Best time to travel to China

Rainbow Mountains in China

China's geological wonder started forming tens of millions years ago

Best time: June–September

Rainbow Mountains
Rainbow Mountains

When you come across unrealistically bright pictures from this geological site, you start suspecting Photoshop is involved. Unfortunately, many pictures may indeed be modified. Nonetheless, don't get disappointed too early, for the colours are there, just not that strikingly bright. And when you see the variety of hue shades, you'll admit the rocks are fairly called "Rainbow Mountains".

The first mountains began to rise up in the place of modern Gansu Zhangye National Geopark some 55 million years ago as a result of the Indian and Eurasian Plates collision. The colourful layers you see are deposits of sandstone and siltstone formed some 24 million years ago. Long years of rains and winds did the rest of the work, shaping smooth slopes beside sharp pinnacles, and various chemical processes led to the variety of paints we can observe today.

Since 2010 the geological wonder has been protected as UNESCO World Heritage Site, and every other year it draws more and more tourists from China and abroad.

The best season to explore the unique landforms is June through September. Unlike cold and windy winters, summer offers amiable weather which is not just more favourable for hiking but also allows to see the best of mountains' colours.

Sunsets are said to be gorgeous in China's Rainbow Mountains, so take it into account.

Practical info

When is the best time to visit China's Rainbow Mountains?

If you want to explore the distinctive landforms of China's Rainbow Mountains, the most suitable season to visit is from June to September when the weather is pleasant, allowing you to hike on mountains and capture all the colors with ease. However, winter should be avoided as it is uncomfortable because of the cold and wind, and most of the services are non-operational. Show more

How were the rocks colored to form Rainbow Mountains?

Rainbow Mountains gets their rainbow-like appearance from the exquisitely colored and layered deposits of sandstone, siltstone, and minerals; the process of which took millions of years. The interaction of various physical and chemical reactions with tectonic forces shaped the mountains with smooth slopes and bizarre pinnacles. The stunning landscape reflects the animal and plant fossils, offering insight into the environmental upheavals of that time. Show more

Where is China's Rainbow Mountains located?

China's Rainbow Mountains or Zhangye Danxia sits in the Gansu province, a north-western China region, known for its geographical diversity and cultural importance. The mountains are part of the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park, located within an hour's distance from the Zhangye city, proximal to the Hexi corridor. Visitors are recommended to stay in Zhangye city for better accessibility. Show more

What is the geological significance of the Rainbow Mountains?

The Rainbow Mountains in China are a significant geological site, with rocks showcasing a rich combination of sedimentary minerals and unique coloring. The scarlet, yellow, and red band patterns rarely occur elsewhere globally. Fossils unearthed from the site expose ecological changes occurring during a particular geological period. The site's global significance led to its inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2010, attracting tourists worldwide. Show more

Can I hike in Rainbow Mountains?

Yes, visitors to China's Rainbow Mountains are allowed to hike or join a minibus tour to explore the surreal landscape. The walking paths are marked for tourists' convenience, but some terrains can be cumbersome and challenging to traverse. The National Park's entrance fee must be paid, and visitors should carry enough water and food due to the limited food options. Furthermore, it is recommended to wear sunglasses, caps, and sunscreen to shield against harsh sunlight and dress appropriately. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin