The changing faces of the world’s landscapes continue to astonish and amaze as they combat impossible obstacles such as erosion, evolution, and climate change. With around 200 natural sites now on the UNESCO World Heritage List and 10% of those already in danger, there is no time like the present to explore and enjoy some of the world’s astounding natural wonders and marvel at their magnificence.

Tour contrasting terrain, sail and swim water flooded wonders, hike high and witness the effects of fire and ice, or gaze skyward for some absolutely awesome solar activity. Make a significant dent on your exploration bucket list with these 10 unmissable natural wonders listed below.

 

Land


Yosemite National Park – California, USA

Yosemite National Park sits centrally in the impressive Sierra Nevada mountain range in the state of sunny California, just three and a half hours from San Francisco. Yosemite, spanning 3,079 km sq encompasses a wealth of natural beauty from colossal cliffs to running waterfalls (including five of the world’s highest), fresh water streams and giant sequoia woods. Changing over time, effects of the ice-age are evident leaving deeper and wider valleys. The breath-taking backdrop of Yosemite Valley is a favourite spot for most visitors and the park is also home to several species of wildlife including coyotes, wolverines and black bears.

 

 

Santa Elena Cloud Forest – Costa Rica (closest port - Puntarenas)

Cloud forests carry an element of enchantment and mystique about them, almost always smothered by vast low hanging cloud cover they are misty in appearance and provide perfect conditions for biodiversity to thrive. The Santa Elena cloud forest in Costa Rica homes a stunning and diverse collection of flora and fauna including over 600 species of Orchids. Now a protected reserve, admission fees collected from tourists contribute to the management and care of the forest. Roughly a two hour drive from port Puntarenas, Santa Elena and neighbouring Monteverde make for a fantastic day trip, just don’t forget your rain mac as rainfall is common in a cloud forest.

 

 

Jurassic Coast – Dorset/ Devon, South Coast of England

The Jurassic Coast stretches an astounding 95 miles along the south coast of England from Devon to Dorset, showing evidence of 185 million years of history. The landscape has built up in an unusual way meaning that rocks dating way back to the Triassic period can be seen even now. A history buffs dream, this intriguing natural wonder of the British Isles can be enjoyed by car, on foot or by sea. The stunning cliff faces, bays and coastline make for a breath-taking backdrop when exploring the south coast. Watch the sunset through the arch at Durdle Door and swim at Dancing Ledge.

 

 

Fire

 

Haukadalur – Iceland, visit from Reykjavik

Haukadalur is the name given to three valleys found in the south of Iceland which exhibit some truly awesome geothermal activity. Witness the physical effects of the lands volcanic internal heat as you wait patiently for geyser’s to intermittently spout water at impressive heights. Hot springs and bubbling pools of mud are a frequent reminder of Iceland’s volcanic vitality. The Golden Circle tour is a popular route for visitors as it stops by the geysers along with the magnificent Gulfoss waterfall and Thingvellir National Park. Golden Circle Tours depart frequently from Reykjavik.

 

 

Piton de la FournaiseReunion Island, Indian Ocean

As one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Reunion Island’s Piton de la Fournaise has a spitting fiery pit of red hot lava that spouts consistently day and night. The last eruption on record to date is as recent as June 2014. Categorised as a shield volcano, Piton de la Fournaise is large and broad with far travelling fluid lava flows. Accustomed to life below the domineering volcano, the locals have embraced their situation by leading hikes and tours up to the crater rim. Those brave enough can camp overnight or take a scenic helicopter tour overhead for brilliant birds-eye views. Small in size and often overlooked, Reunion Island is great in natural attractions and brimming with adventure for those daring enough.

 

 

Galapagos Islands – Ecuador, South America

The Galapagos Islands are a fascinating archipelago 906km from the pacific coast of Ecuador. The islands were formed as a result of repeated volcanic activity and developed over millions of years. Now totalling in twenty unique islands, only four are inhabited by humans but almost all are home to a rare selection of intriguing flora and fauna only found in the Galapagos. Charles Darwin’s Theory of Natural Selection was massively influenced by his time on the islands and there is now a visitor friendly research centre in his name located on Isla Santa Cruz. The best way to explore the Galapagos Islands is by cruise as you can easily visit multiple islands. Jump right in to snorkel with the welcoming seals, dive with sharks and spot countless bird species. The islands are within a protected park and may not always be accessible to tourism, so time is of the essence.

 

 

Ice

 

Antarctic Peninsula Antarctica

Few sites are able to match the overwhelming natural beauty of the Antarctic Peninsula, which is why many travel far and wide to witness its hundreds of unique icy islands first hand. Magnificent glaciers are formed due to the consistent presence of snow falling over several years and condensing to form individual islands of ice. Sailing amongst them can be a remarkable experience and you can also take pleasure in spotting the local wildlife from penguins to seals and seabirds. A magnificent mountainous backdrop links the Andes mountain range of South America through submerged peaks deep below sea level. Climate change affects the Antarctic Peninsula greatly so see it now while you still can.

 

 

 

Water

 

The Blue HoleBelize, Central America

With worldwide recognition and known simply as “The Blue Hole” you can expect to be in for something special when sailing to this undeniably eye-popping natural wonder in Belize. With a diameter of 300m this great submarine sinkhole displays a dramatic pupil like appearance from above. Those visiting from sea level with a keen interest in diving can be rewarded with excellent deep sea exploration and potential sightings of hammerheads, nurse sharks and giant groupers amongst others. The Blue Hole reaches 124m deep and is a truly fascinating example of natural water wonders on earth.

 

 

 

Plitvice Lakes National Park Croatia, Europe

Why make a journey to visit one waterfall when you can see several in one stunning destination. Plitvice Lakes National Park is one of the oldest in south eastern Europe and can be found halfway between Zagreb and Zadar, not far from the coast of Croatia. Known affectionately as “the land of the falling lakes” Plitvice boasts 8km of sixteen picturesque lakes connected by countless gushing waterfalls. Flowing for thousands of years over limestone and chalk, the water has naturally created dams and subsequently the pretty lakes that can be seen today. The National Park stretches 300km and contains rich green woodland plus a plethora of local wildlife including bears and wolves.

 

 

Air

 

Star Gazing - Mauna Kea, Hawaii

There are many places on earth that claim to be ideal for star gazing but when one of them is also the home of several official observatories you know you’re on to something good. The dormant volcano, Mauna Kea, marks Hawaii’s highest peak and is a crucial destination for star gazers and scientists. At 4205m above sea level and with clear air from low light pollution, this is one of the best sites in the world to observe the dazzling star spangled night sky. You may feel a twinge of altitude sickness as you ascend but the view is incomparable and definitely worth the journey.

 

 

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