Zhangye Danxia: The Awesome Rainbow Mountains of China

Posted by Ra Moon

It seems that the day when the Earth decided to create this landscape, it was celebrating a party. Or perhaps the person in charge of designing the simple slopes of a remote region (in central Gansu Province), to the north of what would be China, had planned to amaze visitors with something exceptional.

In any case, it joined together all the rock layers of colors imaginable in one place, specifically in the area known as Zhangye Danxia, thus achieving what is perhaps the greatest gathering of different pigments in natural stone in the world.

Rainbow Mountains China

Zhangye National Geopark became worldwide famous after the discovery of Danxia by websites like us when the out-of-this-world images began to spread on the web (I recall to be the first one to write and publish pics of this place in English in 2011).

Since then, several movie and TV productions have been in Zhangye Danxia, helping a wider audience to discover this geological wonder. The Great Wall (2016) was a big-budget Chinese-American co-production that filmed some establishing shots here.

More recently, the park was featured in Vikings Season 6 and is also one of the filming locations where the new Mulan movie was filmed.

Bottle of sand
This is the closest thing to those bottles of colored sand beach, but full scale.
Image Lwtt93, previous image Mohsin A. Soomro

Zhangye Danxia
The hills glow brighter right after rainfall, which is the best time to capture these intense colors.
Image by Michael Wong

Tourism in Gansu Province
The topography of the area includes steep cliffs, sharp peaks, and eroded caves.
Image Iwtt93

The road across the geopark
There is a bus running through the park to get from one viewpoint to another.
Image Iwtt93

Chinese landscape
It must be explained that Danxia is not a place, but the name of a type of landscape found in China, characterized by prominent boulders and steep cliffs.

It is similar to karst rocks but formed by layers of conglomerate instead of compact blocks of rock.
Image Michael Wong

The red hue of the soil
Danxia landforms are found only in China and often have a characteristic reddish color.
Image Gudi and Cris

The hills in the sunset
Zhangye Danxia shouldn't be confused with other places such as the so-called China Danxia ensemble, included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Image Vil Sandi

Rainbow Range
Zhangye National Geopark is located 40km going west from the city of Zhangye, where buses depart from West Bus Station.
Image Yeung Ming

The Great Wall Filming Locations
This screenshot flying over Zhangye Danxia from The Great Wall, starring Matt Damon.

Most of the movie was filmed in the Qingdao Oriental Movie Metropolis studios.

As you can see in this image, Sections of the original Great Wall were merged with this Chinese-colored landscape. Up to 360 containers were used to imitate the original wall, that was not shot on location.
Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

For further information, we recommend the Lonely Planet Xinjiang, Urumqi, and Northern China chapter, included in the China travel guide of the same hyper-famous editorial.

  1. An-Nahl : 13

    And [He has subjected] whatever He multiplied for you on the earth of varying colors. Indeed in that is a sign for a people who remember.

  2. Unbelievably awesome!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. I just took a look see of the province, Gansa. I must so there someday. I want to glimpse at the sunsets and awake to the sound of the morning, with my coffee.

    1. Gansu Province is correct, in the far Northwest part of China, just east of Xinjiang.

  4. By the way, this post is also available in Russian here


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