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Located in the northeast of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region in southern China, the Guilin and Lijiang National Park is one of the most famous scenic places in the nation of China. Easily accessible from the cities of Guilin or Yangshuo by foot, vehicle, or by joining a river cruise, the 52 miles (83 kilometers) stretching between the two cities is the most visited part of the area around the rivers' paths. The climate in the area averages an annual temperate of 66˚F (19˚C), though it gets much colder in the winter and hotter and wetter in the summer. The park is most popular in the summer for its misty peaks, and in the fall for its cool and clear weather.
This riverine area's famed natural beauty makes the park immensely popular with local and international tourists alike. Guilin is located 17 miles (28 kilometers, or about 30 minute car ride) away from the Guilin Liangjiang International Airport (KWL). Visitors can hire taxis or take the airport bus to the city's center. Group of visitors from countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) can enjoy a 6-day visa-free tour, but are not allowed to go to other cities. For those hoping to make a quick layover trip, Guilin is also one of 18 cities in China that have a 72-Hour Visa-Free Policy, which allows visitors from 51 listed countries to visit for up to 3 days in between flights.
The Lijiang River is surrounded by large karst hills, caves, and cliffs, and has inspired countless artists and poets throughout the country’s history. Formed by the leftover of limestone that was eroded and dissolved over thousands of years pasts, the karst hills are full of jagged peaks and deep caves today. The river continues to be celebrated by the Chinese through such actions as featuring the river on their stamps and the 20 Yuan bill. Along the river there are a number of attractions lining the way, including the ancient towns of Daxu and Xingping, the Nine Horse Fresco Hill, and the Lingqu Canal, the world’s oldest canal.
Given the dynamic landscape around the Lijiang River, it is no surprise that the area holds a high level of biodiversity. Out on the hills and by the river, there is no shortage of animals, many of which have are endemic to the area, and threatened nearby due to habitat loss and hunting. Even rarer are the many cave-dwelling species that have adapted to their specific caves as a result of the high alkaline levels and the dry soils in these limestone caverns. New species are continually being found in the caves, with over 200 species unable to survive outside of their respective subterranean homes. Among the many adaptations that take place in these cave dwellers are included the losses of color and even vision as a whole.
The Guilin and Lijiang National Park is a safe place to visit for people of all ages. It is, however, necessary to exercise a certain level of discretion when travelling in the area, and suitable footwear is necessary all year round for those interested in hiking or hill climbing. Due to its rising popularity as a tourist destination, there are concerns that the demand will result in construction expansion, which could cause forest degradation and harm the local ecosystem. In hopes of keeping the park preserved in all its beauty, the Lijiang River Scenic Zone has been nominated to become a UNESCO site, and is currently filed under that organization's Tentative List.
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