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China's Incredible Karst Landscapes

Did you know that China has nearly 200,000 square miles of karst formations? Karst is a combination of rocks including limestone, dolomite and gypsum. Karst towers are easy to recognize because they are often tall, grey and spiky. Sinkholes, caves, table mountains and gorges are often made of karst. In addition to being picturesque, these formations are geologically and biologically significant--up to 50 percent of the world’s hydrocarbon reserves reside in karst formations.

Karst is found all over the world, but China has some of the most inspiring karst displays on Earth. China and UNESCO began a massive effort in 2007 to protect these fragile landscapes, which has helped increase the appeal for visitors to see China’s unique karst formations. A visit to one or more of these famous karst areas is an excellent addition to your next China trip!


Guilin Karst

The Guilin area has some of the most impressive karst formations of all. The meandering Li River is surrounded by karst monoliths. Yangshuo, the main tourist town in the area, is about a half hour away from the best sightseeing spots. During a visit to Guilin you can hike and ride bikes in the area, visit some of the incredible nearby caves or go rafting and swimming at the Li River. One of the best ways to see the karst formations is to tour the area by boat. Guilin is so expansive and impressive that you’ll want to set aside several days to fully experience it.

Wulong Karst

Located in Chongqing, the Wulong Karst area is about two and half hours away from civilization. It’s characterized by looming karst towers, soaring canyon walls and a river that cuts its way through the beautiful landscape. The can’t-miss sites in Wulong include Furong Cave, a huge pit known as Houping Tiankeng and the largest collection of natural bridges on the Asian continent. Wulong is best experienced by riverboat and hiking and ecotourism are abundant in this area as well.

South China Karst

Welcomed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2007, South China Karst includes several provinces such as Guilin and Chongqing and extends to some other notable karst formations in China. A collection of towering grey spires known as Shilin (The Stone Forest) is one of the most recognizable sights in South China’s karst landscape.

Enshi Grand Canyon (Hubei)

Located in Southern China, Enshi Grand Canyon is a dream destination for climbers and thrill-seekers. As a popular tourist spot the canyon is easily accessible by bus or car from nearby Enshi City. The scenic canyon hike takes about an hour and includes nearly 2,000 steps. In addition to the hike there are three mountains in the area and numerous karst spires that stand hundreds of feet above the canyon floor.


Have you seen any of China’s incredible karst formations? What did you think?