Rainbow Mountains: Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park
The Zhangye Danxia landform is also known as the eye candy of Zhangye. Many artists admire this masterpiece as it appears like a perfect painting on canvas. This 400-square-kilometer attraction is located in in Linze (临泽县) and Sunan (肃南) counties in Gansu Province in central north 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 the Danxia landform zone, a kaleidoscope of numerous red rocky outcrops resemble weird and wonderful shapes like castles, cones, towers, as well as humans, creatures, birds and beasts. 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 many appear unclimbable.
The formation of Zhangye Danxai Landform dates back to 6 million years ago. The Danxia geological structure was formed by the erosion of red sandstone, forming the isolated peaks and steep outcrops. Its special geological structure, combined with long-term weathering, freeze-thaw peeling, and wind and water erosion gave rise to its present appearance.
It is mainly horizontal and low diagonal red strata, mainly belonging to the Jurassic and Tertiary eras. Danxia is the generic term for various kinds of landforms formed from vertical joint development in thick red sandstone and conglomerates.
Zhangye Qianlian Shan (张掖祁连山) Danxia is mainly composed of red gravel, sandstone and mudstone. It is typical of an arid or semi-arid climate and is a singular outcrop with cross layers, steep walls, vertical joints, and gorgeous colors.
Geologists believe that Danxia topography is 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 differences in density and erosion creates towering peaks, cave holes and stone halls.
Danxia formations are green, yellow, blue and many other colors, though their appellation comes from the red rocks of Mount Danxia in Guangdong. Experts say that they are the result of red sandstone and other rocks undergoing metamorphic processes for millions of years.
The Guardian featured Zhangye's Danxia Landforms in pictures, and called this fantastic landscape: "China's rainbow mountains". See http://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2013/aug/01/rainbow-mountains-china-in-pictures.
The Three Danxia Landform Areas in Zhangye
The Zhangye Danxia Landforms are divided into three areas: Danxia National Geological Park, a.k.a. Linze Danxia Scenic Area (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 (Linze Danxia Scenic Area) is 40 kilometers from Zhangye City and 20 kilometers from Linze County Town. It is the most developed and most frequented one among the three. There are four viewing platforms.
The first viewing platform is the nearest and best viewing platform, 10 minutes’ walk from the entrance.
The second viewing platform has it's base about 10 minutes’ walk from the premier viewing platform, but it takes a lot of effort to get to the top. Being the highest viewing platform, with 666 steps which require about 30 minutes’ climbing, a panorama of the scenic area can be enjoyed.
The third viewing platform allows a view of the famous 'seven-color fan'.
The fourth viewing platform is the largest viewing platform. It is on the ridge which runs from east to west. Standing on the ridge and looking south you can feast your eyes on the variegated colors of Qicai Shan (七彩山 'Seven-Color Mountain'). It is 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. 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 between these four viewing platforms departing regularly, and you can decide how long you want to stay at each viewing platform.
If you have the time, you can hike some of the way instead of taking the sightseeing cars, but remember that the last sightseeing car back from the fourth viewing platform is at 20:30. However, it may be earlier according to the season and the weather. If you are on a tour with us your tour guide will make sure you have transport.
Location: Nantaizi Village, Nijiaying County, Zhangye Prefecture 张掖市倪家营乡南台子村
Entrance fee: 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 free.
Powered hang glider rides: 200 RMB for 3-4 minutes, 300 RMB for 5-7 minutes, and 500 RMB for 10-12 minutes.
Opening times: 5:30am–8:30pm in summer, 8am–6pm in winter.
Sunan Danxia Scenic Area
Located in Ganjun District, to the west of Zhangye and south of Linze, it is bigger than Linze Danxia Scenic Area, with fewer tourists and more beautiful scenery. There are no sightseeing cars in this scenic area, but other cars are allowed to go inside. You can see Linze Danxia Scenic Area from Sunan Scenic Area.
Entrance fee: 40 RMB
Binggou Danxia Scenic Area
Binggou Danxia Scenic Area lies in Kangle District, Sunan Uygur Autonomous County, 20 kilometers from Sunan Danxia Scenic Area. It is a place that few people know about. Geologists call it "window lattice and palace-shaped Danxia topography”. It looks amazing and is shaped like a camel, a palace and a shrine. It is not very developed, without any completely constructed roads.
Best Times to Visit the Zhangye Danxia Landforms
It is best to visit Binggou Danxia Scenic Area in the morning and during sunset, especially sunset, when the colors change continuously, showing yellow and red layers covered by a light gray layer. They are well defined 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 the 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 choose your times and viewpoints accordingly.
What to Bring
Take a coat even in summer to wear in the morning and in the evening as the temperature drops rapidly at night. A face mask or scarf will help protect against the strong, dry and dusty wind. Wear a hat, sunscreen and good walking shoes. Shoes with low-cut uppers are not suggested as there is sandy soil.
Remember to take water because there are no shops in the more remote Danxia areas.
Zhangye and the Silk Road
Domestic and international visitors come to Zhangye while exploring the Silk Road. In ancient times, Zhangye was called Ganzhou. It was a well-known commercial trade post 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.
Other Zhangye Attractions
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 an interesting attraction in the southeast of Zhangye 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 and wood. It measures 34.5 meters long and 7.5 meters wide.
The Bell and Drum Tower
The Bell and Drum Tower is also called Zhenyuan Tower. It was created to resemble Xi'an’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 are located 12.5 kilometers from Zhangye and are said to have existed since the Neolithic Age. This attraction features Han Tombs that sprawl out over four square kilometers.
Mati Temple is another tourist favorite that is located in Sunun Uygur Autonomous County. People take a lot of pictures of the Thousand Buddha Caves where 500 grottoes can be found. The scenic area offers a unique experience for visitors.
Tourists can also live with the Uygur 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 Urumqi via Zhangye City.
From Zhangye to the Danxia Landforms
Take a bus from Zhangye City Western Bus Station to Sunan County Town. From there take a taxi or hire a private car to the landforms.
Our standard Zhangye tour packages can easily be customized to include a day (or more) at the Danxia landform areas. China Highlights specializes in customizing tours to your requirements, so that you can see China's highlights, like the Danxia Landforms, in a way that perfectly suits you.
Questions and Answers About Rainbow Mountains: Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park
- Send your inquiry before Apr. 30, 2014, and we will email you a $25 coupon.
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- The coupon cannot be used for paying flight tickets, train tickets, hotel rooms and day trips.