12 of the World's Most Colorful Natural Wonders

Water sprays from Fly Geyser in Nevada's Black Rock Desert.
Fly Geyser in Nevada's Black Rock Desert was created inadvertently by drillers for a power company in the 1960s.

Jeremy C. Munns / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

The Earth is filled to the brim with color, but some places stand out for their breathtaking natural beauty. The most colorful places in the world are often created with the help of pigmented bacteria, millions of years' worth of sedimentary layering, and erosion.

Sometimes colorful nature is incredibly biodiverse, home to thriving ecosystems, and full of opportunities for scientific research and discoveries. Other times, colorful natural landscapes are largely uninhabitable due to extreme weather conditions or lack of resources. Fortunately for travelers and conservationists, vibrant natural wonders are often protected and can be visited safely.

Here are 12 of the most colorful natural wonders in the world and where to find them.

1
of 12

Seven Colored Earths

Seven Colored Earth in Chamarel, Mauritius

KKulikov / Shutterstock

This small set of dunes in Chamarel, Mauritius, is named for the number of distinct colors found blended into the sands: red, purple, violet, blue, green, yellow, and brown.

Though commonly believed to be a byproduct of volcanic activity, experts speculate that these dunes were created over time through chemical weathering and oxidation. Basalt was weathered into clay, and this clay combined with iron oxide formed through hydrolysis to create multicolored sand. The area's high temperatures and humidity make its lack of vegetation and wildlife all the more unusual.

The Seven Colored Earths is by far one of Mauritius' most visited attractions. To prevent its degradation, a fence has been erected around it.

2
of 12

Laguna Colorada

Flamingos walking through Laguna Colorada in Potosí, Bolivia

Belikova Oksana / Shutterstock

Located within the Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve in Potosí, Bolivia, this shallow, red-tinted salt lake is a common gathering spot for flocks of flamingos (especially James's, Andean, and Chilean flamingos).

The lake's natural red color comes from the reddish pigment of the algae that live there. Visitors can tour this colorful lagoon and take a dip in the hot springs close by.

3
of 12

Morning Glory Pool

Morning Glory Pool in Yellowstone National Park

Smith Collection / Getty Images

The brilliant colors of this hot spring, found in Yellowstone National Park, are the result of pigmented thermophilic bacteria, which thrive in extreme temperatures. The water in the center of the pool is the hottest and temperatures decrease as you move toward the outside. The closer you get to the center, the deeper the pool gets.

Vandalism and littering have significantly altered the colors of Morning Glory Pool. Decades of accumulated trash and rocks clog parts of the pool, affecting circulation and reducing the presence of hot water. This temperature change has allowed photosynthesizing bacteria that prefer cooler temperatures to spread. Once predominantly blue and green, Morning Glory Pool is now mostly orange, yellow, and green. 

4
of 12

Zhangye Danxia Landforms

Daxia Landform in Zhangye, China

SIHASAKPRACHUM / Shutterstock

Characterized by their unusually colored sandstone, these cliffs in Gansu, China, are thought to be the product of mineral deposits, crust uplift, and erosion. Beds of red sedimentary rock form the foundation of this landform and crust uplift taking place for millions of years has sent rocks to the surface and formed sloping hills above ground. Erosion by gravity, running water, and weathering have carved valleys into the rocks, giving them their ridged appearance.

Although you can find Danxia landforms throughout China, the most popular place to view them is at Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park.

5
of 12

Havasu Falls

Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon

Juancat / Shutterstock

Havasu Falls is just one of several falls hikers will stumble upon when trekking the Grand Canyon's Havasupai trail near Supai, Arizona. Located within the Havasupai Indian Reservation, the lush green canyon that contains these waterfalls is a welcome respite from the desert that surrounds the area.

The water's deep turquoise hue comes from high concentrations of magnesium and calcium carbonate found in the riverbed. These minerals are also responsible for the nearby travertine deposits.

6
of 12

Painted Desert

The Painted Desert of Petrified Forest National Park

W. Bulach / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Stretching across approximately 1,500 square miles in northern Arizona, the Painted Desert is a sedimentary landscape made up of layers of siltstone, mudstone, clay, and shale. These soft rocks, deposited by running water years ago, have been eroded for centuries by volcanic activity and extreme weather into hills and valleys.

