I have always loved nature and apart from the forests and the mountains I had a natural curiosity for geology. No wonder I got married to a geologist! We've traveled a lot and never miss a chance to visit caves, lakes and gorges! I love to listen to him explain all about the formations and forces and any geology trivia comes out of his mouth!
We haven't been away for some time due to the logistics involved with bringing a two year old into a cave but I wanted to lay the path for our next trips. So I called on my travel blogger friends to share their trips and write a post about the Geological wonders of Europe.
Samaria Gorge, Crete, Greece
by yours truly
There are numerous geological wonders in Greece. Me and Nick have set out to visit them all in our life times! If you ask me about the one I love most the answer is simple: Samaria Gorge in Crete, my home island. It's one of the most remarkable trekking paths (actually part of the famous E4 European path) and it's a journey in itself.
I've been there numerous times with different people but the one I went with Nick was the most interesting one (and not because of the way he made fun of me). He talked for hours since the path is very long (like 16kms long) and we had all the time in the world, about all the geological phenomena that took place during the eons in order for the gorge to form.
I've learned all about the fact that it was once a flat place or a basin that was forced upwards from the moving plates of Africa. A fault was created and the water was allowed to run through it opening up the gorge with the passing of time. All along the upward forces kept moving the gorge's walls higher and higher to form the gorge that's there today.
Enjoy it with a reusable bottle of water you can fill from numerous stops down your way and a good pair of trekking shoes, like the ones I am wearing in this photo where I pretend to be one of the local goats.
Norwegian Fjords, Norway
By Caroline from packthesuitcases
Fjords are the absolute must-see spectacles in Norway - and for good reason. They're not only interesting geological phenomena, they're also stunningly beautiful.
The fjords may look like calm lakes, but they're actually saltwater arms of the sea. They were shaped from glaciation below sea level and carved their way through the land over millions of years, their paths reaching and winding inland. The depth of the water in the fjords means that you can get very close to the side of their towering cliffs - so close that you can even stand on the deck of a boat and fill a glass from the waterfalls! The depth also allows large ships to pass through, so tourists can experience the fjords' beauty right up close.
The Norwegian fjords have quite a mild climate and are usually ice-free. You can even spot seals and porpoises living and playing in some areas.
When you're sailing through a fjord, you will see some incredibly dramatic and memorable landscapes. The stillness of the water is only broken by the waterfalls pouring down from lush green forests above. Picturesque villages line the way, full of pretty Scandinavian houses and old working farms that would use the fjords to transport their produce.
One of the best cities to base yourself in to see the fjords is Bergen. This beautiful city is about halfway between Western Norway's two largest fjords, Sognefjord and Hardangerfjord. You can go hiking to enjoy the fjords from above, or take different cruises that allow you to enjoy them from the water, with tours leaving from Bergen's harbor all year round.
Corsica Island, France
by Rachel from earthsmagicalplaces
Corsica is a French island which is confusingly closer to Italy. Its location in the Mediterranean brings beautiful beaches, and some of the clearest water I’ve ever seen! However, it's the mountains and forests (that account for two-thirds of Corsica's territory) which make the island a very magical place.
Monte Cinto is the highest mountain on the island, standing at just under 9000 ft. Although this can be climbed, it’s not easily done! However, there are countless other hiking trails on the island that are more suitable! These will take you through picturesque forests, along crystal clear rivers and lakes to the bases of enormous granite rock formations.
For those looking for a more adrenaline-inducing activity, there are several different companies that offer ‘extreme’ high rope courses within the forest. I’m not usually scared of heights but these really tested my nerve! Especially terrifying was ziplining down one of the aforementioned granite rock faces. This said, climbing to the treetops does provide some of the best views of the landscape.
Chinyero Nature Reserve, Tenerife, Spain
By Helene from flighttosomewhere
Chinyero Nature Reserve is an area of 24 square kilometres in the North-West of Tenerife - the largest island of the Spanish archipelago of the Canary Islands. Though it's not as well-known as Teide National Park, it is nevertheless an area of significant geological interest as this is the place of the last volcanic eruption in Tenerife (Chinyero volcano erupted in 1909).
The area is a mix of Canarian pine tree forest and lava fields and makes for a breathtakingly beautiful landscape, with the lush green of the pine trees mixing with the vivid black of the lava, which varies in consistency from smooth and sandy to large rock formations. Apart from beautiful views over Chinyero and Garachico volcanoes, there are several places in the nature reserve where you can see all the way to Mount Teide.
