Danxia Landforms – Zhangye Shi, China - Atlas Obscura
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Zhangye Shi, China

Danxia Landforms

These layered sandstone mountains in China look like they are made of pressed crayons. 

What would you get if you mixed rainbow and rock? The Zhangye Danxia Landforms might be an example.

Found along the path of the Silk Road in Northwestern China’s Gansu Province, this stupefying array of colorful geology awaits those who are willing to find it. Vivid reds, oranges, and yellows stripe along the mountains in technicolor harmony with rocks allegedly shaped like animals and mythical creatures. This geological park also offers several hiking areas and scenic overlooks to fully enjoy the color. That being said, visitors don’t need to struggle to see the rainbow rocks.

Where did the rainbow come from? The answer is not as magical as one might hope: different layers of sandstone dating back millions of years. With erosion, wind, and weather, the colorful layers were formed.

But what matters isn’t why there are rainbow mountains, but that somewhere out in the wild, a place like this actually exists. And no, it’s not through the looking glass. 

Know Before You Go

Zhangye is on the Lanzhou-Xinjiang railway line, and the Zhangye Danxia Landforms can be reached via bus from Zhangye. There are buses within the park to get between sites.