10 Famous Rocks From Around the World

A large rock monolith in the surf on a sandy beach
Haystock Rock, a basalt monolith that rises out of the surf on the Oregon coast, formed millions of years ago from ancient lava flows.

Amanda Lundberg / EyeEm / Getty Images

Humans have an abiding fascination with impressive geology. Over the centuries, certain rocks have become famous thanks to that fascination. Some are imposing monoliths that have drawn humans to marvel at them and climb to their summits. Others are physically unimpressive stones that nonetheless have been imbued with cultural, religious, or political importance. A few are so revered that they have been stolen, chipped, or broken into pieces after attempts to gain ownership of a part of history.

From Uluru to Stonehenge, here are 10 famous rocks, stones, and monoliths found across the world.

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A wide, overhead shot of a red stone monolith in the desert

Ignacio Palacios / Getty Images

One of Australia's most celebrated natural landmarks is a sandstone monolith called Uluru. The massive, red rock rises nearly 1,142 feet above the otherwise flat landscape of the Australian outback. It’s the central attraction of the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that attracts many visitors despite its remote location. In 1985, management of the park was returned to the indigenous Aṉangu people, who have inhabited the area around Uluru for thousands of years. In 2019, the Aṉangu landowners decided to ban visitors from climbing Uluru.

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Blarney Stone

A man bends backwards over a parapet to kiss the Blarney Stone

David Kinney / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The Blarney Stone is a block of limestone embedded in the walls of Blarney Castle, near Cork, Ireland. According to legend, kissing the stone imparts the gift of eloquence, a reward taken to heart by millions of tourists who have traveled to the castle to perform the act. In earlier days, accomplishing this was a real test of courage, since the stone is set back from the parapet by several feet, requiring kissers to dangle headfirst over the gap. Today, iron railings provide handholds and prevent anyone from falling through the gap. 

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Haystack Rock

People walk along the beach in front of a large rock monolith in the ocean

Francesco Vaninetti Photo / Getty Images

Haystack Rock is a large rock formation near Cannon Beach along the Oregon coast. At 235 feet tall, it is the largest of the many sea stacks found along the Pacific coast, formed by lava and shaped over millennia by wind and wave erosion. During low tide, visitors can reach the monolith by foot and explore its tide pools, which are home to starfish, crabs, and other intertidal creatures. A variety of nesting seabirds, including the tufted puffin, also call Haystack Rock home on a seasonal basis. The monolith is part of a National Wildlife Refuge, and climbing the rock and collecting shells are both prohibited.

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Plymouth Rock

A worn boulder with "1620" inscribed on it

Walter Bibikow / Getty Images

Based on the legends, many assume that Plymouth Rock is an imposing cliff where the passengers of the Mayflower first set foot on North American soil in 1620. In reality, the rock is rather small and of uncertain historical importance. The Mayflower first landed not in Plymouth, Massachusetts, but in Provincetown, and Plymouth Rock was only identified as a significant landmark decades after the pilgrims settled in North America. 

Nevertheless, Plymouth Rock remains a symbol for the birth of the United States. It has been broken apart and chipped away over the years as it moved from place to place as a tourist attraction. Today, it is housed in a monument at Pilgrim Memorial State Park, in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Two large pieces of the rock that were broken off can also be found in the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.

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Rock of Gibraltar

A band of monkeys sits on a rocky summit with a mountain peak in the background

Oliver J Davis Photography / Getty Images

The Rock of Gibraltar is the highest point in Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory on the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. It overlooks the Strait of Gibraltar, which at eight miles wide is the narrowest point between Europe and Africa. The rocky outcropping is an important resting area for migratory birds and the home of Europe's only wild monkey species, the Barbary macaque. Tourists can reach the top of the peak via cable car or by hiking up the Mediterranean Steps trail.

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Rosetta Stone

Schoolchildren gather around a display case featuring a stone slab covered in engravings

insunlight / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Rosetta Stone is a stone slab inscribed with a royal decree that dates back to the year 196 BCE, during the reign of Egyptian ruler Ptolemy V. While the contents of the decree are historically important (it established the divine authority of the new ruler), it is the three languages contained on the stone that provoked the most fascination. The parallel texts in ancient Greek, Demotic Egyptian, and Egyptian hieroglyphics made the Rosetta Stone a key in unlocking the meaning of the hieroglyphic scripts.

The slab was rediscovered near the city of Rosetta (now Rashid) in 1799, during Napoleon's campaign in Egypt. Today, it resides in the British Museum in London.

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An overhead shot of Stonehenge and visitors on a nearby pathway

Image Hans Elbers / Getty Images

Stonehenge is a prehistoric monument constructed of large stones in Wiltshire, England. The structure has been the subject of archaeological study for centuries, and questions about who built it, as well as how and why it was erected, still remain. Best estimates place the construction of Stonehenge in the late Neolithic Age, around 2500 BCE. The layout of the stones is arranged to point to where the sun rises on the summer solstice.

The stone monument is the central figure in a landscape that also includes prehistoric earthworks and burial mounds. Researchers hope that continued work in the area will unlock more of the mysteries surrounding this ancient monument.

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Great Arch of Getu

A forested mountain ridge with a natural arch and a beam of sunlight coming from the arch

PhilipSmith1000 / Getty Images

At 230 feet across, the Great Arch of Getu in south-central China is one of the largest natural arches in the world. It was carved millions of years ago by an ancient river that flowed through the soft, porous limestone found throughout much of southern China. Visitors can reach the arch by ascending a steep pathway through another cavern lower in the mountain that connects to the arch. The area is part of the Getu River National Park and is often frequented by rock climbers.

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Stone of Scone

A square, grey stone on display in front of a small plaque

sobolevnrm / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Stone of Scone is a rectangular slab of red sandstone that has been used for centuries in the coronation ceremonies of Scottish and English monarchs. Though the stone's first home was in Scone Abbey in Scotland, King Edward I of England relocated it to Westminster Abbey In 1296 as a spoil of war. Most recently, it was used in 1953 during the coronation of Elizabeth II.

The Stone of Scone remained at Westminster Abbey until Christmas 1950, when it was taken by four Scottish students. Though it was returned a few months later, the stone remained a point of contention between England and Scotland. In 1996, the British government decided the stone would remain in Scotland when not in use for coronation ceremonies.

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Devils Tower

A flat-topped stone monolith in a pine tree forest

RC Steeber / Getty Images

Devils Tower is an 867-foot tall rock monolith in the Black Hills region of northeastern Wyoming. It's the main sight to see in Devils Tower National Monument, which was the first national monument in the United States, established in 1906 by Theodore Roosevelt. Devils Tower is the world's largest example of columnar jointing—a rare geologic process in which molten rock cools so quickly that it cracks and forms a hexagonal structure. 

Before European settlers arrived, Devils Tower was known to Native Americans by a variety of names, with English translations that include "Bear Lodge," "Tree Rock," "Gray Horn Butte," and many others. Thousands of Native Americans visit the monolith every year to participate in religious ceremonies like prayer offerings, sweat lodges, and dances.