Chinyero Nature Reserve is easily accessible by car and offers some fantastic opportunities for hiking that could be classified as easy, as it's relatively flat with no steep climbs. Due to the stunning vistas, these hikes are great for the landscape photography enthusiasts.
If you choose to visit Chinyero Nature Reserve, please be prepared, with appropriate footwear for walking through rocky areas (no sandals or flip flops) and plenty of water and snacks to get you through the hike. The only people you will meet during your walk are fellow hikers - there are no shops or food stalls around.
Lake Geneva, Switzerland/France
By Sarah from borderandbucketlists
Lake Geneva, referenced by locals as Lac Léman, is a stunning topographical landmark. This lake is split between France (40%) and Switzerland (60%). It only takes a short 30-minute ferry ride to cross from one side of the lake to the other. On the French side, the most recognizable city is Evian – most famously known as the home of the water bottling company. You can take a tour of the area, known as the “Evian experience.”
Across the border on the Swiss side of the lake, there are quite a few well-known cities, including Geneva, Lausanne, and Montreux. Geneva is the largest city in the French-speaking part of Switzerland and is home to the headquarters of many good-will agencies, including the United Nations and the Red Cross. Lausanne is known for its stunning cathedral and beautiful park waterfront-park, Esplanade Emile-Henri-Jaques-Dalcroze. Lastly, Montreux is known for its annual Christmas market along the shores of the lake.
There are dozens of outdoor activities to do near or on the lake. Sailing on the calm waters for a few hours, renting a paddleboat, and jumping off the diving board at Lutry are some on-the-water favorites. On the waterfront, there are tons of restaurants, hikes, running trails, and even museums (including the famed Olympic Museum in Lausanne) that are definitely worth a visit.
Vadu Crisului Cave, Romania
By Cristina from looknwalk
Apuseni Mountains, in Western Romania, are rich in interesting caves. And plenty of them can be explored. I’ve learned about Vadu Crisului Cave from my cousin – who’s been there before – and we have decided to visit it as a day trip from Cluj-Napoca (the day trip can be done from Oradea, too).
This is an old cave and has been visited since the beginning of the XXth century. The cave was discovered in 1903 and opened in 1905. Very shortly after, wooden stairs were added so that the tourists can visit the cave. Much later, in 1969, concrete stairs and metal railings have been added.
Should you travel by train, follow the marked trail, which goes parallel to the Fast Cris river (Crisul Repede) and climbs all the way to the cave. The trail is not very difficult, but the climb takes 30-45 min, depending on your fitness level.
The temperature inside is 10C and it is very humid. Make sure to bring a waterproof jacket with you.
Although the cave has stairs and lights, being suitable to be explored by travelers, there are many parts which can be dangerous. For someone claustrophobic or with fear of heights, it is not an easy cave to explore. While you don’t need special equipment to visit, be sure to wear clothes you don’t mind getting wet and dirty. There’s a river flowing inside the cave and yes, there are bats.
The cave has only one gallery and although it is relatively narrow, the high ball is sometimes 20 m. A total of 1,000 meters can be visited by the public.
During months with many precipitations, it is not possible to visit the cave as some of the areas are flooded.
Gobustan National Park, Azerbaijan
By Emily from Wander-Lush
Located in the Caucasus region, on the cusp of Europe and Asia, Azerbaijan didn’t get its nickname ‘The Land of Fire’ for nothing. The Absheron Peninsula in particular is a wonderland of geological curiosities—ancient oil wells, fire-jetting mountains fuelled by natural gas vents, and more than half the world’s mud volcanoes.
Many of the volcanoes are located within Gobustan National Park, a 500-hectare reserve 40 miles southwest of the capital, Baku. Arriving at Gobustan, the first thing you notice is how desolate and harsh the landscape is. It’s great fun to explore on foot—and relatively safe. Mud ‘volcanoes’ aren’t driven by magmatic activity and rarely erupt. The domes form when hot water and mineral deposits mix below the Earth’s surface and are forced out through crevices. Methane and carbon dioxide, not heat, causes the mud to bubble. It’s tepid enough to dip a finger in.
There are dozens of craters ranging from waist-height to a few storeys tall. Scaling the higher domes and peering down into the gurgling vents is mesmerising—as is watching the mud ooze out and paint the earth with abstract patterns as it dries and cracks in the sun.
The mud volcanoes aren’t the only geological point of interest Gobustan has to offer. Nearby, you’ll find the UNESCO-recognised Gobustan Rock Art Culture Landscape, which safeguards more than 6,000 petroglyphs dating back to the Neolithic Period. It’s advisable to start your visit at the adjacent Gobustan Natuer Museum, which is dedicated to the area’s archaeological heritage.
