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13 Natural Phenomena From Around the World That Are Worth Traveling For

Nature’s peacocking.

We all know that Mother Nature loves to put on a show, so following her around the globe, especially where some of the most outré spectacles are, might not be the easiest of tasks—in part because weather is super unpredictable (looking at you Northern Lights!). So we’ve rounded up a list of natural phenomena so wondrous, they’re a reason to travel.

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PHOTO: Andry Rodriguez/Shutterstock
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A Never-Ending Storm of Lightning

WHERE: Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela

When You Can See It: Year-Round
While safety is not guaranteed (the lake has a veritable cabal of poisonous snakes), Lake Maracaibo is home to the Catatumbo Lightning effect. Due to the atmospheric conditions at the mouth of the river, it’s the “most electric” place on earth with 10-hour-long, no-rain lightning storms. This “never-ending storm” is already a priority for most storm chasers (there’s a direct flight from Miami to Maracaibo, so it’s accessible for now), and it’s often cited as the most incredible weather-related phenomenon around.

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PHOTO: ESO/H.H.Heyer
2 OF 13

Pillars of Ice

WHERE: Atacama Desert, Chile

When You Can See It: Year-Round
Named for the spiky hooded garb favored in Spain during Holy Week (the last week of Lent before Easter), these Penitentes resemble just that: long, spiky hardened snow formations angled toward the sun that somehow don’t melt in the highlands of the Andes and are found in locations with altitudes above 13,000 feet—such as Chile’s stunning Atacama.

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PHOTO: Lukas Bischoff Photograph/Shutterstock
3 OF 13

Acid Yellow Hot Springs

WHERE: Danakil Depression, Ethiopia

When You Can See It: Year-Round
Known as the “gateway to hell,” the Danakil Depression, in Northwest Ethiopia, is teeming with dried up lake flats that are bubbling with neon acid, and—man oh man—are they a sight to behold. Sure, the Dallol sulfur lakes are 330 feet below sea level, cradled in one of the hottest, least hospitable places on earth (not to mention politically, as this area, known as Afar, borders war-torn Eritrea), so it might be necessary to hire Virgil as your tour guide. But, the lakes, despite their trippy pH, contain forms of life and have been described as “Mars on Earth.” Stay keen, stay smart and DON’T TOUCH THE ACID.

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PHOTO: Romiana Lee/Shutterstock
4 OF 13

Autumn Foliage

WHERE: Northeast U.S.

When You Can See It: Seasonally
It’s famous for a reason! From late September into mid-October, across Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Maine, the maples, oaks, poplars, birch, and other arbors turn into vibrant, jewel-tones of yellows, oranges, reds, and purples.

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PHOTO: Ekaterina Kondratova/Shutterstock
5 OF 13

Rime Ice

WHERE: Lapland, Finland

When You Can See It: Seasonally
Surreal snow sculptures all made by freezing temps is the art pilgrimage you never thought you’d take—especially in winter, where negative temperatures can hit Dow Jones-like lows. Like living inside a snowglobe filled with Paul McCarthy-esque white trees, this phenomenon sees droplets of fog or air moisture affix to tree branches in blistering icicle formations. The icy spectacle occurs during freezing temps and is best found in late January in Saariselkä, which becomes simply magical during the winter months. Plus, the journey is done with snowshoes!

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PHOTO: Nicholas A. Tonelli(CC BY 2.0)/WikimediaCommons
6 OF 13

A Clear View of the Milky Way

WHERE: Cherry Springs State Park, Pennsylvania

When You Can See It: Seasonally
There’s stargazing, and then there’s stargazing at Cherry Springs State Park, which touts one of the darkest patches of forest in the northeast United States but also offers an unblocked, 360-degree pollution-free view of the night sky. The stars in the summer sky tend to bring the most, but the park is open all year-round.

7 OF 13

A Spotted Lake

WHERE: Okanagan Valley, Canada

When You Can See It: Seasonally
Up in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley (a.k.a. Canada’s wine country) is, by winter, a normal-looking lake; however, come summer, the basin drains out leaving behind briny pools of yellow, blue, and green rings that the indigenous Okanagan tribe considers to be mystical markers with medicinal qualities (Modern science suggests the spots are caused by a high concentration of mineral deposits.) Luckily, the Okanagan Nation now has the land rights to “the most magical place in Canada,” according to the CBC. But in order to preserve the lake’s ecology (and magic), humans aren’t able to get too close to those mineral waters.

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PHOTO: aaron choi/Shutterstock
8 OF 13

Cherry Blossoms

WHERE: Japan, Korea, and Taiwan

When You Can See It: Seasonally
So popular are these budding blooms that across East Asia, there are apps to track the blossoming of the cherry blossom. Sakura in Japanese or beot-kkot in Korean, these pink and white trees show off their flowering flora from mid-March to early April, causing pandemonium across the region: everything from couture to special rituals to candy to cocktails transform during these few weeks in spring to all things cherry blossom. Even Tokyo’s Palace Hotel has a luxury cherry blossom package. Sure, the U.S. has pretty great ones, too, in Washington D.C., but is there anything like making the leap to go Xinshe Cherry Blossom Trails in Taiwan or Anmin Road in Jinhae, Korea, to walk through a three-mile tunnel of blossoms? Nope.

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PHOTO: Ekaterina Kondratova/Shutterstock
9 OF 13

Aurora Borealis

WHERE: Northern Hemisphere

When Can You See It: Temporarily
The Auroras are the stuff of legend at this point. So much so, that at this point, there are countless tour providers in Scandinavia dedicated to chasing this incredible phenomenon that relies on atmospheric conditions. However, catching the whizzing green and purple light display of the Northern Lights has been called life-changing—so life-changing, in fact, that almost 10 people have died in their pursuit of experiencing the Lights for themselves. Icelandic aurora tours are in heavy supply, and you can head to Yellow Knife in Canada, Alaska’s coast, or Northern Norway for a trip to remember.

10 OF 13

Bioluminescent Sea Life

WHERE: Caribbean

When Can You See It: Temporarily
There are a few spots in the Caribbean where crustaceans preen their neon bods at night. Off the coast of Puerto Rico’s Vieques is one, but more under the radar is St. Lucia’s Sugar Beach, which adds a luxe element to an otherwise spooky experience.

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PHOTO: abriendomundo/Shutterstock
11 OF 13

Total Solar Eclipse

WHERE: Chile or Argentina

When Can You See It: Temporarily

Yeah, yeah so the U.S. got its first Total Eclipse in nearly 100 years in 2017, but don’t be so U.S.-centric. Total solar eclipses happen with frequency throughout the rest of the world, so for those who missed it stateside, come December 2020, head to Chile or Argentina for the minute of darkness.

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PHOTO: Vladimir Glinskii/Shutterstock
12 OF 13

Brocken Spectre

WHERE: Harz Mountains, Germany

When Can You See It: Temporarily
Named for the phenomenon best seen in the Brocken peak in the Harz Mountains in Northern Germany, or really any misty mountainside with visible sun. The phenomenon occurs when an observer’s shadow is cast upon water vapor (a.k.a. clouds) opposite the sun’s direction, making it seem as if a haloed figure is beside or approaching you. It’s so mystical and inspiring that Samuel Taylor Coleridge wrote the poem Constancy to an Ideal Object about it and Lewis Carroll worked it into many of his books and poems. The phenomenon was named for the Brocken after a few hikers fell to their deaths after seeing what they thought were supernatural beings coming toward them, causing them to lose footing and fall off the mountain.

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PHOTO: NASA/WikimediaCommons
13 OF 13

Dust Devils

WHERE: Nevada, United States

When Can You See It: Temporarily
Dust Devils are just what they sound like—but 100 feet high. The best place to see this whirly-twirly phenomenon is in the desert (duh), but specifically in warmer temperatures in Black Rock City, Nevada, which, yes, is where Burning Man takes place. In fact, these harmless tornadoes were made famous from the 2016 iteration of Burning Man where a dozen devils dusted basecamp.