Nature’s Colorful Canvas in China’s Geological Marvel
History of Zhangye Danxia Landform
The Zhangye Danxia Landform has a geological history that goes back millions of years. It is thought that the region was previously covered by a sizable sea that gradually withdrew, leaving layers of sandstone and other minerals in its wake. The peculiar landscape we see today was created due to the rock strata shifting and rising through time due to the movement of tectonic plates.
The Rainbow Mountains’ unique colors result from a combination of different geological processes. The sandstone in the mountains contains iron, magnesium, and other minerals that give it its vibrant hues. The effects of wind and water erosion over millions of years have also contributed to the formation of the landform, creating the unique shapes and patterns that make it so famous. The discovery of the Rainbow Mountains dates back to the 1920s when a Chinese geologist named Xu Xiake visited the area and documented its unusual geology. In 2005, the Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park was established to protect and promote the site, and it has since become a popular attraction for visitors from around the world.
How to Reach Zhangye Danxia Landform
There are several ways to reach the park depending on your starting location and travel preferences.
Zhangye Ganzhou Airport opened in 2011 and is 24 kilometers (15 miles) from Zhangye City. Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai, Lanzhou, Chengdu, Yinchuan, and Guangzhou are all flyable destinations from Zhangye. You can take a train or bus to Zhangye City from the airport and then transfer to a shuttle bus or taxi to the park.
In Zhangye, there are two railroad stations. One is Zhangye Railway Station, which serves regular trains. At the same time the other is Zhangye West Railway Station, a station on the high-speed rail line that runs between Lanzhou and Xinjiang Province and connects Jiayuguan, Dunhuang, and Turpan, three of the major Silk Road cities. The most popular method of transportation to Zhangye is now the high-speed rail. There are additional fast trains that run between Xi’an and Zhangye.
Three roads cross through Zhangye because of its crucial location in the Hexi Corridor, making it simple for long-distance buses to get there. The Zhangye Bus Station, Zhangye South Bus Station, and Zhangye East Bus Station are the three long-distance bus stops in Zhangye.
Weather in Zhangye Danxia Landform
The weather in Zhangye Danxia Landform varies throughout the year, with distinct seasons that bring different weather conditions and temperatures.
- Spring (March to May)
Being in blossom and experiencing pleasant weather make spring a great time to visit Zhangye Danxia Landform. The temperature in spring is typically between 10°C and 20°C (50°F and 68°F); however, there may occasionally be strong winds.
- Summer (June to August)
Summer is the peak tourist season in Zhangye Danxia Landform but it can also be hot and humid. The temperatures during this season are ranging from 20°C to 30°C (68°F to 86°F). It is also the rainy season, with occasional thunderstorms and heavy rainfall.
- Autumn (September to November)
Another well-liked season for travel is autumn, when temperatures range from 10°C to 20°C (50°F to 68°F) and are mild and pleasant. During this time of year, the Rainbow Mountains’ hues are also quite bright.
- Winter (December to February)
Winter can be cold and dry in Zhangye Danxia Landform, with temperatures ranging from -5°C to 5°C (23°F to 41°F). However, the snow-covered landscape can also be quite beautiful. If you prefer fewer crowds, winter is the best time to visit.
Best Time to Visit
The best time to visit Zhangye Danxia Landform depends on your preferences and what you want to see and do. In Zhangye Danxia Landform, each season offers a unique experience, so the selection of the period for traveling depends on what you’re looking for.
- If you prefer mild temperatures and blooming flowers, spring (March to May) is a great time to visit. This is also an excellent time for photography, as the colors of the Rainbow Mountains are particularly vivid during this season.
- Summer (June to August) is the peak tourist season in Zhangye Danxia Landform but it can also be hot and humid. However, if you don’t mind the crowds and want to see the landscape in full color, this is a great time to visit.
- Autumn (September to November) is another popular time to visit, as the weather is cool and comfortable, and the colors of the Rainbow Mountains are particularly vibrant during this season. This is an excellent time for hiking and outdoor activities.
- Winter (December to February) can be cold and dry, but the snow-covered landscape can be beautiful. This is a great time to visit if you prefer fewer crowds and want to see a different side of the landscape.
Attractions and Things To Do in Zhangye Danxia Landform
Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park
The Rainbow Mountains and Zhangye Binggou Danxia Landforms are the two primary scenic regions of Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park, located around 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of Zhangye City. The vibrant Zhangye Danxia landforms are a magnificent work of nature and a photographer’s dream.
The Rainbow Mountains are a group of high cliffs and valleys painted in vivid red, orange, yellow, and green hues. The park has a total area of more than 510 square kilometers. The distinctive patterns and shapes of the Rainbow Mountains are evidence of the power of nature. The colors of the Rainbow Mountains result from different minerals accumulating in the rock strata over time.
Visitors can explore the scenic areas on foot, with several hiking trails and platforms offering stunning landscape views. The most famous scenic spots include the Binggou Danxia Scenic Area, the Sunan Yugu Autonomous County, and the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Museum.
A great variety of vegetation and animals, including threatened species like the snow leopard, Chinese white dolphin, and Tibetan antelope, may be found in the park. The Chinese government has designated it a national natural reserve to preserve the park’s unique beauty and biodiversity.
Giant Buddha Temple
In the Zhangye Danxia Landform region of Gansu province, China, the Giant Buddha Temple, also called the Dafo Temple, is a well-liked tourist destination. One of Asia’s most enormous reclining Buddha sculptures is in the temple, recognized as a prominent cultural and religious institution in the region.
The Western Xia Dynasty (1038–1227) first constructed the Giant Buddha Temple, which was later restored by the Ming (1368–1644) and Qing (1644–1912) dynasties. The temple was destroyed during the Cultural Revolution, and it took nearly ten years to rebuild in the 1990s. The 34-meter-long, clay, gold- and silver-painted figure of the reclining Buddha is the focal point of the temple. One of the best specimens of ancient Buddhist art in China, the statue is said to have been created during the Western Xia Dynasty. In addition to the Buddha statue, the temple complex has several additional rooms and pavilions filled with old Buddhist artifacts, including sculptures, paintings, and relics. With its elaborate carvings and delicate embellishments, the temple’s main hall is imposing, devoted to the Buddha of the Western Paradise.
Visitors to the Giant Buddha Temple are welcome to stroll about the complex and participate in customary Buddhist rites and ceremonies like burning incense, giving offerings, and praying.
Mati Temple Grotto
The Zhangye Danxia Landform region of Gansu province, China, is home to the ancient Buddhist site Mati Temple Grotto, often called Matisi Grottoes. The caves are renowned for their exquisite carvings, vibrant paintings, and distinctive architecture, which provide an exciting window into China’s lengthy cultural and religious past.
They are following dynasties such as the Tang (618-907 AD) and Song (960-1279 AD) dynasties extended and refurbished the caves over the ages after they were initially built during the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534 AD). More than 7000 Buddhist statues and murals may be seen throughout the site’s 70+ caverns, two pagodas, and seven caves. The enormous Buddha statue, carved into the side of a cliff and measures over 30 meters tall, is one of the caves’ most striking features. Red, blue, and gold are vivid hues that paint the clay figurine. The Thousand Buddha Hall, which houses over 10,000 tiny sculptures of the Buddha, and the Five Hundred Arhat Hall, which showcases detailed carvings of the Buddhist saints, are two other noteworthy aspects of the caves. Visitors to the Mati Temple Grotto can explore the site on foot and participate in traditional Buddhist ceremonies, such as lighting incense and offering prayers.
Zhangye Danxia Geopark Museum
The museum is dedicated to showcasing the area’s geological history and unique landforms, which are known for their vibrant colors and stunning beauty.
