The 15 Most Colorful Natural Wonders on Earth
Look up at the sky, down at the ground, or out into the landscape, and you’ll see that our planet is a fascinating prism of hues, from multicolored mountains and deserts to astronomical curiosities and kaleidoscopic rivers.
Bioluminescent waters in Tasmania
If you’ve ever seen a firefly, then you’ve witnessed bioluminescence—a pulsating glow emitted by living organisms. Most bioluminescent creatures are marine life, though, and when they light up underwater, the whole sea seems to magically sparkle. There are plenty of these kinds of waters throughout the world, but the River Derwent in Tasmania offers a double whammy in the spring: bioluminescent waves, right beneath the Aurora Australis, a natural electric phenomenon that creates a technicolor sky. Check out some more incredible beaches you need to add to your bucket list ASAP.
Rainbow eucalyptus groves in Maui, Hawaii
The iconic Painted Forest on the road to Hana, Maui is saturated with eucalyptus trees boasting multicolored trunks straight out of a fantasy film. The colors are actually the result of the bark peeling off the trees to reveal the new bark beneath, which transforms from green into blue, purple, orange, yellow, and maroon. Rainbow eucalyptus trees can be found along hikes in Kauai, too—just one of Hawaii’s many magical draws.
Rainbow Mountain in the Peruvian Andes
The Vinicunca mountain, aka Montaña de Siete Colores (Mountain of Seven Colors), sits pretty way up in the Peruvian Andes, where it was discovered about five years ago and is now a popular destination for tourists—though the trek to reach it is notoriously daunting. If you do survive the arduous hike and uncomfortably high altitude, you’ll discover a breathtaking natural wonder: thick rainbow stripes seemingly painted into the mountainside, thanks to artfully placed mineral deposits over millions of years. For more picture-perfect destinations, check out these breathtaking photos of the most beautiful country on Earth.
Mendenhall Ice Caves in Juneau, Alaska
Venture inside Alaska’s breathtaking Mendenhall Glacier to explore its utterly surreal Ice Caves—but be prepared to work for it. The journey into this dreamlike underworld is not for the faint of heart: you’ll have to brave a kayak and then climb slippery terrains. The struggle is worth the reward, though, especially because these incredible sights might be fleeting. The glacier is reportedly succumbing to effects of global warming. Find out more breathtaking places you need to visit now before they disappear.
Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone hosts its share of natural wonders, but perhaps the most vibrant and photogenic is its most famous thermal pool, the Grand Prismatic Spring. True to its name, this football field-sized hot spring—the largest in the United States—is lined with yellow, green, and orange rings secreted by heat-loving bacteria. In the center is a swath of vibrant blue water, which shoots up through a crack in the Earth at a searing 170 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lake Hillier in Australia
On Middle Island off the coast of Central Australia, right next to the Pacific Ocean, you’ll find a small lake that resembles a giant reservoir of rosé wine. There are several theories as to what gives this body of water its curiously pink hue. One is its high concentration of salt, which attracts certain types of algae that secrete pink pigments. A reaction between salt and sodium bicarbonate is another. Don’t miss these other naturally beautiful pink lakes from around the world.
Seven Colored Earths in Chamarel, Mauritius
Volcanic activity on the island of Mauritius, off the African coast, has resulted in some unusually vivid sand dunes. The prismatic colors of this geological curiosity inspired the moniker Terres de Sept Couleurs, or Seven Colored Earths, in this former French colony. It’s become a popular destination for visitors not just for its aesthetic allure, but also because of its mystical resilience: the dunes appear immune to erosion.
Zhangye Danxia Landform in Gansu, China
Before the Rainbow Mountain of Peru was discovered, the Zhangye Danxia Landform in China was the world’s most famous multicolored mountain range. Located in a geological park of the same name, in the province of Gansu, the Zhangye Danxia Landform—made of cretaceous sandstones and siltstones colored with mineral deposits—has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here are some more UNESCO World Heritage Sites everyone should see once in their life.
The River of Five Colors (Caño Cristales) in Vista Hermosa, Colombia
Dubbed “the most beautiful river in the world,” Caño Cristales boasts psychedelic waters that run in five colors—but only for part of the year. During the country’s wet and dry seasons, a confluence of natural occurrences causes the waters to run chromatic. A plant species on the floor of the river is responsible for a bright red hue (most visible during this time of year, when the water is most shallow), while sand and rock formations make up the yellow, green, and black that mingle with the river’s year-round blue.
The Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) in northern Norway
The mythical light show known as the Northern Lights, or the Aurora Borealis, is visible in many places, including Alaska, Iceland, Canada, and Greenland. But arguably the best place to see this natural phenomenon is northern Norway, especially near the town of Tromsø. Between September and March, when it’s dark, peep up at the sky to catch swirls of glowing green, pink, and purple, a reaction prompted by the electrical charges of gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere.