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Top 10 Places to View Nature at its Strangest

VO: Joshua Karpati WRITTEN BY: Nick Roffey

Script written by Nick Roffey

These natural sites beggar belief and outdo imagination. From Abraham Lake’s Frozen Methane Bubbles, to The Underwater Waterfall Illusion, to The Giant’s Causeway, these breathtaking sites will blow your mind. WatchMojo counts down the Top 10 Places to View Nature at its Strangest.

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Script written by Nick Roffey

Top 10 Places to View Nature at its Strangest



These natural sites beggar belief and outdo imagination. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 places to view nature at its strangest.

For this list, we’re looking at locations known for unusual natural structures and phenomena.

#10: Abraham Lake’s Frozen Methane Bubbles

Alberta, Canada
In winter, Alberta’s Lake Abraham becomes a window into a world frozen in time. Inside the clear ice, polished smooth by frigid winds, bubbles hang suspended like strings of pearls. The trapped bubbles form when microorganisms gorging on organic matter release methane gas, which floats upward, freezes, and stacks in these bizarre but beautiful columns beneath the ice. So basically what we’re marveling at are actually the bacterial equivalent of underwater farts . . . We told you things were going to get strange.

#9: The Underwater Waterfall Illusion

Mauritius
Skirted by white sand beaches, Mauritius is spectacular no matter where you go. But one of its most evocative sights is visible only from the air. Mauritius’ underwater waterfall seems impossible. And, to be completely honest . . . it is. Mauritius’ fantastic underwater waterfall is an optical illusion. But it’s still a pretty amazing sight. What’s really going is that currents are pulling sand and silt from the shores into deeper waters, creating the impression that the whole island is being pulled down into the ocean. It’s one of Mauritius’ many marvels, which also include the fabled Seven Colored Earths, formed from molten rock, but looking more like someone just let loose with a pack of giant-sized crayons.

#8: The Giant’s Causeway

Northern Ireland
Legend claims these ancient stepping stones were built by the giant Finn MacCool. And the structure really does look man- (or giant-) made. Most of the 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago, are perfect hexagons. In folklore, Finn MacCool constructed the causeway to confront a rival in Scotland, but changed his mind and hid in a cradle, disguising himself as a baby. When the Scottish giant saw how large this “baby” giant was, he was in no hurry to meet the father, and fled himself. Presumably, he ran to the formation’s “twin” on Staffa island off Scotland’s west coast - which some say marks the other end of the causeway.

#7: Red Lake Natron

Northern Tanzania
The rich red waters of this sun-scorched lake may seem lifeless at first glance. But the salt lake gets its crimson hue from colonies of cyanobacteria that thrive in the caustic alkaline stew. Lake Natron sits in a rift between minor tectonic plates, and the minerals from hot springs, coupled with high evaporation rates, leave behind a soda ash called “natron”. This renders the lake inhospitable to most animals, but a favorite of lesser flamingos, who feed on the blue-green algae, and make it their main breeding and nesting ground.

#6: The White Desert

Farafra, Egypt
Giant, cream colored mushrooms grow from the desert floor. White mounds lie in neat rows, and strange sculptures thrust out of the sand. In Egypt’s White Desert, located near Farafra oasis deep in the Sahara, sandstorms have cut chalk rocks into pillars, arches, and oddly organic shapes. The striking formations create an unearthly landscape in the barren desert, some huddling together in eerie, gleaming forests, others standing apart, alone and inscrutable. The huge, bulbous heads of the mushroom-shaped varieties sit on sometimes improbably thin stalks, eroded by centuries of abrasive winds. It’s a stirring sight, and a reminder of just how alien nature can sometimes appear.

#5: The Blue Flames of the Ijen Volcano

East Java, Indonesia
By day, Ijen Volcano’s turquoise lake is stunning enough on its own. But it’s at night that the crater really comes alive. Invisible during daylight, otherworldly blue flames dance like sprites, lapping at the smoking stones. They’re the result of ignited sulfur gases from the volcano, which also make the lake more acidic than battery acid. Combusting on contact with the air, the gas sometimes condenses into molten sulfur flows that spill downslope like electric blue lava. Miners risk sudden blasts of gas and steam to collect the hardened sulfur, and tourists come from far and wide to witness the spectacle.

#4: The Wave

Arizona, USA
In a remote ravine, a stone wave rolls between sandstone slopes. Colored bands swirl and spread out like ripples - making it seem like the stone is washing through troughs in the rock. Carved by runoff and winds as old as the Jurassic period, the Wave is a sandstone formation in the Coyote Buttes Wilderness on the Colorado Plateau. The eye-catching striations are fine sedimentary layers that record the movements of shifting dunes blown across the desert millions of years ago. It can be a tough hike, and access is limited, but since the mid-1990s, the site become a must for nature lovers andlandscape photographers.

#3: The White Terraces of Pamukkale

Denizli, Turkey
It looks like a block of ice, miraculously unmelted at the foot of green hills. The sight of Pamukkale’s white terraces might make you shiver, until you wade out into the warm, mineral-rich pools that cascade down its sides. The snow-white slopes are actually made from travertine, a form of limestone brought to the surface by thermal springs. In Turkish, Pamukkale means “cotton castle”; legend says it was created when giants left cotton out to dry. People have bathed in its calcium pools for millennia, and the sprawling Greco-Roman ruins of Hierapolis continue to look out over its milky blue pools.

#2: The Eternal Lightning of Catatumbo

Venezuela
Lake Maracaibo has been called “the most electric place on Earth”. Over the mouth of the Catatumbo River, continuous lightning illuminates the clouds in an almost perpetual storm that can rage 300 days a year. At its peak, there’s an average of 28 strikes a minute. When wind blowing in from the Caribbean Sea hits the wall of mountains that border the lake, it transports moisture far up into the air, creating towering cumulonimbus clouds that rain down fire on the marshes below. Also known as the “Maracaibo Beacon”, the meteorological phenomenon is visible for hundreds of miles, and is so bright it was once used by sailors as a kind of natural lighthouse.

Before we reveal the identity of our top pick, here are some honorable mentions:
- Spotted Lake
British Columbia, Canada

- Jökulsárlón Beach
Vatnajökull National Park, Iceland

#1: Salar de Uyuni

Potosí, Bolivia
The vast white expanse of Salar de Uyuni seems to stretch on forever. The world’s largest salt flat, it covers over 4,000 square miles, its shining crust a remnant of prehistoric lakes long vanished. Locals have collected the salt for centuries, and it’s the home of several species of flamingos as well as furry viscachas who hop about islands of rock that push through the crust. When it rains, a thin sheet of water lingers on the surface, turning the desert into a perfect mirror and leaving visitors walking in the clouds. The sky, land, and distant mountains all merge - creating one of the most unusual and beautiful sights on Earth.

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