Travel - Locations
By: - at May 17, 2013

Top 15 Famous Natural Landmarks Around the World

planet earthPlanet earth is home to some of the most wondrous and beautiful places. While many of the landmarks discussed here are formed naturally, other landmarks are formed under unique circumstances. Some of these landmarks tend to baffle scientists, who find it hard to find a substantial explanation. The beauty that encompasses most of these gorgeous landmarks attracts thousands of visitors throughout the year. Most of these landmarks are protected by the governments of the country in which they are located, and are respected by those who visit.

15)  Trona Pinnacles

Trona Pinnacles

Located in the dried out basin of the Searles Lake, about 10 miles south of Trona, Calif., are the Trona Pinnacles. The pinnacles are located at an elevation of about 1,800 feet above sea level. The pinnacles are considered to be one of the most unusual geological landmarks in the California Desert. The tufa spires are porous rocks that were formed from the lakes interaction with other bodies of water. This interaction occurred when a massive runoff spilled into the lake from the Sierra Nevada during the Pleistocene period. There are over 500 tufa spires, all varying in shape and size. Almost 100,000 years ago, the youngest group of pinnacles began to form under water. The pinnacles are comprised mostly of calcium carbonate.

offroading at the trona pinnacles

Though the Searles Lake has long since dried up, the Trona Pinnacles stand tall, slowly eroding as the years go by. The Trona Pinnacles have become a popular back drop for many different movies. Over 30 different movies have featured the Trona Pinnacles, including "Planet of the Apes," "Battle Star Galactica," and "Lost in Space."

14)  The Fly Geyser
Located in the million-acre Black Rock Desert on Fly Ranch Geyser in Nevada, is the Fly Geyser formation. Though the geysers have the appearance of an odd, alien structure, they are actually man-made. The first geyser was accidentally created almost 100 years ago when a well was drilled in an effort to make the area suitable for farming. A well was drilled and boiling water was found. This boiling water was not suitable for irrigation purposes, and so the geyser was left alone. Over the years, a cone that is almost 12 feet tall was formed.

fly geyser

The second geyser was created in 1964. A geothermic energy company used the same area to drill a test well. Though the water was 200 degrees, it was not hot enough for the company’s purpose. The company sealed the test well, but the seal did not hold. This geyser stole the water pressure from the original geyser, which caused it to become a dormant cone. Over the last 40 years the geyser has continued to grow as the geothermal water pocket deposits minerals on the surface of the desert. The cone is covered in green hues caused by thermophilic algae. The water is consistently spewed and can reach up to 5 feet in the air. The geyser has several terraces that discharges water into almost 40 different pools. Both of the geysers, though located on private land, are visited by many people every single year.

fly geyser

13)  The Three Deadly Lakes
Another bizarre occurrence in nature is the three deadly lakes in Africa. Lake Nyos, Lake Kivu, and Lake Monoun make up the deadly trio of natural water landmarks, and two have been responsible for the deaths of many. The reason that these lakes are considered to be so deadly is because they explode and create poisonous gases. Though there are many theories to the actual cause of these explosions, they are still being debated and, so far, cannot be prevented.

Lake Monoun:
Lake Monoun

In addition to the explosions that take place in Lake Monoun, the lakes creation is quite unique. In Cameroon, Africa the earth’s crust is weak, which causes magma to easily rise to the earth’s mantle. When rising, the magma shoots up quickly, and cuts a tube toward the surface. When the magma hits wet rock, it will explode. Craters are formed, and water fills to crater to create a lake. This is how Lake Monoun was formed over 18 thousand years ago. Because the lake is located on top of the earth’s weak crust, the explosions continue to occur. In 1984, a limnic eruption occurred and a large amount of carbon dioxide was released into the air. This explosion caused the death of 37 residents.

Lake Nyos:
Lake Nyos all murkey

Lake Nyos was formed naturally in the same fashion as Lake Monoun, but is only 400 years old. In addition to explosion, the water of the lake has been turned into carbonic acid. When the lake exploded in 1986 a massive cloud of CO2 was emitted. The explosion also caused a wave that was estimated to be around 80 feet tall. The cloud suffocated almost 1,700 people and over 3,5000 livestock. Though so many lives were lost, most of the vegetation in the area was unharmed. The previously bright blue water turned a red, copper color. Over 4,000 inhabitants fled the area. In 2008 Lake Nyos was named the most deadly lake in the world.

Lake Kivu:
Lake Kivu

Though Lake Kivu has not caused any deaths yet, the risk of a massive death toll is much higher. The lake is located next to the volcanic Mount Nyiragongo. The lake is about 2,000 times larger than Lake Nyos, and holds a much larger population. Though the lake has not reached a high level of CO2 saturation, many say it is just a matter of time.

