A natural phenomenon for every month of the year

A natural phenomenon for every month of the year

    Do you ever find yourself scrolling through socials, and stopping dead in your tracks after seeing somewhere or something that just can’t quite be real? 

    One thing leads to another, and then you've fallen down that Google rabbit hole again, ready to ‘accidentally’ book a flight and hotel. 

    “This is your sign” and all.

    Well, a lot of these places are, in fact, real, and we’ve done the hard work for you, combing the web for some of the most jaw-dropping displays Mother Nature has to offer. 

    Some you might’ve heard about, but others you definitely haven’t. Not a bad way to get your travel calendar all filled up :-)

    So read on for a month-by-month guide of how to see them (and not through the lens of another TikToker), and what to expect when you get there.

    January - Monarch butterfly migration (Mexico)

    When? November-March

    Let’s kick things off with maybe THE most fairytale-esque experience you could ever have.

    Picture it: you take a stroll through a park with millions of butterflies fluttering around you, performing their own colourful dance—we’re coming for your crown, Snow White.

    This see-it-to-believe-it spectacle happens every year from November-March when monarch butterflies escape from the cold of the US and Canada, to the warmer climes of Mexico. They travel down in millions (some estimates say it’s around about 20!) until they’re at their peak from mid-January until the end of March.

    Piedra Herrada Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary near Valle de Bravo is your go-to spot to see this migration in full bloom. Time your trip for mid-afternoon on a sunny day, as this is when these beautiful insects are the most active. Once you’ve paid your £4.60/$6 entry fee, you can hire a guide (for an extra £16) who will escort you on an hour-long trail to the very top of the forest where the butterflies are waiting. But be careful where you step—they’re literally everywhere!

    How do I get there?

    Valle de Bravo is a 2.5 hour bus ride from Mexico City. From there, the sanctuary is just a half-hour taxi away—before you leave the cab, arrange for them to pick you back up later on, as there isn’t a way to catch a taxi from the sanctuary otherwise.

    February - Horsetail Falls (California, USA)

    When? Mid-late February.

    Most of the year, Horsetail Falls is just your normal, stunningly beautiful waterfall. *yawn* But for just a few nights every year in mid-late February, it has its annual ‘Firefall’. Now we’re awake!

    Put simply, the water is illuminated by the light of the sunset. But that molten orange colour could have you convinced you’re looking at spewing lava.

    This is maybe the most ‘right place, right time’ phenomenon on this list because there are a lot of factors at play. The sun is only at the right place for a few nights a year, and it also depends on the amount of water in the fall, and how cloudy it is—if there’s too much cloud coverage, you won’t see a thing! So, may the odds be ever in your favour…

    How do I get there?

    Your best bet is to get yourself to San Francisco. From there, you can either take a short domestic flight straight to Fresno Yosemite International Airport, for around £100/$130 rtn, and then drive an hour up to the national park. Or, you can take an all American road trip.

    March - Salar de Uyuni Mirror (Bolivia)

    When? December-March

    Bolivia’s salt flats are on a lot of people’s bucket lists, and for good reason! The flats are incredible to see at any time of year, but when they look like a gigantic mirror for just a few months, it’s next level. Try not to succumb to the same fate as Narcissus though, yeah?

    During the rainy season, water sits on top of this impermeable surface, giving the largest salt desert in the world a seemingly endless mirror effect. It’s a true photographer’s dream, with sooo many beautiful composition possibilities—aaaand the odd wacky one

    This time of year also means huge numbers of flamingos will call the area home for the wet season!

    How do I get there?

    For this one, you have a lot of options. Cochabamba and Viru Viru airports are both well serviced, with connections to Madrid (and Miami from Viru Viru) if you’re heading there from Europe.

    Cochabamba - From here you can get to Uyuni either by bus (it takes up to 10 hours and costs around £14/$18) or by splashing the cash and hopping on a plane. There’s also the option to follow a similar route to the bus as a road-trip—travelling through these diverse landscapes looks like it’s pretty incredible! 

