WHS: South China Karst, Yunnan, China

Back to back spectacle in Yunnan Province for today’s World Heritage Site visit! Although the Honghe Hani Rice Terraces were the work of man, today’s is completely natural:

South China Karst


South China Karst is one of the world’s most spectacular examples of humid tropical to subtropical karst landscapes. It is a serial site spread over the provinces of Guizhou, Guangxi, Yunnan and Chongqing and covers 176,228 hectares. It contains the most significant types of karst landforms, including tower karst, pinnacle karst and cone karst formations, along with other spectacular characteristics such as natural bridges, gorges and large cave systems. The stone forests of Shilin are considered superlative natural phenomena and a world reference. The cone and tower karsts of Libo, also considered the world reference site for these types of karst, form a distinctive and beautiful landscape. Wulong Karst has been inscribed for its giant dolines (sinkholes), natural bridges and caves…

The South China Karst World Heritage property protects a diversity of spectacular and iconic continental karst landscapes, including tower karst (fenglin), pinnacle karst (shilin) and cone karst (fengcong), as well as other karst phenomena such as Tiankeng karst (giant dolines), table mountains and gorges. The property also includes many large cave systems with rich speleothem deposits. The karst features and geomorphological diversity of the South China Karst are widely recognized as among the best in the world. The region can be considered the global type-site for three karst landform styles: fenglin (tower karst), fengcong (cone karst), and shilin (stone forest or pinnacle karst).The landscape also retains most of its natural vegetation, which results in seasonal variations and adds to the outstanding aesthetic value of the area. 

The property contains the most spectacular, scientifically significant and representative series of karst landforms and landscapes of South China from interior high plateau to lowland plains and constitutes the world’s premier example of humid tropical to subtropical karst: one of our planet’s great landscapes. It complements sites that are also present in neighbouring countries, including Viet Nam, where several World Heritage properties also exhibit karst formations…

There are 12 separate properties on this site inscription; technically we’ve been to two of them, since visiting the tentative Jinfushan Scenic Spot site involves visiting the inscribed area of their karst as well…

… but as you might recall, on our visit there we couldn’t see a @#({0}amp;@&!!! thing further than about five feet away in the fog.

So this writeup, it’s all about Shilin Karst aka Kunming Stone Forest:

Kunming Stone Forest, Shilin in Chinese, is a spectacular set of limestone groups and the representative of south China’s karst landscape. Known since the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) as the ‘First Wonder of the World’, it is one of the most important attractions of Yunnan…

Yeah, that’s actually a pretty fair description. From when you first see the karst rising through the trees,

Yunnan Stone Forest

to the viewpoints from which you see the peaks in every direction,

Yunnan Stone Forest

to wandering around their labyrinthine bases glimpsing peaks in the sky,

Yunnan Stone Forest

this certainly ought to be on pretty much any list of the most impressive natural spectacles in the world.

Yunnan Stone Forest

Parts of it are made into gardens — we do just adore the Chinese take on KEEP OFF THE GRASS signs —

Yunnan Stone Forest

— as well as pools. Which were particularly still the morning we were there: check out these mirror-like reflections:

Yunnan Stone Forest


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Between the rice terraces and this, Kunming is particularly blessed with natural splendor, isn’t it? Definitely recommend you make sure to visit both when you make it to China!

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