Let's face it, choosing your holiday destination can be an tricky affair. Our planet Earth is full of natural and man-made wonders. When you start researching a bit, all you come up with is regular places that makes every list. However, hidden just behind the usual suspects are some beauty with a huge twist which makes these destinations extra-ordinary. Without much ado, let's jump in!
1) Maracaibo Lake, Venezuela
So let's start with something electric, literally. The Maracaibo Lake has been dubbed 'The Everlasting Lightning Storm', 'Beacon Of Maracaibo' and 'Catatumbo Lighthouse', and for a good reason. The nightscape of Lake Maracaibo is illuminated constantly by a lightning storm which lasts for about 10 hours everyday, for an average of 260-280 days of an year. The storm spews 16-40 lightning bolts per minute, meaning some 10,000-20,000 bolts per night!
It gets more wierd and interesting now. Even though it is lightning, it is eerily silent! Yes, you cannot hear the accompanying thunder. Imagine witnessing such a fierce thunderstorm without any thunder! Well at least you don't have to scream your lungs out to have nice chat with fellow tourists. It is explained by some that the storm takes place some 50-60 miles off the observation spot. That can be a valid reason as thunder cannot be heard if the origin is more than 15 miles away.
The storm also has historical value attached to it. A spanish poet in his poetry ' Dragontea' described that plans of an invader called Francis Drake were shattered by the constant illumination provided by the storm. It also played an important part in Venezuelan war of independence in 1823.
Okay so thundestorm is not your cup of tea and you are looking for something more serene. So here's another place to brighten up your night! Welcome to Svalbard! Svalbard is an archipelago located between Norway and North Pole of the Earth. Here you can witness one of the most beautiful display of natural lights you can ever see (more on that later).
To start with Svalbard is an amazing place in itself. It is completely visa-free, meaning you don't need any visa to tour, live or work here . Longyearbyen is its capital with an population of approximately 2600 people, from 52 different nationalities. It is also the place 'where nobody is born or dies'. You see, this place has no maternity ward and if you unfortunately happen to die here, your body will be shipped off. So officially you don't die here either. Main livelihood here is tourism, which brings us to why we are here in the first place.
Svalbard is the best place on earth where you can observe the physical phenomena of 'Aurora Borealis' or the northern lights. It occurs when electrically charged particles of Sun interacts with the atmospheric gases of earth. The result is an amazing display of bright lights which fills up the entire nightscape. Although predominantly green in colour, shades of yellow, orange and red too have been observed. You may also hear 'Aurora Sound', a clapping like sound which many claim to hear but is denied by scientific community. Best time to enjoy these lights is during December and January.
3) Luminous Lagoon, Jamaica.
So all these beautiful lights of nature has you all charged up and now you want to get your hands on it, literally. But how is that possible? Don't worry guys, your friend has got you covered here. So now let's jump in to The Luminous Lagoon situated in Jamaica. Located 18 miles off Montego Bay, it gets it name due to the naturally luminescent waters which illuminates upon disturbance.
The water here is shallow, ranging from 3ft to 6ft deep. Also, since freshwater from Martha Brae and Saltwater from Carribean Sea meets here, you get an unique experience. If you swim here, your body will experience different water temperatures at the same time. cool! Also, the water around your submerged body will start glowing Brilliant Blue. It is due to 'Dinoflagellates', micro-organism which exibits the phenomena of 'Bioluminescence'. The glowing water also attracts small fishes, which adds to the already unearthly experience. Imagine swimming in the cool-warm waters which glows around you and a small group of fishes as your followers! This is the closest you can live your Disney movie fantasies.
Although there are many beaches exibiting Biolumininescent waters, most are unsafe for the swimming. According to sources there are only 4 places like The Luminous Lagoon, the other 3 being located in Indonesia, Bahamas and Puerto Rico. However, only Luminous Lagoons of Jamaica is 100% consistent in luminosity. Meaning, unlike Jamaica, the other 3 rely on perfect weather and climate to display Bioluminescence.
4) The Great Blue Hole, Belize
After having our fills of the shiny places, let's move on to something dark. The Great Blue Hole of Belize is popular destination for scuba-diving. However, despite calm and crystal clear water, things could quickly go wrong if you are not careful enough.
The Great Blue Hole is an Blue hole located 70 miles off the city of Belize. Blue holes are just large marine sink holes. Meaning instead of a gradual descent to the bottom, it is an sudden deep dive to the floor. The Belize blue hole is the largest on earth, spanning 318m(1043ft) wide and 124m(407ft) deep. But this is not your regular scuba-dive. Even the seasoned divers struggle here, with many having met their end. So what makes it so tough for divers? The biggest threat is posed by the calm and clear water itself. The visibility under the water is great, which may push divers to make bad decisions resulting in tragedies. Divers may tend to push deeper than they should because of the clear water, as they miscalculate the depth. If you unfortunately push too deep, you start experiencing greater water pressure which may affect your decision making capability. Divers may also experience 'Nitrogen Narcosis', one of the reason why divers die.
However, its not all doom and gloom here. You can enjoy one of the best diving experience here with a bit of good planning. Always make sure to go diving in a group which has at least one experienced diver. And you can enjoy great vista owing to good width of the Blue hole. Apart from various fishes and reefs, you can also run into sharks. Don't worry, they are not known to attack divers. Bull Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks, Black Tipped Sharks, Carribean Reef Sharks are some of the sharks that you can find here.
5) Rainbow Mountains, China.
The Rainbow Mountains is situated in the Gansu province of China. It gets it name from the surreal formation of different coloured rocks which makes up the mountains. Suppose you drew the outlines of mountains and gave it to a toddler to fill in the colours, and he/she ends up using all the colours at disposal. Well, that is what mother nature decided to do with this mountain ranges.
The Rainbow Mountains is spread across 322kmSq(124 sq mi). The rocks which make up the ranges are several hundred metres tall with varying heights. Red is the dominant colour of the rocks. But your eyes can feast upon the plethora of colours like white, yellow, green, orange and violet etc. All these colours appear in different patches and looks almost like an oil painting from a distance.
The vivid colours are the result of deposits of sandstone and various minerals. The tectonic movements(the same which gave rise to Himalayas) then helped the ranges to pop up. The varying pattern and size of the rocks is attributed to the movement of wind and the rains. Although there are similar coloured ranges in Peru, you may not be able to enjoy the colours to the fullest because of mostly unclear weather.