Seeing fall foliage is great, but the world is full of natural wonders with color all year round. From rainbow mountain ranges to pink lakes, here are 12 of the most colorful wonders on Earth.
You might think that a rainbow eucalyptus tree looks like it’s been painted, but whole groves of the multi-colored trees exist in the rainforests of Papua New Guinea and the Philippines.
Located in the heart of the Grand Canyon, Havasu Falls is a natural wonder that defies the desert landscape. Its cascading turquoise waters and travertine formations have captivated visitors for years, but to see this stunning waterfall in person you must first obtain the proper permits.
The vibrant turquoise color of the water is due to high concentrations of calcium carbonate and the presence of microorganisms. The combination of these elements creates a mesmerizing visual spectacle that is sure to enchant anyone who visits.
Havasu Falls is also a cultural treasure for the native Havasupai Tribe who have called this place home for centuries. Visiting the waterfall is an once-in-a-lifetime experience that will surely leave you in awe of Nature’s artistic brushstrokes. The enchanting waters are perfect for swimming, and the picturesque scenery makes this destination a must-see.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site known as Iguazu Falls is one of the most colorful natural wonders in the world. These colossal waterfalls span the border between Argentina and Brazil, creating a stunning display that’s truly out of this world. The falls are comprised of 275 separate drops, but the highlight is certainly La Garganta del Diablo (Devil’s Throat).
These horseshoe-shaped cascades are three times wider than Niagara Falls in North America and feature rainbow-colored mist that rises more than 500 feet into the air. The falls are the result of massive volcanic eruptions and the movement of South American tectonic plates millions of years ago. A helicopter ride offers incredible aerial views of the falls and their surrounding jungle. Guests can also visit the Devil’s Throat and other spectacular waterfalls on foot or in a boat.
Often referred to as the River of Five Colors or Liquid Rainbow, Cano Cristales is located within Colombia’s national park Serrania de la Macarena. This unique natural wonder gets its vivid pigmentation from a water plant called Macarenia clavigera, which blooms in various shades of red throughout the year.
During the winter, when the water is high, the colors are dull and non-existent but once summer starts, the 62.1-mile river blossoms in a riot of vibrant hues. The colorful splotches of red, green, yellow, and blue are offset by the deep, clear current.
Due to its delicate ecosystem, Cano Cristales is only accessible at certain times of the year. Travelers are advised to consult with local guides before visiting this spectacular wonder. Those planning on hiking should be in good physical condition as the trails can be difficult.
Visiting Cape Town without taking the cable car to Table Mountain is like going to San Francisco and not visiting Alcatraz or vacationing in Athens and skipping the Parthenon. This rocky mesa is a natural wonder with an incredibly beautiful view.
It also boasts a plethora of plant species including the King Protea (South Africa’s national flower), ericas, restios, and geophyte bulbs. It also contains a thriving fynbos and renosterveld ecosystem, the latter of which is critically endangered.
This unique flora and fauna is why it was named one of the New7Wonders of Nature in 2012. The park’s craggy landscape also serves as home to many celebrities, royals and iconic personalities who ride the cableway to enjoy its stunning scenery. One of the cable cars was even once used by talk show host Oprah Winfrey. The cableway was built in 1929 and can now accommodate 800,000 people a year.
One of the most spectacular sights in the world, the crater lakes at Kelimutu are renowned for their ever-changing colors. Sometimes amber, other times turquoise, and yet others deep red or black, these volcanic lakes make for a truly remarkable natural phenomenon.
The evocative names given to these lakes also help contribute to their mysterious allure. The western lake, called Tiwu Ata Mbupu, means the “Lake of Old People.” The eastern lakes are named Tiwu Nuwa Muri Koo Fai and Tiwu Ata Polo, which translates to the “Lake of Young Men and Maidens” and “Enchanted Lake” respectively.
It is best to visit these lakes in the morning before the sun rises, as the colors are most vibrant at this time. It can also be quite crowded at this time, so it is important to arrive early to avoid large crowds.
The Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands are a fragile ecosystem that houses the most amazing creatures. Whether flying, swimming or floating the animals that reached this archipelago have evolved to adapt to its terrestrial and marine habitats.
It is believed that the first organisms to settle in the Galapagos arrived as seeds. To survive, the early arrivals had to make their way to the islands, find a place to establish themselves, and be able to reproduce. Early colonizers included plants with seeds that were salt tolerant and those that had a good chance of being transported by sea.
As the Galapagos Islands became more accessible to humans, they attracted pirates, whalers, fur sealers and fishermen. Their activities have caused major changes in the islands’ flora and fauna. Many of these new introductions have been detrimental to long-established native or endemic species.
The Sahara Desert
The Sahara Desert is a huge expanse of iconic sand dunes, arid mountains, flat-topped plateaus, and vast oasis depressions. A few hundred plant species survive in this hyperarid landscape, including acacia trees, palms, succulents, and spiny shrubs. They do so by growing lower to avoid water loss from strong winds, storing water in their thick stems to use during dry periods, and using long roots that reach horizontally to find any surface moisture.
The Sahara also contains two permanent rivers, 20 seasonal lakes, and massive aquifers that are the primary sources of water for more than 90 major oases. Some 70 mammalian species live here, including fennec foxes, pale foxes, African wild dogs, and Saharan cheetahs. It’s also home to many birds and reptiles, including a number of snakes and scorpions. During certain times of the year, however—known as African Humid Periods—much more rain falls across north Africa.
The Paricutin Volcano in Mexico is one of the most unique natural wonders on Earth. The volcano is located in the state of Michoacan and is home to indigenous communities like the Purepecha and Nahua.
The cinder cone volcano began growing in 1943 and became a national symbol after an eruption that lasted nine years. The eruption was one of the most dramatic volcanic events in the history of mankind, and it provided scientists with a wealth of information about how volcanoes work.
Today, the volcano is a popular tourist attraction. Visitors can climb the volcano and visit the ruins of the old village of Nuevo San Juan Parangaricutiro, which was destroyed during the 9 year volcanic eruption from 1943 to 1952. The ruins are now covered in hardened lava, making them beautiful to photograph. Besides tourists, the volcano is also home to diverse wildlife species.
Located in the heart of Japan, Mount Fuji is a sight to behold. The UNESCO World Heritage Site’s woodlands, crater lakes, and forests are home to diverse wildlife including the Japanese accentor and Siberian blue robin while alpine plants such as the rock cinquefoil and Japanese rowan add splashes of color.
The solitary peak is actually a composite volcano and the result of multiple eruptions over time. An explosive eruption in 1707 gave the mountain its current beautiful cone shape.
The Japanese call the mountain Fujisan and its name may be derived from the Ainu god of fire, Fuchi. Fuji is also a sacred site in Shinto, the state religion of Japan. Hundreds of shrines and temples surround the mountain, with some at its foot and around its rim. Those who climb it often seek a spiritual rebirth through asceticism.
Everest, pronounced eve-rest by most, is the highest peak in the world and the goal of many adventurous climbers. The summit is often a treacherous place, and many expeditions have been lost in the area.
The high altitudes of Mount Everest cannot support any vegetation, but birch, juniper, blue pines, and rhododendrons are found in the lower areas. Animals in the region include Himalayan black bears, snow leopards, and Himalayan tahr, a short-horned wild goat.
The mountain is named after British surveyor Sir George Everest in 1865. Its Nepalese name is Sagarmatha, while the Tibetans call it Chomolungma. The peak is a sacred place for locals, and climbers must perform a puja ceremony at base camp before attempting the summit. The mountain is also home to the world’s highest post office, where climbers can send postcards to friends and family back home.