The Stone Forest: 13 Wonderful Things to Know

The Stone Forest, also known as Shilin is a noteworthy group of limestone formations covering over 500 sq. km. and is situated in Shilin Yi Autonomous County, Yunnan Province, People’s Republic of China, close to Shilin and about 90 kilometers (56 miles) from Kunming, the provincial capital. It is considered one of the most important natural wonders of the world.

1. What Makes The Stone Forest Unique?

Its geological and natural beauty attracts many visitors every day. The towering limestone formations are a result of millions of years of geological activity, erosion, and weathering. The area was once an ancient sea, and over time, the movement of tectonic plates caused the limestone to rise and form the karst landscape that we see today.

The natural forces of water and wind then carved the stone into the unique shapes that we see today, giving the impression of a forest made of stone.

The Stone Forest
image by happystock/ unlimphotos

2. Stone Forest Area

Shilin National Scenic Area has six distinct picturesque places spread throughout an area of 400 square kilometers (150 sq meters) and there are numerous scenic areas:-

1. Lizijing Stone Forest, Also Known as Greater and Lesser Stone Forest:

The Greater Stone Forest is the most extensive and spectacular area of the Stone Forest. It features multitudinous towering gravestone pillars, some of which reach up to 30 measures in height. Callers can explore the maze- suchlike conformations on the bottom, following winding paths and staircases that wind between the pillars.

To the east of the Big Stone Forest are the Little Stone Forests, which have less remarkable but nonetheless outstanding limestone formations.

2. Zhiyun Cave-

The unusual stalactites, stalagmites, and other formations make it one of the largest limestone caves in the region. The cave is broken into three sections and is around 2.5 kilometres long.

The first section, known as the Dry Cave, is fairly flat and has numerous large chambers. The alternate section, called the Water Cave, is where callers can see an underground swash that flows through the delve . The third section is called the Dark Cave and is the most grueling part of the delve to explore due to its narrow and steep passages.

It’s recommended to wear comfortable shoes and apparel as the delve can be damp and slippery. It’s also judicious to bring a flashlight as the lighting inside the delve can be dim.

3. Chang Lake, Also Known as Long Lake:

A stunning highland, Chang Lake is encircled by karst rocks and a thick forest. The lake is the largest in the region and is approximately 1,800 metres above sea level and 1.2 kilometres long. The lake’s crystal-clear blue waters cast a magnificent visual reflection of the surroundings.

Chang Lake, a major cultural landmark in addition to its natural beauty, is thought to be the origin of the Sani people, an ethnic minority group in Yunnan Province. The Sani people and their culture are discussed in a tiny museum that is close to the lake.

image by luq / unlimphotos

4. Yuehu Lake, Also Known as Moon Lake:

The lake is girdled by lush verdure and karst conformations, creating a tranquil atmosphere. One of the main lodestones of Yuehu Lake is the Moon Pavilion, a traditional Chinese- style kiosk located on a small islet in the lake. The kiosk is girdled by water on all sides and offers a panoramic view of the lake and the girding karst conformations.

Yuehu Lake is a beautiful and peaceful place to visit, offering a chance to escape from the hustle and bustle of the megacity and immerse oneself in the natural beauty of the Stone Forest area.

5. Dadieshui Waterfall:

The waterfall, which is around 70 meters high and situated in a tight and rocky canyon, is a natural wonder. The water generates a misty spray as it rushes down the rock face, adding to the scene’s breathtaking splendour.

Visitors that appreciate trekking, wildlife photography, and discovering unusual geological characteristics frequent the Dadieshui Waterfall. The karst environment and the waterfall offer essential insights into the development and evolution of these kinds of geological phenomena, making it a crucial location for scientific research.

6. Qifeng Cave-

Qifeng Cave is about 450 measures long and has a depth of about 30 measures. The delve is named after the stalactites and stalagmites inside that act upturned and hanging brands, known as “Quifeng” in Chinese.

Callers can explore the delve on a rustic walkway and see the beautiful stalactites and stalagmites over near. The delve is also lit up with various lights, which adds to the surreal and magical atmosphere. Quifeng Cave is just one of the numerous amazing sights to see in the Stone Forest, which is a must-visit destination.

It is simple for guests to stay there and spend a lot of time visiting The Stone Forest because a number of motels are close by. Due to these unique qualities, the visitors find this location and this gorgeous woodland region appealing.

7. Naigu Stone Forest

With its towering karst formations, jagged peaks, and deep valleys, Naigu Stone Forest is renowned for its unearthly and surreal scenery. This location has especially tall and slender stone pillars, many of which have human, animal, and even mythical creature likenesses.

image by happystock/ unlimphotos

4. Geology

Formation- The Stone Forest, China is believed to have formed over 270 million years ago during the Permian period, when the area was covered by a shallow sea. Over time, the sea retreated and the limestone formations were exposed to the elements.

Wind and rain eroded the limestone, creating the unique shapes that we see today. The erosion of limestone has sculpted the karst caves. Shilin’s karst caves were created about 270 million years ago and hence the name Shilin.

image by tab1962/ unlimphotos

5. Legend

According to local legend, the Stone Forest was created by the Ashima, a warm-hearted Sani girl who was turned to stone by a jealous god, after she rejected his advances. Her lover, Ahei, was so heartbroken that he turned himself into a stone pillar next to her, and together they became the first stones of the Stone Forest and which is also referred to as Ashima Stone.

6. Development-

The Stone Forest has been a popular tourist destination for centuries and was first mentioned in a book from the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). In the early 20th century, the site was developed to make it more accessible to tourists, with the addition of walkways, stairs, and other amenities.

7. Recognition

In 2007, the Stone Forest has designated a UNESCO Heritage point, in recognition of its outstanding geological features, and the scenic area’s artistic significance. The point continues to be a popular sightseer destination, attracting callers from each over the world to marvel at its unique beauty.

image by natali_brill/ unlimphotos

8. Facts

  1. The Stone Forest is a set of limestone conformations that have been survived and eroded over millions of times, performing in unique gemstone conformations that act a timber.
  2. The Stone Forest covers an area of about 400 square kilometers, with the most popular scenic area being the Shilin Scenic Area.
  3. The Shilin Scenic Area features multitudinous karst conformations, including pillars, peaks, and deep defiles, with some conformations reaching heights of over to 30 measures.
  4. The Stone Forest is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is recognized for its natural beauty and cultural significance.
  5. The area around the Stone Forest is also home to many ethnic minority groups, including the Sani people, who have their unique language and culture.
    image by kawing921/ unlimphotos
  6. According to legend, a maiden named Ashima who was turned to stone by an envious god built the Stone Forest. According to legend, the rock formations represent the other inhabitants who likewise became stone.
  7. One of the most visited natural attractions in China, the Stone Forest is a well-liked tourist area that draws millions of tourists each. The Stone Forest is home to several caverns, waterfalls, and underground rivers in addition to the karst formations, which further enhance the area’s natural beauty.
  8. It is simple to travel by bus or vehicle from Kunming to Stone Forest, which is situated in Yunnan Province in southwest China.
  9. The Stone Forest, which is frequently referred to as the “First Wonder of the World”, has appeared in several motion pictures and television programs.
  10. Dragon playing in the Stone Forest could be a reference to a piece of literature or art. If it’s a piece of art, it might show a dragon in a rocky woodland setting, perhaps playing or otherwise active. If it pertains to a story, it might be a made-up narrative about a dragon travelling through a stone forest, possibly meeting other people or confronting obstacles.
  11. Lion dancing– The captain cotillion is a traditional Chinese cotillion that’s frequently performed during artistic and gleeful events similar as the Lunar New Year. It involves one or two players dressed in captain costumes, who move and dance to the beat of cans and cymbals while mimicking the movements of a captain. The cotillion is believed to bring good luck and fortune.

9. National Festival and Folk Customs

1. Torch Festival:

Many ethnic groups in China, including the Yi ethnic group who live in the Stone Forest region of Yunnan province, observe the Torch Festival as a traditional celebration. The festival, which is a time for people to pray for a good harvest and protection from evil spirits, often takes place on the 24th or 25th day of the sixth lunar month (typically in August).

They burn torches made of pine branches and parade them during the celebration. Also, they light off fireworks and take in performances of Yi dances and music. For the Yi people, the festival is a significant cultural occasion, and many outsiders travel to the Stone Forest region to take in the festivities.

2. New Rice Festival:

The Yi and other ethnic groups in the region observe the New Rice Festival in October. A time to praise the gods for a plentiful harvest, the event commemorates the harvest of the new rice crop. They feast on fresh rice and other regional foods while dancing and singing in traditional attire.

image by gary178/ unlimphotos

3. The Third Month Fair:

The Third Month Fair is a traditional request fair held in the Stone Forest area every time on the third day of the third lunar month. The show is a chance for people to buy and vend goods, including original crafts, food, and beast.

4. Rafting Festival:

Every year in June, the Stone Forest Scenic Area hosts the Rafting Festival. It is a time when people honor the region’s natural beauty and the customs of the ethnic communities living there. A rafting competition, folk performances, and dragon boat racing are among the events.

10. Flora:

The majority of the forest is made up of karst forest, which is distinguished by trees such as the Chinese fir, Chinese pine, and yew. A wide range of other plant species, including azaleas, camellias, and orchids, can also be found in the woodland. The region is renowned for its petrified trees, including wild banana trees that can reach heights of 15 meters.

image by gary718/ unlimphotos

11. Fauna:

The timber is home to a variety of beast species, including macaques, leopards, civets, and squirrels. The area is also home to several raspberry species, including the great hornbill, black-necked crane, and kingfisher. In addition, there are a variety of reptiles similar as snakes, lizards, and turtles that call the area home.

One of the most notable creatures in the Stone Forest is the Yunnan golden monkey, an exposed primate species that are aboriginal to the region.

image by stockdevil/ unlimphotos

12. When to Visit:

The Shilin Stone Forest is best visited between the months of March and October when the climate is mild and dry. June, July, and August are the busiest months due to the pleasantest weather. However, this could result in a congested site at this time.

Consider going in March, April, May, September, or October if you like less traffic. It offers a comfortable climate all year long.

13. How to Visit:

In the southeast of Kunming, the Stone Forest is situated around 75 km (46 miles) away. From Kunming, visitors can get to the location by bus, taxi, or private vehicle. If coming from another city, one can fly or take a train to Kunming Changshui International Airport before taking a bus or a taxi to Stone Forest.

Visitors can also hire a local guide to show them around and provide more information about the geology and history of the site.


The Stone Forest has become a main tourist attraction. There are also a lot of traditional performances celebrated by the residents living there. A lot of scenic spots including south china karst, Shilin Lake, and karsts lake feature underwater stalagmites and have become great tourist spots. This forest also has one particular story for its Shilin County. And its natural stone masterpieces have a captivating impact on its tourists.

So, it is one of the best tourist spots in the world and hence recommended to visit once in a lifetime.

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