A 2 hour drive southeast from Kunming takes you to this forest of limestone karst in Lunan Yi Nationality Autonomous County. The craggy peaks of Stone Forest were created some 270 million years ago when the sea covered the whole region and a thick layer of limestone was deposited on the seabed. Movement of the earth's crust caused the seabed to thrust upward and become land. Eons of weathering and erosion have molded the stone into groups of pillars, which from a distance resemble a dense mass of trees.
The Stone Forest covers a total area of 27,000 hectares but only an 80-hectare area can be explored on foot. 5km (3 miles) of trails wind through the closely packed pillars. As you make your way out of this limestone maze, try and recognize the individual limestone pillars from their imaginative names such as "Phoenix combing its wings" and "Old man taking a stroll". A map is essential and a guide may be worth considering. This is a very popular natural phenomenon so visit as early as possible in the day if you prefer to avoid crowds.
Lunan County is also home to the Sani minority people who sell handicrafts and goods around the Stone Forest.