6 Amazing Natural Wonders that you have to see in a lifetime.
To see our planet in its truest form, we can go exploring its natural wonders.
Here are six natural wonders that will make you appreciate the beauty of our unique planet.
1. EXPLORE CRYSTAL CAVES INSIDE A GLACIER
Drive along Iceland’s iconic Ring Road and you’ll pass many enormous glaciers. Inside some of them are glorious ice caves with translucent walls that produce weird light in hundreds of shades of blue. It’s a photographer’s dream. “Most of them [the caves] are formed by water running either through tunnels in the ice, or on the ground underneath the glacier,” says landscape photographer Iurie Belegurschi at Iceland Photo Tours, who takes groups into the ice caves within the vast Vatnajökull glacier in southeastern Iceland. Although there are many ice caves in Iceland, Vatnajökull’s are the most accessible. Safety is still important, though. “It’s safe to visit ice caves from November to March when it’s coldest outside and they’re stable,” says Belegurschi. “But always get a professional, local ice cave guide, who will provide you with all the safety gear and know exactly which caves are safe to enter.”
WHERE TO GO: South-eastern Iceland WHEN TO GO: November-March
2. PEER INTO HELL.
As attractions go, the Darvaza Gas Crater in Turkmenistan’s Karakum Desert is as strange as it is scorching. Back in 1971, Soviet geologists were searching the area for oil fields. Unbeknown to them, they had started their exploratory drilling on top of a cavern filled with natural gas. The ground collapsed, swallowing their equipment and opening up a huge crater. Fearing that toxic gases could harm local people, it was set on fire. This is called ‘flaring’, and is a familiar way of dealing with such a problem. But it backfired at Darvaza. Instead of burning for the expected two weeks, it’s been blazing non-stop ever since it was ignited. At around 60 x 20m, the largest crater is now a tourist attraction, which is referred to as the ‘Gates to Hell’. It’s best visited from Ashgabat, the country’s capital, about 250 km south. Take an organised tour, specifically one that visits the crater at night when it’s at its most spectacular.
WHERE TO GO: Karakum Desert, Turkmenistan WHEN TO GO: Anytime
3.WATCH A TOTAL SOLAR ECLIPSE
Solar eclipses happen somewhere on Earth every 18 months. The spectacle is brief, but dramatic. “The sky suddenly darkens, and if you’re watching with eclipse glasses you will see the crescent of the sun rapidly shrink and break up into a series of beads,” says eclipse cartographer Michael Zeiler. “Then you see a beautiful diamond ring around the Moon.” Moments later, the sun’s corona – its super-heated outer atmosphere – appears as an ice-white halo. To catch the next one, head out to Chile or Argentina for 2 July 2019.
WHERE TO GO: Chile WHEN TO GO: 2 July 2019
4. GAZE AT LIQUID FIRE
“So you’re walking through a valley and all of a sudden a waterfall catches on fire,” says photographer Dave Gordon. He is speaking about a phenomenon that takes place in Yosemite Valley’s Horsetail Falls during late February, when light from the setting sun causes the flowing water to glow yellow, orange and red, mimicking fire. “It occurs once a year, for a few days in a row, each lasting mere minutes,” says Gordon. “So in total your chance of seeing a Yosemite waterfall turn into what looks like lava, or flowing fire, is about 60 minutes per year”.The spectacle relies on many things: the angle of the sun as it sets, recent rainfall levels that feed the waterfall, and a clear sky. “There is something spiritual in being able to visually witness the astrophysics of our solar system play out,” says Gordon. “How many points in time had to line up perfectly to make this exact moment happen? It’s nature at its absolute best.” Yosemite National Park also happens to be one of the most photogenic locations on the planet, making the Horsetail Falls phenomenon a favourite for photographers, so expect a stake-out if conditions are right.
WHERE TO GO: Yosemite National Park, California WHEN TO GO: Late February
5. CHASE STORMS IN TORNADO ALLEY
“I’ve been a storm chaser and spotter since I was little,” says Nicholas Langley from the group Tornado Alley Chasers and Spotters. “I would sit outside my house in Tennessee watching storms roll in. It fascinates me how clouds can form out of thin air, then explode into monster supercells.” A tornado is caused by updraughts and downdraughts of unstable air during a thunderstorm, when a wind shear tilts to form an upright vortex. However, storm chasing comes with huge risks, particularly traffic accidents. “You get tunnel vision out there and you don’t see the surrounding area – you just see the tornado,” he says. Tornado Alley is generally regarded to include the US states of Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and Nebraska. Tornadoes are typically active in those states between March and late-May. Other areas of the world where violent tornadoes are frequent include an area of the Pampas lowlands in Argentina, Paraguay and southern Brazil, and coastal Bangladesh on the Bay of Bengal.
WHERE TO GO: Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas or Nebraska BEST TIME TO GO: March-May
6. SEE COLOURFUL LIGHTS IN THE NIGHT SKY
The Northern Lights are more familiar, but the Southern Lights are well worth a visit too. “Dunedin in New Zealand is probably the easiest place to go if you want to see the Southern Lights, but it’s only got about as much chance as northern Scotland or England,” says Dr Melanie Windridge, author of Aurora: In Search Of The Northern Lights. Other good locations include Ushuaia, South Georgia Island, the Falkland Islands and Antarctica. “The trouble with the Southern Lights is that they happen mainly over the ocean or in Antarctica,” says Windridge. Auroras occur when charged particles emanating from the sun strike atoms in Earth’s atmosphere, causing the electrons of the atoms to move to a higher-energy state. “When they hit oxygen they emit green, and also red higher up, while nitrogen emits blue and purple colours,” says Windridge.
WHERE TO GO: Dunedin, New Zealand WHEN TO GO: March-September
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The world is so massive is filled with natural wonders that will take your breath away and has so much to offer those who are willing to open their eyes and really take the time to explore.