    Viru Viru - From the airport, Santa Cruz (where you’ll catch the buses) is around a 25 minutes taxi away. From there, you can travel to Uyuni by bus (between $20-$35/£15-£30) with a short transfer in Potosi or Oruro, but either way you can expect it to take around a day. Or, the much quicker (but pricier of course) option is, again, to hop on a plane and arriver in under 3 hours. 

    Side note: Salar de Uyuni sits high above sea level, and so it’s important to consider taking time to acclimatize to the altitude when making your travel plans.

    April - Mosquito Bay bioluminescense (Puerto Rico)

    When? Throughout the year, but is best on a new moon in December-April (the dry season)

    This one is coming at you straight from Pandora…oh sorry, we mean Puerto Rico.

    There are only six places in the whole world where you can find water that glows neon blue under moonlight, and Puerto Rico is home to the brightest and most magical.

    This happens when teeny tiny, microscopic plankton get agitated (aka, running your hand or an oar through the water) and in response, flash a bright light to confuse any predators making it look like the water is shimmering. How cool! 

    How do I get there?

    You’ll find Mosquito Bay on the tiny Puerto Rican island of Vieques. San Juan (SJU airport) is your best gateway, and is well serviced with lots of connections within the Americas (plus a once daily flight to Madrid). From there, you can take a non-stop flight straight to Vieques airport (VQS). Once you’re on the island, you can either head to the bay yourself by taxi, or you can go on a kayak tour of the bay—some even have see-through floors!

    May - Kawah Ijen Volcano (Indonesia)

    When? Any time of year, but best during the dry season through April-November

    The most beautiful spot in Indonesia? We’ll let you decide!

    Mount Ijen is an active volcano crater in east Java, home to the largest acid lake in the world. 

    Once the sun comes up, you’ll find a turquoise lake which looks incredibly enticing. But let’s face it, a dip in an acid lake is hardly doctor recommended…so maybe just stick to admiring it from afar...

    Most organised tours will get you up there for sunrise, but setting such an early alarm is soooooo worth it when it means you might even catch the “blue fire”, trust us. Further in the crater, sulphur gas burns at temps of around 600 degrees Celsius, creating cobalt blue flames that can reach up to 5 metres tall. It’s a real photographer’s dream.

    Along the edge of the crater, lies the ‘Dead tree forest’ which, although sounding pretty grim, looks just like the perfect spooky film set.

    Hiking to the summit takes around 1-2 hours. But don’t worry if you’re feeling lazy, local sulphur miners will push you up there in their trolleys for about £20/$25 each—it is an active sulphur mine after all. Win, win!

    How do I get there?

    The closest city to the mountain is Banyuwangi, about a 90-minute drive away. From Bali, you can take a short ferry from Gilimanuk to Ketapang (under £1/$1 rtn), and from there, the city is a 15/20 minute drive away. 

    If you’re starting from Java, your best option is to take a bus or train to the city. There is also the option of flying to Bayuwangi (BWX) from Bali, Jakarta, or Kuala Lumpur, but that’ll set you back about £150/$190 rtn—sounds expensive compared to the £1/$1 ferry, eh?! Once you arrive, you’re in the perfect place to go the easy way out and arrange a tour, or gear up and head up the mountain yourself. 

    June - Victoria Falls Moonbow (Zimbabwe/Zambia)

    CC image courtesy of Markus Stöcklin on Flickr

    When? June-August

    This natural wonder of the world lies on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe and is incredibly impressive at any time of year. But, during the dry season, Victoria Falls shows off a little extra by displaying one of the world’s rarest phenomenons.

    A moonbow is essentially a rainbow caused by moonlight. Much like that ‘Firefall’ from earlier, the moonbow is reliant on quite a few things happening at once. It needs a decent amount of spray to refract the light (though not so much that you can’t see past it), clear skies, and close to (or on) the night of a full moon. The optimal months for this to all coincide from either sides of the falls, is June-August.

    Side note: If you plan to visit later on in the year, the Devil’s Pool on the edge of the falls is open from August-December—aka, the world’s least relaxing infinity pool ever! 

    How do I get there?

    For this one, you’ve got a few options. The key decision here, is which side of the falls you want to set out from as a base. Here’s a handy guide to help you pick, but the main points are that you can see 75% of the falls from the Zimbabwean side, and 25% from the Zambian side. Zambia is generally the cheaper option when considering accommodation, and other activities you may want to get up to while you’re there. 

