There’s something to be said for visiting the world’s most spectacular sights — the modern buildings, the ancient ruins, the stunning mountain ranges — but what about the weird wonders of the world? What about the abnormal? The eyebrow-raising? If there’s a section of you that’s keen on discovering the most peculiar parts of our planet, we’ve got you covered. Here are the 12 most shockingly weird wonders of the world.
Cave of the Crystals, Mexico
One thousand feet beneath the surface of Naica, in Mexico’s state of Chihuahua, is a crystal-filled underworld that looks like a scene from Superman’s hideout. After the unlikely combination of mineral water and extreme heat from a magma chamber, huge cylindrical crystals were formed, and some of them now reach up to 40 feet in length and weigh up to 55 tons. Because the pool of magma beneath the crystals makes the cave unbearably hot, it’s been largely unexplored.
Spotted Lake, Canada
During winter and springtime, this lake in British Columbia looks like any other frozen Canadian lake. However, once the ice starts to melt throughout the summer, some patches melt faster than others, which leaves behind hundreds of huge polka-dots. What’s more, because of the large amounts of magnesium sulfate, calcium, and other minerals, the polka dots often shine brilliant shades of yellow, green, and blue. The spotted lake is known as Kliluk among Canada’s First Nations people, and it’s been considered a sacred place for centuries. Recently the government constructed a fence to protect the lake, but you can still visit for some excellent views.
Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
When the Giant’s Causeway was first discovered in the late 17th century, no-one had seen anything like it. Jutting out into the sea was an oddly symmetrical series of towers that looked like they had been chiseled by humans, nature, or perhaps by giants. Modern geology tells us that several episodes of lava eruption over 60 million years ago created the different layers of stones. Today, you can feel free to visit the site in Northern Ireland and hop about the eerie layers of stones as you please.
Caño Cristales, Colombia
Located in the national park of La Macarena is a rainbow-colored river that seems to solidify Colombia as the land of magical realism. During certain months of the year (usually between July and October), the species of algae in Caño Cristales transform the river into a stunning flow of red, yellow, and green. While you can visit the surrounding area independently, you’ll need a certified guide to visit the river itself.
Lake Hillier, Australia
In another example of bizarre science, the water in Australia’s Lake Hillier is a stark pink. Unlike Caño Cristales, it’s not seasonal but permanent (if you scoop some up in a jar, it will remain pink forever). Because it’s located just on the other side of a tiny strip of land from the blue ocean, the contrasting bird’s-eye views of Lake Hillier are breathtaking. Despite the extremely high level of salt content, Lake Hillier is safe to swim in. However, getting here is a bit of a trek as you’ll need to take a small charter plane from Esperance Airport.
Great Blue Hole, Belize
Endorsed by many people as one of the best scuba diving sites in the world, the Great Blue Hole is an almost perfectly circular underwater sinkhole located off the coast of Belize. Archeologists believe it was once an open-air limestone cave around 150,000 years ago, but once glaciers melted and water levels rose, the hole became submerged with water. It’s about 1,000 feet wide and 400 feet deep, and outfitters around Belize offer all kinds of excursions from scuba diving to snorkeling and skydiving down into it from above. For more ideas on how to get weird competitively, check out Weird Sports Around the World.
Blood Falls, East Antarctica
The least accessible item on this list is quite possibly the weirdest. Located in East Antarctica, Blood Falls is an outflow of disturbing red water that pours over a strip of glacier. At first sight, it looks like the scene of an Antarctic massacre — but don’t worry, no creatures were harmed in the formation of Blood Falls. Much like human blood, this water has a high concentration of iron, so when it hits the air’s oxygen, it turns a color that weirdly resembles blood.
Darvaza Gas Crater, Turkmenistan
The Darvaza Gas Crater isn’t so much a natural wonder as a human-imposed wonder. Also known as the ‘Crater of Fire’ or the ‘Door to Hell’, the pit (that measures 226 feet wide and 100 feet deep) first appeared in 1971 when Soviet engineers drilling for oil accidentally caused the ground to collapse. To prevent the release of potentially toxic gasses from the crater, scientists decided to burn the gas off. The fire — which they expected to last for a few weeks — has continued to burn for almost 50 years and still burns today.
Spider Trees, Pakistan
One of the more curious effects of Pakistan’s flooding in recent years has been the migration of spiders into the surrounding trees. And as the water has taken so long to recede, the spiders have effectively cocooned the trees in a thick network of webs, making things look a bit apocalyptic. As other-worldly as things go, people have noted that one of the side effects of the phenomenon has been a significant decrease in the number of mosquitos.
Pamukkale, which translates to “cotton castle” in English, is aptly named. Located in the picturesque southwestern region of Turkey, this spot is a brilliant collection of white, terraced pools of dreamy sky-blue water. Feel free to admire from a distance or get up-close-and-personal and take a dip in the mineral water that’s usually quite warm. While you’re in town, discover 5 Amazing Places to Visit in Turkey.
Sailing Stones, California
Found in the desolate plains of Death Valley National Park is a series of huge rocks — some weighing up to 700 pounds — that look as if they’ve been dragged across the desert floor. For decades, scientists were puzzled as to what was moving the rocks, and theories including aliens were even entertained. Today we know that the geological phenomenon happens when ice sheets form overnight, pick up the rocks, and the wind pushes the rocks as the ice melts to water.
Goats in Trees, Morocco
On its own, the Argania tree in Morocco wouldn’t be on a list of the world’s most spectacular trees. That is, however, before the goats. After years of excessive farming and clear-cutting, Morocco has actually protected the Argania tree and made its removal illegal. Each year the tree produces fruit, which attracts a population of hungry goats who climb its branches. Seeing a family of goats perched in the same tree is easily one of the weirdest wonders of the world. For when you’re done watching goats in trees, consider the Top 10 Things to Do in Morocco.