Have you ever come across pictures online of places that are both beautiful and a little unearthly? The world is full of wonders that are just so unique that we’re left wondering, “How is this possible”? It’s easy to understand structures we build as people, but it’s the landscapes that are naturally occurring that leave us with the most questions. How did this form? How is it possible for that lake or mountain to look that way? These questions usually arise due to the unique coloring of landmarks that we aren’t accustomed to seeing as anything other than what we consider normal. Often times these natural marvels are due to mineral deposits from deep within the core of the earth making their way to the surface after millions of years and interacting with our oxygen rich atmosphere to produce a rainbow of colored effects. Other times they’re the result of allowing nature to exist without any human intervention to stop it. Instead of destroying something that may seem cumbersome or even intrusive, we as people have chosen to leave them as they are and adapt our lives around them.
Even ordinary formations such as mountains aren’t immune to the changes of time. The power of wind and water have been proven as their persistence slowly erodes these formations to create stunning new ones. The result, whether due to chemical interactions or wind and water, are surreal backdrops that are natural wonders of the world that are revered for their beauty and uniqueness. Tourists flock to them to try and capture their beauty on camera. Check out this list of some of the natural wonders of the world that have captured our imagination.
15. Enchanted Well in Bahia, Brazil
This spa-like retreat is located at the Chapada Diamantina National Park. The water is completely clear which allows visitors to easily see the rocks all the way at the bottom. Even ancient trees trunks are visible at the bottom of the well.
To get to the water, visitors have to scale down 80 feet of steep rock first. But it’s well worth the effort to see the sunken pool which is approximately 120 feet deep. The blue glow that it’s popular for comes from the sun hitting the minerals in the water at just the right angle (from early spring to late fall). While swimming in this part of the cave is prohibited, tours can be booked to explore the cave. While there aren’t any fish or plants visible in the Enchanted Well, there are large fish and plants located in other parts of the cave.
14. Tunnel of Love in Klevan, Ukraine
This is one of Ukraine’s most popular tourist destinations and it’s lined and covered by trees. The dense tree covering gives it the appearance of both an otherworldly place and the entrance into a fairy-tale land. This treasure can be found within a forest but be careful if you want to walk along it taking pictures. It’s still an active rail line (granted, for a private train taking wood to a local factory) with a regularly scheduled train passing through it three times a day. The shape of the tunnel can be attributed to the passing train over several years. This makes sense since the tracks are located deep within a forest that would have grown over otherwise.
Much like other romantic places in the world where lovers want to wish for long lasting love (think the Love Lock Bridge in Paris, France), couples travel to the tracks in the hopes that their wishes will come true someday.
13. Zhangye Danxia Landform in Gansu, China
Let’s be honest, these mountains look like something from a child’s art project right? Or do they make you think of a colorful layered cake? Their unique coloring is due to a combination of red sandstone and mineral deposits originating within the earth’s core over 24 million years ago. The tectonic plates that created the Himalayan mountains also created these incredible mountains, but the result in this case are the bright colors the mountains are known for. Due to its growing popularity, visitors can now use newly installed boardwalks and roads to fully explore this wonder. Coincidentally, these mountains aren’t the only ones that look like this. The Rainbow Range in British Columbia, Canada look the same and are the result of a shield volcano’s (basically a somewhat flat volcano) lava and mineralized sand mixing over millions of years. There are others around the world but the mountains in China are by far the most popular and talked about.
12. The Great Blue Hole in Belize
We hear about sinkholes on land all the time. Recall the sinkhole in Florida that swallowed a man and his home back in 2013? Well, they also appear out at sea as well. The Great Blue Hole, which is part of the Lighthouse Reef, is the result of a sinkhole that formed during the most recent ice age (it initially happened on land) when sea levels were much lower. As sea levels began to rise the hole began to fill in and is now over 400 feet deep. The top 50 feet is salt water while the remaining 300 feet is made up of fresh water.
It’s a popular spot for expert scuba drivers due in part to the clear water and the variety of stalactites visible below the surface. Fortunately for them, sharks aren’t commonly seen there but it’s possible to catch a glimpse of one every now and then. If you’re a scuba diver this is no doubt on your list of places to dive.
11. Sea of Stars on Vaadhoo Island in the Maldives
At first glance when looking at this picture, it’s easy to think that you’re looking at stars in the sky. However, a closer look reveals that you’re actually looking at waves on the shores of a beach. It’s like looking at something from out of a movie, like a scene from 1997’s movie Contact with Jodie Foster or 2013’s Life of Pi. This phenomenon is actually the result of special phytoplankton that have come in contact with oxygen to create a glowing effect. This effect can be seen all over the world on different beaches. The blue hue is especially heightened when the moon isn’t shining at its brightest.
Before deciding to run through the tide, splashing with your feet, keep in mind that the phytoplankton that produces this glow, also produce harmful toxins. Best to take a few steps back and admire this wonder from a distance.
10. Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona
This canyon is made up of two different sections, The Crack and The Corkscrew, and is an incredible site to see. It’s located on Navajo tribal land and the unique formations formed over time due to erosion resulting in part from flooding. Water is so powerful isn’t it? But before you lace up your hiking boots and head over, keep in mind that these canyons can only be accessed via guided tours (due to unexpected flash floods) which can get a little pricey. It’s still worth it to see the remarkable patterns on the canyon walls.
The Crack is easily accessible and is a hot tourist spot. It’s beautiful and known for the rays of sunlight that beam down at different points of the day in the summer. Tourists who are willing to brave the tough climbing conditions can do so to take pictures within The Corkscrew which is accessed with bridges and long staircases.
9. Bamboo Groves of Arashiyama in Kyoto, Japan
The Bamboo Groves is also called the Bamboo Forest and is another example of nature that will leave you feeling as though you’ve entered another world. The bamboo is tall and thick and creates a secluded feel when walking or cycling through. Add to this the gentle rustling of the leaves and sways of the shoots and the transportation is complete. In Japanese culture bamboo is highly regarded and is seen as a symbol of strength. So it makes sense that there would be a natural monument of sorts to this. The thick grove and the shards of light that beam through also create a sense of mysticism (there’s even a temple located nearby).
It’s a popular place for folks to take a stroll or bike ride free of charge (so go early as it’s bound to get busy). Visitors can rent a rickshaw if they’d prefer to sit back and fully take in all the forest has to offer.
8. Kelimutu Crater Lakes in Flores Island, Indonesia
All three craters are at the peak of a volcano. The blue lake is called the Lake of Old People, the green lake is called the Lake of Young Men and Maidens and the dark red lake (appears almost black) is called the Enchanted Lake or Lake of Evil Spirits. Local legend says that the souls of the dead travel up to the peak to find their final resting place in one of the three craters. Their resting place is determined by the type of life they led. As with many other attractions on this list, the unique colors of each lake are likely due to minerals that result from volcanic activity below. It’s another big tourist stop for anyone visiting Indonesia.
In case you’re wondering, yes, the volcano’s active. It experiences occasional minor bursts of smoke, ash and rock but nothing more…to date.
7. Lake Hillier in Western Australia
This bubble gum colored lake was discovered in 1802 by a British cartographer. It’s colored pink all year round and has a salty, crusty shoreline (it appears as yellowish, white in pictures). The lake is thought to be this color due to high salt levels, the presence of salt eating algae and pink bacteria. Due to this high salt content (not unlike that of the Dead Sea near Palestine), it makes sense that the only thing living in the lake are the bacteria and microorganisms. There isn’t any fish or plant life within it. If you’re not bothered by the lack of sea life or the color, consider taking a dip since it’s safe to swim in. For the avid adventurer, it might be worth the helicopter ride to get there since this is one of two ways to access the lake. The only other way to access this lake is from the sea via ship. Excursions from these ships are common.
6. Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona, USA
At 277 miles long and 18 miles wide, the Grand Canyon is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The South Rim is the most accessible and is therefore the most visited part of the Grand Canyon. It’s a popular spot for camping, tours, hiking, trips of the river and even weddings, it’s a major tourist attraction. It’s also home to lots of wildlife such as the Bighorn Sheep which love to live on steep cliffs which makes the canyon perfect for them. They also like the canyon because of the vastness and remoteness, there are lots of places for them to hide.
