Mendenhall Ice Caves, Alaska
To get to the Mendenhall Ice Caves in Juneau, Alaska is a trek. You can only get there first by kayaking, then by ice climbing over a glacier. It’s worth it, though—the caves, which are in a partially hollow glacier, have water running over rocks under blue ceilings. The scene is otherworldly.
Red Beach, Panjin China
Forget about sandy white beaches here, this incredible beach is sandless and gets its striking red color from a type of seaweed. Known as Sueda, the seaweed grows green before turning red in the fall months.
Red Beach isn’t just unusually beautiful, but is also a diverse ecosystem on one of the largest wetlands in the world. Hundreds of different bird species call it home and though most of the area is closed to tourists, there is a small section of the area open to nature lovers.
Cave Of Crystals, Chihuahua, Mexico
In 2000, two brothers were mining underneath the Naica Mountain in Chihuahua, Mexico when they came upon what has been called the Sistine Chapel of Crystals. Nearly 300 meters under the surface is an awe-inspiring cave home to the largest crystals on the planet. Some of them stand at 36 feet in height and are estimated to way 55 tons!
Scientists believe the crystals have been growing in the cave for around 500,000 years, thanks to the cave’s incredibly hot temperatures and groundwater plentiful in calcium sulfate. Because temperatures often sore to 136°F, visitors must wear a special cooling suit and spend no more than 45 minutes inside this underground crystal cavern.
Fly Geyser, Nevada, USA
credit: The Higher Learning
In 2016, the Burning Man Art Project purchased 3,800-acre parcel of land in northern Nevada home to a relatively young geyser. The Fly Geyser isn’t millions of years old, but was only born in 1964 after a geothermal power company drilled a well to test the area.
The well was left uncapped and calcium carbonate-rich water began shooting out of the hole and gradually forming calcium deposits. Over the decades, the deposits grew and now stand at around six feet in height. The beautiful red coloring of the geyser is because of the abundance of thermophilic algae.
The Cloud Forest, Zhangjiajie Hunan Province, China
credit: Robert Jahns
The rocky forests of Zhangjiajie national park look like something from the movie Avatar and are one of China’s most popular national attractions. The forests have been the inspiration for some of China’s most beautiful landscape paintings and are often covered in a dense blanket of fog, hence the name “cloud forest.”
Gondolas shuttle visitors through the clouded forest and its many mountainous peaks. One of the forest’s most stunning landmarks is the South Celestial Pillar. The a stone peak looks almost like it’s floating on air and was formed by the rock slowly being weathered away over millions of years.
Blue Lava Volcano, Ijen Java Indonesia
credit: National Geographic
There are few things more mesmerizing/terrifying than a mountain spewing orange fire and lave from deep within the earth. The only thing even more bewildering is when that lave isn’t orange, but a cosmic blue. The active Kawah Ijen volcano is part of a complex of volcanoes in Indonesia and has become somewhat of a tourist attraction for its beautiful colors.
The volcano has one of the highest levels of sulfur in the world and when it gas is exposed to oxygen, it causes the molten lava to burn blue. The blue lava is only visible at light, making the sight even more mysteriously beautiful.
Underwater Waterfall, Mauritius
Just off the coast of Mauritius, a beautiful and secluded island near Africa, an incredible and eerie natural illusion resides beneath the surface of the ocean. It appears to be an enormous waterfall existing under the surface of the water. The effect is due to local sand and silt deposits coloring the water. Spooky!
Abraham Lake, Canada
An artificial lake created in 1972, Abraham Lake is home to a rare phenomenon where bubbles of methane gas become frozen under the surface.
The methane comes from the plants surrounding the lake. When it rises and comes in contact with the much colder surface of the lake, it freezes in bubbles, slowly stacking up as the weather gets colder and colder.
Lake Natron, Tanzania
In the northern part of Tanzania is a large lake with an eerily crimson colored water. It’s a rather unusual sight that comes about because of microorganisms in the mineral rich waters of the lake that are fed by nearby volcanic springs.
As oddly beautiful as the lake is, it also has an incredibly high acidic and salt content. With pH balance as high as 10.5, it can burn the eyes of visitors who aren’t adapted to it. Considering that the hot climate can cause the water of the lake to reach temperatures of 106 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s best to forget about any idea of a swim.
