Rock formations have perplexed, inspired, and stoked the curiosities of people for millennia.
We can’t deny that man-made attractions like Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Gisa are impressive, but what’s more mind boggling is how natural processes have come to form seemingly man-made sites, such as the United States’ Devils Tower National Monument.
Even though we understand that the lightest of erosion can completely alter a landscape over the course of 60 million years, there’s still an element of mystery to natural rock formations. Let’s take a look at five of the world’s unique natural rock formations that are weird, wonderful, and out of this world.
Join Trafalgar’s Southern Spectacular tour to New Zealand where you’ll spend ten-days traveling from Christchurch to the unique rock formations of Punakaiki.
Uluru | Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, Australia
Uluru is a giant heap of sandstone smack dab in the middle of Australia.
You’ve likely seen sandstone before, but none as absolutely unfathomable as Ayers Rock. This sacred sandstone monolith is one of the largest of its kind, stretching 348m into the sky. It’s no spring chicken, either; Uluru has circled the sun a whopping 550 million times — at least!
Called the heart of the Red Center and an important site for the Aboriginal peoples, the Anagu, a guided walk or camel ride to Uluru is a reverent experience as much as an adventurous one.
See Ayers Rock and more of Australia’s dazzling landscape on Trafalgar’s Australian Highlights tour. You’ll spend 13 days traveling from Melbourne to Sydney, including a snorkeling session at the Great Barrier Reef.
The Fairy Chimneys | Cappadocia, Türkiye
Take a hot air balloon ride over Cappadocia and you’ll be convinced that there’s something fantastical living in Türkiye’s Fairy Chimneys.
These rocky pillars are cone shaped, created by volcanic activity around 5 million years ago (give or take a few million). Ash rained down on the area, the dried rock was covered by basalt, and the long process of erosion formed these mushroom-like structures.
Unlike other rock formations like Uluru that are sacred and rather untouched, humans used these Fairy Chimneys as homes, churches, and more. While the majority are found in Goreme National Park, you can see them throughout the Central Anatolia region. A hot air balloon ride is a popular way to view them, though it’s equally awe-inspiring to stand before them.
See Cappadocia and other stunning landscapes on Trafalgar’s Best of Turkey tour. Spend two weeks touring Istanbul, Gallipoli, Pamukkale, and more, including a visit to the Göreme Open-Air Museum.
Giant’s Causeway | Bushmills, Northern Ireland, UK
Take a drive through County Antrim in Northern Ireland and there’s no shortage of serene natural sights. And Giant’s Causeway may be the most spectacular of them all.
These 40,000 or so basalt columns are one of the most popular attractions this side of the UK. Hexagonal in shape and staggered side-by-side, the Giant’s Causeway is a rock formation resulting from volcanic fissures nearly 60 million years ago.
But we prefer the folklore version of its origin: Finn McCool, an Irish Giant, built this causeway to reach his rival in Scotland across the Irish Sea. Benandonner, the kilt-wearing giant, ripped the causeway apart which is why only the base of it in Northern Ireland is still intact.
Embrace the magic and myths of the Emerald Isle on Trafalgar’s Amazing Ireland tour. Spend two weeks traveling through both Ireland and Northern Ireland, including a full day at the Giant’s Causeway.
The Beehive State’s Otherworldly Red Rocks | Utah, United States
When it comes to choosing the best natural rock formations in Utah, the state really gives you a run for your money. By far two of our favorites within state lines are the sandstone rocks at Arches National Park and the crimson-colored hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park.
Arches has such a unique geology of balancing rocks, especially the literal Balanced Rock that looms over the park’s center. While Arches will have you staring up slack-jawed, Bryce Canyon will have you squinting to count all of the hoodoos filling the horizon. There are more hoodoos here than anywhere else in the world, which is a must-see for anyone who wants to examine how frost wedging creates such otherworldly geological formations.
Arches and Bryce Canyon aren’t the only national parks in Utah that rock. Join Trafalgar’s tour of Utah’s Mighty Five National Parks where you’ll spend 10 days visiting Zion National Park, Canyonlands National Park, and Capitol Reef National Park, as well as other sites in Colorado, Nevada, and Arizona.
The Richat Structure | Adrar Plateau, Mauritania
The Eye of the Sahara has certainly seen its share of world events.
While it may look like an impact crater, peer a little closer and you’ll see that the Richat Structure is actually an eroded elliptical dome made of sedimentary rock that dates back an estimated 100 million years at its center.
In the most basic of explanations, this volcanic dome has been eroded layer by layer like an onion. Photos taken from the sky showcase this rock formation, but if you want to see it with your own two eyes, prepare for an uncomfortable trek. The Eye of the Sahara is indeed in the eponymous dry desert: the high heat and less than luxurious travel arrangements you’ll use make it a dangerous undertaking.
Perhaps vacation somewhere not as warm, such as Iceland? Trafalgar’s Iceland including the Blue Lagoon tour is a six-day sightseeing trip where you’ll get your fix of unique rock formations across the landscape without working up a thirst in the desert.
Seen any other weird rock formations on your travels you think deserve a mention? Let us know in the comments