The museum’s exhibition space spans more than 1,000 square meters. It is home to several displays and exhibits instructing visitors about the region’s geology, geography, and natural history. The museum’s features include interactive presentations, multimedia shows, and detailed geological maps showing how the Danxia landforms formed. The display’s array of vibrant rock samples is one of the museum’s most remarkable attractions. These examples highlight the distinctive hues and patterns of the Danxia landforms, which are the outcome of millions of years’ worth of geological activity, including deposition, erosion, and tectonic movements.
The museum offers information on rare and endangered species exclusive to the Danxia landforms and the plants and animals that live there. The museum also provides details on the customs and traditions of the locals as well as the rich cultural legacy of the area.
Hike or horseback ride through the landscape
One of the best ways to experience the natural beauty of Zhangye Danxia Landform is to hike or horseback ride through the landscape. With its unique geological formations, colorful mountains, and stunning vistas, the area offers a one-of-a-kind experience that is perfect for adventurous travelers.
Hiking and horseback riding trails are available throughout the area, ranging from easy walks to more challenging treks offering breathtaking landscape views. Some of the most popular courses include the Zhangye Danxia Geopark hiking trail, which winds through the heart of the park and offers stunning views of the colorful rock formations, and the Daheyan Canyon trail provides a more challenging hike through narrow canyons and cliffs.
Cuisine in Zhangye Danxia Landform
Zhangye Danxia Landform is in the Gansu Province of China, known for its unique cuisine. Here are some of the local dishes and specialties that visitors can try while in the area:
- Lanzhou Beef Noodles
This famous noodle dish originated in Lanzhou but can be found throughout the region. The plate features handmade noodles in a savory beef broth, with slices of tender beef and various garnishes such as cilantro and scallions.
- Braised Lamb
Gansu Province is known for its lamb dishes; braised lamb is a must-try. The lamb is slow-cooked with spices, garlic, and other seasonings, resulting in a tender and flavorful dish.
- Millet Porridge
This traditional breakfast dish in Gansu Province is made from millet grains cooked with water or milk. It is often served with toppings such as sugar, nuts, or dried fruit.
- Guangzhou Pancakes
Guangzhou Ancient City is located near Zhangye Danxia and is known for its pancakes. The pancakes are made with wheat flour and water and are filled with various ingredients such as pork, vegetables, or tofu.
- Yellow Wine
Gansu Province is also known for its yellow wine from fermented glutinous rice. It has a sweet and mellow taste and is often served as a digestif after a meal.
- Fried Rice with Mutton
This famous dish features stir-fried rice with tender mutton, vegetables, and seasonings.
- Steamed Dumplings
These are small, filled dumplings that are steamed and served hot. They can be filled with various ingredients, such as pork, shrimp, or vegetables.
- Stewed Pork with Dried Tofu
This hearty dish features tender chunks of pork stewed with dried tofu and various seasonings.
- Grilled Fish
This popular dish featured fresh fish grilled over an open flame and served with various seasonings and garnishes.
- Fried Shrimp
This simple but delicious dish featured fresh shrimp fried to perfection and served hot. It is often seasoned with garlic, ginger, and other spices.
Places to Eat
A few restaurants are located within Zhangye Danxia Landform, but they may be limited in terms of options and hours of operation. Most tourists prefer to dine in the nearby city of Zhangye, where there are more choices for dining and accommodation. Some visitors also bring their food and drinks for picnics or hiking trips within the park.
Here are some top-rated restaurants in Zhangye City
- Gansu Museum Cafe
- Shuzhong Restaurant
- Zhongshan Road Night Market
- Hui Muslim Restaurant
- Guohua Restaurant
- Guanshan Noodle Restaurant
- Golden House Hotpot
Nightlife in Zhangye Danxia Landform
Zhangye Danxia Landform is a natural wonder and a popular tourist destination, but it is not known for its nightlife. Visitors typically spend their days exploring the park and nearby attractions, then retire to their accommodations for the evening. However, here are a few choices if you’re seeking some nighttime activities in the region
- Bars and Lounges
A few bars and lounges in Zhangye City, such as the Gantang Bar and the Yunlong Bar, offer drinks and music in the evenings.