Dallol Volcanic Acid Pool, Ethiopia
Dallol is a volcanic crate in the centre of the Danokil desert in Ethiopia. It is one of the most remote places on earth, and lies within the hottest inhabited region on the planet.
Surrounding the volcano are acidic hot springs, mountains of sulphur, pillars of salt, small gas geysers and pools of acid isolated by salt ridges. The beautiful and dazzling colors are due to the strong presence of iron oxide, salt, sulphur, and other minerals.
Thor’s Well, Oregon, USA
Thor’s Well, also known as Sprouting Horn, is a seemingly bottomless sinkhole that looks as though it’s draining the sea. While it looks endless, the hole is about 20 feet deep—but still dangerous for anyone getting close to it. Visit Thor’s Well at high tide to see the water crash into the rocks and funnel into the hole.
Cavernas de Mármol, Chile
On the border of Chile and Argentina lies the Carrera Lake. It’s blue waters line beautiful layers of marble that were exposed from glacier movements. The marble has dissolved faster at the water’s surface and left behind stunning caves, tunnels, and columns.
The lights and colors of the various tunnels and caves change with the seasons and visitors can tour the area via boat. Visit in the winter months when ice is feeding the lake and you’ll notice that the water and marble has a particularly vibrant turquoise coloring.
Jellyfish Lake, Indonesia
credit: Chean Chong/ National Geographic
Swimming in waters where you’re surrounded by thousands of jellyfish might sound like a terrifying experience, but that’s exactly what attracts snorkelers to the waters of Indonesia’s Derawan Islands. The catch is that these jellyfish are stingless, so there’s no chance of bodily harm.
The lake was once part of the ocean, but has become surrounded by a dense wall of mangroves. Some scientists believe that because the mangroves isolated the jellyfish, that over time the jellies lost their sting because they were no longer in danger of predators.
Iguazu Falls, Argentina
Photos simply don’t do this South American wonder justice, you need to see it for yourself. The falls are made up of 275 different waterfalls spanning almost three miles. The tallest of the waterfalls is known as Devil’s Throat and has an impressive 260 foot drop that creates a permanent cloud of beautiful mist.
To give you some perspective of the size of these impressive waterfalls, Iguazu Falls is twice as wide as Niagara Falls and during the rainy months it dumps enough water to fill five Olympic swimming pools — every second!
The Spotted Lake, Canada
The Spotted Lake is located near the city of Osoyoos, in British Colombia. The body of water is extremely rich in a variety of minerals. In the summer, most of its water evaporates and pools of minerals are left behind.
The color of the pools will vary depending on which minerals comprise them, which makes for sure a fascinating picture.
The Wave, Arizona, USA
This magnificent rock formation is located in Paria Canyon, Arizona. It is famous among explorers and tourists for its beautiful, undulating patterns, formed by sandstone from the jurassic age that has been eroded first by water, then by wind.
Salar De Uyuni, Bolivia
The largest salt flat on Earth stretches a whopping 10,582 square kilometers (4,086 sq miles), in South West Bolivia.
Salar De Uyuni was once part of a prehistoric salt lake that dried up and left a number of salt pans. When it rains, the salt flat becomes the Earth’s largest mirror. It is so expansive and reflective that it is even used to calibrate satellites from space!
Seljalandsfoss is one of the most popular waterfalls in Iceland and measures nearly 200 feet tall. While the waterfall is spectacular from the front, it’s even more incredible when witnessed from behind. A path leads behind the waterfall, making it incredibly popular with nature photographers both in the winter and summer months.
Pamukkale, also called the Cotton Palace, features water that cascades from natural springs and traverses down white travertine terraces. Together, they form thermal pools that can be enjoyed while looking over the ancient ruins of Hierapolis. This is another World Heritage Site.
Fingal’s Cave, Scotland
Located on the uninhabited island of Staffa in Scotland, Fingal’s Cave is formed entirely of hexagonally jointed basalt columns, which occurred due to the surface cooling of lava during its formation.
The cave is renowned for its natural acoustics. Due to its shape and enormity, Fingal’s Cave has the atmosphere of a natural cathedral. Stunning!
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