Water, fire and ice have combined to make some of the most spectacular scenery in the world – from giant crystal caves to mud volcanoes and rock formations that look like works of art. If your office and daily commute aren’t a fitting reminder of the extraordinary natural diversity of planet earth, get some inspiration from these incredible scenes.
1. Fox Glacier, South Island, New Zealand
Along with the 12-kilometer Franz Josef Glacier (a short distance up the coast), the 13-kilometer Fox Glacier on New Zealand’s South Island is one of the most easily accessible ice masses in the world.Fox Glacier reaches almost to the coast, just 250 meters above sea level. Large chucks of ice breaking off the face make it dangerous to get too close.
2. Glass Beach, Fort Bragg in California
File this under I had no idea this existed. During the early 20th century residents of Fort Bragg, California chose to dispose of their waste by hurling it off the cliffs above a beach. No object was too toxic or too large as household appliances, automobiles, and all matter of trash were tossed into the crashing waves below, eventually earning it the name The Dumps. In 1967 the North Coast Water Quality Board closed the area completely and initiated a series of cleanups to slowly reverse decades of pollution and environmental damage. But there was one thing too costly (or perhaps impossible) to tackle: the millions of tiny glass shards churning in the surf. Over time the unrelenting ocean waves have, in a sense, cleansed the beach, turning the sand into a sparkling, multicolored bed of smooth glass stones now known as Glass Beach. The beach is now an unofficial tourist attraction and the California State Park System has gone so far as purchasing the property and incorporating it into surrounding MacKerricher State Park.
3. Iguazú Falls, Brazil-Argentina
The Iguazú River drops up to 82 meters over a 2.7 kilometer-wide ledge of the Paraná Plateau. The waterfalls are accessible from Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. The 80-meter Devil’s Throat falls sit astride the border of Argentina and Brazil. Coral trees, butterflies, toucans and hummingbirds are features of the area.
4. Jacob’s Well (Texas)
Jacob’s Well is one of the most significant natural geologic treasures in the Texas Hill Country. It is one of the longest underwater caves in Texas and an artesian spring. Jacob’s Well surges up thousands of gallons of water per minute and acts as headwaters to the beautiful Cypress Creek that flows through Wimberley, sustaining Blue Hole and the Blanco River, recharging the Edwards Aquifer, and finally replenishing estuaries in the Gulf of Mexico. Jacob’s Well has been integral to the cultural and historical character of the Wimberley Valley. The location has been a beloved swimming hole for generations, a gathering place for Native Americans and early settlers, and a rich habitat for aquatic species. Through the creation of the Jacob’s Well Natural Area, the land around the well has been unified to restore and protect this sensitive area for future generations.
5. The Hidden Beach in the Marieta Islands Near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Marieta Islands, off the coast of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico is currently gaining a lot of attention by tourists. The Marieta Islands in Mexico is said to have formed centuries ago due to volcanic activity and are entirely uninhabited. The islands are about an hour long boat ride west-northwest from the coast of Puerto Vallarta and are visited daily by hundreds of tourists, yet no one can legally set foot on the islands.
6. Mount Roraima, Guyana,Brazil-Venezuela
Mount Roraima is the highest of the Pakaraima mountain chain in South America. The 31 square kilometer summit area of Mount Roraima is defined by 400 meter tall cliffs on all sides and includes the borders of Brazil, Venezuela, and Guyana. The tabletop mountains of the Pakaraima’s are considered some of the oldest geological formations on Earth, dating back to some two billion years ago. The result is the staggering landscape of Mount Rariama
7. Azure Window, Island of Gozo, Malta
The so-called “Azure Window” is a natural stone arch situated on the western shore of the island of Gozo, Malta. Th Azure Window is situated between two other famous points of interests: the Inner Sea and Dwejra Bay. These three landmarks were created thousands of years ago when two limestone caved collapsed. They are situated in Dwejra, a small village that is part of the town of San Lawrenz. Each year, thousands of tourists get there to dive, swim or sail.The arch of the Azure Window is slowly disintegrating as large pieces of rock fall from it from time to time. It is expected that the arch will eventually totally disappear. Indeed, in April 2012, a huge piece of rock separated and made the window much larger than before, making it way more unstable.
8. Jiuzhaigou National Park, Sichuan Province, China
The three valleys that form this biosphere reserve contain a network of connected lakes, waterfalls and rivers — the most spectacular of which are the Pearl Waterfalls.Spot the ancient tree trunks under the clear waters of Five Flower Lake. Wooden paths and shuttle buses help visitors get around.
9. Cascate del Mulino, Saturnia, Tuscany, Italy
Steaming hot spring water comes out of the ground at 37.5 C and cascades over a series of small waterfalls into dozens of pools on consecutive levels. Niagara Falls it ain’t, but the cascading thermal springs at Saturnia are a lot of fun. Soak in the natural sulfurous mineral water and just maybe cure ailments from rheumatism to muscle ache.
10. Cliffs of Moher, Ireland
South of the village of Doolin in County Clare, the Cliffs of Moher rise 213 meters above the Atlantic Ocean and stretch for eight kilometers.They are one of Ireland’s biggest natural tourist attractions, but they also attract Atlantic puffins, razorbills and other wild birds.
11. Phra Nang Beach, Railay, Thailand
With Dali-esque limestone structures, hundreds of challenging cliff-climbing routes and Tiffany-blue waters, Railay is the seasoned rock climber’s dream. Phra Nang, the area’s fine-grained main beach, offers a sweeping view of the area’s rugged beauty and is flanked by stalactite-rimmed cliffs that tourists can jump from. Although Railay is accessible only by longtail boat from Krabi and Ao Nang, it can get crowded during tourist seasons.
12. Cano Cristales The Rainbow River
Cano Cristales lies in the Serrania de La Macarena, Colombia. Often called “the most beautiful river in the world” as well as “the river of five colors,” Cano Cristales is one of those destinations you almost have to see to believe. Cano Cristales is about 100km in length. During Colombia’s rainy season, the water flows fast and deep as rivers are wont to do.
13. Gullfoss – Iceland
Glacial water is brownish, since it carries lots of sediments that the glacial ice has carved off the earth. Gullfoss is called the “Golden Falls”, since on a sunny day the water plunging down the three step staircase and then tumbeling in two steps down into the 32 m deep crevice truly looks golden.
14. Crystal Cave – Skaftafell, Iceland
This ice cave is on the edge of the glacier where it enters into an lagoon near Svínafellsjökull. It is only possible to access it when the lagoon is frozen. Ice caves are in general unstable things and can collapse at any time. They are however much more stable in winter when the cold temperatures harden the ice. Even so we could hear constant cracking sounds inside the cave. It was not because it was going to collapse but because the cave was moving along with the glacier itself. Each time the glacier moved a millimeter loud sounds could be heard.