50 of the most beautiful natural wonders around the world

slawomir.gawryluk/ShutterstockThe Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland.
  • There are unbelievably beautiful natural wonders across the world – from the tops of mountains to the deepest caves.
  • Photographs capture the vibrant colours of canyons, forests, and rocky shorelines.
  • In Colombia, a unique plant turns a river bright red every year, and in the Maldives, bioluminescent plankton make the beaches glow at night.
  • Visit Insider’s home page for more stories.

Natural wonders come in all shapes and sizes. From China’s Tianzi mountains to the Verdon Gorge in southeastern France, there are incredible places all over the planet.

Keep reading to learn about 50 of the most beautiful natural wonders on Earth.


Caño Cristales River, Colombia

VarnaK/ShutterstockCaño Cristales River, Colombia.

Also known as “the river of five colours” or “liquid rainbow,” this body of water actually looks pretty normal most of the time – at least until it explodes into colour from around July through November.

During this time, Macarenia clavigera, a unique plant that lines the bottom of the river, turns a vibrant red, interspersed with blue waters, green moss, and yellow sand.


The Tianzi mountains, China

lzf/ShutterstockThe Tianzi mountains, China.

An inspiration for the alien visages in James Cameron’s “Avatar,” the mountain range is made up of towers of eroded and exposed rocks, giving the place its unique look. Some of the towers are as tall as 4,100 feet with sandstone peaks that are 300 million years old.

The ledges capture soil, allowing forests to grow around and even on top of the peaks.


Antelope Canyon, Arizona, USA

Richard Cabala/ShutterstockInside Antelope Canyon.

A slot canyon in Arizona, Antelope Canyon is known for its wave-like patterns and tall sandstone walls. The canyon’s narrow walkways were formed by millions of years of water erosion.


The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

slawomir.gawryluk/ShutterstockThe Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland.

While its distinct hexagonal columns look man-made, the Causeway is a natural occurrence due to volcanic activity in the area millions of years ago. The largest of these columns stands 36 feet high.


Skógafoss, Skógar, Iceland

Maridav/ShutterstockSkógafoss.

Skógafoss flows from not one, but two glaciers(Eyjafjallajokull and Myrdalsjokull). According to legend, a viking named Thrasi hid his chest of gold under this stunning waterfall.

Gold or not, the heavy amount of spray that the waterfall produces makes a sunny-day rainbow sighting here very likely.


Badab-e Surt, Iran

khosrow jalili/ShutterstockBadab-e-Surt, Iran.

Water regularly gathers in the terraces of rust-coloured minerals that turn a fiery red at sunset. The terraces were created after two mineral hot springs eroded away rock over thousands of years and left behind carbonate mineral deposits that give the site its unique shape.


Socotra Island, Yemen

Oleg Znamenskiy/ShutterstockSocotra Island, Yemen.

Located in the Indian Ocean, the island of Socotra has plant life that’s found nowhere else on the planet. One of the more notable species is the dragon’s blood trees. Their canopies look like flying saucers.


Thor’s Well, Oregon, USA

WEBB SHOW/ShutterstockThor’s Well.

While it’s named after a Norse god, the sinkhole is reminscent of the Greek mythological creature Charybdis, which drowned sailors trapped in its currents. Thor’s Well probably formed when an undersea cave’s roof collapsed, creating the sight of the sea sinking into itself.


Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand

criskorah/ShutterstockWaitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand.

Thousands of twinkling glow worms light up these caves, which have been open to the public since 1889, but known to the indigenous Maori people for much longer. In fact, Waitomo comes from the Maori wordswai, for water, and tomo, for hole or entrance.

The magical experience is heightened by the fact that visitors silently glide through the caves by gondola.


Lake Hillier, Australia

matteo_it/ShutterstockLake Hillier, Australia.

The bubble-gum pink lake defies science: no one knows why it’s as pink as it is, or why the colour is actually stronger the further from the lake you are. Most believe that it’s caused by a specific algae in the lake that is drawn to its high salinity, as well as a pink bacteria known as halobacteria.

Whatever the reason for its unique hue, the lake sits on Middle Island, an island on the Recherche Archipelago that is used solely for research purposes, and can only be viewed by helicopter.


Spotted Lake, British Columbia, Canada

Roshan_NG/ShutterstockSpotted Lake.

Located between the Okanagan and Similkameen Valleys, the lake is known for its strange, almost alien pattern of spots. This pattern is caused by the minerals in the lake: magnesium sulfate, calcium, and sodium sulfates, along with other minerals.


Red Beach, Panjin, China

Paul J Martin/ShutterstockRed Beach, Panjin, China.

The Red Beach gets its distinct crimson colour from an abundance of “red weed” called Chenopodium that thrives in alkaline soil. The area is also known as home to one of the rarest cranes in the world – the red crowned crane.


Pamukkale, Turkey

Jakob Fischer/ShutterstockPamukkale, Turkey.

Known as “cotton castle” in Turkish, the bleached white, travertine terraces hold warm water pooled from natural hot springs. The terraces were created over time by limestone mineral deposits from geothermal activity.


Chocolate Hills of Bohol Island, Philippines

Rasto SK/ShutterstockChocolate Hills of Bohol Island in the Philippines.

Varying in height from 98 feet to 393 feet, the Chocolate Hills are known for their odd cone shapes. During dry season, the grass turns a distinct brown colour, reminiscent of chocolate. There are more than 1,268 cone-shaped hills covering an area of 31 miles.


Redwood National Park, California, USA

welcomia/ShutterstockRedwood National Park.

With over 139,000 acres of trees, the Redwood National Park covers California’s northern coast. The redwoods are some of the tallest trees in the world; one stands 379 feet high and is around 600 years old.


Fly Geyser, Nevada, USA

Robert Stolting/ShutterstockFly Geyser, Nevada, USA.

Human error and geothermic activity collided to create the Fly Geyser in the Black Rock Desert. The geyser formed after a geothermic energy company failed to reseal a test well, the geothermic heat forcing the water upward in a geyser. For the past 40 years, the water has brought minerals to the desert service creating the geyser’s distinct mound.


Mount Fuji, Honshu, Japan

warasit phothisuk/ShutterstockMount Fuji, Honshu, Japan.

Japan’s tallest mountain (12,388 feet high) towers over the nearby countryside, which is often enveloped in a thick layer of fog. Fuji is an active volcano, last erupting in 1707.


Masazir Lake, Azerbaijan

Ramin Hasanalizade/ShutterstockMasazir Lake.

Masazir Lake is not far from Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan. This pink saline lake gets its colour – which is strongest in the summer – from microorganisms called halophiles.


Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, Maranhao, Brazil

Pakawat Thongcharoen/shutterstockLençóis Maranhenses National Park, Maranhao, Brazil.

The blinding white sand dunes are inter-cut with rivers, pushing the thousands of tons of sand out into the Atlantic Ocean.


Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Jimmy Tran/ShutterstockHa Long Bay, Vietnam.

Ha Long Bay’s natural beauty makes it one of Vietnam’s number one tourist sites. The bay is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The best way to see Ha Long’s awe-inspiring limestone towers is by boat. In fact, many tourists stay overnight on a boat in the bay.


Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park, Gansu, China

Alexandre Seixas/ShutterstockZhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park.

Danxia refers to a special type of landscape found in southwestern China. The colourful, striped mountains are made up of layers of minerals and rock, which were disrupted when tectonic plates caused the island that is now India to collide with the rest of the Eurasia continent.

Now a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, the once little-known wonder is a popular tourist draw – and for good reason. Chances are you’ve never seen anything like it before.


The Dead Sea, Israel and Jordan

Olesya Baron/ShutterstockThe Dead Sea.

Sitting at 1,410 feet below sea level, the Dead Sea is the lowest body of water on Earth’s surface. Located in a desert and featuring a high concentration of salt, it’s the perfect spot for floating.

The water is beautiful enough on its own, but the deposits and columns of salt that rise out of the water give it a unique, otherworldly look.


Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Olga Kot Photo/ShutterstockSalar de Uyuni.

When lakes near these Bolivian salt flats overflow, they create a majestic mirrored surface that reflects the sky and clouds above. The Salar de Uyuni are the largest of their kind and cover a whopping 4,050 square miles of the Bolivian Altiplano.

The vast oasis of salt boasts a horizon that never seems to end, making this spot a photographer’s dream.


Geiranger Fjord, Møre og Romsdal County, Norway

Andrey Armyagov/ShutterstockGeiranger Fjord.

A fjord is best described as an underwater valley. Formed by glaciers, these long and narrow waterways are deep and surrounded by steep mountains on all sides. The Geiranger Fjord is one of Norway’s most famous, and is also a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Go in the warmer months to see lush greenery offset by deep blue waters.


Lake Nakuru, Kenya

Anna Om/ShutterstockLake Nakuru, Kenya.

Gorgeous Lake Nakaru sits in a national park famous for its epic bird-watching – especially its bright pink flamingos. The large, shallow lake is surrounded by marshes and grassland, and also home to rhinos, hippos, waterbucks, and buffalo.


Goblin Valley State Park, Utah, USA

Natali Glado/ShutterstockGoblin Valley State Park.

Cowboys discovered the valley while searching for cattle in the early 1900s. The valley’s rock formations, also known as goblins, were formed by both wind and water erosion.


Tegalalang Rice Terrace, Tegalalang and Ubud, Indonesia

daphnusia/ShutterstockTegalalang Rice Terrace.

Indonesia is known for its terraced rice fields – and Tegalalang is one of the most well-known. Entering the vibrant green landscape with its towering palm trees will make you feel like time has stopped. And there’s some truth to that feeling. Farmers here use an irrigation system that’s been passed down for centuries.


Reynisfjara Beach, Vik, Iceland

Andrey Bayda / ShutterstockReynisfjara Beach.

You probably won’t want to sunbathe on Reynisfjara, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth a visit. The stunning beach looks otherworldly thanks to its black sand, basalt stone columns, and the fog that sometimes envelops it. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights.


Verdon Gorge, France

RossHelen/ShutterstockThe Verdon Gorge.

The Verdon Gorge’s blue-green waters are a picturesque setting for activities ranging from swimming to kayaking.


The Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland

shutterupeire/ShutterstockThe Cliffs of Moher.

One of Ireland’s most-visited natural attractions, the Cliffs of Moher stretch along the country’s west coast for five majestic miles. The rugged cliffs offer unparalleled views of the ocean below.


The Grand Canyon, Arizona, United States

Martin M303/ShutterstockThe Grand Canyon.

The Grand Canyon is Arizona’s most well-known natural beauty, and for good reason: between its immense size and breathtaking views, this natural phenomenon is a must-see.

The canyon stretches on for 277 river miles and spans 18 miles from side to side. While the South Rim is open all year round, the North Rim is open to visitors on a more seasonal basis.


Monteverde Cloud Forest, Monte Verde, Costa Rica

Simon Dannhauer/ShutterstockMonteverde Cloud Forest.

Because it’s a rainforest, the weather might not always be ideal at Monteverde, but the fact is it will feel and look like a jungle paradise no matter if it’s misty or not.

Even better, this biological reserve is known to be home to a multitude of species. In fact, it’s one of only a few places around the world that boasts all six species of the cat family.


Na Pali Coast, Hawaii, United States

Alexander Demyanenko/ShutterstockThe Na Pali Coast.

Between the colourful cliffs and the azure blue waters below, Hawaii’s Na Pali Coast is sure to wow any visitor. Hiking the cliffs will afford you 4,000-foot-high views of the Pacific Ocean and Kalalau Valley, as well as plenty of beautiful waterfalls along the way.


White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

sunsinger/ShutterstockWhite Sands National Monument.

The largest gypsum deposit in the world, White Sands National Monument is a serene expanse of glittering, white sand that’s located in the Chihuahuan Desert. The gypsum that forms these gently sloping dunes comes from a nearby ephemeral lake that has a high mineral content. As the water from this lake evaporates, minerals remain, which then form gypsum deposits that are carried by the wind.


Bioluminescent Beaches, Maldives

PawelG Photo/ShutterstockA bioluminescent beach in Maldives.

To experience the Maldives’ magical glowing beaches, you can visit any of the 1,190 islands that comprise the South Asian sovereign state. Some of the top spots to see this natural light show – the result of bioluminescent plankton – include Athuruga, Reethi, and Mirihi.


