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