6) Cano Cristales, Colombia –
Commonly called the “River of Five Colors” or the “Liquid Rainbow”, the Cano Cristales river in the Serrania de la Macarena province of Meta, nonchalantly exhibits its ambit of vivacity through variant colors ranging from yellow, green to blue and gorgeous red. And pretty interestingly, these colors are not borne by any form of algae or moss. The vibrant prismatic scope is rather brought on by an endemic aquatic plant called Macarenia clavigera.
This plant requires the right level of both water and sunlight to exhibit its astonishing hues; and as such, the vibrancy of the river can only be experienced from the months of June to December. As for the realm of practicality, access to the Cano Cristales has become far easier in the recent years, with Colombian military safely controlling a 30 km cordoned area around the nearby La Macarena settlement. In other words, you can seriously consider this fantastical site in your bucket list – as one of the best places to visit, especially in the coming months.
7) Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand –
There had to be a entry encompassing the paradisiacal New Zealand, but this time around it is not related to the Lord of the Rings. We are rather talking about the Waitomo Glowworm Caves with their enchanting aura of luminescence brought on by nature itself. To that end, these antediluvian cave systems were formed more than 30 million years ago with the deposits of limestone. These layers of limestone are composed of fossilized corals, seashells and skeletons of marine animals that had piled (atop each other) and then compressed to form almost 200 m thick sections.
However, the ‘piece de resistance’ of the subterranean site arguably pertains to the glow worm inhabitants of the caves, known as Arachnocampa luminosa. Numbering over thousands, these organisms display their brilliant aptitude for bioluminescence, thus contributing to an overall enchanting flair combined with the limestone. And the good part from the environmental angle, is – the caves are occasionally monitored by a Scientific Advisory Group for keeping tabs on carbon dioxide levels, inside air temperature and humidity; all of which makes it conducive to both the fauna and the visitors.
8) Salar De Uyuni, Bolivia –
Accounting for an area of 10,582 sq km (4,086 sq miles), or half the size of Israel, the Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat. Located in southwest Bolivia, at an elevation of 3,656 meters (11,995 ft), the landscape in itself shows extraordinary flatness – with the average altitude variation being less than one meter. Furthermore, draped by a few meters of salt, the flatland also boasts of 50 to 70 percent of the world’s lithium reserves.
However, beyond geographical and geological aspects, there is another feature that Salar de Uyuni is known for, and it entails the gloriously reflective capacity of its expansive surface. Formed by a thin layer of water, especially during rainy and winter seasons, the entire surface sorts of morphs into a giant mirror that enchantingly reflects the glistening effects of the sky and its clouds. Suffice it to say – the salt flat does attract formidable number of tourists around the year, and deserves to be in a list of best places to visit with its mythic scope.
9) China’s Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park –
You would be forgiven, if you thought that you had accidentally walked into the very realm of ‘candy land’. But the truth is – this kaleidoscopic landscape belongs to the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park, in the Gansu province of China. The vivacity of the views that you can see from the images, are courtesy of at least 24 millions of years of orogenic movement or tectonic plate movements that had their effect on Earth’s lithosphere (comprising of minerals and sandstone). During such an expansive epoch, natural phenomena like winds, rain, erosion and even oxidization had their influence on the rock formations, thus endowing them with grandiose vibrancy and disparate shapes.
In essence, what you see is real (with minute post-processing effects), so much so that even United Nations had declared the traversable park as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2010. So, it doesn’t really come as a surprise that the national geo-park has risen in renown – to be the top tourist spot for the proximate north-western Chinese city of Zhangye.
10) Dark Hedges, Ireland –
The Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland (near the village of Armoy), arguably matches up with the most popular of fantasy tropes, with its array of twisted, gnarled trees. Of course, the diligent Game of Thrones fans would recognize it as the so-called King’s Road. And interestingly, the truth is quite closer to its fictional counterpart, with the Dark Hedges being originally planted by the Stuart family in the eighteenth century.
Envisioned as a stupefying landscape feature that would complement the grand approach to their Gracehill House, a Georgian mansion, the iconic trees unsurprisingly remain as one of the most photographed natural set-pieces in Northern Ireland. Oh, and lest we forget – the hedges do maintain their ‘dark’ aura with the legend of a supernatural ‘Grey Lady’ who seemingly haunts the enchanted pathway.
Honorable mentions – paddy fields of China, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam
Consumed by over half of the world’s population, rice forms a major staple food in all of Asia. As far as statistics go, China is the largest producer as well as the largest consumer of rice, with India as a close second. And while recent studies have shown that continual flooding of paddy fields is responsible for environmental degradation to a certain extent, the rice farms of China, Korea, Thailand and Vietnam are some of the most stunning landscapes in the entire world. Every day when the sun is nearing the horizon between late afternoon and evening, the rice terraces, together with the surrounding stagnant water, get illuminated in an exquisite array of colors.