Stone Forest © BrokenSphere
The Stone Forest of Shilin, about two hours' drive from Kunming, is a breathtaking and eerie landscape which is a must-see for tourists in the area. It is called a forest because the limestone pillars and stalagmites poking out of the green hillsides look like petrified trees. The rock formations are believed to be over 270 million years old and were formed by the slow erosion of the limestone over time. The Shilin National Scenic Area includes seven areas: the Greater and Lesser Stone Forests (also called Lizijing Stone Forest), Naigu Stone Forest, Zhiyun Cave, Lake Chang, Lake Yue, Dadie Waterfall and Qifeng Cave. The Naigu Stone Forest and Suogeyi Village, also within the scenic area, are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
It is a distinctive, and highly unusual landscape and is definitely worth seeing, but can be crowded with tourists at peak times (over three million people visit every year). Visitors can avoid the masses by going in the morning or early evening, and avoiding weekends and Chinese public holidays. Another good reason for getting there early is that very few of the hundreds of guides speak English. Visitors are advised to wear sensible walking shoes and pack for the weather: the stone forests are actually quite wonderful in rainy weather if in possession of an umbrella or waterproof clothing.