Most people are familiar with well-known natural wonders such as Victoria Falls, the Grand Canyon, and the Great Barrier Reef, but there are many other beautiful places on this planet that, though not as widely known, will leave you in just as much awe. Here are six lesser-known natural wonders around the world.
1) Jeita Grotto, Lebanon
Spanning nearly 9 km in length, Jeita Grotto is an interconnected system of two large limestone caves. Jeita Grotto is located near the municipality of Jeita, which lies just north of Beirut in the Nahr al-Kalb valley. The lower cave can be visited by boat via an underground river that supplies water to over one million Lebanese people. The upper cave, on the other hand, can be accessed by a series of walkways.
2) Stone Forest, Madagascar
Limestone is also the main draw of Madagascar’s Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park. In Jurassic times, the area was home to a giant block of limestone. Over the millennia, the porous stone was carved and scoured into the knife-edged towers and tight canyons found there today. These stunning and largely unexplored rock formations shelter one of the most diverse arrays of wildlife on the planet.
3) Chocolate Hills, Philippines
Covering an area of over 50 square kilometres, the Chocolate Hills in the Bohol province of the Philippines number well over a thousand. Though they come in a variety of sizes, each limestone hill bears the characteristic conical shape. When viewed from a plane or from the town of Carmen, the hills appear to stretch on forever. The Chocolate Hills are really only chocolate-coloured in the dry season, when the green grass that covers them withers.
4) Wai-O-Tapu, New Zealand
To witness how beautiful and powerful geothermal activity can be, pay a visit to New Zealand’s Wai-O-Tapu area. Located at the edge of Okataina Volcanic Centre, Wai-O-Tapu features volcanic craters and terrace formations, steaming ground, bubbling mud, the famous Champagne Pool, and the Lady Knox Geyser, which erupts to a height of 20 metres every day. Visitors can choose from three different walks throughout the area.
5) Mud Volcanoes, Azerbaijan
Another stunning example of the power of geothermal activity, the mud volcanoes of Azerbaijan erupt with thick and pleasantly cool mud that people often come from far away to bathe in. The volcanoes are located along the coast of the Caspian Sea in Gobustan National Park, about 60 km away from Baku. There are only around 700 mud volcanoes in the whole world, and Azerbaijan is home to over half of them.
6) Jiuzhaigou Valley, China
China’s Jiuzhaigou Valley is truly a sight to behold. Flanked by snow-capped mountain peaks, the dreamlike valley holds sparkling blue lakes, deep green forests, and many multi-tier waterfalls. The elevation in the valley ranges from 2,000 to 4,500 metres, providing many breathtaking vistas. The area was only opened up to tourism in 1984 and has since become a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a World Biosphere Reserve.
Whether you want to add these beautiful locales to your bucket list or whether looking at pictures of them online is enough for now, just knowing that these amazing places exist is enough to inspire a sense of appreciation for our incredible planet.