20 Naturally Gorgeous Rock Formations Around the World
Mother Nature can take credit for creating these visually stunning rock formations across the globe.
Across vast landscapes and rising mountaintops to vast cavernous depths, the Earth is home to a variety of eclectic natural wonders. Can rocks really be that spectacular to look at? Yes. Yes, they can. Looking for more natural wonders? Here are a few spectacular photographs of America’s national parks that will leave you awestruck.
Balanced Rock—Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado
We know what you’re thinking: How is this possible? Well, this 700-ton red sandstone rock has been putting on this balancing act for two to three million years, but its history goes far beyond that. It started to form over 290 million years ago as Fountain Formation sandstone was deposited along the Ancestral Rockies (aka a different set of Rocky Mountains that once existed there). Thomas Grose, geology professor emeritus at the Colorado School of Mines, explains that Balanced Rock “was sculpted over the following millennia by glaciers, rivers, wind, and rain.” Since then, erosion has continued to occur, leaving visitors and geologists wondering when the beloved rock will eventually tumble.
Reed Flute Cave—Guilin, Guangxi, China
Reed Flute Cave, named after all of the reeds growing in the entryway, has quite the extensive history, notes Atlas Obscura. From its interior serving as a canvas for ink writings dating back to 792 AD to being a hideout for refugees during World War II, this cave has quite the story to tell. Perhaps the most astonishing qualities of Reed Flute Cave are its gorgeous rock formations stretching from the floor to the ceiling. Formed by centuries’ worth of water erosion carving into the soft limestone, the cave’s stalactites, stalagmites, and tall columns are now illuminated by a neon light show for all of its visitors to enjoy. If you like these rock formations, you won’t want to miss these stunning sea caves around the world.
Hoodoos—Göreme National Park, Turkey
Göreme National Park in Cappadocia, Turkey, is home to hundreds of hoodoos. The hoodoos, which are sometimes called “fairy chimneys,” were formed millions of years ago by a volcanic eruption that rained ash across the area. Soon after, the ash hardened and transformed into tuff, a porous rock, which was then covered by a layer of basalt. Over time, the soft tuff eroded while the harder tuff took (and is still taking) its time—hence the mushroom-shaped caps on top of each pillar. Fun fact: There are also tons of ancient underground settlements to explore at the park.
Svartifoss—Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland
You get to see more than just a gorgeous 39-foot-tall waterfall when you visit Svartifoss in Iceland; its backdrop makes it look even more magical. As centuries passed and lava flows cooled, black hexagonal crystals began to form behind the waterfall. The only downside? You can’t go for a swim in the waters beneath the falls. They’re filled with dangerously sharp rocks.
The Wave—Kanab, Utah
We can thank Jurassic period wind patterns for the Wave’s gorgeous aesthetic in the northern section of Coyote Buttes. This sandstone rock formation is made of sand dunes that have been blown in different directions. Ultimately, all that sand cemented, leaving linear marks. According to utah.com, “the water drainage that carved the two main chutes dried up a long time ago, so now wind is the Wave’s primary erosional force.” These are the best family travel destinations in every U.S. state.
Hoodoos—Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah
While the hoodoos in Turkey were pretty impressive, Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah takes the cake for having the most “fairy chimneys” in the world, according to the National Park Service. Ranging from around five feet tall to 150 feet tall, these hoodoos have been around for 30 to 40 million years. Around that time, these rocks began to form in an ancient Lake in western Utah and were colored by mineral deposits. Unfortunately, the fairies will have to find other chimneys eventually. These hoodoos typically have an erosion rate of two to four feet every 100 years, which is primarily due to frost wedging and slightly acidic rainwater.
The Organ Pipes—Organ Pipes National Park, Australia
Unsurprisingly, the Organ Pipes in Organ Pipes National Park is known for, well, looking like organ pipes. In fact, they’re even referred to as an “outdoor cathedral.” Over one million years ago, lava from Mt. Holden made its way down to an active volcano plain, which would soon be home to the Organ Pipes. The cooling and cracking of the lava left behind the beautiful 229-foot-tall basalt columns that are there today. Is it just us or do these national parks look even more gorgeous covered in snow?
The Great Tsingy—Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, Madagascar
Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park in Madagascar isn’t a National Heritage Site without reason. Over 200 million years ago, a limestone seabed rose to create a plateau in what is now Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park. Over the years, heavy rain did its part in creating the natural masterpiece that is there now. The gorgeous rock formations make up a “vertical cathedral of limestone,” some of which are as tall as 328 feet. The Great Tsingy is perhaps one of the most intriguing formations. The word “tsingy” translates as “walking on tiptoes,” which is appropriate based on how many limestone needles occupy the park’s grounds. Don’t miss these top extreme travel adventures around the world.
Wave Rock—Hyden, Western Australia
Shaped by weathering and water erosion, Wave Rock in Western Australia is 49 feet tall and 360 feet long. During wetter months, springs running down the rock dissolve minerals, which add to the rock’s unique coloring. This rock formation also has some of the oldest crystals in Australia. In fact, in 1960, they were dated to be around 2,700 years old.
Giant’s Causeway—Bushmills, Northern Ireland
Legend has it, this Irish causeway was used by giants to travel across the sea to Scotland—and we can see why people think that. Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland is made of 40,000 basalt columns protruding from the sea’s surface. This World Heritage Site forms a pavement out of the columns, which are the result of lava cooling around 50 to 60 million years ago.
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Situated in northern Vietnam, Ha Long Bay, which is Vinh Ha Long in Vietnamese or “where the Dragon Descends to the Sea” is 580 square miles and consists of around 3,000 islands. These natural wonders are a sight to behold, and there’s a wide variety of animals and wildlife that live in the tropical forests and waters. With legends about dragons and actual Chinese and Vietnamese pirates, there’s a lot to take in when looking through photos of Ha Long Bay.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area—Texas
Located 18 miles north of Fredericksburg in Wine Country, Enchanted Rock is a United States National Natural Landmark. In this area, there have been more than 400 archeological sites and humans have been in this area for more than 12,000 years. As time went on, the Spaniards arrived in the 1700s followed by Americans and Germans in the 1800s. The pink granite dome is a sight to see, and many people tend to go rock climbing, hiking, and hike along trails to capture the true beauty of nature.
Wind and water erosion over millions of years shaped Antelope Canyon‘s signature sandstone into what it is today. Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon on Navajo land near Page, Arizona and has two parts: the Upper Antelope Canyon and the Lower Antelope Canyon. The Navajo have different names for both parts. Upper Antelope Canyon is called Tsé’bighanilí (“The place where water runs through”) while the Lower Antelope Canyon is called Hazdistazí (“Spiral Rock Arches”).
The “Old Man” of Storr—Scotland
Scotland is one of the most stunning countries in the world, with famous cities like Edinburgh and Glasgow, and home to beautiful countryside views. On the Isle of Skye lies the “Old Man” of Storr, a unique single rock structure and one of the world’s most famous landscapes. According to Atlas Obscura, “The Storr, which refers to the group of looming outcrops that include and surround the Old Man, is a title derived from the Norse word for ‘Great Man.'” Looking for more photos of Scotland? Here are 17 more jaw-dropping photos of Scotland.
Chocolate Hills—the Philippines
While it’s unclear exactly how the Chocolate Hills were created, one thing is for certain: they’re certainly a sight to behold. Located in the Phillippine’s Bohol Island, these Chocolate Hills are mostly symmetrical limestone conical mounds covered in grass during the rainy season and then brown in the dry season, thus the name. There are more than 1,200 individual hills though there’s a bit of mystery considering experts aren’t sure how exactly they were formed. Here are a few more natural wonders you’ve never heard of.
Valley of the Moon—Argentina
While the name suggests this terrain looks like the surface of the moon, this barren area is also millions of years old. According to BBC, the area contains “undisturbed deposits from 250-200 million years ago. Fossils of some of the oldest dinosaurs, fish, amphibians, reptiles and over 100 species of plants have been found. There are also huge petrified tree trunks.” These are just a few dinosaur myths scientists wish you’d stop believing.
The Marble Caves—Chile
Some of the most stunning rock formations aren’t on land but on water. The Cuevas de Mármol, or the marble caves, are only accessible by boat but the rewards of venturing to the sea are worth it. According to Atlas Obscura, the cave was “formed by 6,000-plus years of waves washing up against calcium carbonate, the smooth, swirling blues of the cavern walls are a reflection of the lake’s azure waters, which change in intensity and hue, depending on water levels and time of year.” Here are 8 fun facts about the world’s most beautiful waterfalls.
Valley of Fire State Park—Nevada
With more than 40,000 acres of red Aztec Sandstone, Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada is a stunning area with, according to the Nevada State Parks website, “ancient, petrified trees and petroglyphs dating back more than 2,000 years.” Here are a few more photos of national parks that are even more incredible on starry nights.
Shilin Stone Forest—China
China’s Shilin Stone Forest is 186 miles of stone formations that have been around for 270 million years. The limestone formations have been shaped by water and wind, and the stone forest includes caves, ponds, an underground river, and even more smaller stone forests. According to Atlas Obscura, “two of the smaller individual stone forests, Naigu Stone Forest and Suogeyi Village, are a part of the South China Karst, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”
Tokangawhā/Split Apple Rock—New Zealand
Split Apple Rock, made of granite, is located near Abel Tasman National Park, the smallest national park in New Zealand, about 160 feet from shore and is about 120 million years old. Tokangawhā is the Māori word for the rock, which means “burst open rock” became the official name alongside Split Apple Rock in 2014. Next, make sure you’re aware of these practically secret national parks.