12)  Racetrack Playa
One of the most unique mysteries in the Death Valley Region in California is the sliding rocks of Racetrack Playa. This natural landmark stretches for about 2.8 miles, and is located 3,608 feet above sea level. For most of the year, the playa’s climate is dry, and does not have any vegetation. The rocks are found on the floor of the dry lake bed and usually have long trails behind them. These rocks typically weigh in at around 700 pounds, which makes their movement such a mystery. The shape of the trails behind the rocks suggests that the rocks move when the floor of the playa is covered in mud. It does not, however, explain how the rocks were moved. Thus far, the movements of the Racetrack stones have not been captured on film.

Racetrack Playa

There are many different theories on just how these heavy rocks are moved. Some believe that strong gusts of wind are responsible for pushing the rocks. The slight curves in the trails suggest that this theory is possible, but it has not been proven. Another theory is that the presence of ice on the playa is responsible for the movement. Though many support this theory, there is still the fact that ice would probably leave marks on the surface of the playa.

racetrack playa in death valley california

The mystery of how these rocks move brings many curious travelers to this strange natural landmark to see if they can figure it out for themselves.

11)  The Door to Hell
Another manmade landmark is the Door to Hell. Located in Derweze, Turkmenistan in the Karakum Desert (central Asia), the Door to Hell is a giant hole of fire. The Door to Hell name was given to the field by locals who have become accustomed to the fires, orange flames, and boiling mud. The Door to Hell was created when Soviet geologists drilled the site in 1971. The geologists tapped into a cavern that was filled with natural gas. When the ground beneath the drilling rig collapsed, a hole with a diameter of 70 meters was created.

the door to hell

The team of geologists was afraid that poisonous gases would be released through the hole so they burned it off. The geologist’s hoped that the fire would use all of the fuel that leaked, but it is still burning today, over 40 years later. The flames from the fire generate an eerie glow, which can be seen from miles away. People from all over the globe come to visit this man-made landmark every year so that they can peer into the Door to Hell.

And yes, you can get up close to this spectacular landmark:
a look at the crater of the door to hell
By Tormod Sandtorv via Wikimedia Commons

10)  Cano Cristales
Every year, for a few weeks from September to November, the normally plain Cano Cristales attracts hundreds of tourists. This natural landmark is located in Columbia in the Sierra de la Macarena, the rive Cano Cristales is normally indistinguishable from any other river. The location of Cano Cristales is remote, and not easily reached by the roads. For easier and more frequent access, tourists can choose to fly to the town of La Macarena, which is nearby.

Cano Cristales
By Mario Carvajal (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

From La Macarena, tourists will need to take a trip into Serrania de la Macarena. From September to November the water level of the river drops enough for the sun to warm the moss and algae that lies at the bottom of the river. The warmth from the sun causes the river to erupt in the blooming of the rare Macarenia Clavigera. This rare plant has bright red blooms that make the river erupt with color.

cano cristales

The bright red color of the Macarenia Clavigera makes the yellowish green sand, and the blue water stand out against the rocks. The mixture of the reds, yellows, greens, and blues give the river an appearance of a watery rainbow. It is a unique occurrence that cannot be witnessed anywhere else in the world. Many tourists make the trek to Columbia during September and November in hopes of being able to see the colorful river. Throughout Columbia’s wet season, the river's water flows fast and deep. This prevents the Macarenia Clavigera from getting the sun that is needed for it to turn red. When there is not enough water in the dry season, there is not enough water to support the life that can be found in the river.

cano cristales waterfalls
By Mario Carvajal (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Cano Cristales is Very Colorful!
cano cristales river
By Astromario (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Cano Cristales is Beautiful!
cano cristales river shot
By Mario Carvajal (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

9)  Socotra
This natural landmark is located 220 miles from Yemen is the island of Socotra. The island is home to a variety of unique species, many of which cannot be found anywhere else on earth. For many different reasons the island is viewed as a natural wonder. Many of the different species of plant life tend to excite scientists, as they are extremely rare. The island is one of the most isolated pieces of land, which is why it has retained its natural beauty.


It is suspected that the island detached itself from Africa, similar to the way that the Gulf of Aden was created. Socotra is an archipelago that is made up of four different islets and islands. The flora found on the islands are able to withstand severe heat, but are extremely sensitive to change. One of the most unique plants that can be found in Socotra is the Dragon’s Blood Tree. The tree is umbrella shaped, and leaks blood-red sap, which used to be used for medicines and dye. The only mammals that are native to Socotra are bats and civet cats. The archipelago’s ability to self-sustain itself, while housing so many rare flora species, leaves an impression on anyone who chooses to visit.

Dragon’s Blood Trees:
Dragon’s Blood Trees

8)  The Wave
Located on the Utah and Arizona border is the Coyote Butte area of the Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness. This natural landmark is home to the popular hiker attraction, The Wave. The Wave is a chute that is multicolored and beautiful to see. The Wave has intersecting U-shaped troughs that were created during the Jurassic age. When the troughs were created, the drainage basin that fed the troughs rain water shrank in a way that made the runoff insufficient in contributing to the cutting of the troughs. Because of this, the troughs are exclusively eroded by wind.

The Wave

Made up on Navajo Sandstone, The Wave is composed of cyclic and rhythmic grain flow. Differential erosion, cyclic grain flow, and wind-ripple laminae result in the ribbing and ridges that can be seen within The Wave. Confirming the age of the site are the many different Dinosaur tracks and fossils that have been found throughout the Wave. It is a site that has evolved over millions of years, and is expected to continue to evolve as time goes by.

the wave rock formation

7)  Richat Structure
The Richat Structure, also known as the Eye of the Sahara, is a natural wonder whose creation is still debated. A prominent circular structure that can only be seen clearly from space, the Richat Structure is located in the Sahara Desert in west-central Mauritania, Africa. The structure is surrounded by miles of desert and measures to 40-50 km in diameter. The structures bulls-eye feature has attracted attention since the very first space mission.

Richat Structure

Richat Structure Up close

While some believe that this famous site was created by an ancient meteor, others believe that the structure was created by a small incursion of magma. The Richat Structure is made of sedimentary rock that is over two billion years old, and Ordovician sandstone that is well over 480 million years old. It is believed that the circles of the structure are actually layers that alternate. In this theory, the layers consist of sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous rocks that were pushed into a geological dome.

One last pic of this beautiful landmark:
One last pic of this beautiful landmark richat

6)  Bryce Amphitheatre
Located in Southwestern Utah is the Bryce Canyon National Park, as shown below:

Bryce Amphitheatre

This famous national park is home to the Bryce Amphitheater. The Bryce Amphitheater is the most visited area in the Bryce Canyon National Park. This is mostly due to the unique formations that can be found within the amphitheater. The Bryce Amphitheater is a break that has eroded into the Paunsaugunt Plateau slope. Capping the plateau is rock that has a pink hue, and has varying degrees of hardness. While the softer rock has eroded over the years, the harder rock remains. This harder rock is continuously eroded by water and wind. This erosion provides the amphitheater with a variety of interesting shapes.

Bryce Amphitheater:
Bryce Amphitheater

One of the most known shapes in the Bryce Amphitheater is the hoodoo. Created by years of erosion, hoodoos have a shape that strongly resembles a totem pole. The hoodoos at Bryce Amphitheater range in shape and in height. The rock layer that forms the hoodoo structures is better known as the Claron Formation. Over 40 million years ago the formation was emerged in water in a lake that covered most of present-day Utah. As the years passed and minerals were deposited, the hoodoos developed different colors throughout their height.

Bryce Amphitheater's Hoodoos:
Bryce Amphitheater's Hoodoos

5)  Jeita Grotto
Considered to be one of the most beautiful caverns in the world is the Jeita Grotto. The Jeita Grotto is located in the Nahr al-Kalb valley near Jeita, Lebanon. The cave attracts thousands of visitors every year, and is known for the many unique formations that evolved over millions of years. The cave shows signs of inhabitation during prehistoric times, but was popularly rediscovered by Reverend William Thomson in 1836.

Jeita Grotto

The cavern is comprised of upper and lower cavers, and can only be accessed by boat. The lower galleries of the cavern showcases clean water, beautiful formations, and a rushing waterfall. The upper galleries feature a concrete tunnel that is 120 meters long, and a maze of dramatic formations. Though the method of formation is known to be water and time, the sites ability to create such unique structures is quite amazing. The formations inside of the cavern have a cathedral feel to them, and have provided a beautiful backdrop for concerts and cultural events. In addition to the evolving beauty of the formations, the cave serves a very important function for the Lebanese. The water that is found in the Jeita Grotto supplies the locals with drinking water.

Tour Jeita Grotto by Boat:
Tour Jeita Grotto by Boat

4)  Giant’s Causeway

Giant’s Causeway
By code poet (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Located in County Antrim in Northern Ireland, is the Giant’s Causeway. The Giant’s Causeway is an area of about 40,000 basalt columns that interlock. Between 50 and 60 million years ago, present day County Antrim was subjected to volcanic activity. During this volcanic activity fluid molten basalt came through the chalk beds and formed a lava plateau. As the lava cooled, horizontal contraction took place. As the mass cooled, the horizontal contraction created pillar like structures. The size of the columns was determined by the rate at which the lava cooled. Even with this scientific explanation, the shapes of the columns continue to intrigue those who visit the site.

Giant’s Causeway

Though the scientific reason for the formation of the Giant’s Causeway has been well proven, there is a legend that is used by many to explain the formation. According to this legend, the formation was built by an Irish giant named Fionn mac Cumhaill. In the legend Fionn was challenged to a fight by Benandonner, a Scottish giant. When the giant’s met and fought, the formation was created. This legend gives a mystical explanation to the formation of a naturally beautiful site that has an other-worldly feel.

giant's causeway

3)  The Great Blue Hole

The Great Blue Hole

The Great blue Hole is a massive blue hole located off of the coast of Belize. The hole is perfectly circular, and is the world’s largest blue hole. The Blue Hole was formed as a result of several collapses of a limestone cave system. The cave system was formed during the last ice age. At high tide, the Blue Hole is only a few feet deep. The middle of the Blue Hole reaches depths of almost 480 feet. Before it was a Blue Hole, the site was a dry cave filled with stalactites and stalagmites. After the last ice age, the sea level rose to cover the cave. It is suspected that a major earthquake caused the ceiling of the cave to collapse. Now the circumference of the Blue Hole is lined by shelves and ledges that have been carved by the sea. Adding to the natural wonder are the species of ocean life that can be found at the site. The beautiful stalactites and stalagmites, in addition to the ocean life, make the Blue Hole won of the best places for scuba diving.

Coral Life Inside the Blue Hole:
Coral Life Inside the Blue Hole
By jayhem ( [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

National Geographic Aerial Photograph:
National Geographic Aerial Photograph:

2)  Hillier Lake

Hillier Lake

Located in Recherché Archipelago in Western Australia is Hillier Lake. The lake is one of the most bizarre natural landmarks on earth. Hillier Lake is surrounded by dense woodland area and a rim of sand. The length of the lake measures about 600 meters. The reason that the lake is so unique is the intense pink hue that it possesses. Despite many different tests and investigations, the reason for the bright pink hue is currently unknown. Even when water is removed from the lake, it retains its unique coloring.

Overhead view of Hillier Lake in Recherché Archipelago

One theory for the unique coloring is that is caused by dye created by different organisms. Another theory is that red halophilic bacteria in the salt crusts are the cause for the hue. Neither theory has been proved, and the cause of the pink water still remains a mystery. Interesting enough, the pink water has no known adverse affects on humans. The unique coloring of the lake is enjoyed by many who visit Western Australia, and is considered to be one of the most intriguing natural landmarks.

Pink water in Hillier Lake

You can swim in it!
You can swim in Hillier Lake

1)  Turkey’s Cotton Castle
Turkey is a fantastic landmark to visit.  One of the most unique geological landmarks is Turkey’s Cotton Castle. Named for the portion of the sites concentric appearance, Cotton Castle has an ethereal appearance. The site has an organic feel to it because of the calcium carbonate that is deposited by the hot springs. From a distance, the cliffs surrounding the site look like they could be made from chalk. The site is home to 17 different hot water springs that vary in temperature, from boiling to lukewarm. When the calcium carbonate from the hot springs is first deposited, it is in the form of a soft gel. That gel eventually hardens and becomes a part of the structure.

Turkey’s Cotton Castle
By Dennis Jarvis from Halifax, Canada  [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Adding to the sites ethereal feel are the presence of ancient buildings. The Cotton Castle used to be the site of the ancient city Hierapolis. The Greeks appropriately utilized Hierapolis as a spa town for the extremely wealthy. The old tombs and uniquely designed buildings have been incorporated into the rock formation and provide the area with an almost eerie backdrop. Over the years, these buildings have become buried or incorporated into the site by the high levels of calcium carbonate. The mineral water cascades over all 17 springs, and creates terraces and pools that are visually stunning. The spring water is believed to have curing powers by many. The cures that are said to be popular include circulation, blood pressure, eye disease, and skin disease. This belief is just one of the many reasons that people continue to visit from all over the world.

Turkey’s Cotton Castle

people swimming at turkey's cotton castle

a view from the summit of the cotton castle

The many different natural landmarks of earth only prove that the planet needs to be well cared for. While the Deadly Seas are a threat to humans entering to that territory, the other sites serve to bring wonder to many. Though most of these landmarks evolve due to natural causes, they are unique in the fact that their formation has caused many experts to question the cause of their formant. The landmarks that have been created due to man-made mistakes have evolved into some of the most unique landmarks on the planet. These man-made creations prove that interference from the environment is necessary for human work to have a stunning appearance.





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