1. Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
Nestled next to the Atlantic Ocean, the Giant’s Causeway in Ireland is
easily one of the most incredible, bizarre natural wonders in the world.
The Causeway is home to more than 40,000 columns, most of which have
six sides and form a honeycomb-like pattern.
Giant’s Causeway wasn’t always the spectacular tourist hotspot it is
today, though. Created from cooled magma, it took nearly 60 million
years of erosion for the columns to be visible. Scientists believe that
they were finally revealed after the last Ice Age, around 15,000 years
2. Thermal Springs, Pamukkale, Turkey
Take a trip to Turkey’s inner Aegean region near the River Menderes
Valley and you’ll encounter Pamukkale’s thermal springs. People have
bathed in these hot mineral-saturated waters for thousands of years,
dubbing the area Pamukkale, or cotton castle.
The scallop-shaped basins of water and frozen waterfalls decorate the
area’s cliffside. Here, the spring water is hot and high in calcium,
magnesium sulfrate and bicarbonate. The Pamukkale hot springs flow at a
rate of 400 liters per second, with their mineral-saturated flows
forming its hollow, circular basins all the while.
3. Surreal Places: Hvitserkur, North Iceland
While some claim that it’s a monster, others are sure it looks most like
a dragon. Either way, the natural Hvitserkur rock formation evokes all
sorts of human interest. Located at the northern tip of the Vatnsnes
Peninsula in Iceland, thousands of people travel to see the rock each
year. The rock already has three holes in its foundation, and the
structure has been reinforced with concrete to prevent further erosion.
Even in pictures, viewers can see streaks of white bird droppings that
drip down the edges, giving the formation the name Hvitserkur, which
means white shirt.
4. Fingal’s Cave, Scotland
Named after the hero of an 18th century epic poem, Fingal’s Cave boasts
numerous geometric columns reminiscent of Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway.
Fingal’s Cave is formed from hexagonally jointed basalt columns created
by solidified lava. The sea cave is located on Staffa, an uninhabited
island that’s part of Scotland. Fingal’s cave contains high, arched
roofs that magnify the sound of the ocean. Although boats cannot enter
the cave, many local companies offer sightseeing tours of the
5. Surreal Places: Red Beach, Panjin, China
The Red Beach is probably the furthest thing from any traditional
understanding of a beach. Instead of vast expanses of sand, a species of
red seaweed called sueda dominates the Red Beach. This seaweed stays
green for most of the year, then transforms into a dark, cherry-red
color once autumn rolls around.
Aside from its bizarre coloring, the Red Beach is home to more than 260
bird species and 399 kinds of wild animals, making it one of the most
complex ecosystems in the world. The Red Beach is also the world’s
biggest wetland and reed marsh.
6. Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Situated in Vietnam’s Gulf of Tonkin, Ha Long Bay comprises over 1,600
islands and limestone pillars, making it one of the most surreal places
in the world. Geologically-savvy visitors can find an enormous array of
caves, peaks and other landforms here. The bay is an extraordinary
example of erosion’s effect on limestone.
One of the most notable features is the well-developed notches, many of
which extend into caves or arches. Because of the islands’ vertical
natures, few are inhabited. While some are incredibly small—only 50 to
100 km high–the bay’s larger, more developed limestone islands contain
their own lakes and other water sources.
7. Antelope Canyon, United States
The Antelope Canyon is both the most visited and most photographed slot
canyon in the American Southwest. One glance at the smooth, orange-red
walls and it’s easy to see why. This canyon was formed by flash flooding
and other subaerial processes that eroded the sandstone. As the rains
continue (in 2006, a flood lasted for more than 36 hours) the canyon’s
landscape slowly forges on in its topical transformation. While
scientists are unsure of when people discovered the cave, local Navajos
claim that the surreal canyon has been part of their cultural heritage
8. Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Founded in 1949, Plitvice Lakes National Park is the oldest national
park in southeast Europe, as well as Croatia’s largest national park.
Like other surreal places, the site has been declared a UNESCO World
Heritage site since 1979. These days, more than one million visitors
flock to the gorgeous park, drawn by its spectacular waterfalls, caves
and lakes. The area is home to more than 100 bird species that live in
the beech and fir tree-filled forest. As if the area couldn’t get any
more beautiful, the entire landscape transforms during winter, when the
waters freeze and turn winter white.
9. Jiuzhaigou Valley, China
Found in Nanping County just north of Chengdu City, the Jiuhaigou Valley
is touted as a holy mountain and watercourse by local Tibetan people.
Within its 230 square mile area, Jiuzhaigou Valley contains an
impressive array of fantastical forests, serene lakes and breathtaking
waterfalls. The land is home to over 2,576 higher plant species.
10. Skaftafeli, Iceland
The caves at the edge of Iceland’s Svinafellsjokull glacier were formed
by highly pressurized glacier ice that contains few air bubbles. Without
air, the cave’s ice absorbs all colors but blue, which is refracted and
visible to onlookers after rain removes the ice’s surface layer. People
can access the cave through a 22-foot entrance that funnels down to a
limited, 4-foot opening. Since glaciers are highly active, one can hear
loud cracks and groans created by the shifting ice.