Nanning Travel Guide
Situated within a reasonable train ride from Hanoi, Nanning is the first place many Southeast Asian backpackers arrive in China.
While it is far from the biggest urban destination in the country, its proximity to one of Asia’s most stunning waterfalls makes it a great place to spend a few days while plotting your next move.
Come check out our Nanning guide for curious visitors as we cover the best things to do in Nanning, China.
Begin your visit to Nanning by getting familiar with local history at the Guangxi Museum of Nationalities. Within its brilliant modernist walls (which are shaped like a bronze drum, a musical instrument common to many of this province’s people), you’ll find an expansive cultural institution dedicated to telling the stories of Guangxi’s twelve different ethnic groups.
2,000 years of history is on display here, with traditional clothing, musical instruments, tools, silverware, masks, and other items which define ethnic groups from Zhuang to Dong. The level of detail in the exhibits is truly extraordinary, so be sure not to miss this place even if you aren’t a big museum person.
If you missed it when crossing over into China from Vietnam, make plans to backtrack to the border on a day trip from Nanning so you can pay a visit to Detian Falls. A tiered series of waterfalls which straddles the international boundary between Vietnam and China, these powder blue beauties are essentially the tropical equivalent of the Plitvice Lakes Waterfalls in Croatia.
This isn’t a tiny complex of falls by any stretch of the imagination, as it ranks as the largest in all of Asia. This will be a long day, as 140 kilometres separates Nanning from Detian Falls, but it will be worth it for the amazing views to which you’ll be privy during your time there.
There are many limestone karst mountains in Guangxi Province – this means there are quite a few caves around that are just begging to be explored. If getting underground is your thing, then be sure to make time for Yiling Cave during your visit to Nanning.
Unlike rough caves which are only suitable for geared-up spelunkers, this cavern is accessible to casual walkers, as its passages are wide, high, and are lit up (in an assortment of colours), making it easy to admire its many stalactites and stalagmites.
While Nanning lacks the old architecture that cities elsewhere in China have, it is close by to Yangmei Ancient Town. A charming community that is a world away from the modern, hectic life that millions of Chinese live every day, coming here will almost take you back in time several hundred years to the times of the Dynasties.
A peaceful place rooted in tradition, many prominent scholars have come from this humble town, and its beauty has attracted numerous film directors to shoot their movies here over the years. As you walk through its narrow streets, you’ll see multiple examples of architecture typical of the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
Situated only 30 kilometres away from Nanning proper, Yangmei makes for a great day trip for those who are short on time.
Get above the streets of Nanning and surround yourself with natural beauty by taking a trip up to Qingxiu Mountain. While more of a large hill than an actual mountain, the privileged views it allows of the city and the surrounding landscape still makes it a worthwhile attraction.
Atop its summit, you’ll find placid lakes, pavilions, and Taoist temples which compliments this park’s natural beauty perfectly. Feel like doing something that will make you feel like a member of the bourgeoisie? There is an 18 hole golf course at the base where you can get in a few swings if it has been too long since you have played this great game.
When the heat of this city has become too much for you to bear, chill out and relax for a bit by dropping by Nanning People’s Park. With scenic pavilions, lakes, bridges, an amusement park for children, and a fortification once occupied by a warlord, it is a peaceful spot to hang out when stress reduction is a priority.
Hungry? There are numerous food vendors which serve up dishes from across China in and around the park, so find an option which appeals to you and indulge in some authentic Chinese food.
Learn a bit about traditional Chinese medicinal herbs by poking around the Guangxi Medical Botanical Garden. This is not a tiny collection of plants, as there are over 2,000 kinds of medicinal flora which can heal a variety of ailments.
End your time in Nanning by spending an evening grazing at a variety of street food stalls at the Zhongshan Road Night Market. Seafood lovers are taken care of well here, as many vendors deal in foods made from the latest catch. With serving hours stretching into the small hours of the morning, late diners needn’t worry about missing out on the action.