Dramatic sandstone arches, alabaster-white ancient springs, all-encompassing fields of periwinkle – all the stuff of travel daydreams, right? Natural features around the world are often a sight for sore eyes when you've been focused on the day-to-day, especially natural wonders that seem to test the imagination and seem more suited to storybooks than scientific journals and geographic atlases. Some are popular destinations for travelers (when we're not social distancing, that is), others are far-flung, remote, and overlooked. But all of them are stunners.

If you're longing for a taste of earth’s most artistic, stunning natural offerings, that showcase the world at its most tantalizing and stupefying, these 10 natural wonders are total eye candy:

Blue tinted hills in eastern Oregon are cut by a trail at the center of the frame. In the distance, a figure in a black sweat suits walks towards the hills
Dramatic volcanic activity has shaped much of the Eastern Oregon landscape, and contributes to the brilliant colors in numerous parts of the state © Meghan O'Dea / Lonely Planet

1. Blue Basin – Oregon, USA

The landscapes of Oregon’s John Day Fossil Beds don’t just reflect their prehistoric namesakes – the rocky cliffs and canyons of the Blue Basin area emanate a chalk-like blue-green that collides with the surrounding desert beige, and lends credit to the region’s Painted Hills moniker. Hike a winding boardwalk for 360-degree views of seemingly paint-splattered rock formations.

A row of tents sits perched on the shore of a lake inside Hang En cave in Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park
Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng national park is home to two of the largest caves in the world, including Hang Son Doong and Hang En, pictured here © Rasmus_Christensen / Getty Images

2. Hang Son Doong – Vietnam

Only first officially surveyed in the last decade, Hang Son Doong has emerged as the world’s largest cave both by volume and by cross section, making for a breathtaking view from the cavern’s mouth. The cave is home to 230ft stalagmites and entire forests of trees, grown beneath massive openings in the cave’s ceiling. Nearby in the same Phong Nha-Kẻ Bàng National Park is Hang En, the world's third-largest cave.

The shores of La Salinas de Torrevieja, a pink salt lagoon in Spain, glow against the green and beige coast
La Salinas de Torrevieja are a unique salt lagoon in Spain © Nikolay Tsuguliev

3. Las Salinas de Torrevieja (Pink Lake) – Spain

Take a dip in Spain’s Las Salinas de Torrevieja and you’ll find yourself surrounded by nature’s organic blush. This regularly rose-colored lake owes its pink hue to microorganisms feeding off the abundant saltwater, and is complemented artistically by local flocks of flamingos, who gather around the shores in the thousands during breeding season.

The Ashridge Estate where these carpets of bluebells can be found was once home to the Earl of Bridgewater © tigermad / Getty Images

4. Dockey Wood Bluebells – UK

Once a year, a verdant blue hue blankets these English woods outside London, drawing visitors by the thousands. Managed by the UK’s National Trust, the Dockey Wood Nature Preserve blooms a carpet of bluebells every spring, one of the best showings in the country. Hike for miles through the bluebells and lose yourself in spring chromas.

Dragon trees dot the rocky landscape of Socotra Island in front of a hazy range of mountains
In addition to dragon trees, Socotra Island is home to coral reefs, rare forms of aloe and unique types of pomegranates © zanskar / Getty Images

5. Socotra Island – Yemen

Technically under the auspices of Yemen, geographically part of Africa, and floating in the Arabian Sea, this archipelago is full of some of the most unique looking flora and fauna on earth. There are over 700 endemic species, including the striking dragon trees that make Socotra look a little like something from Dr. Seuss' work. Socotra is a fragment of the ancient supercontinent Gondwanna – which once included Antarctica, South America and Africa.

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Travel News - yosemite firefall
Horsetail Falls in Yosemite National Park spills over over the eastern edge of El Capitan in the valley, sometimes creating an effect known as "firefall" Image by Chase Dekker Wild-Life Images

6. Horsetail Fall, Yosemite National Park – USA

Yosemite National Park’s Horsetail Fall isn’t just a wondrous sight by day for the millions of annual visitors to the park. On rare occasions during the park’s less-crowded off seasons, the waterfall’s thin stream catches a sunset’s orange glow, and for a few minutes a “firefall” pierces the park’s granite backdrop. While the reflection inevitably fades, this natural wonder unintentionally recreates a piece of the park’s history: the man-made waterfall of smouldering coals that would regularly fall from the edge of Glacier Point in the early 20th century.

A man walks through the sandy hills and ridges of Wadi Rum
Wadi Rum has been inhabited for thousands of years, but was most recently popularized by the film

7. Wadi Rum – Jordan

Often a movie stand-in for Mars, the sandstone canyons and rock formations of Jordan’s Wadi Rum bear little resemblance to any other geological wonders found on Earth – making this destination a must-see unlike anywhere else. Scattered with wild flora and ancient pictographs dating back two millennia, the setting’s sand dunes and red rock walls seem to encompass time itself.

The unique white travertine terraces created by thermal activity are found on few places on earth © THANAN / Shutterstock

8. Pamukkale – Turkey

The mineral-rich waters flowing around Pamukkale in southeastern Turkey once fed into the Greco-Roman settlement of Hierapolis – now a series of well-reserved ruins and a Unesco World Heritage Site. The white travertine terraces still stand, however, dreamlike in their appearance to the millions of annual visitors to the site. The name alone fits the spring’s surreal attraction: Pamukkale translates literally to "Cotton Castle" in Turkish.

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An HDR shot with vivid red and orange towns showing Landscape Arch in Utah's Arches National Park
There are a lot of stunning arches and natural features in the Utah desert, but Landscape Arch is the largest, even bigger than Zion National Park’s Kolob Arch © Swapan Jha / Getty Images

9. Landscape Arch, Utah – USA

By name alone, Arches National Park has a reputation for odd and natural wonders – but among the park’s 2000-some sandstone arches spread across 76,679 acres of red rocks and desert sands, Landscape Arch reigns supreme.

Known as the fifth largest natural arch by span in the world (and largest in the United States), the rock’s sloping peak and red-orange hue forms a stunning sight against the park’s near-constant blue skies. 

The Devil's Pool is popular with visitors in the dry season © Yvette Cardozo via Getty Images

10. Devil’s Pool – Zimbabwe

Victoria Falls has been an intimidating sight for thousands of years, known as "The Smoke That Thunders" for its impressive cascades stretching more than 5000ft on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe. If the views from the ground aren’t thrilling enough, daredevil visitors can make their way up to a naturally formed rock pool placed in the last place anyone would think to swim: the falls’ edge.

Known as the Devil’s Pool, this swimming hole’s incredible view of the falls’ power and beauty is preceded by a precarious walk and swim through the Zambezi river. Mind the edge, as the river’s 350ft drop is certainly not to be tested.

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