The Plitvice Waterfalls are a collection of tiered lakes and waterfalls, stretching throughout Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia. Considered to be one of the world’s greatest natural wonders, Plitvice Lakes National Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979. Covering an area of 296 sq km, it is the oldest national park in Southeast Europe, having been founded in 1949. Over 1.2 million visits are recorded each year, making the park one of Croatia’s largest tourist attractions.
Dettifoss, the most powerful waterfall in Europe, falls 148 ft (45m) into Iceland’s largest canyon, the Jokulsargljufur Canyon. Situated on the Jokulsa a Fjollum river, which flows from the Vatnajokull glacier, Dettifoss lies within the Vatnajokull National Park. In terms of volume discharge, it is the largest waterfall in Europe.
The Matterhorn is an iconic Swiss mountain that stands proudly at a height of 14,960 ft (4478m). Whilst not the tallest of the Swiss Pennine peaks, it’s dramatic, pyramidal shape has led to it being the subject of more photographs and paintings than any other natural land formation in the world. The biggest vertical drop is approximately 7,200 feet (2195 meters).
One of the most important cave systems in the world, Slovenia’s Skocjan Cave system was added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1986. Entering the caves at the foot of a steep gorge below the village of Skocjan, the Reka River runs underground for 21 miles (34 kilometers) through the massive underground canyons, gorges and caverns, surfacing at Monfalcone to join the Timavo River. This underground channel is over 460 feet (140 meters) high, expanding at points into enormous underground chambers, including Martel’s Chamber, the largest discovered underground cavern in Europe.
At the tip of Northern Ireland lies a breathtaking rock formation named the Giants Causeway. This area of almost perfectly formed basalt steps and columns rises from the water and continues up almost 12 meters (36 feet) high. The fine grained igneous molten rock is almost black in color which creates a truly imposing landscape. With a total of nearly 40,000 columns of mostly hexagonal shapes, this natural beauty is believed to have been formed millions of years ago as a result of a large volcanic eruption under the surface. However, legend says that it was built as a way for Irish giant Finn McCool to reach his true love in Scotland.
Gullfoss is a tiered waterfall, with a total height of 105 feet (32m). Born from the Hvita River, the crevice is hidden from sight at close range, making it appear as though the river simply vanishes into the earth. There’s a famous story about a girl who walked barefoot from Reykjavic to Gullfoss in order to protest the use of the falls for the purpose of generating hydroelectric energy. She is said to have kept the falls safe from inference, and as such, a statue has been erected in her honor near the falls.
Verdon Gorge is situated in southeastern France, and is thought by many to be one of Europe’s loveliest river canyons. It takes its name from the striking turquoise color of the Verdon River that flows along its picturesque 25 kilometer length. Reaching a depth of 700 meters in numerous places makes Verdon Gorge a popular destination for hikers and rock climbers. A fascinating feature of the Verdon River is the section known as Styx du Verdon. Framed by steep, winding walls that lead the river to a point where it shifts its course underground, it appears to vanish into the rock.
Sognefjord is the longest and deepest fjord in Norway, stretching 127 miles (204km) inland from the western coast to the small village of Skjolden in the municipality of Luster. Globally, Sognefjord is second in length only to ‘Scoresby Sund’ in Greenland. Known for its exceptional and pristine natural beauty, the Sognefjord is one of the most spectacular and dramatic natural travel destinations in the world.
Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, is a natural light phenomenon visible in northern latitudes. The name is derived from the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for north wind, Boreas. The display occurs when solar winds move away from the sun and interact with charged electric and magnetic fields in the earth’s magnetized stratosphere. As charged particles enter the atmosphere 20 to 200 miles above the earth, they clash with oxygen and nitrogen atoms. A collision with oxygen produces reds and greens, while encountering nitrogen creates hues of blue to purple. Wind currents affect the reaction and cause various wave like patterns.
Meaning “World of the Ice Giants”, the Eisriesenwelt is a vast limestone and ice cave located inside Hochkogel Mountain in the Austrian Alps. The Eisriesenwelt sprawls more than 26 miles (42 kilometers) through the Tenneggebirge section of the Alps, though only the first half-mile is sheathed in ice. The caves were sculpted by the Salzach River, and its massive ice formations are formed by thawing snow draining into the cave and freezing into natural ice sculptures. Some of the cave’s highlights include the giant stalagmite in Posselt Hall, the Great Ice Embankment, the soaring stalactites of Hymir’s Castle and the stunning Ice Place, located 1300 feet (400 meters) underground.