Time stands still. A steady thud hits our hearts. And we feel a rush of goosebumps. No: we’re not talking about falling in love. Close: we’re gazing at natural wonders – which throw us into an otherworldly, spellbinding reality. From Peru’s rainbow-coloured mountains to glowing red waterfalls – here’s how to enter the heart of the natural world with Trafalgar.
Why visit natural wonders?
Natural wonders fill every adventurer’s bucket list. Whether in sky, land or water, these unique phenomena show off the mind-boggling power and complexity of the natural world. As well as to reinforce our need to tread the earth carefully.
RELATED CONTENT: Love nature? These are the 6 ultimate Trafalgar trips for you
Northern Lights (Sweden, Finland)
The northern lights make even steely hearts skip a beat. So venture north to Kiruna (in Swedish Lapland) and Christmasy Rovaniemi (in Finland’s Lapland) with Trafalgar for high chances of a sighting. Interestingly, charged particles from the sun cause solar wind that reacts with the earth’s magnetic field and creates a curtain of colour – blue violet, green, yellow and more. We recommend wrapping up warm, lying under the stars and staring – spellbound – this year.
GET INSPIRED BY: Scandinavian Northern Lights
Rainbow Mountains (Peru)
Under 100km southeast of Cusco and 17,060 feet tall, you encounter a rainbow-splattered mountain. Meet Vinicuna or ‘Montaña Arcoíris’ (Rainbow Mountain) – one of the world’s most colourful natural wonders – glowing in reds, greens, yellows, purples, reds and oranges in Peru’s Andes mountain range.
Locals couldn’t believe their eyes when icy snow melted in 2015 to reveal these striking colours, created by water mixing with minerals and creating bright, sediment deposits.
The perfect day trip from Cusco, you must check with your doctor first that you’re fit enough to tackle the 3-hour-long hike into the fresh (and slightly thinner) mountain air. Remember to bring your camera as you cannot miss this in Peru.
GET INSPIRED BY: Highlights of Peru
Midnight Sun (Iceland)
Often our spirits can sink with the sun. But not a chance in Iceland… because between mid-May and mid-August, the country shines in uplifting and uninterrupted sunshine.
Thanks to its northern latitude (and the earth’s natural tilt towards the sun in summer), Iceland has a huge helping of Vitamin D. And on 21 June annually – what the locals call ‘Sumarsólstöðu’ (summer solstice) – the sun never fully sets and it glows wonderfully for a full 24 hours. Pink, purple and red hues streak across the sky as people enjoy picnics, hiking, birdwatching, Midnight Sun Runs and all-night golf tournaments. Plus bubble away in a geyser (hot spring) or watch from a waterfall.
We recommend visiting Iceland between 16-29 June for Midnight Sun (P.S. there’s a spot on our June 2023 Iceland tour).
Horsetail Falls (USA)
A red streak of fire gushing 1,600 feet down a mountain sounds like something out of a horror film. But all’s not what it seems at Horsetail Fall waterfall in Yosemite National Park, California.
Between 10-28 February here (annually), a combination of cloud-free skies, melted snow and low sunset create the illusion that the waterfall is on fire. Whereas in reality, the sunset reflects off the granite wall behind and causes these remarkable streaks of dark orange and red that look like the earth is opening up.
Since its discovery in 1973, adventurers come to Yosemite (one of California’s Great National Parks) to watch in awe. Could you be next?
One of the most visited natural wonders (with Trafalgar) is found in southwest Turkey’s Denizli Province – at Pamukkale – meaning ‘Cotton Castle’. Glowing bright white like a fairy-tale movie, limestone travertine pools exist thanks to calcium-rich waters from thermal springs that trickle down the hillside. Amazingly, travellers are able to roam barefoot and can bathe or swim in the thermal springs (famed for their healing powers). No photos can do justice to the majestic sight of Pamukkale. But a Highlights of Turkey tour can take you up close.
Horseshoe Bend (Arizona, USA)
A short hop from the Grand Canyon National Park, (in Glen Canyon National Reaction Area, Arizona), Horseshoe Bend is one of the most photographed natural wonders for a reason.
A 2km hike (1,000 feet up) reveals majestic views of a horseshoe-shaped bend in the Colorado River. Caused by millions of years of erosion and deposition, this incised meander has become an icon of the American southwest and a shining example of raw nature.
Horseshoe bend makes an excellent day trip from Las Vegas. You can hike, walk or kayak the bend for a more intimate experience. Just remember your sunscreen as there is no shade.
GET INSPIRED BY: Best of the Canyonlands (USA)
Giant’s Causeway (Ireland)
Find 40,000 interlocking basalt columns stretching (over 6 kilometres) along the coast of County Antrim, Northern Ireland. Legend swirls around Giant’s Causeway – with many believing giants strode over the sea to Scotland via these step-like columns.
Its beauty is clear. Towering cliffs impose themselves nearby, with the crashing Atlantic waves by your feet reminding you of nature’s power. Amazingly, a volcanic eruption 50-60 million years ago caused these columns when molten, basalt lava enter the ocean and then hardened. Deemed ‘a spectacular area of global geological importance’ by UNESCO, you can help conserve Giant’s Causeway on Trafalgar’s Irish Experience tour.
RELATED CONTENT: 6 unique UNESCO sites to visit this year
Waitomo Glowworm Caves (New Zealand)
The Waitomo glowworm caves rank among the world’s most atmospheric natural wonders. This whole area (on New Zealand’s North Island) used to be underwater, but as time passed and earthquakes rumbled the geography changed; and explorers stumbled across this above-water cave system in 1887, which was later opened to the public by a Māori chief in 1889. Today, you can glide through the caves by boat, illuminated by the natural light from thousands of glowworms (unique to New Zealand). This example of bioluminescence (the production and emission of light by a living organism) is a spellbinding sight.
RELATED CONTENT: Brilliant places to see bioluminescence with Trafalgar
GET INSPIRED BY: New Zealand Uncovered tour
Plitvice Lakes (Croatia)
Step into paradise at Plitvice. 8-kilometres worth of majestic nature greet you here at Croatia’s largest national park. 16 cascading turquoise lakes that meander, rise and fall and flow into waterfalls (with many separated by travertine barriers). Plus lush meadows and deep woods on either side, where deer and bears roam, and birds swirl elegantly overheard.
Grab the opportunity to embrace this UNESCO-listed wonder on Trafalgar’s Best of Croatia and Slovenia tour, where you’ll stay in a hotel by Kozjack, Plitvice’s largest lake. If you need a little headspace, the soothing sounds of flowing water, clean air and hiking opportunities will work wonders for your body and mind.
Which natural wonders caught your eye? Let us know your travel plans in the comments below!