This landscape's red and orange appearance comes from iron and manganese present in many of the rock layers. Visitors to Petrified Forest National Park can see a portion of this desert in person.

7
of 12

Danakil Depression

Danakil Depression in Ethiopia

Aleksandra H. Kossowska / Shutterstock

In addition to being one of the hottest and lowest-lying places on the planet, the Danakil Depression is a colorful, otherwordly landscape notable for its bright yellow and green deposits of sulfur and salt. This plain can be found in the Afar Triangle of Ethiopia.

Harsh though it may be, this region is not uninhabited. The first fossil of the Australopithecus afarensis, an ancient hominin thought to have lived about 3 million years ago, was discovered here in 1974. And today, an estimated 1.4 million Afar people reside in the Danakil Desert.

8
of 12

Fly Geyser

Fly Geyser in Washoe County, Nevada

Jared Ropelato / Shutterstock

Geysers are often created naturally as surface water makes contact with magma beneath the surface of the earth and erupts when pressure is released, but in the case of this small, colorful geyser, humans played an accidental part in its creation.

While drilling a well in search of geothermal energy sources back in 1964, engineers inadvertently created Fly Geyser in Washoe County, Nevada. Over the years, the geyser's mineral-rich water (which typically launches water about five feet in the air) has formed travertine mounds around the well. Pigmented thermophilic bacteria give the geyser its rich color.

9
of 12

Chinoike Jigoku

Chinoike Jigoku in Beppu, Japan

Naoima / Shutterstock

Visitors can bathe in relaxing onsen or hot springs all over Japan, but Chinoike Jigoku (meaning "Bloody Hell Pond" in Japanese) in Beppu is not one of them. This hot spring is far too hot to bathe in, but guests can dip their feet into cooled water from Chinoike Jigoku or purchase medicinal products made with its mud. Beppu's hot springs are thought to possess healing properties.

Chinoike Jigoku is about 172 degrees Fahrenheit, more than hot enough to produce tinted steam. The water's red color can be attributed to the presence of iron oxide and clay.

10
of 12

Spiaggia Rosa

Spiaggia Rosa in Sardinia, Italy

Gabriele Maltinti / Shutterstock

If you've ever wanted to see a beach that resembles cotton candy in person, here's your chance!

The sand of Sardinia's Spiaggia Rosa contains coral and seashell fragments that provide a bright pink tinge. When contrasted with the crystalline blue water, the rosy beach really pops.

If you'd like to visit this unusually colored beach in Italy, you're out of luck. Because tourists used to steal sand, causing its color to dull over time, this once vibrant pink beach is now off-limits to visitors (though you can see the shore from a tour boat or different beach).

11
of 12

Paint Mines

Paint Mines in Calhan, Colorado

M. Elizabeth Till / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

Located in Calhan, Colorado, the Paint Mines Interpretive Park is home to towering hoodoos, a complex ecosystem of plants and wildlife, a rich archaeological history, and, of course, beautifully colored sedimentary rock formations.

Evidence of human civilization dates back about 10,000 years to when Clovis and Folsom people used the land's colorful clay to make pottery and other items.

12
of 12

Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park

Clement Bardot / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

This hot spring is notable for its sheer size and its striking rainbow-like coloration. The Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in Yellowstone National Park with a diameter of 370 feet and a depth of more than 121 feet.

Like many other hot springs, the Grand Prismatic Spring is home to a variety of pigmented bacteria that thrive along its mineral-rich edges.

View Article Sources
  1. Sheth, H.C., et al. "The 'Seven-Coloured Earth' of Chamarel, Mauritius." Journal of African Earth Sciences, vol. 57, no. 1–2, April 2010, pp. 169–173, doi:10.1016/j.jafrearsci.2009.07.009

  2. "Nature & Science." Petrified Forest. U.S. Department of the Interior National Park Service.

  3. Johanson, Donald C. "Lucy, Thirty Years Later: An Expanded View of Australopithecus Afarensis." Journal of Anthropological Research, vol. 60, no. 4, 2004, pp. 465–486.

  4. "Summary and Statistical Report of the 2007 Population and Housing Census: Population Size by Age and Sex." Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia Population Census Commission, Dec. 2008.

  5. Bamforth, Douglas B. "Paleo-Indian Period." Colorado Encyclopedia.

  6. "Grand Prismatic Spring." Old Faithful Virtual Visitor Center. U.S. Department of the Interior National Park Service.