The “Rainbow Mountains”, part of the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park in the Chinese province of Gansu, are one of the most unique geological landforms on Earth.
Over millions of years, layers of different colored sandstone and other minerals slowly formed on top of one another. Then, about 40-50 million years ago, plate tectonics kicked in.
You see, India actually used to be an island, until its tectonic plate began to collide with the Eurasian plate, upon which the main continent of Asia sits. The Indian plate crushed itself into the Eurasian plate at a rate of about 27 feet every hundred years.
This may not seem very fast, but when you consider the sheer size of the Indian tectonic plate, it’s easy to see how this collision made some major changes to the landscape.
The collision (which is responsible for creating the Himalayas) also buckled and crumpled the layered mountains in Gansu. Kelsey Campbell-Dollaghan of Gizmodo describes it like this:
“Imagine a piece of paper with lines drawn on it—then imagine crumpling it up. The “rainbow” patterns we see at Danxia are the result of a similar crumpling, which explains their perfect striation.”
Check out some pictures of the spectacular mountains below: