OFF THE BEATEN PATH
This page lists some fascinating places from around the world known for their natural beauty which I hope might give you some inspiration. I know I will be trying to visit as many of these as possible!
If you would like to add a place to the list from your travels please email firstname.lastname@example.org
LAUTERBRUNNEN VALLEY, SWITZERLAND
Lauterbrunnen is a small town and district in the Swiss Alps surrounded by beautiful alpine meadows, stunning rocky cliffs and glacial waters. With over 70 waterfalls, some being over 300 metres high and among the highest in Europe, Lauterbrunnen Valley is also one of the biggest nature conservation areas in Switzerland. A cable car runs up the mountain to viewing platforms. for spectacular views over the Bernese Alps at around 802 metres high.
TROLLTUNGA, ODDA, NORWAY (LAKE RINGEDALSATNET)
Trolltunga, in the municipality of Odda, is a rock formation which sits poking horizontally out from the mountain 700 metres above lake Ringedalsvatnet and is 1,100 metres above sea level. The increased popularity has turned Trolltunga into a national icon and a major tourist attraction for the region with thousands of people visiting each year. The long and demanding hike takes 10-12 hours, is approximately 27km long, and has an ascent of 1,000 meters. It is advised that you only attempt the hike between June and September time due to the sometimes harsh Norwegian winters where snow can block many of the trails.
AURORA BOREALIS - NORWAY, SWEDEN, DENMARK, FINLAND, GREENLAND, ICELAND, RUSSIA, CANADA AND ALASKA.
The Aurora Borealis, sometimes referred to as the northern lights or polar lights, is a natural light phenomenon in the Earth's sky predominantly seen in countries around the Arctic Circle. Streams of green and sometimes red light can be seen in the sky at night caused by the interaction of charged particles from the sun with atoms in the upper atmosphere.
YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA, USA
Yosemite National Park in the Sierra Nevada mountains is one of California's most formidable natural landscapes. At nearly 1,200 square miles, it is famed for its waterfalls (Bridalveil Fall being one of the most popular), millennia-old Sequoia trees and the towering cliffs of El Capitan (2,307m) and Half Dome (2,694m) including some of the most unique rock formations in the United States.
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, WYOMING, USA
(GRAND PRISMATIC SPRING)
Yellowstone National Park covers nearly a whopping 3,500 square miles, mostly in Wyoming, but also spreading into parts of Montana and Idaho too. It is home to hundreds of different species of animals, including large animals such as bears, wolves, bison and elk. It offers lush forests, impressive canyons, gushing geysers as well as hot springs. The Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the United States and the third largest in the world. Its colors match the rainbow dispersion of white light by an optical prism: red, orange, yellow, green, and blue.
CAVE OF CRYSTALS, CHIHUAHUA, MEXICO
The Cave of the Crystals or Giant Crystal Cave is a cave system in Chihuahua, Mexico connected to the Naica Mine and dives to depths of up to 300 metres. The main chamber contains some of the largest natural selenite crystals ever found with the largest being 12 metres (39 ft) in length, 4 metres (13 ft) in diameter and 55 tons in weight. The cave is extremely hot, with air temperatures reaching up to 58 °C (136 °F) and 99 percent humidity. The cave is relatively unexplored due to these factors. Without proper protection, people can only endure approximately ten minutes of exposure at a time.
MARBLE CAVES, CHILE & ARGENTINA
General Carrera Lake (Chilean side) or Lake Buenos Aires (Argentinian side) is a lake surrounded by the Andes mountain range and is located in Patagonia, a vast region encompassing the southernmost tip of South America, shared by Chile and Argentina. The lake has a surface area of 1,850 squared kilometres and is of glacial origin which produces a breathtaking color and here you can see marble geological formations formed over thousands of years. The weather in this area of Chile and Argentina is generally cold and humid but the lake itself has a sunny microclimate.
MOUNT ROZAIMA, LA GRAN SABANA, VENEZUELA
La Gran Sabana (The Great Savanna) is a region in southeastern Venezuela covering an area of 10,820 squared kilometres (4,180 squared miles). It is the second largest National Park in Venezuela, the Canaima National Park, and is part of the Guianan savanna ecoregion. The National Park spreads southeast all the way to the borders with Brazil and Guyana. The location offers one of the most unusual landscapes in the world, with rivers, waterfalls and deep gorges, as well as vast valleys. Impenetrable jungles and savannahs host large numbers and varieties of plants and fauna. Mount Roraima is the highest of the Pakaraima chain of Tepui plateaus in South America with its 31 square kilometre area sitting at an elevation of 2,810 metres. Way above the clouds!
LENÇOIS MARANHENSES NATIONAL PARK, BRAZIL
The Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is located in Maranhão state, in northeastern Brazil. It is an area of low, flat, occasionally flooded land, overlaid with large sand dunes. Despite abundant rain, it supports almost no vegetation and the sweeping sand dunes make it look like a typical desert, however it is not even a desert at all. The region is subject to a rainy season during the beginning of each year which causes a peculiar phenomenon as fresh water collects in the valleys between sand dunes and is prevented from escaping down by a layer of impermeable rock which lies underneath the sand. The resulting blue, green and black lagoons have large numbers of fish that arrive when the lagoons are at their fullest between July and September, when they are interconnected to rivers such as the Rio Negro. One species of fish, the wolf fish (or tiger fish) stay dormant in the moist mud after the majority of the water has evaporated, re-emerging during the next rainy season
PALAWAN ISLAND, THE PHILIPPINES
Palawan islands are some of the most beautiful islands on earth with over 1,200 miles of coastline and 1,780 islands to explore. Making up the most important of these islands is Palawan Island itself, which is the largest island in the Palawan Province in the western Philippines. The capital, Puerto Princesa, is known for the biodiverse Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park, where boats row along an underground river through a vast cave system. Further out in the Sulu Sea, Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park has reefs teeming with marine life. These are two of the most important ecological sites in the Philippines and are UNESCO World Heritage sites.
VAADHOO ISLAND, THE MALDIVES
The Maldives is made up of 1,000 islands in the Indian Ocean, decorated with white sandy beaches and surrounded by warm waters with rich marine life. One of the islands, Vaadhoo Island, located on the equator to the south west of Sri Lanka has a magical surprise for you come night time: Glowing blue waves, lapping the sandy shore, like something out of a fairytale. Phytoplankton, marine microorganisms in the water, produce a blue light when disturbed. This process, called bioluminescence, can only be seen at night when it looks like you are swimming with the stars. It may be a tiny island with just over 500 inhabitants, but this natural phenomenon has firmly planted it on the global map as a 'must see' tourist destination.
HANG SON DOONG, VIETNAM - PHONG AHA KE BANG PARK
Hang Son Doong, or Mountain River Cave, is the world’s largest but only a limited number of visitors are able to see the incredible attraction in Vietnam each year. It is located in the Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, which was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. Hang Son Doong is over 5 kilometres long, and reaches 200 metres tall and 150 metres wide. Some people say the cave is big enough to fit an entire New York City block with 40-storey skyscrapers. The cave has been open to the public since 2013, however, fewer people have seen the inside of Son Doong cave than have stood on the top of Mount Everest due to the restriction on numbers and cost.
TIANZI MOUNTAINS, CHINA
The Tianzi Mountains are located in Zhangjiajie, in the Hunan Province of China, and are considered sacred by many of the people who inhabit the surrounding area. The Mountains are mainly sandstone and were formed about 400 million years ago through irregular rising patterns of the earths crust, causing these tall and skinny mountains to form. Tourists are recommended to try and visit just after rainfall when fog sweeps through the valley making the mountains with their peculiar shapes look like a fortress in the sky. The mountains inspired the "floating mountains of Pandora" in James Cameron's film Avatar.
SAGANO BAMBOO FOREST, JAPAN
The Sagano Bamboo Forest is in Arashiyama, Kyoto, Japan and has been referred to as one of the most beautiful groves on Earth. The rustling sounds caused by the wind blowing through the grove have become a part of the attraction. People enjoy the meditative natural noise and Japan’s Ministry of the Environment voted the locations aural pleasures as one of the country’s “100 Soundscapes of Japan”. If visitors can find a time to visit the bamboo forest when it is relatively empty it may be one of the most peaceful experiences you will have.
THE WAITOMO GLOW WORM CAVE
NORTH ISLAND, NEW ZEALAND
The Waitomo Glowworm Caves is an attraction at Waitomo on the North Island of New Zealand. It is known for its population of Arachnocampa luminosa, a glowworm species found exclusively in New Zealand. The name "Waitomo" comes from the Māori words wai, water and tomo, hole or shaft. Geological and volcanic activity has created around 300 known limestone caves in the Waitomo region over the last 30 million years. The limestone formation in the Waitomo Glowworm Caves occurred when the region was still under the ocean about 30 million years ago and is composed of fossilized corals, seashells, and fish skeletons. When you enter the cave you will be amazed by the twinkling glow coming from the ceiling and as you travel deeper in you will be astounded by the many shapes and sizes of limestone formations. The cave was first opened to visitors in 1889 by the family of the discover.
THE GREAT WILDEBEEST MIGRATION -
SERENGETI , TANZANIA, TO MASAI MARA, KENYA
One of the greatest wonders of the animal kingdom is the Great Wildebeest Migration. It is an exciting spectacle which starts when over 1.5 million wildebeest make their way from the Serengeti in Tanzania to the grasslands of the Masai Mara in Kenya in search of food each year from July to October. The principle players are the wildebeest, but there are also over 400,000 gazelle, 300,000 zebra and 12,000 eland which is no surprise it is among the “Natural Wonders of the World” and also known as The World Cup of Wildlife. If there is a safari you should go on, this has it be it. No where in the world is there a movement of animals as immense as the wildebeest migration. The migration has to cross the Mara River where crocodiles await. This is one of the highlights as the animals try and cross the Mara River alive. In the Maasai Mara they will be hunted, stalked, and run down by the larger carnivores including lions, hyenas, leopards, cheetahs. The Maasai Mara also has one of the largest densities of lion in the world.