Stephen Hawking, Elon Musk, and hundreds of other scientists and
We’re all familiar with the world’s major natural wonders, but while the big hitters like the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls, and Old Faithful may get all the attention, there are plenty of lesser-known sites ready to mesmerize you. Here are 11 strange natural (or at least naturalish) wonders that deserve your attention.
1. Eternal Flame Falls, Orchard Park, New York
Behind a small waterfall outside of Buffalo, New York, there is a small flame that magically never extinguishes. In this case “magic” means a slight methane gas leak from a geological fault. And actually, the light does occasionally go out, being surrounded by constantly flowing water and all, but there are plenty of hikers to relight it as needed.
2. Blood Falls, Antarctica
Scientists have found that this Shining-esque waterfall owes its disturbing bright red coloring to the excesses of iron in the water. That iron, along with other minerals, have also been found to sustain microorganisms living more than 1,000 feet below the lake’s surface.
3. Salar de Uyuni
One of the largest salt flats in the world, the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia becomes a near-perfect mirror when covered in a thin layer of water during the area’s wet season. The effect gives the illusion that passersby are walking in the clouds.
4. Magnetic Hill, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada
Much like Santa Cruz, California’s Mystery Spot, Magnetic Hill is an optical illusion designed to disorient visitors. Early automobile drivers noticed that when heading south along the road in Monton, they had to accelerate to avoid rolling backwards, even though (due to a long stretch of subtle rises and and descents in the terrain) they appeared to already be driving downhill.
5. Skeleton Lake, Roopkund, India
Approximately 5,000 feet up in the Himalayas is a beautiful glacial lake. Beautiful, except that every year the snow melts to reveal hundreds of human skeletons. When they were first discovered in 1942, they were believed to be the bodies of fallen soldiers. Eventually, though, the skeletons were dated back to 850 A.D.
6. Glass Beach, Fort Bragg, California
This one is actually (indirectly) a man-made site, caused by decades of throwing garbage off the cliffs above the beach. The wonder here is what nature did with that garbage. After dumping was outlawed in 1967, the heavy waves began to break down the garbage until what was left was a beach made of smooth, polished glass.
7. The “Door to Hell,” Turkmenistan
In the mid-20th century, Soviet petroleum engineers were drilling and discovered a huge underground cavern full of natural gas. In an attempt to burn off the gas, they ignited it, expecting the fire to burn out after a few hours. It’s still going strong to this day.
8. Waitomo Glowworm Cave, New Zealand
It may look like a scene out of The Little Mermaid, but this awe-inspiring mood lighting is actually the result of the glowworms, Arachnocampa Luminosa, whose larvae glows phosphorescent in order to trap prey who believe they’re flying towards the safety of the outdoors.
9. Jellyfish Lake, Eil Malk Island, Palau
This lake is full of about 12 million jellyfish, but these particular jellies have evolved to a point where their stingers are too small to be felt by humans. So, if you can overcome every instinct that will probably make your brain beg you not to surround yourself with 12 million jellyfish, you can swim around with them all you like.
10. The Catatumbo Lightning, Ologa, Venezuela
At the point where the Catatumbo River empties into Lake Maracaibo, a combination of humidity, winds, and elevation brings about the world’s highest frequency of lightning activity. Starting with a mass of storm clouds, the lightning occurs approximately 140 to 160 days a year, and for up to 10 hours a day can elicit as more than 25 lightning flashes per minute.
11. Underwater Park, Tragoess, Austria
In Austria’s snowy Karst mountains, there’s a normal park centered around the meter-deep Green Lake. However, every year when the snow thaws, the lake’s depth increases to 12 meters, submerging the entire park in water. The effect is a magical/terrifying Water World-type scuba heaven.