Located only 10 miles from Aspen, Colorado, the Maroon Bells are two 14,000-foot peaks in the Elk Mountains, they are reflected in a crystal-clear Maroon Lake, snuggled in a glacial valley. The crown jewels of the Rocky Mountains and by far one of the most photographed scenes in the country.
Located roughly halfway between the Croatian capital Zagreb and Zadar on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, Plitvice Lakes are a magical world of living, moving water surrounded by ancient forests, 16 lakes linked by waterfalls, bridges natural and man-made, and 300 square kilometers of wild beauty full of bears, wolves, boars, and birds.
The difference in altitude between 1,280 meters at the highest point and 280 meters at the lowest creates a seemingly endless number of falls, big and small, that permanently fill the air with spray and fog. Wooden and natural walkways and hiking trails spin around and across the lake and a ferry on Lake Kozjak shuttles people between the upper and lower lakes. The lakes are beautiful all year round, but especially when mirroring magical fall colors or the lacy frozen branches of the surrounding trees.
The only living thing on Earth that can be seen from space, the Great Barrier Reef is immense. Located in northeastern Australia off the coast of Queensland, this 2,300-km-long complex ecosystem comprises more than 3,000 individual reef systems, coral cays, and hundreds of islands, big and small, with sparkling white sandy beaches.
While immensely beautiful on the surface, the true beauty of the reef is underwater, where there is a living world composed of more than 600 types of soft and hard coral, creating a colorful and mesmerizing home to endless numbers of species of tropical fish, sea stars, mollusks, turtles, sharks, and dolphins. This divers’ paradise can also be enjoyed snorkeling, in a glass-bottomed boat, sailing, from semi-submersibles, and just by plain swimming.
At the southern tip of the Andes in Chile’s Patagonia lies Torres del Paine National Park, a place with more than its fair share of nature’s majesty: It has soaring mountains, cold blue icebergs cleaving from ancient glaciers, bottomless lakes, spectacular geological formations, narrow fjords, deep rivers, ancient forests, and endless golden pampas covered with wild flowers and providing home to such rare wildlife as pumas and the llama-like guanacos.
The best way to see Torres del Paine is on foot following one of many famous tracks, but if you have to limit yourself to just a few iconic sites, visit the three majestic granite towers, or torres del paine, Los Cuernos, Grey Glacier, and French Valley.
A short drive from Colorado Springs Garden of the Gods is a public city park that does not need any attractions – nature took care of that. Hundreds of immense red sandstone spires, bridges, and other precariously balanced rock formations are intersected by 15 miles of well-managed trails. As expected in a park with so many interesting rocks, rock climbing is very popular.
The park formations were formed out of bedded sandstone, limestone, and conglomerates by the forces that built nearby Pikes Peak massif, tilting it into a vertical position. It is easy to spot the remnants of marine fossils and even the fossils of dinosaurs. The largest rock formation is the 320-feet-tall Gateway Rock. Many animals have made the park their home – it is easy to see bighorn sheep, mule deer, and foxes as well as more than 130 species of birds.