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Travel Guide Budget and Itinerary for Rainbow Mountains

The Rainbow Mountains in Zhangye was atop my list of places to visit during this trip to China. When I got to the nearest town, I was already excited for the sunset trip the following day. Guides online and print said the best time to visit was sunset, and true enough, it didn't disappoint.

Travel Guide

The park got its distinct colors over centuries of rocks upon rocks piling on top of each other, water erosion, climate change, weathering and the area's unique geological structure.

Here's a short video:

The weather has been good to me during my stay in this part of China. It is always the x-factor when it comes to visiting natural attractions such as this one. A few clouds here and there could ruin an otherwise fantastic and picturesque landscape. Fortunately, that skies were blue and clear, and the sun out.

I have to admit, some of the mountains' colors weren't as I expected during early afternoon. Some of them looked dull and not as vibrant as what I saw online. However, I did expect this, because some of the pictures were heavily photoshopped just to bring out the colors.

Despite the dull colors in some parts, some areas were still quite impressive with reds and streaks of different colors.

Here's another video:

The park has different platforms where visitors are allowed to walk on; you can't veer off the path unless you want to get thrown out (yes this happened, I met people who were asked to leave because they violated this rule). A shuttle takes you from one area to the next, it didn't bother me though, purists would likely complain.

The best time to see the mountains at their brightest and most vibrant is around sunset. You'll see the interplay of light and shadows as the last rays of the sun fall on the landscape. The views were nothing short of spectacular before the sun went down completely.

A video of the park:

How to Get to Rainbow Mountains

Your jump-off point to the Rainbow Mountains is in Zhangye, a city in Gansu. Since I arrived at Xi'an from Kuala Lumpur, the city was only an overnight train away. However, if you arrive in Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou, the land trip may take longer, may last up to 2 days. If you want to get to the city faster, there are flights from Shanghai to Zhangye. CTrip is a useful site to check ticket prices and availability for flights and trains, check their website: https://english.ctrip.com.

Once in the city, you have options on how to get to the mountains.

By Car Share

Accommodations in the city offer car sharing tours to and from Zhangye Danxia, I stayed at You You Hostel and their shared taxi cost CNY 50 per person.

By Bus
Board a bus from Zhangye West Bus Station bound for Zhangye Danxia, the fare is around CNY 10. However, if you take the bus, you have to catch the last one that leaves the park at around 6:30PM, so you will miss the sunset.

*The best time to see the mountains is at sunset.
*Entrance ticket CNY 75 including shuttle inside park

When to Go

Visiting the park is possible year-round; however, summertime is the best possible season to visit because it's the season that provides the most sunlight to bring out the colors of the rolling hills. Summer season in this part of China is from July to September. However, winter is also a good time to visit because the ice adds a different dimension to the appearance of the mountains.


*Everything's in CNY unless otherwise stated

35.5 - Transportation
200 - 4 nights You You Hostel
232.5 - Food and drinks
11 - Bus to Mati Si
74 - Entrance ticket to Mati Si
50 - Car sharing for Rainbow Mountains
75 - Entrance ticket to Rainbow Mountains
22.5 - Miscellaneous (laundry, etc.)
98.5 - Round way bus fare to Qilian Town from Zhangye
40 - Round way taxi to and from Zhuo'er Shan
80 - Zhuo'er Shan ticket
49 - Round way bus fare to and from Biandukou
40 - Entrance ticket to Dafo Si Temple
96.5 - Train ticket to Xining                                                     

1104.5 - Total

*I stayed at You You Hostel in Zhangye; the owners and managers don't speak English, fortunately I knew basic Chinese which was enough. In most cases, you will speak to him and/or her using a translator.

Zhangye Danxia is a must-visit for those who are in this part of China.

If You Have More Time 

Mati Si

This is a popular addition for tourists in Zhangye. You can do this in the morning before your sunset trip to Rainbow Mountains.

Read more here: Guide to Mati Si

Zhuo'er Shan

Not a very well-known attraction, but was worth the effort to visit. During the right season (around July-August), you'll see beautiful fields of yellow with the snow-capped mountains and rolling hills in the background. Zhuo'er Shan is already in Qinghai, but is closer to Zhangye.

Read more here: Guide to Zhuo'er Shan


I didn't know about this place until the bus I was on passed it. I decided to visit the day after.

Read more here: Guide to Biandukou

Qinghai Lake

Qinghai Lake is one of the most famous lakes in China. It is a possible forward destination after you explore Zhangye.

Read more here: Guide to Qinghai Lake

Check out more beautiful destinations in China here: China's natural attractions.

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