The Danxia Geopark at Zhangye is one of the most beautiful and popular national parks with Danxia landscapes in China due to its very colorful and quirky rock formations. Danxia means ‘red clouds’ in Chinese. The rocky landscape, which is known nationally for its special variety of colors, was given the status of a national park in November 2011. The 510 square kilometer area is located on the northern foothills of the Qilian Mountains.
About 540 million years ago, the area was once part of the ocean. Due to the collision of the tectonic plate, the land folded and formed mountains and rose above the sea level. Red sandstone was deposited when rivers formed in the area. As the ground sank into a basin, mudstone deposited on the red sandstone. At different times, different sedimentary rocks were formed containing different amounts of iron salt in the mud and rock. That’s why the layers have different colors. Each shift took thousands of years to form. The movement of the Himalayas raised the area and rivers formed. The river erosion formed canyons and the early landscape of Danxia was created. After further geological periods, river erosion and wind erosion formed the colorful layers you see today.
On a total of four viewing platforms, you can look at these wonders of nature. Entering the landscape is forbidden and so you are driven by a shuttle bus from platform to platform. The journey begins at the Color Hills, which already provide a view of the next platform, the Colorful Sea of Clouds.