    Depending on which country you choose, the Victoria Falls town (Zimbabwe) and Livingstone Town (Zambia) both have international airports connecting you to a variety of well-serviced African destinations such as South Africa. From both airports, the falls are just a short drive away. 

    July - Dark Sky Reserve (New Zealand)

    When? Year round, but clear winter nights give the best views

    Get ready to have a very sore neck after this one. 

    All of New Zealand’s South Island is a stargazers dream, but the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve takes it to the next level. The night sky around Mt Cook has barely any light pollution, which means its darkness is virtually unbeatable. 

    From here, you can spot all kinds of celestial bodies. To name a few: the Southern Cross, seasonal ecliptic objects, planets, star clusters, moons, distant galaxies and the Milky Way. All you’ve got to do is prop up a folding chair, pack a cosy blanket (and a hot chocolate thermos!) and watch the universe pass you by.

    Side note: If you decide to visit here later on in the year, nearby Lake Tekapo springs to life in November under a blanket of stunning lupins. But truthfully, the lake and it’s cute lil’ church are worth a visit any time of year—everyone loves a good ol’ 2-for-1. You can trust the writer on that one, she’s been twice! :-)

    How do I get there?

    So, there are a few ways you can do this. If you’ve flown into Auckland, you can either catch a cheap domestic flight down south to Christchurch, or take the ferry from Wellington to Picton

    Like everything with NZ, your best bet is to have a car. If you’re starting in Picton, you’ll experience the world’s BEST road trip. But even starting in the South, you’ll wanna head for state highway 80—yup, that road. For those who don’t wanna drive, Intercity is the country’s equivalent of a ‘hop on hop off bus’ which makes stops at all the main sites. For the reserve, you’ll wanna get off at Tekapo.

    August - Caño Cristales (Colombia)

    CC image courtesy of Pedro Szekely on Flickr

    When? Late-May to late-November, but its peak is between July-October

    The river that escaped from heaven

    For a few months every year, a river bed in the Serranía de la Macarena comes to life with kaleidoscopic patterns that make a real life watercolour palette. It is lined by beautiful red, yellow, blue, green, and black plants—hence why some call it the ‘river of five colours’.

    The park is doing a lot to minimise the impact of tourism on this liquid rainbow. So much so that there is a limit to 200 visitors per day, as well as a requirement for a permit and licensed guide. It’s muuuch easier to head there as part of an organised 3-5 day tour rather than by yourself. But if it means preserving nature (and no one photobombing your Insta snaps…), we’re all for it :-)

    How do I get there?

    To get to Caño Cristales, you first need to get to the small town of La Macarena. The easiest way to get there is a direct flight from Bogotá or Medellín, but they are fairly infrequent (2/3 flights per week) so it’ll take some planning beforehand. Tour guides will then typically arrange to meet in the city centre, or straight from your accomodation.

    September - Sort sol (Denmark)

    CC image courtesy of Carsten Gerlach on Flickr

    When? Spring and autumn, but you’ll get the best display in autumn as the birds head south 

    Picture millions of birds dancing in the sky in unison, as the sun sets. Yep, that’s sort sol.

    Every spring and autumn in Denmark, starling birds migrate in their millions. For around 20 minutes each night, large flocks block the sun completely as it sets—hence the Danish term for “black sun”.

    The best place to see this is at the Wadden Sea National Park, with an estimated 15 million birds passing through it each season. 

    It’s worth keeping in mind that while yeah you can try and see this by yourself, but booking with a tour guide practically guarantees seeing the marvel—these people are literally tracking the birds 24/7! 

    You can expect to pay around £25/$30 for a guide, but they’ll even give you some extras like tours around the nearby marshes and other closed nature areas.

    How do I get there?

    The closest major city to the Wadden Sea National Park is Billund (yep, it’s not just for Legoland visits!). You can fly to the city directly, and from there the National Park is a 1.5hr drive away. There aren’t regular bus or train services between the two, so you will need to drive.

    If you can only fly into Copenhagen, then that works too! This airport is much better serviced internationally, and is just 3 hours away from Billund by train.

