In honor of yesterday being Earth Day (though we here believe EVERY DAY should be Earth Day) we thought it would be fun to look at some of the prettiest, most awe-inspiring natural wonders that Mother Earth has created. Dotted across the world, from the Amazon River in South America to the massive caves of Vietnam in Southeast Asia, these natural wonders are truly a sight to behold.
Below are 11 spots, some of which we had heard of before (The Amazon River, Great Barrier Reef) while others were totally new to us. Which is kind of crazy. As very outdoorsy, adventurous people we thought we knew all the amazing wonders around the world.
How truly naive is that? Planet Earth is massive and full of so many crazy landscapes, of course we hadn’t heard of all of them. So if anything, this article has helped us gain an appreciation for new places (and add a couple more things to our already overflowing bucket list).
The Amazon River
While you have probably heard of this natural wonder, you might not know that while the Amazon ranks second in terms of distance (to the Nile) it is still equivalent to the distance between New York City and Rome.
Puerto Princesa Subterranean River
Featuring limestone karsts and a very impressive cave system, this natural wonder is located in the southwestern part of the Philippine Archipelago, roughly 360 kilometers from Manila. The underground river is approximately 8.2 kilometers long and empties directly into the sea, where it is subject to tidal influence, a natural global phenomenon.
The Great Barrier Reef
Another well-known natural wonder, the Great Barrier Reef is the largest coral reef in the world. In fact, it actually is comprised of 3,000+ individual reef systems. Another fun fact is that it is not only larger than the Great Wall of China but is the ONLY living thing visible from outer space.
Located on the border between Nepal and Tibet, the highest mountain in the world (elevation: 29,035 feet) is revered by the local people. But they don’t call it Everest: the common Tibetan name is actually Chomolungma, meaning “Goddess Mother of the World.” Which might be the most fitting name ever.
As the only waterfall in the world with a length greater than a kilometer, it is no wonder that Victoria Falls is one of the most visited natural places in Africa (and even the world). The mist from the falls rises to over 400 meters and can be seen from 50 kilometers away, giving rise to the local tribes nickname for it: “The Smoke that Thunders.”
This might be the weirdest wonder on the list. Located in the Michoacan state of west-central Mexico, this volcano is one of the youngest on Earth. Before 1943 there wasn’t even a volcano, it was just an open field. But in February of that year everything started to change. First came fire, lava and hot ash - which together destroyed two nearby villages. By 1952, the peak had reached 9,210 feet(!!). Today the only evidence of life before the volcano is a partially buried church that used to sit on the edge of the now buried town of Paricutin.
Discovered in 1836 by American missionary William Thomson (in the most American fashion, learn more here), this spectacular underground system actually consists of two separate cave systems - which together total 9 kilometers (making it the longest cave system in the Middle East). The Upper Cave is home to dazzling rock formations including the largest hanging stalactite in the world (27 feet!).
This highly important ecosystem is home to a hundreds of unique bird species, the Bengal tiger and threatened species such as the Indian python and estuarine crocodile. Located in the southwest of Bangladesh, it is the largest contiguous mangrove forest in the world. Today it is home to three wildlife sanctuaries, which are considered core breeding grounds for many endangered species, like the aforementioned Bengal tiger, the Ganges and Irawadi dolphins and river terrapin (a large freshwater turtle).
Bay of Fundy
Known as one of the seven wonders of North America, this bay in Canada has the highest tides in the world - water levels rise and fall by as much as 48 FEET every day, is home to some of the rarest whales, and even has dinosaur fossils along its craggy cliffs.
Mud Volcanoes of Azerbaijan
Forming thanks to underground pockets of gas that have found weak spots in the earth, and therefore can force their way up to the surface, “mud volcanoes” are actually very cold (unlike their brother, actual volcanoes). While there are over 1,000 such volcanoes around the world, almost 400 of them exist along the coastal areas of Azerbaijan. Another major difference between normal volcanoes and their mud brothers is that the latter can only reach up to 700 meters in height (for an idea of how tall that is, the One World Trade Center in NYC is 541 meters tall).
These mud volcanoes are crazy cool and some even believe they are connected to the appearance of the Zoroastrian religion found in Azerbaijan. Read more about it here.
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park
Known for its towering quartzite cliffs, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in the Hunan Province of China is a crazy natural wonder that makes you feel like you are on a totally different planet or in some sci-fi movie (maybe that is why it was the inspiration for the movie, Avatar). Today it is a popular tourist destination: you can walk across glass-bottomed bridges, ride a cable car and look out from numerous observation elevators. While it might be heavily visited, it still is a beautiful and awe-inspiring wonder.
Mother Nature sure knows how to create some stunning landscapes. While these are only a couple of the most amazing natural wonders on this beautiful planet, there are TONS more out there. You just have to go out and find them!