Marble Caves, Chile

Shutterstock/Wata51The Marble Caves.

Located in Patagonia on Lake General Carrera, Chile’s Marble Caves (also known as the “Marble Cathedral”) were created more than 6,000 years ago by waves that eroded the rocks. The caverns’ stunning colours vary as water levels fluctuate throughout the year.


Mono Lake, California, United States

Jiri Ambroz/ShutterstockMono Lake.

Mono Lake, which spans 65 square miles, is known for eye-catching, calcium-carbonite structures known as tufa towers. With a high salt content, this ethereal lake is also extremely buoyant.


El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico

Dennis van de Water/ShutterstockEl Yunque.

Situated outside of San Juan, El Yunque National Forest earns the distinction of being the sole tropical rainforest in the US National Forest System.


The Stone Forest, China

NIPATHORN/ShutterstockThe Stone Forest, China.

As the name implies, this is basically a 150-square mile forest made of stone – and it’s a whopping 270 million years old. The giant, otherworldly pillars are ancient karst formations, created by water and wind erosion, as well as seismic activity. The forest also features caves, waterfalls, ponds, and lakes, as well as an underground river.


Fairy Pools, Isle of Skye, Scotland

orxy/ShutterstockThe Fairy Pools.

Skye’s enchanting Fairy Pools are only accessible on foot via the Glen Brittle forest – but it’s worth the hike to see the clear waters of these natural pools in person.


Beach of the Cathedrals, Galicia, Spain

John_Walker/ShutterstockBeach of the Cathedrals.

You’ll do a double take when you see the rocky arches at the Beach of the Cathedrals: these incredible buttress-like formations were shaped solely by nature.


Milford Sound, New Zealand

Harley Alexander/ShutterstockMilford Sound.

Created by glaciers during the ice age, this fjord – located off the coast of New Zealand’s South Island – is renowned for its dynamic scenery, from waterfalls to soaring mountain peaks.


Jeju Island, South Korea

Noppasin Wongchum/ShutterstockJeju Island.

Jeju Island boasts South Korea’s highest mountain, Hallasan, a dormant volcano that towers nearly 6,400 feet above sea level.

The island is also known for its spectacular lava tubes (caves formed by cooling lava).


Mt. Erebus, Antarctica

Michael Lodge/ShutterstockMt. Erebus.

It may seem hard to believe, but there are volcanoes in the arctic. Mt. Erebus, the world’s southernmost active volcano, dates back 1.3 million years and stretches a whopping 12,448 feet above sea level.


Kjeragbolten, Norway

Beas777/ShutterstockKjeragbolten.

Kjeragbolten is a 177-cubic-foot boulder nestled in a mountain crevice. It’s surprisingly accessible (you don’t need special equipment to reach it), which makes it a popular photo op for adventurous Instagrammers.


Iguazu Falls, Argentina and Brazil

sharptoyou/ShutterstockIguazu Falls.

Spanning Argentina and Brazil, the Iguazu Falls are part of a massive waterfall system that totals around 275 waterfalls.


Tianmen Cave, Zhangjiajie, China

unge255_photostock/ShutterstockTianmen Cave.

Situated 5,000 feet above sea level, Tianmen Cave is one of the highest naturally formed arches on the planet. Visitors have to mount a 999-step “stairway to heaven” to reach the site.


Harbour Islands, Bahamas

BlueOrange Studio/ShutterstockHarbour Islands.

Known mostly for its pink sand beaches, Harbour Island remains mostly untouched by humans, at least compared to the rest of the Bahamas.

The island’s other draws include Devil’s Backbone, a coral reef filled with marine life, and Dunmore Town, whose pastel-coloured homes will charm any visitor.


The Blyde River Canyon, South Africa

Riccardo Zambelloni/ShutterstockBlyde River Canyon.

For gorgeous natural views, go for a hike along the Blyde River Canyon, which sits at an elevation of more than 2,600 feet. This canyon, known for its unique geology – including the Pinnacle, a looming quartzite column – also boasts diverse flora and fauna.


Garni Gorge, Armenia

Marat Zakaryan/ShutterstockGarni Gorge.

The Garni Gorge is characterised by vertical cliffs notable for their basalt columns. You can only reach this breathtaking site by car.

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