Gokyo Lakes Trek, Nepal
A stunning alternative to the popular Everest Base Camp trek is summiting Gokyo Ri (17,576 feet) via the turquoise waters of the Gokyo Lakes. Fed by enormous Ngozumpa Glacier, the six lakes fan out over more than six miles of land, and make up the highest freshwater lake system in the world. The summit of Gokyo Ri affords vistas of towering Himalayan giants such as Lhotse, Nuptse, Makalu, Cho Oyu, and Gyachung Kang, weather permitting. Stellar Everest views are part of what makes this trek appealing—a view that comes without taxing the limited infrastructure at Everest Base Camp itself.
Zhangye Danxia Landform, China
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The term “Danxia landform” describes not only the mountains of the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park near Zhangye, China, but also several other areas in China. Each was created over millions of years when the movement of tectonic plates and the weathering of sandstone created these magnificent vistas. The striation within the Danxia rocks results from the crumpling of limestone as the rocks compressed together over time. In 2010, UNESCO recognized six landforms as the China Danxia. The Zhangye Danxia landform is the biggest, covering more than 3,200 square feet. Several viewing platforms offer scenic glimpses of the surrounding rainbow rocks.
Mount Kelimutu, Indonesia
While remote, Mount Kelimutu’s lunar landscape and shimmering waters make it a worthwhile trek. Located on the island of Flores, Kelimutu’s claim to fame is its three summit crater lakes, each with a different-hued pool. Geologists have studied the crater over time for its chameleonlike properties. Each lake has shifted from one color to another over the years as it comes into contact with mineral-rich underwater fumaroles. The surprise element of a Kelimutu visit is that you rarely know what colors will greet you when you summit the volcano.
Son Doong Cave, Vietnam
Located within Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park, Hang Son Doong is one of the world’s largest, with its main cavern big enough to house a Boeing 747 plane. A wide, fast river that tunneled through the Earth over time formed Hang Son Doong, whose name translates from Vietnamese to “mountain river cave.” Ho Khanh, who took refuge within it during a storm, discovered Son Doong in 1991. Lost again until 2009, the cave is now open to tourism. Proposed developments, including a cable car, have raised concerns with environmentalists. For now, only Oxalis Tours is licensed to guide tourists through Hang Son Doong.
Mount Everest, Nepal
It’s hard to put into words the majesty of Mt Everest. It is located on the border of Nepal with China and Tibet, and it is over 60 million years old. There are 18 different climbing routes, and it takes about 40 days to climb the mountain. Sagarmatha National Park, a part of the Himalayan ecological zone, was added to the list of UNESCO Natural World Heritage Sites in 1979. and contains three of the world’s seven highest mountains – Sagarmatha or Mt. Everest, Lhotse, and Cho Oyu. It is also home to several other prominent peaks most of which are above 6,000 meters.
Its Tibetan name, Chomolungma, means “Goddess Mother of the World”, showcasing how much the local people value this mountain. The actual height of the mountain is something that people have argued over for years, but most people say that it is about 29,028 feet tall. This the ultimate Asia travel bucket list destination!
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
With around 2,000 islets sprawling across an indescribable landscape of almost 600 square miles, there’s no wonder Ha Long Bay was named one of the New Seven Natural Wonders of the World. Named as a UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site, the bay’s floating mountains and emerald-green waters are said to have inspired the animated landscapes of Avatar, and have been used as the set for films like Kong: Skull Island and Pan (it really is the perfect childhood rendition of Neverland). Located in the northern coastal region of Vietnam, there are several junk-boats that offer daily and multi-day sails with included excursions such as kayaking, cave expeditions, and in-depth tours through some of the last remaining fishing villages inside the bay.
Jigoku Valley, Japan
Located on the island of Hokkaido, Jigoku Valley is part of the Shikotsu-Toya National Park near the town of Noboribetsu. The region is famous for its healing onsen thermal hot springs, experienced via spas at the city’s hotels or outdoor mineral pools. A more sulfurous option is Hell Valley, the 24-acre geothermal crater left in the wake of Mount Kuttara’s eruption thousands of years ago. The city has set up boardwalks around the valley, allowing people to meander through the many steam caves and geysers. Don’t miss the Oyunuma Brook natural footbath, a healing spring within the park.
Zhangjiajie National Park, China
Zhangjiajie is a city, region, and a unique park located in northern Hunan Province, in Central China. Are you impressed by the Hallelujah Mountains in Avatar? The real ones are in Zhangjiajie. The most notable geographic features are the pillar like formations. They are the result of many years of physical, rather than chemical, erosion. There are 243 peaks and more than 3,000 pinnacles and spires in the national park. Scenes in Avatar come to mind when the peaks are caught in the right light or when the early morning mountain mist rolls in around them. In 1982, Zhangjiajie National Forest Park became China's first national forest park.
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This scenic place means "Yellow Dragon“ in Chinese. Found in the Minshan mountain range, Huanglong is declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Among various natural wonders, the colorful terraced pools are among the most recognizable and picturesque spots here. The nature reserve also features temples and Buddha statues, scattered in the park.
Chocolate Hills, the Philippines
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In rainy season these conical hills are more green than chocolate, but once the rains stop the Chocolate Hills turn brown. Consisting of about 1,776 mounds jutting up from the island of Bohol, the hills are a national geological monument of the Philippines. Geologists theorize that karst rocks eroded in unison and formed the hills, leaving behind a landscape now covered in flora. Several local legends offer more colorful explanations. Among them: Two giants went to battle, hurling stones and sand back and forth until they were too tired to fight. Left in their wake? The perfectly formed Chocolate Hills.