Even More European Natural Wonders For Your Summer Vacation

European Natural Wonders Spain

As Catedrais, Spain Source: Martin Zalba

Yes, gothic cathedrals, royal palaces, and fine art make a trip to Europe worth the airfare. But Europe has much more to offer than that. If you suffer from museum fatigue or have just seen one-too-many altarpieces, it may be time to get away from all the cities, architecture, and culture. It may be time to go back to nature.

All That Is Interesting recently brought you 18 European Natural Wonders to Reignite Your Wanderlust, and below we want to share 15 more incredible locations across the continent. If you’re looking for a break from the noise of modern life or for things to see beyond historical artifacts, any one of these amazing places could be your next perfect trip.

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Dalmatian Coast – Croatia

European Natural Wonders Dalmatian Coast

A slice of the old Roman province of Dalmatia, this stunning stretch of Croatia meets the Adriatic Sea in dramatic style. Limestone bluffs look down on coastal towns, secret coves, and scores of islands, and the area offers enticing activities for beachgoers and mountaineers alike. Source: Flickr

Blue Grotto of Capri – Italy

European Natural Wonders Blue Grotto

The island of Capri sits off the Western coast of Italy, just south of Naples. The intoxicating glimmer of its famed Grotta Azzura has seduced visitors since at least the time of the Roman Emperor Tiberius. Visitors arrive by rowboat and must lie flat on their backs to slide through the narrow natural archway. Light, too, pours through this small entrance, but it also slips beneath underwater edges of the cave and shimmers upward from below giving the cave its ethereal glow. Source: Flickr

As Catedrais – Spain

European Natural Wonders As Catedrais

On the Northern coast of Spain, exquisite archways of eroded stone form a strange sanctuary for the dance of light and sea mists. These rocky formations seem to brace up the shore like a natural flying buttress, and when the tide goes out, travelers can venture out to the sand and explore this remarkable “beach of cathedrals” on foot. Source: Flickr

The Dune of Pilat – France

European Natural Wonders Dunes Pilat

Formed by an odd stream of Atlantic wind, this massive rectangular mound – composed of 60 million cubic meters of sand – stretches for three kilometers along France’s coastline south of Bordeaux. The dune rises 30 stories high and is the tallest sand dune in Europe. It continues to encroach inland at the rate of about 15 feet per year, swallowing up the forest and crawling toward homes. Source: Wikimedia

Giant’s Causeway – Northern Ireland

European Natural Wonders Giants Causeway

This honeycomb of cooled volcanic magma began to take shape 60 million years ago as tectonic plates tore away from one another. Today, 40,000 six-sided columns spread along the beach like a strange tile floor. The setting was trippy enough to be featured on the cover of Led Zeppelin’s 1973 album House of the Holies, which shows pink, blonde-haired children crawling across these otherworldly basalt polygons. Source: Wikimedia

Oostvaardersplassen Nature Reserve – Netherlands

Oostvaardersplassen

Ironically, this natural wonder began its life as an unnatural human reclamation of flooded lands intended for industrial development. But when a wide range of animals and plants began to make this newly-created land their home, the Dutch wisely turned Oostvaardersplassen into a nature reserve. Today, foxes, red deer, bison, Heck cattle, and wild Konik horses share these wetlands with numerous species of birds, including egrets, black storks, and Eurasian spoonbills. Source: Flickr

Berchtesgaden National Park – Germany

European Natural Wonders Berchtesgaden Park

A Bavarian paradise for hikers, rock climbers, skiers, and photographers, Germany’s Berchtesgaden National Park is defined by two stunning landmarks. The glassy surface of the Königssee, the deepest lake in the Alps, shines like a mirror, perfectly reflecting the craggy peaks that surround it. One of those peaks is the sublime Watzmann, Germany’s third highest mountain. Source: Flickr

Sarek National Park – Sweden

Sarek Sweden

Sarek National Park is one of Europe’s most remote and least hospitable places. Only 2,000 trekkers dare to explore this gorgeous landscape each year, where high alpine peaks frame the stunning Rapa River delta, and elk, lynx, and wolverines roam the forests. Source: Flickr

Bialowieza National Park – Poland

European Natural Wonders Bialowieza Forest

Roughly a century ago, European bison had vanished from the wild. But the species was kept alive by careful, captive breeding and was eventually reintroduced in this incredible national park, which had previously been a royal hunting ground. Today, nearly 5,000 of these bison enjoy life in the wild in projected reserves around Europe, including over 1,000 living in Poland. Source: Wikimedia

Krimml Falls – Austria

European Natural Wonders Krimml Falls

Sometimes called a “rainbow machine,” the mists of the Krimml Waterfalls might have even the most laconic visitors shouting, “Double rainbow, oh my god!” Here, the waters of a glacial creek takea 1,200 foot plummet before continuing on through the surrounding forests of the Austrian Alps. Source: Wikimedia

Lauterbrunnen Valley – Switzerland

European Natural Wonders Lauterbrunnen Valley

Surrounded by more than 70 waterfalls, Lauterbrunnen Valley carves a deep U-shaped canal between the mountainous heights near Bern, Switzerland. Writer J.R.R. Tolkien traveled to this region in 1911, and the valley is speculated to have inspired his conception of Rivendell, one of the fictional settings in his novel The Lord of the Rings. Source: Wikimedia

High Tatra, Slovakia

Tatras Slovakia

The High Tatra of Slovakia is a small but beautiful mountain range featuring 25 peaks over 8,000 feet high. Among the snowy summits, there are more than 80 mountain lakes of pristine, turquoise water. This chilly, majestic landscape is home to hundreds of plant and animal species, including the Tarta marmot and the golden eagle. Source: Flickr

Bicaz Canyon – Romania

European Natural Wonders Bicaz Canyon

For about five miles, the highway between the Romanian provinces of Moldova and Transylvania enters this deep canyon between insane limestone cliffs. Pocked with dozens of caves and home to a rare bird called the wallcreeper, the canyon stands between two mountains, each 4,000 feet tall. Source: Flickr

Devetashka Cave – Bulgaria

European Natural Wonders Devetashka Cave

Though it had to be rediscovered in the early 20th century, the Devetashka Cave in Bulgaria had previously been home to human communities for tens of thousands of years. Its enormous karst domes now house around 30,000 bats. Sunlight streams through massive holes where parts of the 300-foot-high roof have collapsed, and a walking trail leads through the center of the 1.5-mile-long cave. Source: Wikimedia

Metéora – Greece

European Natural Wonders Meteora Greece

50,000 years before monks built the now-famous monasteries on Metéora’s picturesque peaks, earlier humans settled in the caves around the bases of these impressive sandstone towers. The formations here emerged 60 million years ago, driven into the air by earthquakes, and eons of erosion have left their rock walls smooth and rounded. Numerous hiking trials crisscross this incredible landscape of stone pillars, whose name literally means “suspended in air.” Source: Flickr

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São Paolo Is Drying Up: Brazil’s Water Crisis

Brazil water crisis, cracked earth

Cracked earth during the droughts in Sao Paolo. Source: Bloomberg

Brazil’s drought shows no signs of relenting, and residents of the Brazilian city of São Paolo have been left out to dry. Many have resorted to collecting rainwater, using plastic cookware, and going without baths or toilets in order to save what remaining water resources they have. In crisis since late 2014, regional water reserves currently stand at 10% of their capacity. A testament to the perfect storm that lacking governance and poor weather conditions can create, the country’s economists call Brazil’s crisis “a deficiency of medium and long-term planning” on the part of local governments, only exacerbated by the fact that precipitation in Brazil in 2014 was the lowest on record.

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Dried pipes during Brazil's water crisis

Pipes for the water utility in a dried up reservoir. Source: New York Times

High water mark shows Brazil drought

High water mark on a bridge over an important Brazilian reservoir. Source: New York Times

Swimmers at pool during drought in Brazil

Swimmers try to find relief from the droughts in Sao Paolo. Source: New York Times

Cantareira reservoir during Brazil water crisis

The Cantareira Reservoir, post-drought. Source: BBC News

Water levels fall in Brazil

Source: BBC News

Man fishing during Sao Paolo drought

Man attempts to fish in the drying Cantareira reservoir. Source: BBC News

Man awaits water refills during Brazil crisis

Man awaits water refills at a community aid station outside Sao Paolo. Source: LA Times

Water usage leading to Brazil water crisis

Water usage and stresses on the Brazilian water infrastructure. Source: World Resources Institute

Man protects water supply during crisis

Man stretches a mosquito net over his water supply to protect from dengue fever. Source: The Guardian UK

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The drought’s residual effects include a drop on agricultural outputs, which inevitably lead to job losses and invariably protests. Impacted residents have taken to the streets, beating empty buckets and stating that the crisis is the fault of not only climate change, but of local governments as well. With recent protests about bus fare hikes tearing up São Paolo, the water crisis is just another item on the long-neglected laundry list of problems that Brazil’s government will have to address in the coming months.

Welcome To Sigiriya, Sri Lanka’s Stunning Rock-Hewn Palace

Sigiriya Palace Jungle Mountain

Source: Flickr

Rising out of the jungle in the very center of Sri Lanka, Sigiriya is what remains of an extinct volcano. From base to height, this tower of hardened magma stands 600 feet tall, and archaeological evidence shows that human communities have lived here for around 10,000 years. But the reason that the Lion Mountain, as its name translates, draws more tourists than any other site in Sri Lanka today is that an ancient prince built his palace here after killing his father and stealing the throne from his brother.

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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House, Finally Restored

frank lloyd wright hollyhock house open floorplan

This all-new entryway was once bogged down with concrete floors, recessed lighting, and boring glass sliders. It has since been restored so that there is no separation between the house and courtyard, and even features original hardware from the 1920s.Curbed

The Hollyhock House was commissioned by oil heiress Aline Barnsdall as part of a performing arts complex in the early 1920s, and had the distinction of being the first house that Frank Lloyd Wright designed in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, Wright was also working on Japan’s Imperial Hotel at the time, and thus was absent for much of the original construction work. Costs on the house started to spiral out of control, and when all was said and done Wright was fired from the project and Barnsdall–privileged heiress that she was–never moved in.

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