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The Amazing Stone Forest in Yunnan, China

Nothing is easy in China. A quick internet search told me the Stone Forest, or Shilin, was 100km away from Kunming, where I’d arrived the day before to start my month in China. So, off I went to see this mystical karst landscape. 3 buses and 4 hours later I finally arrived, slightly bitter that it had taken that long, and seriously considering changing my travelling style by getting taxis and tours everywhere.

That bitterness quickly retreated (I knew it would resurface when I had to repeat that exact same journey home) because the Stone Forest really is mind blowing. Sharp gray peaks rise from the ground in all shapes and sizes for miles around – I can’t understand why someone hasn’t used this as inspiration for an alien world before, surely they will eventually.  The scale is pretty amazing, I walked around for hours and didn’t see all of it, and looking out over the plain and seeing thousands of sword-like rocks is one of the coolest things I’ve seen on my travels so far.

Further reading: Backpacking in Yunnan, China: Costs, Tips and Places to See

Knife like peaks and trees at the Stone Forest in Yunnan, ChinaA Pond at the Stone Forest in Yunnan, China

The Stone Forest is divided up into a few different areas, and if you head to the outer limits you’ll be surrounded by big rocks and trees – not thousands of Chinese tourists. China is so unlike any place I’ve been, partly because tourism is geared towards local tourists, not foreigners.  Chinese people love to travel in China and I think it’s great that they are so passionate about seeing their own country. A lot of people travelling in China get frustrated by it, but the beauty of Chinese tourism is that they tend to stick to the popular places or the best photo spots, so walk against the tide for a while and you’ll be all alone. There was one really popular place in the heart of the Stone Forest and it was pretty crazy. I got manhandled out of the way of someone’s photo – but in these kinds of places everyone is in the way of someone’s photo.

Further reading: Tiger Leaping Gorge, China: The Trek of the Titans

A popular tourist spot in the Stone Forest in Yunnan, ChinaA quiet corner of the Stone Forest in Yunnan, China

Once you get past the entrance there is nowhere to buy drinks or food, so make sure you take some with you. I learnt this the hard way – I got so desperate for water I asked a policewoman, who filled up my bottle from what looked like a filter. A few hours later I got extremely sick, the only time I can remember that I’ve been properly sick from food or drink in nearly 4 years of living and travelling in Asia.

I love karst landscapes and the Stone Forest is a pretty unique example, it’s completely different to the scenery of Vang Vieng, Ha Long Bay and Phang Nga Bay. If you want to see something amazing then head to the Stone Forest in Yunnan, you won’t be disappointed. It will cost you though; the entrance ticket was 175 RMB, which is around $30 USD!

Further reading: Dali Old Town: A Backpacker Paradise in China

Getting to the Stone Forest

Find someone that speaks Chinese and English and get them to write down directions! I stayed at the Hump Hostel in Kunming and they were really helpful. I had a piece of paper with everything I needed, but if you want to avoid 2 of the 3 buses then make your way to the East Bus Station by taxi and get a bus from there, you’ll save a lot of hassle!

Further reading: Looking for other things to do in Shilin near the Stone Forest? Check this out!

The sword like karst peaks of the Stone Forest in Yunnan, China

Have you been to the Stone Forest in Yunnan, or any other amazing karst areas? Let me know!

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Jon Algie

A travel blogger from New Zealand who hates talking about himself in the third person and has no imagination when it comes to naming websites.

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  1. May 27, 2014 at 1:03 am — Reply

    We opted for a driver to take us here and after reading how long it took you I am glad we did, we managed to have enough time to visit the caves that were nearby. If you hae tome in Kunming it is well worth going there too

    • May 27, 2014 at 10:17 am — Reply

      I wanted to visit those caves, I’ll try to get there on the way back through Kunming.

  2. May 27, 2014 at 2:03 am — Reply

    Hope you’re feeling better by now! Shilin is absolutely gorgeous! Loved wandering around and getting lost between those big rocks!

    • May 27, 2014 at 10:18 am — Reply

      Thanks Manouk, much better now!

  3. May 28, 2014 at 1:59 am — Reply

    Wow, this is just gorgeous! China really has some amazing landscapes and natural sites. I can’t believe I haven’t heard of this one before. I’ll have to bookmark this so I remember to visit when I eventually make it to China :).

    • May 29, 2014 at 12:45 am — Reply

      I hadn’t heard of it either. There is so much to see in China!

  4. May 30, 2014 at 2:08 am — Reply

    Nice post Jon – $30 to see the Stone Forest? Holy cow!! Does anybody go?
    Frank (bbqboy)

    • June 1, 2014 at 1:15 pm — Reply

      Lots of Chinese people do! Every site like this costs a lot in China unfortunately.

  5. May 30, 2014 at 6:39 am — Reply

    I had no idea how beautiful China was, I always imagine this big industrial place! Great post!

    • June 1, 2014 at 1:17 pm — Reply

      Yeah, there is so much to see in China, getting there is a bit of a hassle though!

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