By Greta from gretastravels
From a geological point of view, Iceland is undoubtedly one of the most interesting places in Europe. With its volcanoes, geysers and glaciers there is plenty to keep any geology fan interested. I personally find the Westfjords, also known as "Iceland's Best Kept Secret" and Iceland's more rural region, are often overlooked. From a geological point of view the Westfjords are home to kilometres of cliffs over the sea, and amongst them Latrabjarg, the westernmost point in Iceland and Europe. Latrabjarg is an area 14km long with cliffs that reach 440m in height. It's especially famous for bird watching, thanks to the large numbers of puffins that nest in the steep sides of the cliffs.
In the Westfjords you will also find countless waterfalls. My personal favourite was Dynjandi Falls, a waterfall so big that from a distance it looked like part of the cliffs were covered in snow. Up close you realise that it's actually made of seven smaller waterfalls that rush down from the sides of the fjords to end in the sea. If you're a geology fan I highly recommend renting a car for a trip to the Westfjords of Iceland, to find plenty of natural formations to satisfy your curiosity!
By Aga from worlderingaround
Iceland’s unique geology is of interest to many travellers, as well as scientists. I am geologist myself, so apart from my love to travel, I also look at the visited destinations from more scientific perspective.
One of the places, that fascinated me during my 7 days road trip in Iceland, was Svartifoss (eng. Black Falls). Black Falls is a beautiful waterfall, located in the Skaftafell wilderness area in Vatnajökull National Park in the south of Iceland. With its unusual appearance, it’s not surprising that it is one of the most popular sights in the park.
The waterfall spectacularly drops from the 20 meter-high cliff, and the feeding it water comes from the melting Svinafellsjokull glacier. The back of the waterfall is built from the tall basalt columns that look like the giant organ pipes.Those hexagonal structures were formed inside of the lava flow, during extremely slow cooling process.
It’s not a surprise, that the waterfall and the surrounding area provided the inspiration for the artists. The architect of the famous Hallgrímskirkja church in Reykjavík designed the building based on the look of the Svartifoss. If you enjoyed the sites like the The Giant's Causeway in Ireland or Isle of Staffa in Scotland, you would also be amazed by seeing a different perspective of the basalt rock formations enhanced with the falling waterfall. It’s an unique sight and definitely worth a short hike through the park.
Katskhi Pillar, Georgia
By Baia Dzagnidze from redfedoradiary
Georgia is full of interesting geological sight, and one of the most significant of them all is a natural limestone monolith Katskhi Pillar located in the village of the same name, Katkhi, in the western part of Georgia near the manganese town of Chiatura. This 40-meter high rock has a visible church on its top. The only way to go up is via a metal ladder.
It must be noted that the rock has been a place of worship ever since humans settled in the area. Therefore, prior to Georgia adopting Christianity back in the 4th century, the pillar was used as a place for pagan rituals for fertility. After Christianity became the official religion of the country, pagan sites were slowly replaced by Christian churches, resulting in a church construction on top of the pillar in the 7th century.
The church you see today is a relatively new addition to the site, built by the Georgian Orthodox Church. The only way to get there is by an iron ladder, however, women are not allowed to climb the top and not all the visitors are allowed either. You can simply get closer at its foot and admire the pillar from there.
Gorges du Verdon, France
By Daniela form ipanematravels
If you are in a search of dramatic views and jaw-dropping landscapes in Europe, you should visit the South of France. And not for the lavender fields in Provence, which are equally beautiful minus the drama, but for the deepest canyon in Europe – the Gorges du Verdon. Formed in the Quaternary period, the ravine was cut through by the Verdon River. At some places the canyon is as deep as 700 m, at the bottom it’s 6 to 100 m wide and at the rim - 200 to 1500 m.
The Gorges du Verdon is the perfect place for those who love hiking, rock-climbing or whitewater sports. A must-do in the Gorges du Verdon is the Martel Trail. Taking it, you will find yourself descending through steep rocks down to the riverbed, surrounded by stratified vertical limestone rocks. You can even spot some fossils in the rocks. If you are not fit or afraid of heights you should not attempt the Martel Trail. Another way to enjoy the mesmerizing beauty of the canyon is to make a road trip. If you have a whole day, you should do both the south and the north rim. However, some sections of the north rim (Route de Cretês) are not for the faint-hearted driver.
Undoubtedly, the Gorges du Verdon is one of the most beautiful places in France and in Europe. Standing there on the Artuby Bridge, you realize how powerful nature is for being able to create such a breathtaking landscape!
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
By Laura from thetravellingstomach
Plitvice Lakes National Park must be one of the most beautiful places in the world! Pack your walking shoes, a picnic and your camera as you embark on a journey through the national park walking alongside beautiful flowing waterfalls, turquoise coloured lakes and amazing panoramic views.
For the geology geeks out there, this UNESCO site has been created as a result of the confluence of several rivers, above and below ground combined with the karstic rock underlying the area. Sixteen lakes of varying sizes have been formed above ground split into Upper and Lower lakes, with many waterfalls to explore along the way.
There are many different walking routes around the park dependent on the amount of time you have, and your level of fitness, but all offer picture perfect views of the lakes. There’s also an electric boat trip, and panoramic ‘train’ ride (it’s more of an electric tram) included within the price of your ticket, both of which are worth enjoying, and are a good chance to rest your feet!
Spend your day meandering along the pretty wooden walkways and over quaint bridges exploring this breath-taking park and spotting the little fish swimming around in the lakes, you may even spot an elusive bear. The lakes seem to change colour through the year, sometimes green, sometimes blue and sometimes grey related to the levels of minerals and algae in the water. Dependent on the season you might even be able to witness the leaves changing colour, or in Winter some of the lakes and waterfalls freeze into unique ice sculptures. Whenever you visit it’s worth coming early so you can spend the whole day exploring, and also try to beat the crowds.
Furnas, Azores, Portugal
By Jen and Ryan from passionandplaces
Located in the middle of the Atlantic, the chain of Portuguese islands known as the Azores is full of compelling geologic features. The islands themselves are volcanic and are home to a number of active and extinct volcanoes, including one whose crater now holds a famed twin lake. But perhaps one of the most interesting features of the islands is found at Furnas, the name of a village, a lake, and a hot spring. All throughout the village, steam pours up from the earth and fills the air with a distinct sulfuric smell.
The hot springs have also created thermal pools that are great for swimming, but be aware that the rust-colored water may stain whatever you’re wearing. The other thing Furnas is known for? Its bolos lêvedos, or muffins made with the water from the hot springs. Get them while they’re hot for a real treat. Furnas is located on the largest island of the Azores, Sao Miguel, and can be reached in about an hour’s drive from the capital of Ponta Delgada.
Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
By Alice from takeyourbag
The Giant’s Causeway on the Coast of Northern Ireland is a magical site rich in geological interest. What you see now as curiously shaped rocks and blackish pebbles has been formed by 60 million years of Nature’s work: volcanic eruptions and the resulting lava layers, sun and rain, sea and time. They all have created this unique place with its basalt columns molded into stepping stones to walk on and watch the waves crash on the hillsides. This Unesco World Heritage site is worth the trip to Northern Ireland, and is accessible by most organized coach tours around the country and/or from Belfast.
Good thing is that - even if it looks confusing when you get there - you don’t have to pay to access to the Giant’s Causeway by feet (but you’ll have to pay if you need a parking spot, an audioguide, a shuttle ride, etc.). The place is usually crowded with tourists, but you might be able to enjoy it relatively free of people early in the morning. Even if it was pretty packed when I went, I don't regret going to see this place at all, as it has some kind of otherworldly atmosphere I really enjoyed.
Jurassic Coast, England
By Carol Guttery from wayfaringviews
When you hike the Jurassic Coast in southwest England, you are following in the footsteps of giants. These coastal cliffs were 185 million years in the making and their layers include geology from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. The coastline was one of the most important sources of Jurassic era fossils and it has informed much of what is known about reptiles in England.
The coastline has been designated a UNESCO “area of outstanding beauty” and it is indeed beautiful. A three day hike along the Jurassic Coast Walk will lead you through cute beach towns, up and down rocky cliffs and across a variety of terrain that includes sandstone cliffs, white chalk cliffs, pastoral lands and forest.
You can access the Jurassic Coast trails from Exmouth, Sidmouth, Lyme Regis and Weymouth on the southwestern peninsula in England. It’s easy enough to base yourself in a town and do sections of the trail as a day hike, or you an contract with a luggage portage service and through hike the whole coastline.
So there you have it. Fifteen geological wonders of Europe as seen with the eyes of seasoned travel bloggers from all over the world.
Which is your favorite? Which have you already visited and which is on your bucket list?
Lots of love