The Stone Forest lies 120km/75mi southeast of Kunming in the district of Lunan. After the sea receded millions of years ago, tectonic movements caused deep fissures to occur in the rock, which was then further shaped by erosion processes.
The forest consists of thousands of narrow, weirdly-shaped rocks towering up to a height of between 5 and 30m (15 and 100ft), scattered over an area of over 26,000ha/100sq.mi.
80ha/200acres of this area are open to visitors.
The rocks have memorable names such as Ten Thousand Year Mushroom (10m/33ft high), Mother and Son, Camel Riding on Elephant, Avalokitesvara Rock, Buddha Stone, Rhinoceros Looking at the Moon and Beautiful Maiden Ascending from the Water.
The Stone Forest is accessible by means of carefully laid-out paths and can be divided into three sections: the Lesser Stone Forest (Xiao Shilin), which is to be found just beyond the north entrance, a little to the south of Shilin Lake (Shilin Hu); the Greater Stone Forest (Da Shilin), to the south of the Lesser Stone Forest, with Jianfeng Pool and numerous grottoes; and the Outer Stone Forest (Wai Shilin) which takes in the surrounding area. The most spectacular spots in the Stone Forest can be found at Lotus Peak (Liang Huang Feng) and Sword Tip Pond. From the Summit View Pavilion (Wang Feng Ting) you get a fantastic view of this natural miracle. A visit to Stone Forest is particularly memorable at sunset, when the rock formations cast bizarre shadows.
In the middle of the Lesser Stone Forest there is a 2ha/5acre meadow which on the 24th day of the 6th moon month is the scene of the Torch Festival, mounted by the Sani minority group. It lasts 24 hours and during the day sports contests are held in national costume (a kind of wrestling match, martial arts, target shooting and horse racing). Finally throughout the night there is an imposing torch lit procession with interludes of song and dance.