Geology lovers and avid Instagrammers alike will be drawn to the otherworldly hues of the "Rainbow Mountains." The colors were formed by the layering of sedimentary mineral deposits over millions of years, but it's hard to look at the flowing reds, yellows, and oranges and not feel like you're witnessing magic.
Name: Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park, Danxia Landform Geopark, Rainbow Mountains
Chinese Name: 张掖丹霞国家地质公园
Location: between Linze County and Sunan County, Zhangye, Gansu Province in northwest China
Area: 200 square miles (510 square kilometers)
Extending along the northern slope of Qilian Mountain in west China, Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park in Gansu is the best representative of China's colorful Danxia landform and the largest Danxia landscape in an arid area, with a wide variety of landforms. Undulating fiery-red ridges together with amazing multicolored mountain folds transform the park into an immense sea of fire with rolling waves, earning it the reputation of China's Rainbow Mountains and also one of the 'Top 10 Geographical Wonders of the World' selected by the National Geographic.
How was Zhangye Danxia formed?
Zhangye Danxia Geopark's geological structure is formed by rocks piling on top of one another. It means that after billions of years of weathering and water erosion, together with the influences brought by the special geological structure, climate change, and wind power, the red sandstones, psephites and pelites have shaped into isolated mountains and steep rocks. The sandstones' bright colors make the Geopark an attractive tourist destination to experience the masterpieces of nature.
The park is divided into two distinctive areas: Colorful Hills, featuring the bright and contrasting colors, and Ice Valley, famous for its bizarre forms.
Red is the main color of Colorful Hills. Under the sunlight, the seemingly endless hills form a sea of fire. Some of the hills feature rock stripes in different colors, looking like bright ribbons fluttering in the desert. The most representative spots of this kind are the Seven-color Screen and the Colorful Sunset, looking like a rainbow hanging in the distance. However, scenes are totally different on the edge of this area. The colors there turn into yellow and grey, resembling crystal shells in the sun. Scenes are even more breathtaking at sunrise and sunset. Then, the staggered lights and shadows thrown on the hills endow this region with a dynamic beauty.
Viewing Platforms in Colorful Hills
Colorful Hills has four viewing platforms for visitors to admire the scenes and take pictures. There is a sightseeing bus taking you to each of them. You can also walk to every platform.
The first platform is about ten minutes' walk from the gate. It would take less than a minute to get there by bus. It is the largest one and may need about 40 minutes to visit.
Walking to the second one also takes about ten minutes. It is the highest point for visitors to take a bird's-eye-view of the whole region. You need to climb up 666 steps to get to the top. The climbing takes about 30 minutes and requires a lot of energy.
Taking a few minutes' walk along a boardwalk, you will reach the third platform. The splendid scenery of Seven-color Screen is the major attraction there.
The last one is a little further from the third platform. It would take three minutes getting there by bus. Walking may need about 40 minutes. It is the major viewing platform built on a mountain ridge with the most stunning scenes.
Ice Valley ( Binggou Scenic Area)
Stretching 25 miles (40 kilometers) from west to east, Danxia precipices, stone columns, aiguilles and hills are widely distributed in this region. The narrow hills in the Ice Valley are all pointing to the sky, making this valley the Red Stone Forest of the Great Northwest. Viewed from a distance, the rolling hills look like temples, pagodas, and figures of Buddha, making the valley a natural Buddhist land.
How to Get to Danxia Landform Geopark?
Arrive at Zhangye by flight:
Lanzhou, Xi'an, Urumqi, and Dunhuang have direct flights to Zhangye Ganzhou Airport. At the airport, you can hire a taxi to the Geopark, which is 40 mi (65 km) away. Otherwise you can take a taxi to West Bus Station, which costs about CNY 60 for the 15 mi (25-km) journey. At the bus station, take a bus bound for Sunan, get off at the intermediate stop Nantaicun, and then walk to the Geopark.
Get to Lanzhou first and transfer to Zhangye:
Lanzhou, 310 mi (500 km) from Zhangye, enjoys more convenient accessibility. One can get to Lanzhou first and then take a flight, high-speed train (Lanzhou West Railway Station - Zhangye West Railway Station), or bus (at Lanzhou East Bus Station) to get to Zhangye, and then go to West Bus Station of the city to take a bus to the Geopark.
SOURCES: www.harpersbazaar.com, www.travelchinaguide.com