The world is full of natural wonders, from breathtaking mountain landscapes that soar into the sky to grand gorges and chasms that cut deep swathes through the surface of the Earth. Travelling is a great way to experience these sublime sights and see the most beautiful panoramas the world has to offer, but what if you want to see something that’s a little off the beaten track?
We’ve got recommendations from real travellers that tell us the best places to see these hidden natural wonders – from New Zealand’s glaciers to unusual Romanian volcanoes, these places are as surprising as they are stupendous to look at.
Volcanoes in Romania
You wouldn’t really expect to see a volcano in Romania, but that’s the only surprise about these Carpathian curiosities. Found near the small commune of Pleşcoi, you can put any thoughts of scorching lava and thunderous eruptions from your mind – the only thing flowing from these craters is mud. Forced up from 3,000 metres underground by natural gas, the mud creates an eerie, other-worldly landscape too toxic for most plants, with the earth separating into curving waves and crests where the flow has dried. You’ll never see mud as pretty as this!
Waterfalls in Bulgaria
Waterfalls are always going to be impressive, but the Krushuna falls near the town of Lovech have the added bonus of being found in an area that’s as wondrous as it is wild. A meandering path criss-crossed with bridged takes you past stunning travertine steps formed over millennia and calm, clear pools filled with inviting teal-coloured water (and yes, you can go for a dip!) Still, all this is just preparation for the main event. At nearly 20 metres in height and splitting into several streams as it cascades over moss-covered rocks, Krushna Falls is a highlight of Bulgaria’s hidden beauty.
Glaciers in New Zealand
More often visited for its sunny shores than its colder climates, New Zealand boasts some of the planet’s most accessible glaciers. Both the Franz Josef Glacier and the Fox Glacier provide stunning wintry backdrops to the landscape, with torrents of pale blue ice flowing down between imposing valley walls. There’s gentler walks for those who just want to relax and enjoy the spellbinding scenery, as well as more challenging routes for those who really like to get to grips with the terrain.
Stargazing in Oman
Natural wonders aren’t just limited to the ground beneath or feet – sometimes, some of the most sublime sights can be found just by looking straight up. Stars and galaxies swirling in an inky expanse above you, undimmed by light pollution, a spectacle on a truly cosmic scale… If that’s not a sight to take your breath away, we don’t know what is. If you’re looking to take in as much of the universe as possible without training to be an astronaut, a desert safari out from Al Wāşil in north-eastern Oman means you get an unforgettable excursion twinned with the vast expanse of space opening above you at night.
Lakes in Slovakia
The small, sleepy village of Kaluža offers visitors to eastern Slovakia a double whammy when it comes to lakeside leisure. The village itself is found on the shores of Zemplínska šírava, whose waters are bordered by lush, forested countryside that offers as many outdoor pursuits as the lake itself. Better yet, a ten minute drive will take you to Vinianske jazero, a smaller body of water in picture perfect surroundings whose waters are known for being delightfully warm. This is one place where you definitely want to remember to pack your swimming costume.
Deserts in China
It’s one thing going to visit the desert, and another thing to stay right in the middle of it. The ancient city of Dunhuang is surrounded by the bleak yet beautiful dunes of the Gobi desert, and provides travellers with an enchanting oasis where you can experience the life of a true desert dweller. You can ride a camel and sleep under the open sky, but don’t forget to check out Dunhuang’s unique attractions too. The neighbouring Crescent Lake and the Singing Sand Mountain are as beautiful as their names are poetic, while the nearby Mogao caves are a treasure trove of Buddhist art and culture.