About 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is water-covered, and the oceans themselves hold about 97 percent of all Earth’s water. Water also exists in the air as water vapor, in rivers and lakes, icecaps and glaciers. And when impressive bodies of water coexist with high peaks and deep valleys, the result is often landscapes of indescribable power and beauty.
Lake Karakul, Tajikistan
Karakul Lake is located in Tajikistan National Park about 200km from Kashgar in Xinjiang, China. At an altitude of 3960m, it is the highest lake of the Pamir plateau. Known for its pristine still waters that gives mirror-like reflections, the lake is surrounded by two of the highest peaks in the Pamir mountain range, Kongur Tagh (7649m) and Muztagh Ata (7546m).
The moose may be Norway’s national animal, but its most notorious mythological creature must surely be the troll. Huge and strong, they are said to dwell in rocky outcrops to avoid the sunlight as it would turn them back into the stones from which they originate. Situated only a few hours away from Bergen, the Troll’s Tongue or Trolltunga in Norwegian is a peculiar rock formation that sticks out like a troll’s tongue from a cliff that hovers about 700 m (2,300 ft) above the Ringedalavatnet Lake. The projection was formed 10,000 years ago, during the Precambrian era, when a giant glacier broke off angular stone blocks from the cliff. The high point for most hikers is to sit at the tip of the tongue looking out to the lake and down the jaw-dropping cliff.
Neist Point, Isle of Skye, Scotland
This is one of those places which will simply leave you speechless. Neist Point is the westerly most part of the Isle of Skye in Scotland. Here, you will find ocean, rocks, grass, lighthouse – all of which seems to be in right place. I remember standing on the edge of the cliff for an hour, losing track of time as I took in the expansive views of the sea that teems with all manner of life. The Point is regarded as best place on Skye to see whales, dolphins, porpoises and basking sharks and the sea around it is the playground for a variety of sea birds. Neist Point was used as the dramatic setting for a number of scenes in the movie Breaking The Waves in 1996, starring Emily Watson.
Quiraing, Isle of Skye, Scotland
Though it looks like a serene scene from a distance, the dreamy landscape known as Quiraing on the Isle of Skye was actually formed by violent landslips that began millions of years ago and is still taking place today. As a result, the road at its base has to be repaired every year to counter the few centimeters of land shifts that occur annually. As inconvenient and costly as this may be, it is this constant movement has created Quiraing’s surreal landscape of towering rock pinnacles and jagged cliffs overlooking pristine lakes and valleys.
The Laugavegur, Iceland
When it comes to natural wonders, Iceland sets the bar very high. It is home to around 130 active volcanoes and is one of the best places in the world to witness the northern lights. But even in a land that abounds in extraordinary landscapes, the Laugavegur Trail stands out. Located in in southern Iceland, the 78 km (49 mile) hiking trail runs from the Landmannalaugar geothermal springs in the north to the seaside hamlet of Skogar in the south. The diversity of landscape is astonishing; the trail takes in lava fields, multicolored rhyolite mountains, black-sand deserts, steaming vents and glaciers, not to mention, spectacular waterfalls. Part of this route – the southernmost 24 km stretch which runs between Thorsmork and Skogar boasts one of the finest collections of waterfalls anywhere on the planet, the highlight of which is the mighty Skogafoss. Plunging some 60 m (197 feet) over coastal cliffs, Skogafoss regularly produces unforgettable double rainbows.
Tasermiut Fjord, Greenland
Tasermiut in Greenland is famous for its granite rock cliffs which draw intrepid climbers from all over the world. But if you prefer moving in a horizontal direction, there is Tasermuit Fjord, probably the most beautiful in Greenland. Lined by two long mountainous peninsulas known as the “Big Walls”, the fjord stretches 70 km from the southernmost town of Nanortalik and ends where the massive ice sheet of the world’s biggest island begins. It is an ideal place for trekkers, kayaking or river fishing.
Lake Oberon, Tasmania
Only the most intrepid hikers have tried to hike Tasmania’s West Arthur Traverse, a remote, rugged and temperamental area of jagged quartzite peaks, hanging valleys, and glacier-carved lakes. Located in southwest Tasmania, the range rises dramatically out of soggy button grass plains. Its serrated profile and sheer rock walls have given many a hiker pause for thought even though the highest elevation is only about 4,000 feet. As if this isn’t enough, the area has some of the planet’s wildest weather, with snow, high winds and heavy rain possibly occurring in the course of a single day and at any time of the year. But the views of the mountain and vegetation scenery are breathtaking with stunning glacial lakes such as Oberon which sits at an elevation of 800m.
