The Shilin forest has existed in China’s Yunnan Province for over 270 million years. That’s because instead of trees, this “stone forest” is made up of towering, pillar-like rock formations.

The limestone formations (known as karst) stretch across 100,000 acres and were formed by millennia of erosion and seismic activity. Today they are a popular sight-seeing spot for tourists, offering plenty of caves, crevices, and waterfalls to explore. Like something out of a fairytale, Shilin even features a lake with a small island.

One popular attraction is the Ashima Stone, which legend has it was at one time a beautiful Sani girl who ran into the forest after being forbidden to marry the love of her life. Every year on June 24, the Sani people hold their annual Torch Festival at the forest. Visitors celebrate with wrestling, bull-fighting, and traditional dance performances. If you're interesting in visiting the forest at night, these festivities make the hulking formations seem much less creepy. 

Olga via Flickr //CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Olga viaFlickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Shang Ning via Flickr // CC BY 2.0


Stephen Zopf via Flickr //CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

[h/t: Travel China Guide]