Photo: Busara/Shutterstock

51 Natural Wonders so Amazing It's Hard to Believe They Exist

by Matt Hershberger Mar 3, 2014

The world’s an incredible place, but sometimes I’ll find myself somewhere and actually have to take a second and ask, “Really? This is exists?”

This has happened to me at least four times in my life: in Chapada Diamantina (#45), when I climbed through a cave and then bungee jumped out of the mouth; watching the Northern Lights from a frigid jetty near Keflavik, Iceland (#17); seeing the sun set over the Grand Canyon (#19); and at the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone (#2).

The rest of these I’m only sort of convinced of they exist. So I’ll be thinking of the following pictures as a scientific checklist: I’ll just have to visit every single one to prove to myself they’re real. Feel free to do the same yourself.

Crystal Cave, Iceland

Photo: Anna Om/Shutterstock

The Crystal Cave of Skaftafell is formed where the Vatnajökull Ice Cap meets the Icelandic coast.

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone, Wyoming

Grand Prismatic Spring_Yellowstone anniversary

Photo: Lorcel/Shutterstock

It’s the largest hot spring in the United States. The colors of Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring are caused by bacteria and microbes growing around the water’s edge.

Naica Mine, Mexico

These gypsum crystals in the Naica Mine were formed over 500,000 years in underground hot springs. Unfortunately, the caves are closed to the public (as they are super toxic and dangerous).

Uluru, Australia

Uluru, Australia

Photo: bmphotographer/Shutterstock

Also known as Ayer’s Rock, Uluru is a sandstone rock formation that’s one of Australia’s most recognizable landmarks.

Lava flows, Big Island, Hawaii

Lava flowing into the ocean in Hawaii

Photo: Allen.G/Shutterstock

All of Hawaii was formed by volcanoes, but there are still three active volcanoes on the Big Island, which means the landmass is still growing.

Aogashima Volcano, Japan

Photo: Nishi’s Images/Shutterstock

Aogashima is a volcano about 220 miles south of Tokyo. Though it hasn’t erupted in over 200 years, it is still considered active.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Photo: Jam Travels/Shutterstock

Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat, and is also one of Bolivia’s most visited tourist sites.

The Wave, Arizona

The iconic wave in the Arizona desert

Photo: Johnny Adolphson/Shutterstock

The Wave is a sandstone structure on the border of Arizona and Utah. Access is limited by a permitting system.

Mount Roraima, South America

Photo: Caio Pederneiras/Shutterstock

The stunning Mount Roraima lies at the border of three countries: Brazil, Guyana, and Venezuela.

Caño Cristales, Colombia

Caño Cristales is known as one of the most colorful rivers in the world. The colors are caused by a small plants in the river.

Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

Hexagonal columns of basalt at Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland

Photo: Kanuman/Shutterstock

These basalt columns on the coast of Northern Ireland were formed by lava during the Paleocene Epoch.

Glow Worm Cave, New Zealand

Glow worms (actually insects) are bioluminescent animals common to New Zealand and Australia. A number of caves are noted for their presence.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Photo: Igor Plotnikov/Shutterstock

The ethereal Ha Long Bay in Northern Vietnam has over 1,600 monolithic limestone islands.

Iguazu Falls, Brazil and Argentina

Photo: sharptoyou/Shutterstock

Iguazu Falls, sitting on the border of Argentina and Brazil, has been named one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature.

Arches National Park, Utah

Photo: TRphotos/Shutterstock

This is the famous “Delicate Arch” in Arches National Park. There are dozens more arches and other unique geological formations in the park.

Great Blue Hole, Belize

Aurora borealis

Photo: Denis Belitsky/Shutterstock

Aurora borealis, or the Northern Lights, are the result of the collision of charged particles with our atmosphere. They are most visible at high northern latitudes.

Ice canyon, Greenland

Photo: Daphne Nilsson/Shutterstock

Scientists have recently discovered a “new grand canyon” underneath Greenland’s ice.

Grand Canyon, Arizona

Photo: Amanda Mohler/Shutterstock

The incredible Grand Canyon has been formed over the course of 2 billion years by erosion caused by the Colorado River.

Zhangye Danxia Landform, China

Photo: THONGCHAI.S/Shutterstock

Danxia landforms are relatively common in southern China, and are the result of eroding sandstone.

Mendenhall Ice Caves, Alaska

Photo: Sean Lema/Shutterstock

These ice caves lie underneath the Mendenhall Glacier near Juneau, Alaska.

Pamukkale, Turkey

bathers relax in the terraced Pamukkale hot springs

Photo: Emily Marie Wilson/Shutterstock

Pamukkale is a Turkish hot springs with natural terraces formed by minerals deposited by the water.

Shifen Waterfall, Taiwan

Photo: Yusheng HSU/Shutterstock

The Shifen Waterfall on Taiwan’s Keelung River is the largest waterfall in Taiwan.

The Green Bridge of Wales

Photo: Richard Bowden/Shutterstock

The Green Bridge is a natural arch that lies on the Pembrokeshire coast in the southwest of Wales.

Antelope Canyon, Arizona

Photo: canadastock/Shutterstock

Arizona’s Antelope Canyon is formed by the erosion of sandstone caused by flash floods. It’s the most visited slot canyon in the Southwest.

Rock Pinnacles, Gunung Mulu National Park, Malaysia

Photo: Michael Arnault/Shutterstock

In Gunung Mulu National Park, Malaysian Borneo, these rock pinnacles are surrounded by rainforest.

Blue Grotto, Malta

Photo: ZGPhotography/Shutterstock

Malta’s Blue Grotto, a series of sea caves, is a favorite among tourists, snorkelers, and cliff-jumpers.

Torres del Paine, Chile

Photo: dsaprin/Shutterstock

Torres del Paine National Park, in Chilean Patagonia, is best known for these three towers, also referred to as Cleopatra’s Needles.

Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand

These spherical boulders, found on the South Island’s Otago coast, are basically cemented mud and silt, exposed by erosion.

Reed Flute Cave, China

Photo: DnDavis/Shutterstock

China’s Reed Flute cave is a famous tourist attraction in Guilin. The strange coloring comes from man-made lights.

Haleakala Crater, Hawaii

Haleakala crater in Haleakala National Park

Photo: Eugene Kalenkovich/Shutterstock

Haleakala is the dormant volcano on the east side of Maui.

Rhine Falls, Switzerland

Rhine Falls, Rheinfall, Switzerland panoramic aerial view. Tourist boat in waterfall. Bridge and border between the cantons Schaffhausen and Zurich. Cliff-top Schloss Laufen castle, Laufen-Uhwiesen

Photo: maloff/Shutterstock

The Rhine Falls, near Schaffhausen in Switzerland, is the largest plain waterfall in Europe.

Horsetail Fall, Yosemite National Park, California

Photo: Phitha Tanpairoj/Shutterstock

Horsetail Fall is a seasonal waterfall that occurs on the east side of the rock formation known as El Capitan. You can see it in the winter and in the early spring. If conditions are just right in February, the water catches the light of the setting sun and turns a fiery orange.

Avenue of the Baobabs, Madagascar

Photo: Michail_Vorobyev/Shutterstock

This grove of Baobab trees lies slightly outside the city of Morondava in Madagascar.

The Tunnel of Light, Arizona

Photo: Sky Sajjaphot/Shutterstock

The Tunnel of Light is part of Antelope Canyon, pictured earlier.

Devil’s Tower, Wyoming

Devil's Tower National Monument in Wyoming with the forest, Hikes with best views in Wyoming

Photo: Sulae

Devil’s Tower in northeastern Wyoming lies in the Black Hills. It is probably most famous for the part it played in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

The Elbe River, Czech Republic

Photo: olgagorovenko/Shutterstock

The Elbe, running through the Czech Republic and Germany, was claimed by the Soviet Union to be the place that Hitler’s ashes were spread.

Tianzi Mountains, China

Photo: TAW4/Shutterstock

These towers in the Hunan Province of China are formed of quartzite sandstone pillars.

Lake Baikal, Russia

A group of tourists travels along the ice of Lake Baikal

Photo: Katvic/Shutterstock

Lake Baikal is a rift lake in Siberia that is the deepest, most voluminous freshwater lake in the world. It contains about 20% of the world’s unfrozen fresh water.

Half Dome, Yosemite National Park, California

yosemite landscape

Photo: Pung/Shutterstock

Half Dome is one of the most famous landmarks in Yosemite National Park.

Cathedral Cove, New Zealand

Photo: JC Antunes/Shutterstock

Cathedral Cove is part of Te-Whanganui-A-Hei Marine Reserve on the Coromandel Peninsula of New Zealand. The rock you see here is known as Te Hoho Rock.

Sahara Desert

Photo: Filipe B. Varela/Shutterstock

The Sahara Desert is the world’s hottest and third-largest desert, and it makes up a huge portion of North Africa’s area.

Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

Photo: Tetyana Dotsenko/Shutterstock

Perito Moreno Glacier, in Patagonia, is a famous attraction. Many tourists go trekking on the ice, or visit to watch the calving of the glacier.

The Li River, China

Landscape of Guilin and Li River and Karst mountains in China

Photo: aphotostory/Shutterstock

The Li River runs from Guilin to Yangshuo and is famous for its stunning karst views.

Enchanted Well, Chapada Diamantina, Brazil

Photo: Cavan Images/Shutterstock

Chapada Diamantina is a national park that sits on a plateau in Bahia, Brazil.

Nyiragongo Lava Lake, Democratic Republic of Congo

Photo: Marian Galovic/Shutterstock

The Nyiragongo volcano is in the Virunga Mountains of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The crater that contained this lava lake fractured in 1977, destroying the lake and killing 70 people.

Raja Ampat Islands, Indonesia

Raja Ampat Islands

Photo: Vaclav Sebek/Shutterstock

Raja Ampat is a New Guinean Archipelago of over 1,500 islands.

Fly Geyser, Nevada

Fly Geyser, one of the best reno day trips in the dessert

Photo: Lukas Bischoff Photograph/Shutterstock

The Fly Geyser was actually manmade: When settlers drilled a well, they didn’t cap it correctly, and this geyser has been formed over time.

Hvitserkur, Iceland

Photo: Smit/Shutterstock

Hvitserkur is the name for this 15-meter basalt sea stack just off the coast of the Vatnsnes Peninsula in Iceland.

Bryce Canyon, Utah

Photo: MaRap/Shutterstock

Bryce Canyon is actually not a canyon, but a collection of amphitheaters. The geologic structures seen here are known as hoodoos. 

Grand Tetons, Wyoming

Photo: Busara/Shutterstock

The Grand Tetons (French for “The Big Breasts,” because, why not?) are the three largest peaks in the Tetons range, just south of Yellowstone. 

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