This Week in Nature: 7 Strange Rock Formations

Last updated Nov 9, 2019 | Published on Oct 20, 2014Abstracts of the World, Special Articles

The Earth’s surface is full of loose stones and boulders and solid rocks. Some have over the years evolved into very strange formations.


This post is part of a series portraying the classic Elements of Nature: Earth, Fire, Water, Air. Rock formations are examples of the first element, Earth.


There is much to include.


First off are a string of four World Heritage Sites

1. Giant’s Causeway, UK. Some 50 to 60 million years ago the north coast of Northern Ireland saw a number of volcanic eruptions. Volcanoes have across the globe contributed significantly to the building of new land masses and this is one very special case. 40,000 interlocking basalt columns is a sight seen nowhere else on Earth. Most of them have six sides, but some have more and others less.


Northern Ireland - Giant's Causeway

The basalt columns of Northern Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway


2. Shilin Stone Forest in Kunming, ChinaComing up is a weird landscape in southern China. Naming it a “stone forest” is quite accurate, because some of the rocks look like petrified trees, and there are many of them. The karst areas in southern China are also World Heritage Sites and are caused by the dissolution of limestone over the last 270 million years.


China - Kunming - Shilin Stone Forest - The stones tower ten metres up in the air.

Shilin Stone Forest – The stones tower ten metres up in the air.


We are now  moving back to the other side of Asia and two sites in Turkey.


3. Göreme, Turkey. The eroding forces of wind and water have been at play here for millions of years and created some very fascinating “fairy chimneys” as they are called. One of the places is called the “Love Valley” and you realise what kind of fairytale this might be about. Adding to the fascination of this place are the rock-hewn ancient churches in the area, but that is beyond the scope of this article.


Turkey - Göreme

A triple fairy chimney in Göreme


4. Pamukkale, Turkey. Moving westward in Turkey we encounter a place that is even more fairytale-like in my view. Calcium carbonate is deposited by water as a soft jelly, but eventually hardens into travertine. The white travertine basins are taking the shape of terraces high above the flat plain down below.


Turkey - Pamukkale

Pamukkale, the “cotton castle” in Turkey


Two more landscapes

We are now moving beyond the sphere of World Heritage Sites, but not beyond fascination. First, there are two more landscapes I would like to mention. Many porous hills and landscapes are often formed by erosion on some kind of karst, like limestone. The soft rock is quite easily turned into very strange formations – after a few million years that is.


5. Valle de la Luna outside La Paz, Bolivia. This Valley of the Moon right outside the Bolivian capital is littered with rugged rocks. Thanks to different minerals in the rock, the colours vary as well.


Bolivia - La Paz - Valle de la Luna

Valle de la Luna outside La Paz


6. Vang Vieng, LaosWe are now moving across the Planet and back to Asia. The karst mountains of Vang Vieng draws visitors for the sake of river tubing, but some also to enjoy the lovely scenery. There are caves to enter here as well.


Laos - Vang Vieng

A room with a view, in Vang Vieng


Home to Norway

The last image I would like to include is from right outside my own back door, in Norway. It is very different from the other ones in this article.

7. Kjeragbolten, Norway.  This is a special case of outcrop with a large boulder set into it. Almost a thousand metres above the fjord this boulder is stuck in a ravine. The daring ones jump onto it to have their picture taken, like I did here.


Norway - Rogaland - Lysefjord - Hike to Kjerag - Madman on the Kjerag boulder - Kjeragbolten

Madman on the Kjerag boulder – Kjeragbolten


This last image is also an introduction to the next article. Read on.


Further reading

Missing anything? For sure, I’ve had to skip some of my images related to this subject and refrained from mentioning some of my visits. Feel free to search this website for more. In addition, you are surely missing famous places or your own favourites. Chances are I haven’t been there, and I only include my own images and visits in this series.


All articles in this series

(1) Introduction

(2-7) Element: Earth

(2) Great Caves

(3) Strange Rock Formations

(4) Dramatic Cliffs

(5) Amazing Mountain Views

(6) Great Highlands

(7) Dry Deserts

(8) Element: Fire

(8) Active Volcanoes

(9-14) Element: Water

(9) Dramatic waterfalls

(10) Fascinating Beaches

(11) Mighty rivers

(12) Picturesque Lakes

(13) Important Straits

(14) Snow and ice

(15) Element: Air



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