Zhangye Danxia National Park, China

Rainbow-colored hills and rock formations in Zhangye Danxia.
Rainbow-colored hills and rock formations in Zhangye Danxia.

Well-known for its spectacular, colorful rock formations, the Zhangye Danxia National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in China. The national park encompasses an area of 510 square kilometers. It is located in the Zhangye city in the Gansu province of northwestern China. The Zhangye Danxia National Park, often regarded as the one of most spectacular landscapes in the country, is visited by thousands of both domestic and international tourists each year.

4. Historical Role

For years, geologists have studied the unique landforms of the Zhangye Danxia National Park to understand the process of formation of this colorful landscape. Research reveals that the land in the area was originally largely flat and composed of layers of sandstone and silt-stone from the cretaceous period. However, when the Eurasian and Indian plates collided, the force of the collision initiated orogenic processes in the region. As the flat land formed fold mountains, the buried layers of sedimentary rocks became exposed. Erosion also further degraded the top layers of siliciclastic rocks, revealing the internal layers of sediments. The colors of the landscape are due to the presence of different minerals like hematite (red), limonite (brown), geothite and iron sulfide (yellow), and chlorite (green). These minerals are cemented to the pores of the sandstone by the actions of precipitated groundwater.

3. Tourism and Education

In 2005 and again in 2009, the Zhangye Danxia National Park was declared as one of the most beautiful landforms in China by various media outlets. Today, the park has highly developed tourist facilities replete with boardwalks and roads to allow the tourists to explore the interesting landscape of the park. Every year, thousands of tourists arrive at the Zhangye Danxia National Park to enjoy its spectacular scenery. The national park is accessed from the city of Zhangye which has its own small airport with flights connecting it to Xi'an and Lanzhou. Trains connect Zhangye to some of the biggest Chinese cities like Beijing, Xi’an, and Chongqing. Tourists are advised to visit the Zhangye Danxia National Park in the summer season between June and September when the mountain shows its “true colors” on bright sunny days.

2. Unique Rocks and Landforms

The entire landscape of the Zhangye Danxia National Park is a treat to the eyes. The colorful, rocky outcrops stand in stark contrast against the green or dull gray colored plains of the region. At places, there are awe-inspiring steep, gigantic cliffs that are several hundred meters high while at other places there are natural sculptures carved out in rocks by the elements of nature. The interesting and irregular, yet aesthetically pleasing, patterns of color on the multicolored ridges of the park are also jaw-dropping wonders to be seen here.

1. Threats and Conservation

Presently, the Zhangye Danxia National Park is protected by local, provincial and central government implemented rules and regulations. Government authorities constantly monitor the park to ensure no harmful human activities impact the pristine nature of the park’s habitat. Tourism is likely to increase in the area and hence the authorities are busy making arrangements to encourage responsible tourism in the national park, reduce pollution induced by tourist vehicles, and prevent littering of the natural site by the visitors.


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