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Yunnan Stone Forest (Shilin)

Kunming, China

Shilin, or Stone Forest, is a wonder of nature that is 120 kms from Kunming in the scenic south Chinese province of Yunnan. Spread over an abundant area of 400 square kms, it is a place you have to see to really believe exists on the planet. In place of lush greenery, the area is made up of soaring stone formations that give the appearance of a grey hard forest. It took millions of years of wind and water action to shape these limestone rocks as they are today. UNESCO has recognized this site on their collection of World Heritage Sites.

It is a 3 hours bus ride from Kunming and costs about RMB40. Dedicated buses also depart to and from the Kunming airport as per specific schedule for under RMB50 /ride. All these go to the scenic areas parking lot, from where it is a further long walk unless you get the shuttle to the entrance (RMB25). At the ticket booth, you will have to pay RMB130 per adult and half price at RMB65 for senior citizens aged 60-70 plus kids aged 6-18 years. Kids under 6 or measuring below 3.9 feet and adults over 70 enjoy free entry.

Karst Museum onsite is included in the admission ticket. There is a shuttle inside for going around the compound, but it makes no stops and tourists find it much more fulfilling exploring on foot. Park timings are 07:00 to 18:00 but going early morning or late afternoon helps beat the heat during summer months. Off season, colder months will have less crowds, ensuring more opportunity to enjoy the serenity of the place.

Once you’ve cleared entry, you’ll be face to face with some really impressive rock pillars of all shapes and sizes that seem to be everywhere and have mingled well with nature. There is shrubs and greenery sprouting from the rocks while rivers flow around some areas and grass and trees grow unperturbed by these dominant subjects. There are caves too where the water has worked its magic from underground on the karst formations. Different flora and fauna of the area maybe glimpsed if you chose the right weather and prove lucky.

There are interesting stories and active imagination at work with a lot of the stones which are given characteristic names and have legends attributed to them. Plenty exist in the Naigu, Greater and Lesser Stone Forest. The Naigu Forest has the advantage of being less frequented and thus more peaceful so try making a trip there.

The Eternal Mushroom is another worthwhile attraction where the rock formation is larger up top and narrower at the base, giving the idea of a mushroom and thus earning its name.

There are caves and waterfalls in the area like the Qifeng Cave among many other and you need at least 3 hours to comfortably explore the major expanse of the park.

It would be a bonus coming here during the Torch Festival held to celebrate the legend of this park!

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