Regardless of where you live and what you do, there are certain magical places in the world that everyone knows. Mount Everest. The Grand Canyon. Even the Great Barrier Reef. But for every place you have heard of, there are at least a dozen other unbelievable natural wonders you never knew existed. So to save you the suspense, here are the top ten most incredible (and less known) natural wonders you should probably tack onto that ever-expanding bucket list.
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The Green Lake, Tragoess, Austria
While the emerald waters and snowy mountain backdrop are certainly picturesque in the fall and winter months, the most stunning element of Green Lake is what happens in the springtime. The normally rather shallow lake (2-3 feet deep) begins to grow as the snow from the surrounding Hochschwab Mountains melts and feeds into the clear, icy waters. As such, by May or June, the lake becomes nearly 40 feet deep and diver’s paradise. Park benches and hiking trails which one would normally see scattered along the lake’s edge are now fully submerged, creating an eerie yet peaceful underwater world.
Eye of the Sahara, Sahara Desert
If you are looking to add a little mystery and intrigue to your travel plans, the Eye of the Sahara (aka the Richat structure) is the perfect spot to visit. Located in western Mauritania, the 25-mile wide geologic formation resembles a colorful hurricane, with a variety of colors swirling around a central point. Best seen from above (you can hardly notice it from ground level) scientists still don’t quite understand how it formed. Theories range from impact crater to eroded rock dome to ruins of the city of Atlantis. Any way you look at it, though, something truly remarkable once happened here.
The River of Five Colors, Colombia
Also known as Caño Cristales, the water running through here quite literally resembles a liquid rainbow. About five hours south of Bogota, inside Serranía de la Macarena National Park, this natural phenomenon is the stunning result of various natural factors. Black Rocks, blue water, green algae, yellow sand, and an aquatic red plant native to the region all combine to create this ethereal spectacle. Luckily, this water is entirely safe so feel to bathe in the myriad of pools and waterfalls.
Marble Caves, Chile
Ever wondered what a Van Gogh painting would look like in real life? Well, then you may be overdue for a trip to the Cavernas de Mármol. Situated about two hours outside the Patagonian city of Balmaceda, the caves are based on General Carerra Lake and only accessible by boat. If you don’t mind the long trip to get there though, the reward is well worth it. For centuries, if not longer, the waves have constantly eroded the marble peninsula creating some of the most spectacular caves on the continent. But what makes them so stunning is the reflection of the glacial waters on the marbles walls - something best enjoyed during sunrise and sunset.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
At first glance, the world’s largest salt flat might not sound all that amazing. And granted it is over 4,000 square miles of one of harshest environments on earth. But what makes this pre historic lake so fantastic are the expansive vistas. The clear skies and exceptional flatness of the area allow visitors to see for miles around. Not only this but when the nearby lakes overflow onto the flats, the water creates an enormous mirror reflecting the sky and anything on the surface.
Paria Canyon, Arizona
You don’t have to wander far to find nature at its best. Right in our own backyard lay the windswept cliffs of Paria Canyon. One of the world’s most amazing hiking destinations, Paria is home to what is popularly known as “the Wave” - a unique area of twisted sandstone and deformed rocked that defies imagination. If you are lucky enough to win the lottery (quite literally as only a permits are given randomly) the mesmerizing colors will surely not disappoint.
Lac Rose, Senegal
In the far reaches of West Africa, you'll find Lake Retba (or Pink Lake as it is better-known). Oddly enough, the colorful lake is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by only a thin strip of sand dunes, and as such actually consists of salt rather than fresh water. What makes this body of water so sensational, though, is the vibrant algae which live here, creating the pinkish color. And in case that worries you, the algae is known to have antioxidant properties so visitors are encouraged to swim (or rather float- which is quite easy) in the vivid waters.
Travertine Pools, Pamukkale, Turkey
Literally translated, Pamukkale means cotton castle, which only seems odd until you catch of glimpse of these enormous white pools. Situated in southwest Turkey, hundreds of years of flowing hot springs have created these breathtakingly surreal travertine terraces. And each year, visitors from around the world venture here not only to enjoy the thermal waters but explore the ancient Greco-Roman city of Hierapolis which sits atop the hillside. Let’s be honest, who wouldn’t want to bathe as the Romans once did amidst ancient ruins?
Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
Just a few hours outside Arusha lies the world’s largest inactive, intact volcanic calderas, Ngorongoro Crater. Created by a prehistoric volcano which exploded and subsequently collapsed inward, the one hundred square mile expanse is over 2000 feet deep and home to some of the largest concentrations of Africa’s wildlife. Animals ranging from hippos to lions, zebra, and gazelles abound here as the shape of the crater forms a natural enclosure from which these populations rarely stray. As such it remains a must-see locale for safari-goers and geologists alike.
Yunnan Stone Forest, Shilin, Kunming, China
Far from being a living forest, the Yunnan Stone Forest and its strange landscape have spurred many a legend. For years, the labyrinth of pillars was thought to be the remains of petrified trees. More modern research has proven this incorrect though the truth is no less stunning. Millions of years ago the area existed as a shallow sea with a floor of limestone. Once the sea drained, wind and water eroded the limestone creating enormous pillars and caves that continue to lure in curious guests. We suggest a guide or a map though since it isn’t difficult to get lost.