Il Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park, also known as Zhangye Danxia Geopark, is a small park about 40 km from Zhangye where you can see a unique geological landscape, one of the highlights of Gansu province. Known for its colorful rock formations, it has been voted one of the most beautiful lands in China by the Chinese media. The park covers an area of 510 square kilometers. Formerly a provincial park and scenic area, it became a national geopark in November 2011.
The park is located at the foot of the northern hills of the Monti Qilian, in Linze and Sunan counties, which are under the administration of the city of Zhangye, in the Gansu province.
The central area of the park it is located 30 km west of the center of Zhangye and 20 km south of the Linze county seat. It is the most developed and most visited part of the park. A second panoramic area, Binggou, located on the north bank of the Liyuan River, was officially inaugurated on August 3, 2014. Binggou covers an area of 300 square km and its elevation varies from 1.500 to 2.500 meters above sea level. A third area, the Sunan Danxia Scenic Area, is located in Ganjun, south of Linze.
Zhangye Danxia is known for the unusual colors of the rocks, which are smooth, sharp and several hundred meters high. They are the result of deposits of sandstone and other minerals that have occurred over 24 million years. This wonderful result, similar to a layer cake, is due to the action of the same tectonic plates responsible for creating parts of the Himalayan mountains. Wind, rain and weather then sculpted extraordinary shapes, including towers, columns and ravines, with different colors, patterns and sizes.
The Danxia landscape of Zhangye features numerous steep rock faces, many of them several hundred meters high, and multicolored ridges of weathered layers, which sometimes extend to the horizon. These formations, sometimes smooth sometimes sharp, stand out against the greens or grays of the plains, with a grandiose and magnificent appearance. The park is divided into two distinct areas: Colourful Hills, with its bright and contrasting colors, and Ice Valley, famous for its bizarre shapes.
Colourful Hills - Red is the main color of Colorful Hills. Under the sunlight, the seemingly endless hills form a sea of fire. Some of the hills feature strips of rock in different colors, which look like bright ribbons fluttering in the desert. The most representative points of this type are Seven-color screen (Seven-color Screen) e il Colorful sunset (Colorful Sunset), which looks like a rainbow suspended in the distance. The scenes change at the edge of this area, the colors turn yellow and gray. The scenes are even more breathtaking at sunrise and sunset.
Danxia National Park is located near the city of Zhangye, about 30 minutes west by car, in China's northwestern Gansu Province. There are tour minibuses available within the national park, where other tour buses are not allowed to enter. The distance between the four viewing platforms is approximately eight kilometers (5 miles), and it takes around 2 hours to finish the entire journey when taking the tour cars.
The first viewing platform it is the closest platform and also the best one, 10 minutes walk from the entrance.
The second platform it's about a 10-minute walk from the main viewing platform, but it takes a lot of effort to get to the top. It is the highest observation platform, with 666 steps, which require about 30 minutes of climbing, but from its top you can enjoy a wonderful view.
The third platform displays the famous “seven-color screen”.
The fourth viewing platform it's the biggest. It is on a ridge that runs east to west. Standing on the ridge and looking south you can rest your gaze on the variegated colors of Qicai Shan (Seven-Colored Mountain). It is the perfect place to take great photos at sunrise or sunset.
The best time to visit the park goes from June to September when the weather is nice, and the combination of strong sun and light rain makes the colors stand out more. It is best to visit in the morning and at sunset, especially at sunset, when the colors are constantly changing, showing yellow and red layers covered by a light gray layer. The rock layers are well defined with colored stripes and, if it rains the day before, this color will be more gorgeous. Try not to go when it's cloudy or raining, because only when it's sunny will these mountains show you their beautiful colors.
Zhangye is a small town in the Gansu corridor, a gateway to the far west of China, so access is limited. The best way to travel to Zhangye is to go to Lanzhou first and then travel to Zhangye by plane or train.
By plane - Zhangye has a small airport about 15km southeast of the city, with limited flights from Xi'an and Lanzhou. There are no direct flights to Zhangye from other major cities. Lanzhou has direct flights from major Chinese cities. There are five flights from Lanzhou to Zhangye each day and the journey takes one hour.
By train - This trip costs almost the half of the trip by plane but takes two or three times longer. There are direct trains to Zhangye from eg. Beijing, Xi'an and Chongqing.