel there by bus or as part of a tour group if you’re going from Guilin to Longji.
Whatever choice of transport you choose, you’ll need to get out at the Longji Rice Terrace ticket office and walk up through the village and terraces to your hotel.
How to get to Longji Rice Terraces from Guilin, China
To get from Guilin to Longsheng you’ll need to get a bus. We were able to arrange a bus with some help from the staff at our hostel in Guilin.
To get the bus you’ll need to get to Guilin’s Qin Tan Bus station and then get another bus towards Longsheng.
At Heping, you’ll need to get off the bus and transfer to a minibus towards Ping’An.
As the only westerners on the small minibus, we drew a bit of attention but everyone was helpful. Whether it was the kind local lady trying to sort us out with accommodation (at her friend’s hostel of course), or the bus driver giving us his business card with the times the buses left from Ping’An to various other cities.
You’ll be dropped off at the gates to Ping’An. From here it’s a pretty steep walk uphill into the village.
Local women wait at the gates donned in colourful and unique costumes which reminded me a little of the families on Lake Titicaca. Their hair all wrapped up in coloured headscarves, they sit waiting for the busloads of tourists and, for a fairly small fee, will happily carry your bags for you once you’ve paid the 100RMB entry fee to enter this special scenic area.
Longji rice terraces from Yangshuo,China
You can also go from Yangshuo to Dazhai or Ping’An. You can get to Longji from Yangshuo by public bus, tourist bus or by private car. The tourist bus or private car options are the only way to go direct from Yangshuo to the Longsheng rice terraces.
Tour bus Yangshuo to Longji
The tour bus leaves from the centre of Yangshuo and goes to the entrance of the Longsheng Rice Terraces. From here you need to get a local bus or tour shuttle to Dazhai or Pingan.
Public bus Yangshuo to Longji Rice Terraces
You can get a public bus from the centre of Yangshuo with a stop in Guilin and then onto the rice terraces (see above).
This trip takes about 5-6 hours and costs 75RMB.
Where to stay at Longsheng Rice Terraces
I highly recommend staying at a hotel or hostel when you visit the rice terraces. This way you can wake up early and explore the area before the tour buses roll in for the day. Or, you can enjoy a sunset after all the tour buses have gone.
Here are a few of the best hotels and hostels in the Ping’an rice terraces and Dazhai, including the one we stayed at.
Travelling With Hotel Long Ji Ping An: This is the hotel we stayed at and it has incredible views of the mountains and rice terraces. There’s also a sun terrace and an onsite bar.
Guilin Longji Xin Jia Yuan Hotel: This farm stay hotel is in the perfect location for hiking the rice terraces. There’s also a BBQ and terrace area onsite.
Li-An Lodge: This lodge in the Longji Rice Terraces has a restaurant and bar on-site and includes a continental breakfast.
Longji Titian Shangyuelou Guest House: Complete with a fitness centre, garden, spa and hot tub this guest house adds a touch of luxury to your stay in the Longsheng rice terraces.
Longji Rice Terraces tours
These tours include transport to and from Guilin. If you only have one day to visit the Longji Rice Terraces they’re a great option for no-fuss travel.
The different rice terraces that make up the Longsheng Rice Terraces
There are several terraced fields that make up the area. There’s the Jinkeng Red Yao Terrace Fields, the Longji Ancient Zhuang Terraced Fields and the Ping’an Terraced Fields. Ping an is said to be the most cultural of the two villages, whereas Dazhai is a good place to base yourself if you want to do more hiking (although you can hike at Ping’an too!).
The map below shows the areas as a whole and the two ticket offices that you can enter through.
Ping’an Village was the first one to be developed for tourism. It has the most roads, paths and hotels and hostels. However, it’s definitely not touristy. We saw hardly any tourists during our visit and most of the houses are the traditional wooden 3-storey stilted houses.
The Ping’an rice terraces were the first to be built and they’re the largest too.
Our visit to Ping’an
Having been taken around the houses (quite literally) by the ‘kind’ woman on our bus who insisted multiple times that yes she was taking us to the hostel we’d booked, we finally found the real one.
Breaking the news that we wouldn’t stay at the other villager’s hostel after she’d shown us to the door was a little awkward and we almost contemplating just saying yes given that the hostel hunt was getting increasingly harder due to the mist and encroaching darkness. Added to this was the fact that the only name we had for the hostel was in English and none of the locals could understand our strange words. When we finally got hold of some wifi and could look up the name in Chinese we were instantly pointed in the right direction.
Upon arrival, our balcony view wasn’t quite how we’d imagined it. Mist covered everything. We could barely see the building next door, let alone the rice terraces we thought were right next to us!
Looks like people has been right about not being able to see anything at this time of the year only due to different reasons…
When morning came we the clouds moved and started moving up the valley. As the clouds moved they revealed more of the stunning rice terraces.
So maybe they weren’t golden and ready for harvest, nor green having just sprung, but they were silvery thanks to all the rain of the past few days and they were tour group free – at least for the next few hours before the tour buses started rolling in!
The best viewpoints in Ping’an
There are two main viewpoints in and around Ping’an that’ll give you incredible views of the Longji Rice Terraces.
Nine Dragons and Five Tigers
The three-story, dark wood stilted houses and narrow alleyways of Ping’An village were great to explore as we wound our way up through the village. Slightly out of breath as we climbed up what felt like hundreds of steps, we finally made it to the first of the two main viewpoints in Ping’An: Nine Dragons and Five Tigers.
This viewpoint is so-called as apparently, the nine ridges of the rice terraces look like nine dragons branching off from the main vein. Alongside these are five tiger-like piles, guarding the peaceful village. I couldn’t quite see it myself, but maybe you will?
From up on the ridge we had a fantastic viewpoint of the rice terraces below. The puddles in the rice terraces reflected the clouds above and there were a few people busy turning over the soil in their terrace in preparation for next year’s crops.
We had the whole place to ourselves and marvelled at the unique landscape which was, like most of what we saw in China, unlike any other landscape we’ve ever seen on our adventures.
Seven Stars Accompany the Moon
There’s also the Seven Stars Accompany the Moon viewpoint. This point has 7 small piles of rocks leftover from when the area was developed.
Dazhai Village is in the Jinkeng Terraced Fields and is further away from the entrance to the Longji Rice Terraces than Ping’an is. These terraces are much higher than the Ping’an rice fields too.
You can get a cable car from the car park to Golden Buddha Peak which is one of the best viewpoints in this area.
Some of the hotels here are closer to the car park (just 10 minutes walk away), but if you want to stay towards the top of the rice terraces you’ll need to walk 1.5-2 hours to your hotel.
Best viewpoints in Dazhai village
See the best places to view the terraces around Dazhai village below.
West Hill Music
This is the highest point on the rice terraces at 1,180m above sea level and offers an incredible panorama.
It’s a great spot for sunrises and sunsets and is about a 2-hour walk from Dazhai.
The Large-Scale Thousand-Layer Terraces
This area isn’t that high up so it’s an easier Longji rice terrace hike. It’s an incredible view and you can see the Yao people’s houses which sit in the surrounding landscape.
Golden Buddha Peak
As mentioned above this is without a doubt one of the best places to view the terraces. You can take a cablecar to the peak which takes 20 minutes instead of 2-3 hours of walking.