The Stone Forest is part of South China Karst and has been listed as a World Heritage by UNESCO since 2007. The Karst is one of the world’s most spectacular examples of humid tropical to subtropical karst landscapes.stretching over thousand of kilometers and covering the provinces of Guizhou, Guangxi, Yunnan and Chongqing on 176,228 hectares. The Shilin Karst component is in Yunnan province and contains stone forests with sculpted pinnacle columns and is considered the world reference site for pinnacle karst but also tower and cone karst formation. The karst forms also natural bridges, gorges as well as caves.
Shilin Karst consists of two core areas surrounded by a common buffer zone. The area is 12,070 hectares with a buffer zone of 22,930 hectares. The buffer zone is designated as a UNESCO Geopark.
The ancient landscape in the province is one of the most famous tourist destinations to visit in the region. On average, more than 12,000 visitors travel to visit, relax and take photos of the Stone Forest each day, which then represent some four million travellers in a year. The fourth million visitor was welcomed in the last days of 2015. The event was was celebrated with the presentation of a golden key to the lucky tourist.The majority of the visitors to the Stone Forest remain however locals and domestic travellers. Foreign visitors represent only 20 per cent of the total visitors to the Stone Forest.
Park officials expect visitors will continue to increase next year, reflecting a trend that has seen tourist numbers increase dramatically over the past decade. In 2010, the Stone Forest recorded only two million paying customers. In 2011, visits increased already by almost 50 percent to eventually double over five years. Revenue projections released by management officials predict five million annual visitors by 2020 and yearly revenue to surpass ten billion yuan (US$1.54 billion).
Authorities believe that the rise in total arrivals is due to a beautification program conducted over the last few years, which included upgrades of tourist facilities overseen by scenic area management. In parallel to the implemented improvements, UNESCO World Heritage administrators sent eight public relations teams across China over the past two years in an attempt to popularize the destination domestically. The beautification program included the renovation and redesigning of public buildings, roads’ new pavement and the use of electronic eco-friendly vehicles for sightseeing tours. A new museum has also been inaugurated. It highlights the region’s special topography.
Another highlight to South China Karst is located in Guangxi, around the city of Guilin. Around the tourist city, landscapes integrate spectacular tower karst and Fenglin riverine landscapes, deep gorges and spine-like hills often draped with cloud and mist. The Stone Forest is approximately 87 km from downtown Kunming and covers a protected area of 350 square km.