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Elephant Trunk Hill: Guilin’s Enchanting Natural Wonder That Captures Hearts

Elephant Trunk Hill: Guilin’s Enchanting Natural Wonder That Captures Hearts

Located in Guilin, China, Elephant Trunk Hill is a natural wonder that attracts visitors worldwide. But what makes the hill such an attraction? Let’s explore together.

Among the lush forests and undulating hills in Guilin, China, Elephant Hill is one of the thousands of karst hills in China and has captured man’s imagination for thousands of years.

The hill is a famous top attraction where visitors climb to enjoy stunning views of the city and the rivers below. This natural wonder of geologic formations will leave you speechless.

The hill is just outside the city center and offers stunning views of the rice fields and river below. And it’s been a famous tourist attraction since the Tang dynasty (618- 907).

This is one of the scenic spots where you can take photos or a selfie with your family and friends, as the backdrop is sure to impress. But before you travel, include travel insurance in your planning. SafetyWing offers some of the best covers for individuals and families.

The Elephant Trunk Hill: What is It?

Elephant Trunk Hill and Skyline in China
XuSong / Adobe Stock

At the convergence of two rivers, the Peach Blossom River (or the Taohua River) and Li Jiang River, lies the most scenic geological feature – the Elephant Trunk Hill (象鼻 山). This natural karst rock formation sits on the western bank of the River Li Jiang in Guilin, China.

It was given the name Elephant Trunk Hill because it has a unique shape that resembles a massive elephant with a trunk dipped into the water. The hill rises 55 meters above the Li Jiang River and then gently arches over the river like an elephant, believed to be drinking water.

At the foot of this limestone karst hill, where the rock meets the water, the elephant’s “trunk” can be seen entering the water as an arch is formed. Then the giant elephant leans over, and Water Moon Cave is created between the “trunk” and the shore or “legs” of the creature.

In the Elephant Trunk Hill Park, visitors can walk up the top of the hill to take in the captivating views of the surrounding countryside. Undoubtedly, the Elephant Trunk Hill Guilin is a scenic landmark in Guilin City, China.

Guilin's rock formation
Elephant Trunk Hill” by Bernt Rostad is licensed by CC BY 2.0.

How to Get to the Elephant Trunk Hill

Guilin mountain landscape

The first thing to do is to fly to Guilin City through the Guilin Airport (KWL) if you are coming from other cities or beyond the borders. From here, you can board one of the public transport buses heading that route or book a taxi.

Car hire services are also available, making the journey even more convenient. It’s only around 15 minutes to reach Elephant Trunk Hill Park from the airport.

Elephant Trunk Hill Attractions

Elephant Trunk Shaped Hill
The Elephant Trunk Hill” by SteFou! is licensed by CC BY 2.0.

Elephant Trunk Hill was previously called Yi Hill, Li-Hill, or Chenshui Hill. It dates back 3.6 million years; it is 108 meters long, 100 meters wide, and 200 meters above sea level.

Elephant Trunk Hill has become the symbol of Guilin, and in the nearby city, it is prominently featured on signs, logos, and artwork. It’s one of the best places to visit around the world. The hill has numerous fascinating features, including:

Yunfeng Temple

Yunfeng Temple in Guilin, China
Antoine 49 / Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This temple is one of the famous Guilin temples on the southwest slope. It’s said to be home to Jianzhen, an eminent monk and a Buddhist during the Tang era. This is the person said to have introduced Japan to education and religion.

This hill region was abode by scholars and monks in ancient times, and Jianzhen was one of the most renowned monks. It’s undoubtedly among the attractive features of this adorable hill.

Water Moon Cave

Elephant Trunk Shaped Hill and Skyline
Elephant Trunk Hill” by Bernt Rostad, licensed by CC BY 2.0.

The semi-circular Water Moon Cave has been penetrated with water over centuries. The calm water flows beneath the arch, forming a romantic passageway.

On still Chinese nights, a mesmerizing phenomenon occurs whereby the moon appears to be both under the water and floating on its surface. This happens when it’s reflected beneath the elephant’s trunk in Water Moon Cave or the Shuiyue Dong. The cave is 17 meters long, 9.5 meters wide, and 12 meters high.

Elephant’s Eye Cave

Elephant Wall Art
Elephant Trunk Hill” by Bernt Rostad is licensed by CC BY 2.0.

A cave is halfway up Elephant Hill, representing the elephant’s eye. This beautiful sight has been described by great Chinese poets and visitors who have visited the site for years. There are over 70 inscriptions and carvings within the cave.

