There are places in the world that just look alien. The Shilin Stone Forest near Kunming fits perfectly in this category. It’s a great day trip from Kunming whether you have a day off during a business trip or are on a leisure trip in the area. I did the day trip during a combined business & leisure trip in which my son joined me. Early morning we departed from the Intercontinental Kunming in our private car to visit the Shilin Stone Forest UNESCO World Heritage Site.
What to expect at the Shilin Stone Forest
It takes about a 2-3 hour drive from Kunming to reach the Shilin Stone Forest, the main attraction in Shilin. We arrived on a day just before the May holidays in China and found the place almost deserted. The entrance fee was pretty steep as is the case with many famous places of interest in China. As it was quiet we decided to just start walking through the scenic area; a bit clockwise. We walked the narrow paths winding through the trees of stone with every opening giving another breathtaking view on the landscape. The distances are not that far but taking in the views makes the time pass quickly. It took us about 90 minutes before we arrived at one of the most famous formations: the elephant.
We continued our journey towards the back of the park where there is a cave. For some reason it was closed and we could not find anyone to open the gate. To get an overview of the full park we walked up to the highest platform to have a bird’s eye view of it. It’s magnificent! The formations coming out of the ground like they were put there my humans. A place unlike any other. After we took in the beauty we started walking towards the exit. On the way there, there were some more rocks in various shapes with beautiful names. It was already after lunch time and we continued our journey in the area. Lunch had to wait.
Formation of the Shilin Stone Forest
The current landscape was formed over millions of years ago. In the Permian period in the late Paleozoic era, about 270 million years ago, a sea dried up. The ground was lifted slowly exposing the stone layers to the weather. All this time the wind and water eroded the stones making the soft limestone go away leaving the harder stones in place. This formed the surrealistic landscape what we call the Shilin Stone Forest. It’s declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site together with two other places of the South China Karst Landscapes. I agree with this status as it’s truly unique.
Other places of interest nearby
The area is home to various other formations including lakes, caves and smaller stone forests. These are however not part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. They are however beautiful. One village called Suogeyi is also part of the UNESCO site. We drove towards the village for a short stroll but there was not much to do so we continued to the Changhu Lake. This is one of the karst lakes the area is rich off. Surrounded by beautiful green mountains it’s a pleasant place to relax. We finally could have some lunch in the local restaurant. We kind of got hungry after the long day.
After an hour just watching the lake and doing nothing we decided it was time to get on the road again. We would change hotel and stay at the Crowne Plaza Kunming which is located downtown. The next day we wanted to explore Kunming; the city of eternal spring. If you are in Kunming a visit to the Shilin Stone Forest should be on your to-do list. It’s a must during any Yunnan province tour in China. Look at the photos. It’s so surrealistic and beautiful that I’m sure it will surprise you!
Did you visit any surrealistic place or do you have questions? Please leave a comment at the bottom of the page. Love to hear from you!
Gallery Shilin Stone Forest
Check the gallery for more photos taken during this trip. If you like to use any photo for commercial, private or editorial use please contact first for permission and/or pricing.
GPS Track Shilin Stone Forest
During my trips I make GPS tracks (sometimes they do not show, click download to open in Google maps). Feel free to download them and see how we moved around and see the time frames at the various places. Hope these maps are of help for you when planning your trips.