The canyon is also home to the Phantom Ranch. This site used to be home to Native Americans and was used by prospectors mining for ore before it became a tourist attraction. If you’re looking for a little adventure by visiting this place, you’ll have to be quick about it and reserve a spot since it often books up several months in advance. The ranch has expanded to include a restaurant, heliport and ranger station among other amenities.
5. Socotra, Island in Yemen
This remote island separated from the main land over six millions years ago. It’s not a stretch to say that it looks like nothing seen anywhere else in the world, it’s otherworldly. This is mainly due to the plants and trees that can only be found on this island. The most popular is the Dragon’s Blood trees (named as such for its red resin) with their twisted branches that give the appearance of an umbrella. In addition to these, there are over 800 plant and animal species living on the island. Over the years, millions for some species, they’ve adapted to survive in the dry, arid landscape of the island. With this in mind, the Dragon’s Blood trees aren’t the only unusual looking plants on the island. The Desert Rose is just as strange looking with its large round trunk and pink flowers on thick branches above.
Despite the remoteness of the island, surprisingly, there are thousands of inhabitants who call it home. To keep them company, there are several species of birds on the island, many that can only be found there. Plus, there are also a variety of other small animals. All together, these all make up the exotic backdrop of the island.
4. Fly Geyser in Washoe County, Nevada
The second multi-colored entry on this list is the Fly Geyser that can be found in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada. If you want to see this remarkable site for yourself, you’ll be trespassing because the ranch where the geyser is located was purchased so access to the Fly Geyser is strictly forbidden. Unlike other attractions on this list, this geyser isn’t actually a natural occurrence. Regardless, it’s still amazing to look at. It was created entirely by accident when an energy company drilled a well looking for geothermal energy (based on very deep hot rocks). The base of the geyser is the result of that drilling and the minerals coming out and being deposited created the geyser and additional deposits means that it’s always growing. The amazing colors are due to algae.
3. Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
This is known as the largest hot spring in all of the United States. The coloring that it’s famous for is due to microbes that interact with the minerals within the water. The colors change from time to time but are usually made up of varying ratios of green, orange and blue and yellow. The heat in the middle of the spring means that this part remains blue since the microbes can’t survive there. The spring can be viewed from nearby Fairy Falls, from a helicopter or from a boardwalk that passes close by. Don’t even think about getting any closer than that. Venturing off of the boardwalk is strictly prohibited due to the fragile nature of the spring’s ecosystem. Back in May, four adventure seeking tourists ventured off the boardwalk and as a result warrants were issued for their arrests and they faced a slew of fines. So not worth breaking the rules this time.
2. Salt Mounds of Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia
This is the world’s largest salt flat and was formed over time by the mixture of many different prehistoric lakes. The mounds of salt that appear across the flats are the result of harvesting of the salt by scraping and then piling the scrapings into piles that are then transported for further processing. Not surprisingly, the high salt content in the environment means that there aren’t any natural animal inhabitants there. There aren’t even any plants. However, this is a popular breeding ground for three species of flamingos.
Another interesting fact about the flats is that there is an abandoned train cemetery located nearby. The rail line was part of a distribution line that transported minerals. Once this resource dried up, so did the business. Trains were abandoned but it’s not all for nothing. There may be a museum built to house these antiques one day. Yet another fun fact is that astronauts use the flats to calibrate satellites in outer space.
1. Death Valley in California, USA
This is home of the mysterious sliding rocks which move without any apparent human or animal involvement and leave trails. Fortunately for us, due to curious researchers, the mystery of the moving rocks was recently solved. In 2013 researchers used GPS to track movement along with time lapsed photography. Movement is due to the formation of a thin layer of ice that melts in the heat of the day and strong winds that gradually push the rocks. This combination gives the appearance of independent movement.
Unbelievably, there have been instances of theft of the rocks. It’s possible people think that the rocks have magical powers and will move on their own no matter where they are. It’s quite likely those folks were left disappointed when they got home.