Just over an hour from Kunming in the Yunnan province resides one of the world’s most unusual natural areas: The Yunnan Stone Forest. Arrayed across 96,000 acres is one of the world’s most amazing geological formations. Despite what the name might suggest, these are not merely petrified trees. It is a region festooned with stone stalagmites, caves and other natural wonders that are unique to this Chinese land.
Pushed up from the seabed millions of years ago, over the millennia water and wind have eroded the huge towers to their present shapes. Hundreds of feet high, they thread through an area full of trees that provide cool shade to view a colossus. Made chiefly of limestone, they are indeed one of the seven natural wonders of the world, even though they might have narrowly missed receiving the official title.
Over 200 million years ago these stalagmites rose from the sea floor to form dozens of peaks. Tourists today are fortunate that over the succeeding ages, the waters receded to reveal this amazing sight. Amid the peaks are thousands of native animal and plant species to delight any nature lover.
There are different sections: the Major Stone Forest, the Minor Stone Forest and the Naigu Stone Forest. Each has its own essential character providing a different view of this geological wonder.
But, despite their magnificence which alone makes a side trip worthwhile, they are not the only attraction of the spot.
There is the Dadie Forest and the Dadie Waterfall. Almost 300 feet/91m high, the water splashing down and misting the air cools viewers who would otherwise be too stunned to note the heat anyway.
In the same trip, be sure to see the amazing Strange Wind Cave. A subterranean chamber, from August through November it experiences high winds for two to three minutes, which then subside and return like clockwork 30 minutes later. The sight also holds Hongxi Spring, Penfeng Cave and even an underground river.
There is also the larger Subterranean Stone Forest, 720 underground acres of spelunking excitement inside the enormous Zhiyun Caves. Not far away is the Long Lake. In the clear water, visitors can sometimes make out some of the many underwater stalagmites from the small island in the center.
Visit Yunnan Province and find out why, since the Ming Dynasty, the locals have called the Stone Forest the First Wonder of the World.