The natural elements of rain, wind and sun are so integral to life on Earth that we can sometimes take them for granted. But over eons of time, those same simple elements can exert tremendous force over the natural landscape, transforming it in ways that can hardly escape our notice. Nature, it seems, is an artist. And the following 40 destinations comprise some of her most inspired and surprising work.
40. Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef in Australia is a kaleidoscopic wonderland of multicolored corals and shimmering marine life. Bigger than the Great Wall of China, the reef stretches for 1,430 miles – making it the largest of its kind on Earth. It is also the only organism on the planet that can be seen from outer space. Composed of billions of coral polyps – which together make up 3,000 systems – the reef is now gravely threatened by bleaching. Sea warming due to climate change is thought to be the main cause of recent bleaching events.
39. Jeita Grotto, Lebanon
In 1836 a missionary from America discovered a very special cave while in the Nahr el-Kalb valley just outside of Beirut in Lebanon. Yet it was only after the missionary fired his gun into the darkness that he realized how large it was. Running for more than a mile into the surrounding mountains, Jeita Grotto is an underground other-world filled with eerie stalactites and stalagmites. The grotto is actually thought to be one of the country’s finest natural treasures.