20 places that remind you the earth is beautiful
And what's more, you've never even heard of them.
You may have travelled Europe a bit, taken a gap yah to Thailand or simply gone backpacking around the Lake District but nothing you have ever seen will compare to these. They're some of the most awe inspiring places on earth and more than that, you've probably never heard of them.
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1. Hang Son Doong Cavern, Vietnam
Currently the record holder for the biggest cave in the world, Hang Son Doong Cavern was discovered by Vietnamese locals in 1991. Even so it wasn't properly documented or publicised until 2009 when a group of British Scientists conducted a survey and came back with the amazing fact that it could accommodate Canary Wharf.
2. Danxia Landform, ChinaNamed with all the flair one would expect from The People's Republic of China this specific Danxia Landform (there are a lot of them and they are all on the surface very different) can be easily described as a load of colourful awesome. More precisely it was created by mineral, tectonic activity and wind and water. Well I say precisely, what do you want from me. This isn't a science blog.
3. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
No, that isn't Photoshopped and yes, that's solid ground. All of it. Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia is the world's largest salt flat and in case you get bored with what is essentially a landscape of absolute nothingness there's flamingos. Everyone likes flamingos.
4. Grand Prismatic Spring, America
Located in Yellowstone National Park it is America largest...blah blah blah. Look at the pretty colours produced by all the pretty bacteria that live in it. Pretty.
5. Skaftafell Ice Cave, Iceland
Ice Caves are cool. Literally and figuratively. If you're wondering why the ice in your freezer isn't blue like that it's because you don't have highly pressurised glacial ice in your freezer. Unless of course you live a terrifically alternative lifestyle.
6. Cave of Crystals, Mexico
You know when you were born, only a few short years ago. Well, these caves in Mexico hadn't even been discovered yet. For millions of years until the year 2000 this cave had just been sitting there ready to be utilised by some crap bond villain. Might have to clean the place up a bit though...
7. HuangShan Mountain, China
It's like Pandora from Avatar, but in real life! James Cameron admitted that he pretty much entirely based his Hallelujah Mountains on this system in China and it's easy to see why.
8. Ice Canyon, Greenland
We don't advise that you take a dip, even though the water looks awesome. It's also the most photographed place in all of Greenland. Second place goes to snow. Third to more snow.
9. Lake Retba, Senegal
"A pink lake? That's insane!" you shout. Why yes, it is a pink lake, and no, it's not insane, it's actually everyone's favourite halophile green micro-algae - dunaliella salina - obviously. Along with being pink it is also 40% salt which means that you can have a float in it just like the Dead Sea. But it's also pink. Did I mention it's pink?
10. McMurdo Sound, Antarctica
Whilst most of the year it's just covered in boring old ice come the summer the sheet starts to break apart and McMurdo Sound is transformed into a floating advertisement for Walkers Baked Crisps. Looking at them is making me hungry.
11. Milford Sound, New Zealand
Rudyard Kipling called it the eighth wonder of the world. Many would just call it a glorified lake. I'm going to side with Rud on this one. What you can't see is that it has two awesome waterfalls, dolphins, whales, mountains two times higher than anything found in the UK and to top it off it looks just darling in summer. Where's my ticket?
12. Mount Roraima, Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana
It rains almost every day, it has 400 metre high cliffs on all sides and is only accessible through what looks like a natural staircase on the Venezuela side. As tabletop mountains go it's pretty impressive. It also has it's own species of carnivorous pitcher plant due to it's unique ecosystem. Which is always a bonus.
13. Fly Geyser, America
We aren't using some sort of unholy mix of ebonics and cockney, it's literally called Fly Geezer and it literally looks like this. It's down to the minerals again, although why mineral water doesn't look this cool is beyond me...
14. Sanqingshan National Park, China
Another Chinese Avatar-like landscape that makes me doubt whether James Cameron's film contained any CGI at all. What is the Chinese government hiding from us? And more importantly, how do I get there?
15. Wave Rock Formation, America
Geologists would have a field day here (as I'm sure many of them already have). How'd it come about? You got your rocks and your stratas and your erm, river erosion... I think I'm a bit out of my depth here. Which is ironic:
16. Great Blue Hole, Belize
The colouring of the great blue hole is so dark simply because it is so deep and surrounded by shallow water. It also contains a hidden cave system that flooded when sea levels rose about 15,000 years ago. Its creepy, but also so, so pretty. Oh, and there's sharks, lots of sharks, so it's dangerous too.
17. The Travertine Pools of Pamukkale, Turkey
Otherwise known as an awesome natural terrace of hot springs and warm water pools (basically natural hot-tubs if you get someone to blow bubbles in the water) overlooking the city of Pumukkale.
18. Valley of the Ten Peaks, America
Water, trees, massive mountains. What's not to like?
19. Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Zambia
Often claimed to be the world's largest waterfall in terms of volume it's known by locals as the "cloud that thunders". Looking at it it's hard to disagree, even though I'm aware that it isn't a cloud and that it doesn't thunder. Oh, whatever, just look at the lovely picture and stop reading all this guff.
20. The Door to Hell, Turkmenistan
While all of the preceding things have been completely natural, this one is inadvertently man made. When geologists drilling for gas deposits uncovered a huge underground cavern the ground above it collapsed. This destroyed the camp and their equipment, it also filled the cavern with poisonous gas.
Deciding leaving their equipment to be the wisest course of action and to prevent the gas escaping they decided to burn everything, hoping that it would use all of the gas up in a couple of days. Unfortunately, there was a slight miscalculation as to the amount of gas that was trapped, and the crater continues to burn to this day, 41 years on.
This amazing time lapse video of El Teide, Spain's highest mountain:
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