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The Rainbow Mountains, China


OK we have a sneaking suspicion that there might have been some photoshopping going on with the above picture, but don’t let that trick you into believing that the Rainbow Mountains in the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park in the Gansu Province of China aren’t one of the most naturally beautiful rock formations in the world.

Over millions of years, layers of different types of rock, including red sandstone and a whole lot of mineral deposits formed on top of one another. Normal so far you’re thinking, and you’d be right. But then, 40 or 50 million years ago, gigantic force of tectonic plates forced an island—the future India—into a collision course with the rest of Eurasia.

The catastrophic impact took place in slow motion: Over 50 million years, India - moving at about 27 feet per century - crushed into the larger continent, creating rifts of fractured rock and creating mountain ranges like the Himalayas. Over in the future Chinese province of Gansu, the collision disrupted the layer cake of red rock and minerals, too.
Imagine a piece of paper with lines drawn on it. Then imagine crumpling it up. The "rainbow" patterns we see at Danxia are the result of a similar crumpling, which explains their perfect striation.


Danxia (or Rosy Cloud as it translates) was mapped by Chinese archaeologists in the 1920s and 30s, and it remained relatively unknown outside of the region, but that's quickly changing, and all thanks to the internet. When images of the mountains made there way on to the web, tourists started flocking to see the colourful rock formations, and in particular to the sleepy town of Zhangye.

Naturally with such a growing interest and popularity the area received protection as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2009.

It's enough to make you wonder though what other geological wonders are out there, just waiting for the world - or the internet, at least, to take notice.

For lots more pictures of the mountain please head on over to here.