The Tri-color Crate Lakes of Mount Kelimutu, Flores
Mount Kelimutu, a dormant volcano in Indonesia, is a bucket-list destination for nature lovers. Located on the island of Flores, Kelimutu’s beauty is its lunar-like landscape that surrounds three summit crater lakes, each of which of which is of a different color that changes over time as they come into contact with mineral-rich underwater fumaroles (openings in or near a volcano). The crater is a popular destination, reachable by bus from Endes, a city on the south coast of Flores, or from the smaller town of Moni.
Crescent Spring, Dunhuang, China
Crescent Spring is a small but picturesque oasis in Dunhuang city in northwest China. About 200 m long and 50 m wide, the spring lies in a basin of sand, surrounded by giant sand dunes piled up over eons of time by sand blown from the Taklamakan desert in the west. The Crescent Spring has a starring role in the historical Silk Road at least since the Han dynasty. According to legend, Emperor Wu of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-9 AD) found a heavenly horse near Wowa Pond (as the Crescent Spring was once called) and ordered a stele to be built in memory of the event, which still stands today. The two images of the Crescent Spring below were shots taken respectively after the first snow of winter and in early Summer.
Chadar Trek, Ladakh, Northern India
Imagine hiking over 100 km (62 miles) along a mostly frozen river in a remote mountainous region of northern India. Just inches underneath the ice, the water flows fast. Around the corner lies a spectacularly deep and sinuous gorge with dizzying 600 m (1970 feet) high walls, and an array of towering waterfalls frozen in their tracks. Finally, throw in unpredictable ice thickness, bone chilling winter temperatures of between 5 and -35 degrees centigrade, and ancient riverside caves. That is the Chadar Trek in a nutshell. Chadar is the Hindi word for “sheet” and it is used by the local residents, the Ladakhis, to describe the layer of ice that covers the Zanskar River during the winter. The Zanskar River was once part of the Silk Road, allowing locals to trade during the two months of the year when all other routes were impassable. Locals used the Chadar route to transport butter to the capital, Leh, for instance. Today, it is still used by the Ladakhis for transporting goods and to go to school or work. Feast your eyes on the otherworldly beauty of the Chadar trek in the four photos below.
Gokyo Ri, Nepal
A stunning alternative to the popular Everest Base Camp trek is summiting Gokyo Ri (17,576 feet) via the turquoise waters of the Gokyo Lakes. Fed by enormous Ngozumpa Glacier, the six lakes fan out over more than six miles of land and make up the highest freshwater lake system in the world. Weather permitting, the summit of Gokyo Ri affords spectacular vistas of the Ngozumpa glacier and and major Himalayan ranges over 8,000 meters high, including Everest, Makalu, Cho Oyu, Nuptse and Ama dablam.
Iguazu Falls, Border of Argentina and Brazil
Located at the border of the Argentine province of Misiones and the Brazilian state off Paraná, Iguazu’s 270 waterfalls is the largest waterfall system in the world. At over 200 feet high and two miles wide, the waterfalls plunge to the Devil’s Throat, dwarfing both Niagara and Victoria Falls in North America and Africa respectively.
Watch this BBC footage:
Las Torres, Torres del Paine, Chile
A visit to the Torres del Paine area of southern Chile is bound to stir the feeling that you have reached the end of the world. The national park takes its name from the Spanish word torres which means “towers” and the South American Indian word, paine, meaning “blue”. The area is home to granite spires and mountains rising to 3,000 m (9,843 feet) high, out of the windswept steppes that surround it. Nestled between these massifs lie turquoise lakes such as Las Torres, producing a landscape that is like something out of Tolkien’s Middle Earth. It is hard to imagine a more breathtaking sight for a body of water in a remote location.
Arnafjordur Bay, Iceland.
West Iceland have a rich history steeped in folklore, mysticism, and magic that seems to be embodied in the very landscape. The Westfjords boasts the northernmost glacier in Iceland, Drangajokull glacier, and the scenic Arnarfjordur bay (pictured), the second widest fjord in Iceland.