CHINA – A day trip from Kunming to the surrealistic Shilin Stone Forest karst landscape


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. If you travel in Yunnan then you simply have to add this to your Yunnan itinerary. 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 2-3 hour by car 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. That was strange. 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; 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 geological formations: the elephant.

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CHINA – A day trip from Kunming to the surrealistic Shilin Stone Forest karst landscape

We continued hiking 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 look like they were put there by aliens. 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.

CHINA – A day trip from Kunming to the surrealistic Shilin Stone Forest karst landscape

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. The other two places are Libo Karst and Wulong Karst which I did not include on this Yunnan itinerary because they are eastwards. I did visit Wulong Karst during my Sichuan trip two years later.

CHINA – A day trip from Kunming to the surrealistic Shilin Stone Forest karst landscape

Other places of interest nearby

The area is home to various other formations including lakes, caves and smaller stone forests. These are not part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. They are however beautiful.

Suogeyi village

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 Changhu Lake.

Changhu Lake

Changhu Lake 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 trekking through the karst landscape all day long.

CHINA – A day trip from Kunming to the surrealistic Shilin Stone Forest karst landscape

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!

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Gallery Shilin Stone Forest

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