The colorful Zhangye Danxia National Geopark is one of the most beautiful landforms in all of China. Known for its vivid kaleidoscope of rock formations, these striking hills can be found in the northwest part of the country. Comprising some 322 square kilometers or 124 square miles, the Zhangye Dankia Geopark is the 4th travel adventure in the series A World Far And Away.
The Zhangye Danxia National Park is located in the northern foothills of the Qilian Mountains, in the counties of Linze and Sunan. This is under the administration of the city of Zhangye in Gansu province. The main areas of the Danxia landform, are in the Kangle and Baiyin townships.
The naturally formed landscape is alive with shades of blue,emerald, green, orange, red and yellow. There is a full seven differentiations of color. The feature has been given the monikers the eye candy of Zhangye and China’s Rainbow Mountains.
A vast area of color can be seen in the endless valleys punctuated by a number of waterfalls, that continue for miles. The numerous scenes often reminds visitors of an impressionistic painting, with a riot of distinct variations.
The Geopark at Zhangye took over 24 million years to form and can be dated back to the Cretaceous age. Formed from red-colored sandstones and conglomerates, the entire area is a unique illustration of petrographic geomorphology.
The special geological structure combined with long-term desert conditions,freeze-thaw peeling as well as water and wind erosion created the incredible features seen at the Rainbow Mountains.
Zhangye was formed under special geologic conditions, which involves various erosion activity, oxidation and tectonic plate activity. The effect is similar to a layer cake. Rain, wind and eons of time sculpted exceptional shapes, that include pillars, ravines and towers with endless patterns and sizes.
The numerous rock formations resemble a assortment of imaginary shapes like mythical creatures, castles, palaces and distant cities. Their peaks looking through the clouds and mist at times, display a mirage like scenery, of fantastical pavilions and mountains.
Six of the landscapes in the park were added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010.
Today Zhangye Danxia Geopark has become a major tourist attraction. Recently, a series of access roads and boardwalks, have been constructed to allow greater tourist exploration of these rock formations.
In 2014, for example, an additional 100 million yuan or $15.8 million USD (United States Dollar) was spent on upgrading tourist access.
It is important to note for all visitors that after rainfall, the colors become even more vibrant.
There is also a mineral museum at the park entrance.
The park has become far more restricted in recent years and is limited to specific areas. For many visitors, the best places to observe the landforms, are from the four viewing platforms. These are spread out over 8 kilometers or about 5 miles.
The first platform is about a 10 minute walk from the main gate. The second is a further 10 minute walk. The third is about another 8 minute walk. Here you will see the famous Seven Color Fan.
The fourth is just a bit further. It will take a 3 to 4 minute bus ride. Bus service is regularly available for all travel, between the platforms. By bus, the viewing areas, are between 30 seconds to 4 minutes apart.
The second and fourth stations, are the most popular ones. The fourth platform allows one to see the Seven Color Mountain (Qicai Shan), with the best time for viewing at sunrise or sunset.
For those visitors who would like to see more of Zhangye park, one can rent the services of drivers who operate licensed sightseeing cars. The total distance between the platforms is about 5 miles or 8 kilometers. It will take about two hours, to finish the whole trip.
The Danxia National Park is about 30 minutes west by car, in the northwestern portion of Gansu Province.
The fee is 40 CNY to enter and 20 CNY for the sightseeing bus, 60 CNY ($9.47 USD) total.
Children between 1.2 (3.94 feet) and 1.5m (4.92) in height.
Children under 1.2m is free.
How To Get There
One can take a bus from Zhangye to the park which are quite reasonable, or hire a taxi.
Days and Hours of Operations
May to October 6:00 am to 8:00 pm (20:00)
October to April 7:00 am to 7:00 pm (19:00)
The best time to visit Zhangye National Park is from June to September, when the weather is comfortable. The combination of a strong sun and a little rain, brings out the colors more. Do not go when it is raining or cloudy, as sunshine is needed for the best viewing of the color gradations.
The rest of the year is quite dry. The Park is well below freezing and windy in the winter. Visiting is not recommended at this time of the year.
The best time to visit is in the morning and especially in the evening, where the color variation changes continuously. Sunset is at 7:30 pm local time in the spring and autumn and 8:00 pm in the summer.
It will be far more crowded July and August and on Chinese holidays. During the height of the tourist season, some 20,000 tourists visit daily.
Is available in the nearby community of Zhangye. One can also stay in the nearby yurts, just 600 meters from the entrance, if one is feeling adventurous. They are known as the KaoShan Luxury Tents.
- Take a coat for morning and evening visits. Temperatures drop rapidly at night.
- Bring bottled water.
- A face mask or scarf may be helpful, on more windy days.
- Wear sunscreen to deal with the intense sun
- A hat is recommended
- Sunglasses should be used on sunny days.
- Wear walking shoes, especially if you are taking an extended tour.