Home China Guide Kunming Attractions The Stone Forest Scenic Region

The Stone Forest Scenic Region

Do you want to see all the typical karst stone forest landforms in just one place? Come to Yunnan's Stone Forest. It is the only karst stone forest in a subtropical plateau region in the world. It is internationally reputed as the "Stone Forest Museum".

  • Chinese: 石林 Shílín /shrr-lin/ 'Stone Forest'
  • Area: 400 square Kilometers (150 sq. mi.)
  • Popular activities: see a vast stone forest with waterfalls, lakes, and karst caves; get to know the lifestyle of the Sani (Yi) people
  • Must-sees: the Greater and Lesser Stone Forests, Naigu Stone Forest
  • Suited to: anyone, especially families with children and geology lovers
  • Time needed: 3 to 4 hours


The Stone Forest Scenic Region boasts numerous scenic areas and spots, such as the Greater and Lesser Stone Forests (also known as the Lizijing Stone Forest), Naigu Stone Forest, Zhiyun Cave, Long Lake, Moon Lake, Qifeng Cave, and the Dadie Waterfalls.

The Greater and Lesser Stone Forest The Greater and Lesser Stone Forests

The Greater and Lesser Stone Forests — Like a Theme Park

The Greater and Lesser Stone Forests, covering an area of 12 square kilometers (5 sq. mi.), are the main scenic areas. When people say 'the Stone Forest', it always refers to the Greater and Lesser Stone Forests. The stones there are oddly shaped, with peaks magnificently standing erect like a forest.

As you walk through them, you will be amazed at the natural stone masterpieces and be bewitched by the intricate stone formations that are in the shapes of columns, cones, pagodas, and mushrooms, as well as animals, plants, and even human figures. The stones are scattered both densely and sparsely, and some look elegant while others are rugged.

The magnificent, strange, and steep landscape creates countless sights, including Lotus Peak, Ashima Rock, Sword Peak Pond, Shilin Lake, and 'a Gleam of Sky'.

Naigu Stone Forest — a Geopark, Less-Crowded

Naigu Stone ForestNaigu Stone Forest

If you want to get away from the tourist crowds, Naigu Stone Forest is a good option. It is 8 kilometers (5 miles) northeast of the Greater and Lesser Stone Forest, and is older and quieter than the Greater and Lesser Stone Forest. It has been declared a World Heritage site as part of the South China Karst.

Naigu literally means 'ancient black' in the language of the Yi ethnic group. Naigu Stone Forest has a weathered black surface.

Covering an area of 10 square kilometers (4 sq. mi.), Naigu Stone Forest consists of the Eastern Area, Western Area, Baiyun Lake, Baiyun Cave, and Old Battlefield. It features spiky stones, karst caves, a large waterfall, a vast grassland, and an impressive causeway of black volcanic blocks.

If you go there between September and November, you will be mesmerized by a sea of tickseed flowers flanked by the Stone Forest.

The Greater & Lesser Stone Forests Versus Naigu Stone Forest

Size Rock Color Sights Reputation Crowds Status
The Greater & Lesser Stone Forests 12 sq. km Limestone Light gray More varied formations, lakes Very famous Very crowded Commercial
Naigu Stone Forest 10 sq. km Dolomite Dark gray, black Spiky formations, caves, causeway, waterfall, flower fields Newly growing in popularity Less-crowded More rustic

The Greater & Lesser Stone Forests is a must-see attraction for Chinese tourists, so countless tourist groups swarm into it during the peak season. We recommend that you see the less-visited Naigu Stone Forest to guarantee a better experience.

The Best Times to Visit

The Stone Forest Scenic Region is open all year round. As it is an outdoor area, it is better to avoid rainy days. You are recommended to check the weather forecast before setting out. The rainy season lasts from May to October.

The Torch Festival, one of the most important festivals for the Yi People, is usually celebrated on month 6 days 24–26 of the Yi calendar (similar to China's lunar calendar, around July/August). It is always crowded with local people and tourists, so try to avoid it if you don't like crowds.

Stone ForestOddly shaped stone

Also, try to avoid Chinese public holidays, such as Labor Day (May 1st to 7th) and National Day (October 1st to 7th). It is recommended that you start your day early so as to avoid crowds.

Travel Essentials

  • Location: 90 kilometers (56 mi) southeast of Kunming
  • Recommended time for a visit: 3–4 hours
  • Open: 8:30am to 6pm
  • Entrance fee: CNY 175
  • Regular buses run from Kunming East Coach Station (East Third Ring Road, Panlong District) to the Stone Forest, taking about 2 hours. At the Greater and Lesser Stone Forests entrance there are regular buses to Naigu Stone Forest.

Legend About the Stone Forest

As the legend goes, Ashima, a beautiful girl of the Sani people (a branch of the Yi) was kidnapped by an evil landlord’s son and forced into marriage. Her lover, Ahei, made every effort to save her.

But on the way home, Ashima was swept away by a flood and turned into what is known as the Ashima Rock. You can find this rock in the Lesser Stone Forest. She is seen as a protector of the Sani people.

Nearby Attractions

  • Jiuxiang: It is known as the "museum of karst caves", which boasts caves that are largest in scale, number, and wonder in China.
  • Xishan (Western Hills) Forest Park: Renowned as "the most beautiful place in Yunnan", it is very beautiful, with lush vegetation, blooming flowers, green grass, and tranquil surroundings.
  • Yuantong Temple: It is the oldest Buddhist temple in Kunming and it houses the 3.5-meter (11.5-foot) -tall statue of Sakyamuni.

Tour the Stone Forest with China Highlights

Our professional guideOur professional guide

As this scenic area is so vast, you are recommended to have a private guide to avoid getting lost and to learn more background information about the Stone Forest. We are more than happy to offer a guide service and tailor-make a tour for you.

Our tours are very flexible. You can alter the itinerary, and extend or shorten your tour to suit your price, interests, and schedule. Feel free to tell us your requirements.