Rainbow Mountains: Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park
The Zhangye Danxia landform is also known as the eye candy of Zhangye. Many artists envy this masterpiece as it appears like a perfect painting on canvas. This four hundred square kilometer attraction is located in Situated in Linze (临泽县) and Sunan (肃南) counties in Gansu Province in northwest China.
It is composed of lots of precipitous cliffs, most of which are several hundred meters high. All of these cliffs are smooth and sharp, standing in the plains and riversides, looking grand and magnificent, vigorous and virile. Even the low pinnacles look powerful.
Across Danxia Landform, a kaleidoscope of numerous stones resemble weird and wonderful shapes like castles, cones, towers, as well as humans, creatures, birds and beasts; in fact, any shape you can imagine. They are as vivid and organized as the Millennium Castle and, especially with their peaks peeping through the mist and clouds, produce mirage-like scenery of fantastic mountains and pavilions.
The mountains there are always perpendicular or have very steep slopes which people regard in awe and they cannot be climbed.
Geologists believe that danxia are formed as a result of movement in the earth’s crust. This makes rock layers appear in different colors, textures, shapes, sizes and patterns. The combination of these differences creates towering peaks, cave holes and stone halls.
Danxia formations are green, yellow, blue and many other colors. Experts say that they are the result of red sandstone and other rocks accumulating for millions of years.
The Guardian reported Zhangye Danxia Landforms in pictures. It called this fantastic landscape: China's rainbow mountains. Click the link belwo to see pictures of China's rainbow mountains (as it called) on The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2013/aug/01/rainbow-mountains-china-in-pictures
The Three Danxia Landform Parks
The Zhangye Danxia Landform is divided into three areas: Danxia National Geological Park (临泽丹霞景区), Sunan Danxia scenic area (肃南丹霞景区) and Binggou Danxia scenic area (冰沟丹霞景区).
Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park
Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park is 40 kilometers from Zhangye County and 20 kilometers from Linze County. It is most developed and the most frequented one among the three.
There are four viewing platforms in Linze Danxia scenic area.
The first viewing platform
It is the nearest and best viewing platform with 10 minutes’ walk from the entrance of Zhangye Danxia Landform.
The second viewing platform
It is about 10 minutes’ walk from the premier viewing platform, but it takes a lot of effort due to the mountain road. Being the highest viewing platform with 666 steps which takes about 30 minutes’ climbing, a panorama of the scenic area can be enjoyed.
The third viewing platform
The famous seven-color fan can be seen there.
The fourth viewing platform
As the main viewing platform, it is set up at the ridge which runs from the east to the west. Standing on the ridge and overlooking to the south, you can feast your eyes on the variegated pictures which the Qicai Mountain (七彩山) gives under the sunset light. It is also the perfect place for catching pictures of a sunrise and sunset.
Transportation inside the park
There are sightseeing cars available within the park where other tourist buses are not allowed to go inside. The distance between the four viewing platforms is around eight kilometers and it takes about one hour to finish the whole trip when taking the sightseeing cars.
The sightseeing cars go around these four viewing platforms, during which tourists can decide how long they want to stay at each viewing platform.
Given the time, you can select whether to take the internal sightseeing cars or have a hiking tour, but remember that the latest time for the sightseeing cars to be back from the fourth viewing platform is 20:30. It changes according to the season and the weather and the tour guide will ask the driver beforehand.
Location: Nantaizi Village, Nijiaying County, Zhangye City 张掖市倪家营乡南台子村
Entrance fee: The entrance fee for Zhangye Danxia is 60 RMB, which includes the entrance ticket of 40 RMB and the sightseeing car cost of 20 RMB. People over 70 years old can enjoy free admission after showing their credentials. Children less than 1.2 meters in height can also enter it freely.
Price for powered hang glider: 200 RMB for 3-4minutes’ levitation, 300 RMB for 5-7 minutes, and 500 RMB for 10-12 minutes.
Opening times: 05:30-20:30 in summer, 08:00-18:00 in winter.
Sunan Danxia Scenic Area
It is located in Ganjun Town, to the west of Gansu. It is bigger than Linze Danxia scenic area (the Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park) with fewer tourists but more beautiful scenery. There are no sightseeing cars in this scenic area, but other cars are allowed to go inside. You can just overlook the Linze Danxia scenic area from the Sunan scenic area. However, you can enter the Danxia Landform there.
Entrance fee: 40 RMB
Binggou Danxia Scenic Area
Binggou Danxia scenic area lies in Kangle Village, Sunan Yugur Autonomous County, with a distance of 20 kilometers from Sunan Danxia scenic area. It is a place that few people know about, thus geologists call it the "window lattice and palace-shaped Danxia topography”. It looks amazing and is shaped like a camel, a palace and a shrine. It is in a low developmental stage without any complete constructed road.
