China Danxia

China Danxia
Photo by Stanislaw Warwas.

China Danxia comprises landscapes dominated by eroded red sandstone landforms.

The nine components hold examples varying from most to least eroded, where natural pillars, cliffs, and ravines have been shaped by weathering, erosion and tectonic uplift. The Danxia landform is named after Mount Danxia, one of the most famous examples of this landform.

Community Perspective: Nan and Frederik have covered the Danxiashan component, which is accessible via Guangzhou and where the main attraction seems to be the large red phallus stone. Els visited the compact Guifeng section of the Longhushan National Park.

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Els Slots

The Netherlands - 23-May-24 -

China Danxia by Els Slots

China usually doesn’t have much trouble inscribing sites, but it did have a hard time with China Danxia. “Danxia” is an elusive subject, even Wikipedia isn’t able to define it in one sentence (it calls it “pseudo-karst” consisting of red-coloured sandstones from the Cretaceous and limited to China). ICOMOS and IUCN couldn’t really wrap their heads around it either – IUCN basically saying there isn’t such a thing as a globally acknowledged Danxia landform and ICOMOS insisting that this should be a cultural site (criterion VI, rich cultural associations) instead of a natural site (criterion VII, natural beauty).

Eight out of the nine locations that comprise the WHS of ‘China Danxia’ have so far stayed unreviewed on this website. I visited a ‘new’ one – the Guifeng section of Longhushan National Park. This site is separate from the main Longhushan park (both in geographical reality and in the inscribed list of components), but they share the same site management and Global Geopark status. The strength of Guifeng is that it is very compact, so you can get a good impression of what Danxia entails within a relatively short amount of time.

Unlike other Chinese mountain WHS, this is not a place to wander endlessly. There is one main trail that everybody follows. Here and there you can choose to skip a specific detour to a peak or an ‘attraction’ (more on those later!), but in general, you all start and end at the same place. I walked 8.7 km in total and the loop took me 3.5 hours with plenty of stops. I went on a Sunday morning and there were many day-tripping families and groups of friends around, but nowhere it got too crowded. Drinks, ice cream and other snacks are sold from stalls along the route.

After some initial climbing of stone stairs, you reach the flat, paved walkways that were attached to the sides of the Danxia ‘inselbergs’. This is the best part of the site, as from there you get panoramic views of the landscape of isolated, eroded peaks, which – when the sun is out – show their red colours well. The name Dan Xia was derived from a Chinese poem and means “vermillion sunglow”.

Despite being a Global Geopark and a natural WHS, there is little explanation on site about the geology of the area. The park is much more geared toward providing a fun day out. As if the landscape itself wasn’t pretty enough, several manmade attractions were added. At the far end of the loop, there is a Glass Skywalk. Closer to the end of the trail, you can risk your life in the sleighing on grass or on the giant water slide. The trail ends at the dock, from where a (heavily overpriced) ‘sightseeing’ boat will take you back to the visitor center. I had opted out of that when I bought my ticket but had to succumb to it in the end as I saw no other trail to walk out.

My visit made me think that these kinds of Disneyfied natural sites prevent Chinese city dwellers from coming in contact with ‘real’ nature. If you look closely, there is some left though, I even saw a few animals when I walked on my own - first a squirrel and later a stick insect crossing the paved footpath. At least the latter made me smile – I had never seen a stick insect run but this one did, perhaps to keep its time out of the bushes as short as possible.


Guifeng is an easy half-day trip from Shangrao, which itself is a good hub for the WHS of Sanqingshan and Wuyishan. Take the fast train to the city of Yiyang from Shangrao (17mins) and from Yiyang railway station you can take bus #2 or a Didi taxi (15mins/40 yuan) to the site, known as ‘Guifeng Scenic Area’ or ‘Guifeng Mountain’. Trains run fairly frequently but with some gaps in between certain departures; I left Shangrao on the 7.30 train and got back on the 13.01 from Yiyang. The site entrance ticket costs 60 yuan (for some reason I did not have to pay this), plus 20 yuan for the shuttle ‘train’ from the visitor center to the start of the mountain trail and 80 yuan for the boat ride.

Read more from Els Slots here.


Germany - 28-Oct-18 -

China Danxia by Nan

Trying to cover the sites of the newly defined Guangzhou hotspot, I visited Danxiashan on my first full day in China. These red rocks dot the landscape to the North of Shaoguan. The site itself is quite popular with Chinese tourists. When it comes to foreigners this is a bit off the beaten path, but I ran into a group of exchange students.

Personally, I had expected more of a canyon or mountain range. But these are more individual rocks rising high above the river with interesting reddish shapes and forms. Chinese seem to take extra pleasure in interpreting these. Normally, I have a hard time seeing what is meant. For the most reknown rock formation (image) this wasn't hard at all.

Getting There

Similar to Frederik I went via bullet train from Guangzhou to Shaoguan. Following his instructions I also managed to catch the local bus to the bus terminal (2 RMB). At the bus terminal, though, my luck ran out as I did not manage to find the busses to Danxia.

Luckily several cab drivers recognized me as a tourist and figured there could only be one reason why I was in Shaoguan. There are shared cab services between Shaoguan and Danxiashan. In the end I settled for that option (100 RMB, 45min from bus terminal). I also used the shared cab to get back to Shaoguan as they were just lingering outside the main parking lot of Danxiashan and catching the proper bus would have required me to first go downt to the park entrance and seemed not worth the hassle. At 12€ I felt this was a bargain.

