David and I recently visited the famous Rainbow Mountains, otherwise knows as Zhangye Danxia Geological Formation – near Zhangye, China. These mountains look like they’ve been painted with broad brush strokes with lively colors zigzagging across the rolling hills (mostly in warm shades). With each hill a new pattern emerges and across the range dozens of differing patterns can be detected.
There are many pictures online that depict additional colors (cool colors as well) and these are not all that truthful I hate to say…the mountains do change color slightly with different lighting (sunrise and sunset), but at all times of day they roughly resemble what I have captured in these images.
The mountains are truly remarkable and a one-of-a-kind experience. The surrounding ranges do not resemble this color palette at all – and they almost seem to appear out of nowhere when you arrive. It’s like a scene from a Dr. Seuss book, your eyes almost do not believe it Oh and did I mention, we saw a real rainbow in the sky while exploring the Rainbow Mountains? That was cool!
To get to Zhangye Danxia Geological Formation:
First travel to Zhangye, which is a town on the Silk road accessible from Xi’an, Pingliang or Jiayuguan. Upon arrival in the town you can simply hop in a cab and show them the Google translation for Zhangye Danxia Geological Formation in Mandarin. Any cabbie will happily take you out to the site (45 mins from the town) and wait for you. The cab itself will run about $30 for 4-5 hours and the site itself is about $6/pp. The site ticket includes admission and a shuttle bus that drops you off at the main viewing points (although you can additionally venture off on your own at any point in time as well).
Check out this insane hike we did at Mount Huashan:
This video: Hiking the Deadliest Hike in the World
The day started off in a panic, we woke up at 7:20am, when we were supposed to be out of the hotel by 7. Danielle and I were ready and out by 7:40, we stopped downstairs to check out, and made coffee as I took a picture of the directions to the airport. It was going to be a long day of travel.
We got on the train, by 8, but didn’t get to the transfer in time to catch the 8:03am train… So we had to wait for the 8:30am. It was a rough start to the day. By the time we got to the airport we were 3 minutes late to check into our flight, they told us our bags wouldn’t make it on the plane with us, and they’d have to change our flight. The fee for that was $52.
We made our new flight, but when we got to Osaka, we knew we were quite a bit behind schedule. The plane didn’t make it as quickly as it should have, and we quickly figured out we’d need to catch a train, to make another transfer. After 6 different modes of transportation (bus, subway, car, train, plane, and tram) we end up in Koyasan. The last mode was a tram up the mountain, which picks you up right where the train drops you off. It doesn’t seem like more than 1000 people live in Koya (Mount Koya), but, as we discovered, there are over 30 temples located within the small town. We finally get to the information office and they tell us all but 2 of the temples are booked for the night – and that dinner time is upon us (which means we would miss eating if we didn’t get to a temple soon).