Best Times to Visit the Danxia Landform
It is best to visit Binggou Danxia scenic area in the morning and during sunset, especially the latter when the color of Danxia changes continuously showing yellow and red layers covered by a light gray layer. They are well organized with circuitous lines and, if it rains the day before, this color will be more gorgeous. Try not to go when it is cloudy or raining as only when there is sunshine will these mountains show you their gorgeous colors. Zhangye is located in the middle part of Hexi Corridor and it is cold and dry with strong winds in winter, so going in winter is not recommended.
The sun rises at 6 am in the morning and sets at 8 pm in the evening during July to September, so shooting from the east when the sun sets is absolutely the best way to catch the unique scenery on camera, while the opposite applies in the morning.
Take a mask and scarf with you as the wind there is strong. Meanwhile, wear sunscreen and wear caravan shoes. Shoes with low-cut uppers are not suggested as there is sandy soil. Remember to take water because there are no stores along the way.
Take a coat in summer to wear in the morning and in the evening. Also, a scarf and hat are essential as protection from the sun. A velvet coat is needed for occasional use when entering in October, when long sleeved shirts with coats are needed.
The formation of Zhangye Danxai Landform dates back to 6 million years ago. The Danxia geological structure was formed by the accumulation of rock, which means that the red sandstone formed the isolated peaks and steep rocks along with the influence of its special geological structure, climate change, wind power and other natural environmental occurrences after long-term weathering, peeling and water erosion. It mainly developed in the horizontal and low diagonal red strata which mainly belonged to the Jurassic era and the Tertiary era. This red sandstone is the generic term for various kinds of Danxia singular peaks which were formed from the vertical joint development of thick red sand and conglomerates. The Zhangye Qianlian Shan (张掖祁连山) Danxia is mainly composed of red gravel, sandstone and mudstone. It is obvious in an arid or semi-arid climate and is singular with cross layers, steep walls, vertical joints and gorgeous colors.
Zhangye and the Silk Road
Domestic and international visitors come to Zhangye to explore the Silk Road. In ancient times, Zhangye was called Ganzhou. It was a well-known commercial port located on the Silk Road. Many traders used to come to Ganzhou. This gave birth to the growth of both tourism and commerce in the area.
Zhangye is not only rich in natural scenery. It also boasts many man-made tourist attractions. Many tourists include these spots on their itineraries.
Great Buddha Temple
Great Buddha Temple is another interesting attraction in Zhangye City. It is located in the southeastern part of the city. Xixia built the giant Buddha in 1098. It was once called Jiayerulaipian Temple. It was also Gansu’s largest temple at the time.
Giant Buddha Temple is well-preserved. The Great Buddha’s finger alone can accommodate a sleeping person. The statue’s ears are 2 meters long and big enough to carry eight people. It is made of soil, wood and plastic. Its length measures 34.5 meters long and 7.5 meters wide.
Bell and Drum Tower
The Bell and Drum Tower is also called Zhenyuan Tower. It was created to resemble Xian’s bell tower and is the Hexi Corridor’s biggest drum tower. This man-made attraction is housed in a three-story building. It shows off traditional Chinese architecture. The building has aesthetic carvings and a splendid cornice.
Relics of Heishui Kingdom
The Relics of Heishui Kingdom is located 12.5 kilometers away from Zhangye and is said to have existed since the Neolithic Age. This attraction features Han Tombs that sprawl out on four square kilometers.
Mati Temple is another tourist favorite that is located in Sunun Uigur Autonomous County. People take a lot of pictures of the Thousand Buddha Caves where 500 grottos can be found. The scenic area offers a unique experience for visitors.
Tourists can also live with the Uigur locals in their tents. Doing so allows visitors to explore their way of living, culture and traditions.
From Beijing By Air
There are 13 flights available every day from Beijing to Lanzhou. It takes two hours and ten minutes to get to Zhangye from Lanzhou by bus or train. Tourists can also take flights from Beijing to Dunhuang City. However, there is only one flight every day on this route.
From Beijing By Train
Visitors can choose among several trains that go from Beijing to Zhangye City via Jianyuguan City. Otherwise, they can take a train from Beijing to Dunhuang and on to Zhangye City.
Getting to the Zhangye Danxia Landforms
Tourists should take the bus traveling from Zhangye City Western Bus Station to Sunam County. From there, they can take a taxi or hire a private car to take them to the landforms.
Questions and Answers About Rainbow Mountains: Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park
Snow may not effect, but try not to go on cloudy or rainy day, as only when there is sunshine will these mountains show you their gorgeous colors.Sunshine is still available in winter, but as you know weather condition is hard to predict.Carol Wang replied on 2013-11-21
I updated this article on January 9, 2014
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