20. Yi Peng Festival
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Every year during the Yi Peng festival in Northern Thailand, participants release floating lanterns into the sky. Candles heat the air trapped by the thin fabric stretched around a bamboo frame. This heated air causes the lanterns to float up into the sky. The city of Chiang Mai releases over 10,000 lanterns, making this night a hazardous one for passing aircraft.
19. Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees
These eucalyptus trees have colorful bark that peels at various times throughout the year. The new bark is bright green, but as it matures, it changes to orange, red, and purple. Since not all the bark peels at once, the trunk ends up looking like a painter's palette. While native to New Guinea and the Philippines, North Americans can visit a grove of rainbow eucalyptus in Hawaii along the Hana Highway, featured in our article on the 10 Road Trips You Have to Take.
18. Cherry Blossoms
Bonn, Germany might best be known as the birthplace of composer Beethoven. Yet every April, residents and tourists alike are focused on the cherry blossoms of the city that bloom to create a pink canopy over the narrow streets lasting for two to three weeks. After the blooms fall off, the town is covered in what looks like a layer of pink snow.
17. Swing at the End of the World
Deep in the Ecuadorian mountains, about 3.5 hours south of the capital Quito, sits a quaint tree house used as an observation point for a nearby volcano. The location on top of a steep hill made the perfect place to construct a swing. As visitors swing out over the edge of the mountain (about 100 feet up), it seems as if they are on top of the world.
16. Wisteria Flower Tunnel
This private flower garden in Kitakyushu, Japan, is a bit difficult to get to but is certainly worth the nearly 6-hour train ride from Tokyo. During the blooming season, hundreds of wisteria trees bloom across trellises creating beautiful pink, white, and purple tunnels that seem right out of a Disney movie. Admission is only around $8 and worth every penny.
Rauma Municipality, Norway
Trollstigen is a road through the mountains of Norway’s Rauma municipality that is famous for its eleven twists and turns as well as for its steep incline. In English, its name means “troll’s ladder,” and the road seems to be begging for a troll to climb up its levels to the top of the mountain. Be careful crossing the Stigfossen Waterfall bridge, and try not to get vertigo looking down from the viewing platform. You can only visit in summer, however; the road closes in the dangerous winter months.
14. Great Blue Hole
Lighthouse Reef, Belize
The Great Blue Hole is a large sinkhole or vertical cave in the Caribbean Sea off the coast of Belize. As part of the Lighthouse Reef, the area has been consistently named as one of the best scuba diving locations in the world. The hole’s dark blue color stands out from the lighter surroundings because of its depth: 407 feet below the surface.
13. Bigar Spring
No, you aren’t looking at a set of Pandora from the film Avatar. This Romanian spring can be found in a protected nature reserve. Its moss-covered cliffs mushroom outward so that the water cascades slowly into thin rivulets, creating almost a veil of water. If fairies don’t live here, they must not exist.
12. Bioluminescent Bay
Vieques, Puerto Rico
Bio Bay is a national landmark in Puerto Rico where marine plankton in the water glow a bright blue when disturbed. The narrow channel to the ocean keeps the microorganisms from escaping the bay. If you plan your visit, cloudy or new moon nights are best; too much light will wash out the bioluminescent effect.
(image via Bio Bay Puerto Rico)
11. Glass Beach
Fort Bragg, California
The coastal city of Fort Bragg, California, used to allow the dumping of garbage into the ocean during the early 1900s. Though this practice has since been prohibited, the ocean has broken up glass bottles and plates and smoothed their rough edges, returning them to the beach in the form of tiny green, blue, brown, and translucent pebbles. You better get yours soon; the amount of glass is slowly diminishing.
10. Underwater "Waterfall"
This isn't an actual waterfall underwater, just an optical illusion. This tiny island nation of Mauritius, just east of Madagascar, lies near deep ocean trenches. Because of the clear blue water, visitors can see the silt and sand fall from the shallow ocean level down a deep trench, giving the effect of a waterfall. Don't worry, swimmers. There's no chance of you getting stuck.
(image via Google Maps)
9. Ancient City of Petra
Petra was an ancient city in present-day southern Jordan that is known for the unique architecture of its buildings. The building in this picture, known as Al Khazneh, is a mausoleum carved into the sandstone cliffs and features Greek-styled columns. The building has been filmed for many films including, perhaps most famously, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade .
8. Door to Hell
The Russians discovered this natural gas reserve in the 1970s. After a drilling camp to reach the reserve caused a cave-in, a crater formed in the earth about 200 feet wide. To prevent the release of poisonous gases, engineers decided the best way to empty the reserve was to burn off the remaining natural gas. Once they lit the fire, however, the burning hasn't stopped...for over 40 years!
7. Travertine-Terraced Hot Springs
That's not snow you see in the desert of Turkey. It's a mineral called travertine that forms as a result of the thermal hot springs in the area. Visitors can spend some time soaking in the stepped pools whose waters are around 100°F. Sadly, many pools are now empty because former hotels drained them of water for their own use.
6. Chand Baori
Stepwells are a common feature in India that allowed individuals to reach ground water any time of year. The beautiful criss-cross architecture of the well's walls aren't just for decoration; they fill a practical purpose, serving as steps to allow people easy access to lower levels. Because Chand Baori is so deep, the lower levels are much cooler than the upper ones making this a great place to visit on a hot Indian summer day.
5. Huacachina Oasis
Surrounded by sand dunes, the village of Huacachina is crowded around a natural lake in the middle of the desert. Only 115 people live in this small community, but it attracts many international visitors who wish to view its unique location. Unfortunately, many wells have been dug to reach groundwater and have drained the lakes levels over the years.
4. Lake Hillier
(Middle Island, Western Australia)
This lake really is pink; it's not an optical illusion. The weird thing is that no one really knows why. Scientists hypothesize that the appearance comes from either an algae or bacteria that lives in the lake which reacts to the high salt levels by producing the pink hue. Even though the exact answer to this mystery remains unknown, the lake is still safe for swimming.
(image via australia.com)
3. Cave of the Crystals
Take a look at the picture again. That dark shadow at the bottom right is a full-grown man. Only discovered in 2000, this cave features natural crystals that are up to 40 feet in length. The crystals decompose in air, however, so scientists are racing against the clock to document and take pictures of the cave before the crystals become too damaged.
2. Rainbow Mountains
(Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park, China)
These mountains aren't actually painted; they just seem like they are. Differing layers of minerals and sandstone have become sandwiched together over millions of years of formation. Wind and weather erosion have exposed these layers allowing visitors to this national park the chance to see some of the most colorful geological features in the world.
1. Salar de Uyuni
(Daniel Campos Province, Bolivia)
You can (almost literally) take a walk among the clouds while in Bolivia. Salar de Uyuni is the largest natural salt flat in the world. Covering an area of over 4,000 square miles, this remarkably flat expanse has a salt crust that sits on top of a briny water underneath. In the winter when water pools over portions of the salt flat, a perfect mirror is created allowing visitors the chance to feel like they are walking on the sky.