17 of the world’s strangest natural wonders

Nature has the power to amaze. From towering mountains to vast grasslands and immense oceans, there’s a world of natural wonder out there waiting to explore. But sometimes the outdoor world isn’t just amazing – it’s also downright weird. Mysterious sliding rocks, bizarre sinkholes…even lakes where you can float. We’ve put together a list of 17 strange natural wonders around the world. What strange forces are at work here? You’ll just have to read on to found out…

Lake Hévíz – Hungary
Lake Hévíz is Europe’s largest thermal lake and a destination for people looking to rest their bones and experience the water’s alleged healing powers. The spring-fed lake is rich in blue and green algae, with good bacteria to aid in curing human ailments. Lake Hévíz is able to keep its own water fresh because a spring cave beneath the lake replenishes the entire body of water in a single day day. The lake’s strong health tourism industry has helped Hévíz continue to thrive.

Stone Forest – China
China’s landscape is rugged, yet lush and full of personality. The Stone Forest is no exception. Tall rocks shoot out of the hills like skyscrapers forming a city skyline. Most of the rocks are weathered to a smooth surface, but some formations look like animals and people. At times the rock formations move seamlessly between trees, blending in to create a scene almost like a painting.

Sarisarinama Sinkholes – Venezuela
The four sinkholes at Sarisarinama are very large and form almost perfect circles on the summit of Venezuela’s flat-topped mountains. Besides the geological abnormality, the unique plant and animal life found on the floor of the sinkholes is an object of much research by scientists – some species are found no other place on Earth.

La Brea Tar Pits – California
In the middle of Los Angeles, the La Brea Tar Pits shelter millions of years of history beneath their murky surface. Tar seeps up from the bedrock to form a pool. The pool is then covered in water, making an attractive watering hole for animals. When an animal fell into the pit, La Brea became its final resting place. The museum at La Brea holds the preserved bones of a stork, a prehistoric wolf and even a mammoth.

Dead Sea – Israel and Jordan
This giant salt lake on the border of Israel and Jordan is unique for two reasons: extreme saltiness and elevation. The Dead Sea is one of the saltiest lakes in the world and the resulting in an added buoyant lift for visitors. Even inexperienced swimmers easily float atop the water. In addition to the salt, a hefty concentration of other minerals increase the therapeutic value of the water, and many visitors can be seen rubbing it on their skin. The Dead Sea is also the Earth’s lowest surface elevation; the resulting high atmospheric pressure is beneficial for people suffering from respiratory illness. Visitors often feel a renewed sense of energy due to the increased levels of oxygen.

Luray Caverns – Virginia
The Luray Caverns were first discovered at the end of the 19th Century and now offer commercial tours. Stalactites and stalagmites form draped curtains throughout the caverns. One drip formation in the cave looks like a pair of eggs, sunny side up. The shallow underground lake in Luray Caverns, called Dream Lake, is perfectly still and creates an immaculate reflection of the stalactites hanging above. This illusion makes it seem infinitely deeper than its actual depth of twenty inches.

Chocolate Hills – Philippines
Out of a generally flat landscape, the conical Chocolate Hills rise from the floor like their candy kiss namesake. During the wet season, they are covered in a fresh carpet of green grass that looks like moss. When rainfall drops off for the dry season, the grass turns to a milk chocolate brown. The limestone hills were carved by erosion and are known to contain ancient marine fossils.

Arches National Park – Utah
Arches National Park in eastern Utah is known for the reddish-orange sandstone rock formations that adorn the landscape. Shapes have been created very slowly over time and the most famous feature at Arches National Park is Delicate Arch. Other arches include Landscape Arch and the Double Arch, branching from the same base in different directions. Surprisingly, Arches isn’t all about the arches. Tall, thin sandstone slabs stick up out of the ground like fins, or blades to form the Organ and Park Avenue.

Sliding Rocks of Racetrack Playa – California
Racetrack Playa is a dried up lake bed in Death Valley National Park. Rocks appear in the middle of the playa with a trail behind them, making it look like the rocks have slid across the surface. There are no animal or human prints around the rocks to indicate they were pushed or pulled. Nobody has ever seen the rocks move and there is no concrete explanation for their movement.

Giant’s Causeway – Ireland
The hexagonal basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway, formed millions of years ago by volcanic eruptions, are a natural wonder of geology and mythological lore. The columns look like prisms rising from the ground on the northern Irish coast. Finn MacCool, a giant of Irish legend, is said to have built the causeway with his own hands to make a bridge to Scotland.

— The above was written by Ashley Raybourn, Seed contributor

Bonneville Salt Flats – Salt Lake City, Utah
Back before the Grand Canyon was even a blip on the radar, most of the western United States was underneath the Great Salt Lake. Though a portion of the lake still exists (one of the only landlocked bodies of salt water on Earth), most of the lake is gone. Left behind are the Bonneville Salt Flats miles of flat, barren, white landscape. The white dusting is actually salt, left behind after millions of years in the Great Salt Lake.

Penitentes – Andes Mountains, Argentina.
Similar to underground stalactites in caves, the Penitentes are spiky formations of ice and snow formed in vast fields along high-altitude mountainsides in South America. The formations, which seem to look like religious men bent in prayer, derived their name from the Spanish word for “penitent.” Some of the most famous fields cover the high peaks of the Andes Mountains in southern Argentina.

Pine Mountain Laccolith – Southern Utah
Dominating the skyline of St. George, Utah is Pine Mountain – the world’s largest laccolith. A laccolith is a volcano that erupts from the bottom. Due to oddities in the sedimentary nature of the rock, the lava spills out of the bottom of the mountain. Though an eruption hasn’t happened for thousands of years, the lava beds still cover this seemingly contradictory landscape.

Molokini Crater – Maui, Hawaii
Millions of years ago, a volcano erupted just off the coast of the tranquil waters of Maui, leaving a moon-shaped shelf named Molokini that’s become a marine-lover’s playground. Cradling a reef just off coast, it’s an ideal location for snorkelers and divers to get a glimpse of tropical sea life – just don’t touch the turtles!

The Grunion Run – Huntington Beach, CA
Each year, the circle of life is on display as the Grunion fish of Southern California come ashore to lay their eggs in the sand. The sardine-like fish ride the waves inland by the thousands giving a silver glint to the shoreline.

Devil’s Tower – Wyoming
Although Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway is a remarkable example of the pristine beauty of nature’s own architecture, the largest group of columnar basalt is Devil’s Tower in eastern Wyoming, a staggering mesa rising 1267 feet above the natural landscape. Though the vertical cooling pattern of lava is the scientific reasoning behind columnar basalt, the Devil’s Tower appears to defy reason.

Red Tides – Florida’s Gulf Coast
Its impossible to predict the exact time and place, but one of the oddest natural wonders in our oceans happens in Florida’s Gulf Coast when dangerous algae “bloom” and expand in the water. Millions of the organisms have to be present for the event to occur, but when they are, they create a mystical wonder of reds, purples, browns, and even greens in the coastal waters.

— The above was written by M. Anne Hesson, Seed contributor