These bucket list destinations are for serious travelers who want to experience some of the most fascinating natural phenomena on Earth. Marvel at the northern lights from an igloo in Finland. Hike to rainbow mountains in Peru. Swim in one of the Yucatan Peninsula’s magical cenotes.
Use Troupe to help plan your trip to experience any of these natural phenomena for yourself. You can even let your travel buddies vote on their favorite destination.
These are some of the best environmental phenomena on Earth:
- Northern Lights, Finland
- Great Migration, Masai Mara, Kenya
- Mosquito Bay Bioluminescence, Puerto Rico
- Hydrothermal landscapes of Danakil, Ethiopia
- Monasteries of Meteora, Greece
- Namaqualand super bloom, South Africa
- The cenotes of the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
- Diamond Beach, Iceland
- Rainbow Mountains, Peru
Natural and environmental phenomena around the world
1. Northern lights from an ice cave – Lapland, Finland
When you’re talking about amazing environmental phenomena, you have to kick it off with the northern lights. The aurora borealis, or the northern lights, are a spectacular display of colors in the sky. Caused by electrically charged particles from space entering the Earth’s atmosphere, the closer you get to the North Pole, the more vibrant and impressive these lights become.
Our favorite place to watch them is in Northern Lapland, Finland. Here, the lights are visible around 200 nights a year, so you have a great chance of catching multiple displays while you’re there. There are also plenty of purpose-built igloos and cottages designed so you can watch the lights from the comfort of a warm bed.
2. Great Migration – Masai Mara, Kenya
The largest migration on Earth, you can catch a front-row seat to the 1.5 million wildebeest, 400,000 zebras, half a million gazelles, and hundreds of thousands of other African animals across the plains of the Masai Mara in Kenya. (But who’s counting?). The best time to visit in order to catch this incredible natural phenomenon is from July to October.
3. Mosquito Bay’s bioluminescence – Puerto Rico
Officially declared the “brightest bioluminescence on Earth,” Mosquito Bay on Vieques Island in Puerto Rico is one of the most magical natural, environmental phenomena you’ll find on the planet. The beautiful glowing waters are caused by teeny tiny organisms that glow bright blue when disturbed. Run your hand through the water and you’ll create mystical streaks of blue light in the darkness.
4. Otherworldly landscapes – Danakil, Ethiopia
This is perhaps one of the most otherworldly places on Earth. So much so, that scientists head here to study what life on other planets might be like. Extremely hot and over 400 feet below sea level, this region of Ethiopia is full of hydrothermal activity.
The neon green and yellow sulfur springs of Dallol are a must-see destination for travelers seeking some of Earth’s coolest natural phenomena. Salt, copper, and cobalt are among the minerals that create the vivid landscapes here.
5. The monasteries of Meteora, Greece
In the middle of Greece, about 2 hours from Thessaloniki or Athens, you’ll find the monasteries of Meteora. Perched atop staggering natural pillars of rock, these monasteries were originally the refuge of Christian Orthodox monks who isolated themselves in Meteora’s caves between the 9th and 10th centuries. The organized monasteries came into existence starting in the 12th century.
Today, Meteora still holds incredible mystical energy and breathtaking views. And while the monasteries themselves are, of course, not “natural”, they only add to this region’s mindblowing landscapes.
6. Namaqualand super bloom – South Africa
To experience one of the world’s most spectacular super blooms, you need to head to Namaqualand, South Africa. This super bloom of more than 4000 plant species occurs each spring (August through October in South Africa). The best way to see it? You can travel by car along the Namaqualand Flower Route.
7. Cenotes – Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
Cenotes are natural sinkholes, permanently full of freshwater. You’ll find cenotes of every shape and size across Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.
Some are completely enclosed caverns, others are above ground, and some have expansive networks of caves you can scuba or snorkel between. These natural phenomena were viewed by the region’s ancestral Mayan population as sacred spaces and it’s easy to see why. Take a swim in an underground cenote to experience a sense of peace and cleansing unlike anywhere else on Earth.
8. Diamond Beach, Iceland
First-time visitors to Iceland typically have the same first impression: “I feel like I’m on a different planet.” It feels like every turn you take, there’s a different ethereal landscape laid out before you. From the geothermal pools to geysers, waterfalls, and glaciers, there are plenty of impressive natural phenomena here.
Perhaps one of the most unique is the “diamond” covered black sand beaches in the country’s southeast. Known familiarly as Diamond Beach, this strip of black sand is covered in chunks of ice of varying shapes and sizes, washed ashore from the nearby glacial lagoon. The ice set against the black sand creates an incredible illusion of glistening diamonds covering the coastline.
9. Rainbow Mountains, Peru
While Peru has plenty of spectacular sites, the Rainbow Mountains are one of its most impressive environmental phenomena. It takes a bit of effort to reach this destination, but once you do, you’re rewarded with spectacular views of the mountain painted by Earth’s natural tones.
Ready to keep exploring? Check out these other destinations:
- These quiet Greek islands are perfect for a relaxing getaway.
- Explore some of the coolest hidden gems in Mexico.
- Take your first backpacking trip with these beginner trails across the U.S.
- Discover the 10 best countries to visit in October.