The Zhangye Danxia is a unique rock formation in southeast China, ranked by Chinese National Geography magazine as one of China’s six most scenic landscapes in 2009. It is located 30 kilometers from the city of Zhangye in northwestern Gansu province in the Zhangye National Geological Park, where it is considered the most popular tourist attraction around the world.
The geological phenomenon of Zhangye Danxia is the result of sandstone and other mineral deposits that, over a period of 24 million years, have formed an amazing natural wonder that resembles a multicolored layered cake.
Under the influence of tectonic plate movement, erosion, and time, the local landscapes have taken on different shapes – pillars, towers, hills, grottoes, and ravines of different hues, textures, and sizes. The rock formations, as if painted with the brush of an invisible artist, are painted in scarlet, orange, yellow, grey-blue, and green.
In 2010, the multicolored Zhangye Danxia Mountains became a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and in November 2011, the entire scenic area was designated a national geopark.
The popularity of the colorful rocks in Zhangye continues to grow, with endless streams of tourists every day eager to see the extraordinary natural attraction with their own eyes. In order to avoid pollution and damage to the unique landscape, it is forbidden to explore the Danxia Hills on one’s own. You can only hike through the protected area as part of a bus tour. The entrance fee to the park is 40 CNY (US$6).
In addition, there is a mandatory fee of 20 CNY ($3) for the sightseeing program. During the tour, the bus makes stops at four of the most picturesque points in the reserve, where visitors are given the opportunity to admire the surrounding scenery quietly. Total tour time is 2-3 hours.
The best period to visit Zhangye Danxia Geopark is from June to September. The colorful scenery is most attractive at sunrise and before sunset when the rocks’ colors are constantly changing.
The Danxia Rocks are an hour’s drive west of Zhangye, so it’s best to take a cab or drive your own car. From major cities in China, Zhangye is most easily reached by air via Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu Province. Zhangye and Lanzhou are connected by rail.