    October - Catatumbo Lightning (Venezuela)

    When? April-November

    CC image courtesy of Vickie Verieu on Flickr

    Now, here’s one for the storm chasers!

    In Lake Maracaibo, where it joins with the Catatumbo River, there is continuous electrical activity. Its unique geography and weather conditions, mean lightning typically occurs in the area for over 100 days a year. 

    In real terms? At earth’s “lightning capital”, you can expect storms lasting up to 9 hours, and in October, it reaches up to 28 strikes a minute. Unsurprisingly, it has the Guinness World Record for most strikes per square meter.

    Given it’s so common, locals are fairly used to the persistent storms. However, legend has it that the lightning was a gift from the Gods to the indigenous people who lived there—and you can’t be ungrateful, can you! 

    How do I get there?

    It’s best to not try to get to Lake Maracaibo without the help of a guide. Your best bet is to fly to Caracas, take a short domestic flight to El Vigía and then a short bus ride to Mérida. From there, you’ll find loads of tours that’ll make sure you get there safely and show you some local spots you might’ve missed along the way, like the Urao lagoon.

    November - Hutt Lagoon (Australia)

    When? All year round, but colour changes throughout the day.

    All aboard the Barbie hype train! 

    Clearly, no one told Margot Robbie that there was a cotton-candy coloured Barbie pool waiting for her in her home country. Ah well, we’ll tell you about it instead. 

    Hutt Lagoon is a salt lake on the west coast of Australia, where the extremely high salinity turns the water vibrant colours. Throughout the day, the lighting can change the colour of the lake to lilac, red, and of course, bubblegum pink

    To see the brightest pink, try to get there on a clear day by either mid-morning, or sunset. But if you want to see the colours transform, make sure you’re there before the sunset starts. You might have to sit and watch for a few hours, but it’ll be soooo worth it.

    How do I get there?

    Time for another road trip! Once you’ve landed in Perth, you’re gonna head north, towards the Kalbarri National Park (we’ll come back to that…). It’s a solid 5 and a half hour shift along the Indian Ocean drive coastal highway before you get to Port Gregory Road, but with loads of spots to visit along the way, you can make it everything and more.

    Once you’ve had your fill of Barbie-esque waters on Port Gregory, keep going north for another 45 mins up to Kalbarri. This spot could’ve arguably made this list on its own with the otherworldly ‘Nature’s window’ created by layers of tumblagooda sandstone. But hey, everyone loves a good 2-in-1!

    Plus, there’s even the option to take a scenic flight over the lake from Kalbarri airport, if the pink stuff starts beckoning again :-)

    December - Northern Lights (Norway)

    When? September-April, but you can try your luck throughout the year

    There’s not much more magical than seeing the sunning patterns of red, blue, and green dance around the sky

    Yep, we’re ending on one you're probably very familiar with. Tromsø, in Norway, is maybe the best spot to watch the Aurora Borealis do its thing. It’s located right in the centre of the Northern Lights’ oval, which means there’s a super high chance of seeing these stunning streaks from September to April.

    If you wanna add an extra bit of *spice* to your phenomena, you could head alllll the way up to Svalbard. This tiny Norwegian archipelago is one of the only places in the whole world that you can be witness to a daytime display of the lights—thanks to its long polar nights in winter.

    How do I get there?

    Tromsø: Some of the larger cities across Europe offer non-stop services to Tromsø. If they don’t from your airport, you can fly to any other major Scandinavian city (Copenhagen, Stockholm, Bergen, Oslo), and take a short flight with Norwegian, SAS, or Widerøe—expect to pay between £100-£200/$130-$260 rtn for this flight.

    Svalbard: The main airport of the archipelago is Longyearbyen (LYR) which is serviced by Scandinavian Airlines. Usually, it can be booked through the airline with just a short stop in Oslo on the way—it’s worth noting that we are starting to see deals show up to this region more often, so keep an eye out

    Well, there you have it, a whole year full of travel inspo! 

    Have you ever visited any of these natural wonders, have any already made it to your bucket list? Let us know! 

    We always love it when you share your own travel experiences and pictures with us. And if you’ve been somewhere you think should’ve made the list, even better! :-)