- Night Markets
Zhangye City has several night markets that offer a variety of street food and souvenirs, such as the Zhongshan Road Night Market and the South Gate Night Market.
- Cultural Performances
The Zhangye Performing Arts Center occasionally hosts traditional Chinese cultural performances, such as dance and music shows.
Karaoke is a popular activity in China, and there are several KTV (karaoke) establishments in Zhangye City where you can sing and socialize with friends.
Stay in Zhangye Danxia Landform
There are no lodging options within the Zhangye Danxia Landform picturesque region alone. However, there are a few hotel choices in the neighboring city of Zhangye and its neighborhood.
Some visitors choose to stay in the city of Zhangye, which is about 40 kilometers away from the Zhangye Danxia Landform. There is a range of accommodations in Zhangye, including hotels, guesthouses, and hostels. Alternatively, a few compromises are closer to the Zhangye Danxia Landform, such as yurts or traditional Chinese courtyards converted into guesthouses. These options provide a unique experience for visitors and are often located in more rural and scenic areas.
Luxury Hotels in Zhangye
- Zhangye Hotel
- Hyatt Regency Jing Jin City Resort and Spa
- Crowne Plaza Zhangye
- Hilton Zhangye
- Tangchi Hot Spring Resort
Mid-Range Hotels in Zhangye
- Ibis Zhangye Railway Station Hotel
- Hua Chen International Hotel
- Zhangye Hua Xia Hotel
- Zhangye Yunhe Hotel
- Jinjiang Inn Zhangye Municipal Government
Budget Hotels/Hostels in Zhangye
- 7Days Inn Zhangye Danxia Landform
- Zhangye Ruyi Hostel
- Zhangye West Lake Youth Hostel
- Zhangye Tourist Reception Center
- Qilian Youth Hostel
Yurts or Traditional Chinese courtyards
There are several options for staying in yurts or traditional Chinese courtyards in and around Zhangye Danxia Landform. These unique accommodations provide a chance to experience local culture and traditional architecture while enjoying the area’s natural beauty.
Here are some top places to stay in yurts or traditional Chinese courtyards near Zhangye Danxia Landform:
- Danxia Yurt Inn
- Xiaojing Yurts Inn
- Qingquan Yurt Camp
- Baicao Yurt Guesthouse
- Xigu Yurt Inn
Details of Zhangye Danxia Landform
The map is available through this link.
Go Around Zhangye Danxia Landform
- Guided Tours
The best way to explore the Zhangye Danxia Landform is by taking a guided tour. Many tour operators in the area offer guided tours that include transportation, entrance fees, and a knowledgeable guide who can provide information about the area. These tours can be booked online or at the visitor center at the Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park entrance.
- Rent a Car/ Hire a Driver
Visitors can also rent a vehicle or hire a driver to explore the region independently. Driving in China may be difficult, especially for those unfamiliar with the local traffic regulations and customs, but it is vital to note.
- Shuttle Bus
Within the Zhangye Danxia Landform area, visitors can also take a shuttle bus between the different scenic spots in the park. The shuttle bus is a convenient and affordable way to get around, but it can get crowded during peak tourist seasons.
- On foot or horseback
For those who enjoy hiking, several hiking trails lead to different parts of the Zhangye Danxia Landform. These trails can be explored on foot or horseback, offering a more immersive way to experience the area’s natural beauty.
Whether you are interested in exploring the colorful mountains, hiking through the landscape, or discovering ancient temples and caves, Zhangye Danxia Landform has something for everyone. A trip to Zhangye Danxia Landform is an opportunity to immerse yourself in the beauty and diversity of China’s natural and cultural wonders.