For my visit I grossly underestimated the time needed to get to the site. I had a 6h time window between arriving and departing from Shaoguan Station, but with transfers and some buffer I only had 2h on site. Still, this was enough to hike a bit into the site and see the most known rock formations.

If you are trying to do the same a few practical recommendations:

  • The train from Guangzhou to Shaoguan was not full. So I could have reserved later than I did. Still bullet trains are really popular in China, so better to reserve ahead of time.
  • Getting to Guangzhou South takes approximately 30min by metro if you are along metro line 2. You should also factor in the time needed to get through security and checkin. I would recommend being at the station 30min prior to departure. The departure floor in Guangzhou is upstairs (above the tracks that are in the middle floor); the bottom floor is only for arrivals. Follow the signs. Food and drinks are available after security, so no reason waiting downstairs.
  • In Shaoguan you need to commute from the new shiny train station way outside of town to the old train station where the bus terminal is located. This is a pretty tedious ride that takes around 30-40min. I took bus line 22 by mapping the characters. It was also the bus that most people from the train queued for, so easy to spot. It may be easier to simply get a cab.
  • At the bus terminals the shared cabs are located on the right hand side when facing the train station. On the left hand side are the numbered local busses. I also think the busses to Danxia also depart from the right hand side.

While You Are There

Shaoguan as town seemed rather uneventful. I hopped a train back to Guangzhou and from there to Guilin for the South China Karst. There is also a direct night train from Shaoguan to Guilin.


We don't have a phallic connection (yet?), but Danxiashan would be on it.

Frederik Dawson

Netherlands - 02-Sep-11 -

China Danxia by Frederik Dawson

This place currently maybe one of the least informative world heritage site in China, but after long internet searching, it is a great surprised to discover that visiting Danxiashan National Park, part of China Danxia, is very easy from Guangzhou, or even Hong Kong, and I am really happy to visit this beautiful place in one of the least visited place in the region. Danxia is a name of red sandstone landform in southern China, has many similarities with Monumental Valley and Canyonlands National Park in Utah, USA, but in the lush tropical forest of Southeast Asia environs creating unique landscape of red rock which in my opinion this place is the red version of classic Chinese mountain.

By the infamous Chinese 310 Km/h high speed train from Guangzhou, I was in Shaoguan for less than 50 minutes (normal train will take 2-4 hours!). From the new train station, I took a bus to the old train station in the city center for 2 RMB, and then took another bus to Danxiashan which depart frequently for 16 RMB. After an hour with many beautiful views of Danxia landscape along the road, the bus dropped me at a casino, part of tourist complex in front of the gate of the national park, a truly typical Chinese tourist facilities. I walked through the sleepy complex; clearly Danxiashan was not a popular tourist destination (yet), to the office ticket. The entrance fee was 100 RMB for weekday and 120 RMB for weekend, quite cheap compared to other famous national park in China and the ticket was a hard plastic card, a good souvenir.

Inside the park was well organized with many tourist buses that took me to every points of interest. My first chosen place to visit was the famed and one of the landmarks of the park, Yangyuan Stone or male stone, the large red phallus stone, actually Danxiashan also has Yingyuan Stone or women stone, because of these two bizarre rocks, locals decided to have museum on sex culture in the tourist complex to attract more tourists (thanks god! the museum is outside WHS zone). From the male stone, the bus took me to another gate which required fingerprint scan from every visitor! Then I went to another landmark of the park, the Zhanglao Peak or Elder Peak where I took cable car to the top of the peak.

On the peak, there is a beautiful forest with many lovely springs, pavilion, monasteries and hiking trails for tourists to discover, at first I planned to hike down the peak to Biechuan Buddhist Monastery, but after I visited Shaoyin Pavillion for an unbelievable beautiful view of Danxiashan, I had to give up my plan, hiking in August summer heat and high humidity was a real disaster and I was soaked with my sweat, and took the easy option of cable car. Then I took a river cruise on Jinjiang River, the view along the river was very breathtaking and high recommended. Then I took a bus back to the park entrance and walked back to casino for a bus to Shaoguan before took a high speed train back to Guangzhou.

From my experience Danxiashan National Park is a nice place to visit and very easy to be there; the park scenic is truly lovely, from the tourist brochure I notices that my visited area is just a small part of the park, there are still many nice spots to see as well as many activities for tourist including bamboo rafting. But do not visit Danxiashan in summer like me, this area is really hot and uncomfortably humid, also there is almost no English information available, knowing some Chinese or Cantonese will be a great help. All in all Danxiashan is another good World Heritage Site that China offered.

Site Info

Full Name
China Danxia
Unesco ID
7 8
Natural landscape - Eroded

Site History

2010 Advisory Body overruled

IUCN had advised Deferral

2010 Inscribed


The site has 9 locations

China Danxia: Chishui - West Section
China Danxia: Chishui - East Section
China Danxia: Taining - North Section
China Danxia: Taining -South Section
China Danxia: Langshan
China Danxia: Danxiashan
China Danxia: Longhushan: Longhushan Section
China Danxia: Longhushan: Guifeng Section
China Danxia: Jianglangshan