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Zanda Earth Forest

It has been viewed as the most typical and largest tertiary strata earth forest in the world with the total area of 2,464 square kilometers.

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Zanda Earth Forest is located along the river of Langqen Zangbo, Zanda County in Ali. It has been viewed as the most typical and largest tertiary strata earth forest in the world with the total area of 2,464 square kilometers. It was classified as National Geological Park in 2007.    

In the whole Zanda County, the various earth forests cover several hundred square kilometers and gorgeous background of the plateau. The earth forest makes one feel like in a quite different world. In a way, the earth forest here rings a far echo with the Grand Canyon of Colorado in the United States. At dawn and dusk, the shining clouds on the horizon paint the many layers of the earth forest into a brilliant golden picture. As the night draws the curtain, the ancient pagodas on the banks of the Shiquan River appear mysteriously solemn.    

The earth forest is called in Geology “the Level Terrane Physiognomy”, which is formed by the movement of Himalayas and the water corrosion as well as the deposit formation in ancient times. The earth forest is famous for different shapes, with some look like castles, some look like watchtowers, and some shapes as pagodas. Some are like warriors defending the mountain top; some are like thousands of horses galloping. From different view, you can get different wonderful scenery. Walking in the earth forest is like a walk in the ruins of an ancient kingdom, desolate but magnificent. That would be your lifetime experience.    

It is the sediment stratum of lakes and rivers, mainly composed by sandstone and clay. Because the Level Terrane is easy to develop its upright quality and the sandstone like flour is qualified with uprightness. The valley is deep, even a canaliculus can reach 100 to 200 meters. The orogenic movement of the Himalaya has made the bottom of the lake ascend. And the undulating earth forest of dozens of kilometers was formed by the flushing of water subsidence and long years of weathering.

Zanda, means “the place where there are grass in the lower reaches of river” in Tibetan language. This peculiar and mystic physiognomy densely covers the whole Zanda County. In the county, there are Tholing Monastery and Guge Kingdom you could visit by the way.

Best Time to Go

Spring and autumn is the best time to visit there. Try to avoid the rainy season in August as far as possible. The road is wet and the cars are often stuck in the mud.The prime time of shooting is before and after sunrise or sunset within half an hour.

Restaurant and Accommodation

You can have meals only in Toding town in Zanda County. The Sichuan-Guangdong restaurant is the most popular restaurant among travelers and shutterbug, which mainly provides Sichuan cooking, casserole and hot pot with reasonable price.Travelers usually choose to stay overnight in Zanda County. The Hongda guesthouse on the opposite of Zanda government has common rooms with CNY 35 per bed.

Shooting Location

When you shoot Zhada earth Forest, it’s better to use wide angle lens to express its imposing manner and use long-focus lens to display its detailed shadows. The following are several places that will help you to take wonderful pictures.

a.Zanda Earth Forest Observatory

This is one of the best angles to photograph the Earth Forest, which is 30 kilometers away from Zanda County. The sunset time is at 9pm, and you should protect yourself from strong wind when you are waiting for the afterglow. Moreover, the road to the county is called the earth forest ditch, and the elevation plunges at least several hundred meters. You couldn’t be too careful to drive.

The mystical Earth Forest is upstanding in the sunlight of plateau. The picture is shot by Nikon D70 digital camera with 200mm zoom lens by reducing exposure to 1/3.

b.The ancient Guge Kingdom ruins

The Guge Kingdom ruin is 20 kilometers away from Zanda County with 40 minutes driving. Rising abruptly from the river bank, the ruins add much mystery to this area. If you stay overnight in Zhaburang village, then you can walk to Guge Kingdom before sunrise in the next morning. The kingdom is lightened by the sunshine very soon. Use telephoto lens to capture different shapes of earth forest at the same time.

The Guge Kingdom ruin becomes golden in the sunshine. The photo is shot by 35mm zoom lens with real color and high saturation.

c.Around Toding town

Red Tholing stupas and earthy stupas relics stand on the riverside of Sutlaj River in northern Zanda County. It is suitable to take good pictures at sunrise and sunset. The prayer flags, Marnyi Stone, stupas and the Earth Forest constitute the most characteristic regional landscape in Zanda.

Photography Plan

The Zanda Earth Forest and the ancient Guge Kingdom ruins are the essence part of Ngari photographic journey. Generally, you need at least five days to reach Zanda from Lhasa by renting a car.Start your shooting on the Zanda Earth Forest observatory, which is 30 kilometers away from Toding town. Then keep forwards to Zanda County to stay overnight. Set out to the ancient Guge Kingdom ruins in the next morning before dawn. Then after shooting the sunrise at Guge, you can drive to Zanda County and return to National Road 219 with shooting of Earth Forest again in the opposite direction. Of course, if you stay overnight in Zanda County and Zhaburang village, the time will be more abundant for you.

Special Attention

Zanda Earth Forest Observatory is located in the wind gap, and the wind is very strong even in sunny day. You need to pay special attention to protect your camera from wind and dust. Fasten the foot stools when using a tripod to take photos.The road from observatory to town is extremely steep and you should drive carefully.It is only allowed to shoot outside the ancient Guge Kingdom ruins, and no photos in the palace.

Tips of Zanda Earth Forest

There are some hotels like Guge Hotel, Zanda Hotel and guesthouses in Zanda County, where you can spend the night. The condition is not that good but clean.

Address: Zanda County, Ali Prefecture

Tickets : None

Opening Hours: All day long

Best time to visit it

Jul. to Sept. is the best time to go there, when the weather is mild and not so cold.

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