For billions of years, our planet has been a work in progress. Wind, water, pressure, minerals, heat, and lesser-understood forces mold and shape our environment, carving out caves and canyons, flooding and drying lakes, shaping mountains, shifting shorelines, moving the ground beneath our feet, and creating all types of strange formations.
Such bizarre formations are the result of time and pressure working against soil and rock, an often slow and methodical process that yields showstopping results. Others are the result of a sudden dramatic shift in conditions. Here are some examples of the world’s most unique, unexplainable natural wonders:
Sarisariñama Sinkholes, Venezuela
On the flat-topped mountain of Cerro Sarisariñama in southwest Venezuela, gravity has punched four perfectly circular holes nearly 1,000 feet deep into a landscape of remote rainforest. Hundreds of miles from the nearest road, the area is so far removed from civilization.
Tessellated Pavement at Eaglehawk Neck, Tasmania
The coastline of the Tasman Peninsula is unlike any other in the world due to a rare erosion effect named after a Roman mosaic technique called tessellated pavement. There are two different patterns produced by the erosion: some of the rock pieces are formed into rounded bricks that resemble loaves of bread, while others develop depressions that collect saltwater between their raised borders reflecting the sky like a window frame that stretches to the sea.
Ice Towers of Mount Erebus, Antarctica
Above the world’s most southerly active volcano, on the frozen slopes of Mount Erebus, superheated gas rises through steam vents to form caverns in the ice. When the volcanic gas passes through the caves, some of it freezes inside, forming insane chimney towers that can reach heights of more than 60 feet. The result is a landscape of icy smokestacks which release steam into the freezing Antarctic air in clusters.
The Wave, Coyote Buttes, AZ and UT
Wind and rain have worked together like magic to erode lines that swoop and swirl across the sandstone formation. The result, which resembles a cresting wave, is one of the most unreachable places in the American West. A permit is required to make the unmarked hike to the Wave, and only 20 are given out daily.
The Cave of the Crystals, Naica, Mexico
A thousand feet underground in a working lead and silver mine in Chihuahua, Mexico, opaque crystals of Gypsum sprout at all angles from the volcanically heated water below. Temperatures in the cave can reach 150 degrees with nearly 100 percent humidity. Any longer than 10 minutes in a cave without proper gear can lead to heatstroke.
Blood Falls, Antarctica
Cascading down the Taylor Glacier one can find a shock shade of what looks like blood. The hue actually comes from high iron levels in the falls’ source, a pool buried 1,300 feet below the ice. In a sinister twist, the landscape is so arid that when seals and penguins wander inland and get lost, they never decompose; their remains are left strewn about.
The Stone Forest (Shilin), China
Many of the trees within the forest in China’s remote Yunnan Province are literally rock hard. The area, which spans nearly 200 square miles, was underwater millions of years ago, and the sea floor was covered with limestone sediment. Gradually, the seabed rose and the water dried up. As rain and wind eroded the weaker rock, the stronger limestone spires began to take shape. Now they rise skyward and are surrounded by leafy trees.
Spotted Lake, British Columbia
Each summer most of the water in this mineral-rich lake evaporates, leaving behind large concentrations of salt, titanium, calcium, sulfates, and other minerals that form a polka-dot pattern in shades of green, yellow, and brown circles of varying size. The lake is a sacred site to the First Nations of the Okanagan Valley, and the land on which it sits is private property owned by the Indian Affairs Department. You won’t actually be able to get up close to the lake, but you can get a good look from the nearby road.
The Eye of the Sahara (Richat Structure), Mauritania
This enormous circular depression is like a bull’s-eye mark in the middle of an otherwise flat and featureless area of Mauritania desert. Visible from space, it has been a landmark for astronauts since the earliest missions. The Eye formed as winds eroded the different layers of sediment, quartzite, and other rocks at varying depths.
Caño Cristales River, Colombia
Otherwise known as the River of Five Colors, the Liquid Rainbow, as well as the Most Beautiful River in the World, central Colombia’s Serranéa de la Macarena national park becomes a kaleidoscope of colors when the timing is right. Usually between July and December the water will reach the perfect level and become a perfect blend of pink, green, blue, and yellow. There is a plant behind all this magic called the Macarenia clavigera, which lives on the river floor. When it gets the sun it needs it bloom into an explosion of colors.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
When a prehistoric lake dried up about 30,000 years ago, it left an endless expanse of white hexagonal tiles that stretch to the horizon, resulting to the world’s largest salt flat. Stretching 4,000 square miles, the site provides more than 25,000 tons of salt per year to local miners, supports a thriving community of thousands of flamingos, and attracts tourists who can check into the Palacio de Sal, a 16-room hotel made entirely from salt blocks.
Marble Caves, Chile
Six thousand years of wave erosion created the undulating patterns that give these caves their marbleized effect, enhanced by the reflection of the blue and green water of Carrera Lake, near Chile’s border with Argentina. Visitors can kayak throughout the caves on days when the waters are calm.Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 2017 film trailer
There’s plenty of mystery left to explore. These dramatic natural wonders prove that Mother Nature can wow even the most seasoned travelers.