This haunting forest in the Yunnan Province is the source of an ancient legend, which suggested that it had been the birthplace of a beautiful girl who, after being forbidden from marrying her lover, used a stone to create the labyrinth of tall rocky structures that give it its name. In reality, the strange towers, which almost resemble petrified trees, formed around 270 million years ago when a shallow sea stood there. Sandstone deposits were overlaid with limestone, and as uplift occurred exposure to running water (and wind) moulded the stone into narrow shafts.
This sizeable preservation area covering 4,807 square kilometres across Iceland’s southeast Öræfasveit region boasts a range of intriguing geological features. Particularly, there are a number of sheer rock walls which have the same kind of cutaway look as Giant’s Causeway or Fingal’s Cave, but in this instance, rivers and glaciers have as much to do with it as volcanic activity. It almost looks as if the rock has been scratched away by some hulked, clawed hand as the centuries have gone by, making way for waterfalls and winding river flows.
Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat on the planet, sitting 3653 metres above sea level in the Bolivian Andes. Once a prehistoric lake, the eventual drying left several different salt pans behind, and caused a series of weird little islands of overwhelmingly bright pure salt. The colouration of the mineral lakes is also particularly striking, a kind of light, sapphire blue which almost looks artificial. The flats hold around 70% of the world’s lithium reserves, so if you get super depressed any time soon, you know where to head.
It’s not uncommon to see limestone stacks lining the coast, and some are pretty big, but the Twelve Apostles, which line the Gibson Steps coast in Victoria, are properly big and properly awesome. They have an odd, misshapen structure, some are fatter at the bottom, others are narrower, and you can clearly make out all the sedimentary layers going down to where they meet with the sea. Many of them used to be archways, which have now collapsed, and one went down as recently as 2005. There are actually only 8 apostles left now.
This utterly insane mess of bladed crystals will look familiar to fans of Dark Souls, as some have theorised that it may have even been the inspiration for the infamous Crystal Caves which feature in the game. This massive crystal garden formed beneath the surface of Naica in the Chihuahua region of Mexico. It is a result of magma flows heating up groundwater which was then saturated with sulphide ions. This water then blended with cooler surface water, causing a diffusion reaction which created hydrated sulphates, which then slowly crystalized. The whole process took about half a million years, but the result is quite incredible. You can’t even go inside without special equipment, owing to the sometimes extreme heat and humidity, which can range from 90%-99%. Think about that next time you’re awake on a muggy night. Actually don’t.