International Travel, Reflections, Travel Photography

ZhangYe Danxia, the Rainbow Mountains of China

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This is ZhangYe Danxia Geopark in the northwestern Chinese province of Gansu. It’s also known as the Rainbow Mountains of China.

ZhangYe Danxia

This is also ZhangYe Danxia Geopark. In fact, it’s the exact same peak.
ZhangYe Danxia

And oh wait, this is the same place in ZhangYe Danxia Geopark yet again.

zhangye danxia rainbow mountain manual changes
The only difference, of course, is that the first photo is heavily edited, the second is the original photo, and the third is a photo of the same spot but taken with some heavy-handed changes on manual.

ZhangYe Danxia Geopark is a gorgeous place with and without editing, and it should absolutely be on your itinerary should you head into northwestern China.

But just like with Vinicunca, the Rainbow Mountains of Peru, the pink beaches of Indonesia, and other colorful natural wonders, ZhangYe Danxia has fallen prey to the wonders of modern technology.

The heavy photo editing that occurs these days, especially on Instagram, is something that has bothered me for a while. I don’t have a problem with photo editing, and there are brilliant creatives who edit with a magical touch, but it’s become so heavy-handed with some content producers. As a lover of travel, the biggest reason I dislike this trend is because they create unrealistic expectations for people who dream of seeing these places one day, only to show up and be disappointed that nature doesn’t exist with filters and exaggerated saturation levels.

Sometimes we should just appreciate Mother Nature for what she gives us, even if it’s not in the mindblowing shades that make photos go viral.

Here are a few more photos from ZhangYe Danxia Geopark, raw and edited so you have clear expectations. (Photos taken during sunrise and sunset do result in redder tones though!)

ZhangYe Danxia rainbow mountain 5
ZhangYe Danxia rainbow mountain 5

zhangye danxia rainbow mountain edited 3

For those interested in visiting these rainbow mountains, tickets are ¥74 and include access to park buses that shuttle you between the various viewing platforms throughout the park (necessary as they’re quite far apart). ZhangYe Danxia Geopark is also along the way to the famous Mogao Caves of Dunhuang as well as the mesmerizing Mingsha Mountain and Crescent Oasis, two of Gansu province’s biggest draws, making it a convenient stop while visiting Gansu.


What are some of your favorite colorful natural wonders? Do you agree with my stance on photo editing?

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ZhangYe Danxia Rainbow Mountains China

8 thoughts on “ZhangYe Danxia, the Rainbow Mountains of China

  1. It’s amazing the difference a filter makes on a photo. Nowadays I expect most photos to have some form of editing, so I take them at face value.

  2. Wow, I’m so glad that you addressed this issue! With the online world being so disproportionately visual, many don’t realize that most landscapes are heavily edited, taken in optimal conditions, or even staged. I’d still visit places like this, but many probably wouldn’t once they saw these raw photos (even though our eyes can capture way more than the camera).

  3. Thank you for providing the raw and edited versions (none of your edits as insane as some of what is out there). Editing is admittedly art – some try to bring the photo to what their eye saw, some beyond that…

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