The inscriptions within the cave are from the Song and Tang Dynasties, and they praise the site’s beauty. The cave has a renowned Lu You (who lived between 1125 and 1210) poem. He was among the four most amazing poets of the Southern Song dynasty.

This Elephant eye cave is 52 meters long, 2 meters long, and 10 meters wide. And from there you can get an excellent view of the region.

Puxian Pagoda

During the day, Elephant Trunk Hill becomes even more charming. Visitors can follow stone steps to the top of the hill and get breathtaking views of the water below the tree-covered cliff. The two-story Puxian Pagoda is perched on the hilltop, on the elephant’s back.

Like the hill, Puxian Pagoda is believed to date back to the Ming Dynasty, from 1368 to around 1644. From a distance, it resembles a sword’s handle rising 14 meters from the elephant’s back.

Two other caves on the Elephant Trunk Hill are known as the elephant’s “eyes.” From one of these caves, visitors enjoy panoramic views of Guilin.

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The Hills’ Legends

Elephant Trunk Hill in Guilin, China
Best View Stock / Adobe Stock

There are several legends about the hill’s formation, primarily centering on a fallen sky god. According to this Legend, the mountain is an image of a sky god. It implies that the elephant was the sky god once the Emperor of Heaven’s vase carrier.

One day, when “the emperor of heaven” was on a hunting expedition on earth, this elephant god fell sick and was left behind. However, one older man cared for the elephant until it became healthy and strong again. This elephant god stayed on earth to repay the man and the village, helping the village farmers cultivate the land.

But this didn’t go well with the emperor of heaven, who wanted the elephant god back in heaven. When it refused, the emperor came down to fight and capture the elephant. And while it killed so many of the emperor’s soldiers, the elephant was finally slain while drinking water on the river.

However, its body never fell. To this day, it remains as the Elephant Trunk Hill.

Things to See and Do Near Elephant Trunk Hill

Guilin China mountains
Image by GetYourGuide

There are numerous things to do and places to visit nearby while touring the Elephant Trunk Hill. For starters, you can:

Go for a Li River Cruise

Boats on Li Jiang River
Image by GetYourGuide

Visitors to Elephant Hill can take moonlit boat rides through Water Moon Cave and try to capture the magical moment. Many tourists enjoy riding bamboo rafts to take in the scenery’s beauty. A full-day cruise tour gives you a taste of the beautiful river and the entire Yangshuo countryside.

Climb to the Hilltop

Elephant Trunk Hill and the Li River in Guilin, China
efired / Adobe Stock

This iconic hill looks like a vast elephant quenching its thirst, with its trunk dipped into the river. The box has steps stacked on each other, forming a staircase-like structure. Visitors can walk up the chest to the hilltop to enjoy the countryside’s panoramic views. Booking a private day tour helps you get all this fan.

Go for the Famous Night Show

Elephant Trunk Hill and the Li River at night in Guilin, China
Michaela / Adobe Stock

This is usually known as the Legend of the Elephant Trunk Hill, a major highlight at this place. It is an evening special effects and multimedia event.

You’ll enjoy the Guilin culture and scenery highlights, where the hill is used as the screen. They use lasers, special lighting, and computer-generated video to entertain viewers. This 4-part show is accompanied by electrifying local music. The show consists of the following:

  • The Phantom Theater
  • Mysterious Village
  • Primitive Guilin
  • The Elephant god’s Legend

Visit the Longsheng Rice Terraces

Guilin rice plantation
Image by GetYourGuide

The Elephant Trunk Hill towers rice plantations. Crossing the Li River, you can visit the marked trails and symbols of love among the rich vegetation for perfect rice terrace views.

Enjoy an Urban and Nature Hike

Elephant hill nature walk
Image by

Nature walks are always breathtaking. You can go for a scenic nature and urban hike from Seven Stars Park to Elephant Trunk Hill and enjoy some of the most stunning views.

Best Time to Visit Elephant Trunk Hill

Guilin city
Image by

Guilin’s climate is a subtropical one. The best season to visit Elephant Trunk Hill is April and early October. It may be too humid and hot for some people during hot summer days, although a few would love it. On such days, it’s better to visit the hill in the early morning or evening when the sun sets.

In the early to mid-summer, rain is frequent. Therefore, always ensure you’ve checked the weather forecast before heading there. Between December and February, the weather is relatively cool. The area can become quite cold at night but never snowy.

As such, if you visit this season, carry some warm clothes. The Elephant Trunk Hill usually opens between 7 am and 6 pm in the off-season and between 6.30 am and 6.30 pm.

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