Whether you are travelling to a sunny beach, hiking across mountain trails or going off-piste at a ski resort, many of the world’s holiday destinations are inextricably tied to their natural environments. So to experience the four elements at their sublime, check out this list, highlighting the holiday locations that are built upon earth, sea, wind and fire.
A land of glaciers and volcanoes, geysers and lava flows, landslides and eruptions, Iceland is where you should head to see earth in its formative stages. Much of the landscape in Iceland is incredibly new; many valleys, canyons and gorges just a few centuries old, formed from flowing lava, clouds of ash, tectonic shifts and glacial erosion to form strange, alien scenes of rich soil, verdant grasses and a desolate, striking beauty. In fact one of the youngest islands in the world, Surtsey, lies just off the coast of this proud nation. The island was formed over five years from 1963 to 1968 and was the result of an underwater volcanic eruption. The resulting landscape there is one of fine ash and tough igneous rock, a barren land that is slowly being conquered by nature, wild flowers blossoming over what was once white-hot magma.
Water covers 71% of the earth’s surface, putting us land-lubbing creatures in the distinct minority. Only at coastlines, river banks and lakesides do we come into contact with the planet’s most ubiquitous surface element. So to experience the magic of water first hand you must travel to a place where water is inescapable, an archipelago nation whose history, and whose precarious future, has been singularly defined by the ebb and flow of the ocean’s tides, the Maldives. A paradise of picturesque lagoons, seas of azure blue, tropical beaches of salt white sands and exotic rainforests, the Maldives is one of the most naturally blessed parts of our planet. Known as an exclusive destination for luxurious beach breaks, the islands are home to dozens of high-end, salubrious resorts that each takes advantage of quiet beaches, blissfully hot weather and calm, shallow waters. Yet long before the Maldives turned to tourism to make money the country lived by exploiting the oceans in a different way, fishing for tuna and shipping valuable marine goods such as ambergris and cowry shells. Even today many locals can be seen heading out into the Indian Ocean in traditional dhoni boats to cast their nets. Yet the Maldives has also suffered from the immense and devastating power of water over the years, experiencing severe flooding during the 2004 tsunami. What’s more, rising sea levels associated with global warming threaten to submerge the nation forever.
There’s nothing like a brisk stroll outdoors feeling the wind softly caressing your skin, contemplating the majesty of the windswept, natural world. And there are fewer places more windswept than Mount Washington, a 6,288 foot high peak in the state of New Hampshire. New England’s tallest mountain, this peak is also famous for being home to one of the fastest wind speeds ever recorded by man. It was during a blustery day in April, 1938 when brave meteorologists accurately measured winds of up to 231 miles per hour, making Mount Washington the windiest place on earth. In fact typical winds at the top of the mountain surpass Hurricane strength wind speeds for more than 110 days per year, making the peak inaccessible for long periods at a time. Mount Washington is also home to the oldest mountain hiking trail in the United States, the Crawford Path, a challenging route to the summit first laid out in 1812. But if you would prefer to take it easy and avoid icy blasts and fearsome gusts, a 19th century cog railway can get you to the peak in Victorian comfort and vintage style.
The most bewitching of the elements, man has long held a fascination with fire. It was Prometheus who, according to ancient Greek myth, first stole fire from the gods, an act for which he was punished severely; being chained to a rock and suffering the torment of an eagle eating out his innards each day. Yet it is in nearby Turkey where you can experience one of the world’s most ancient natural wonders, the fires at Chimera. Due to the extraordinarily high levels of methane under the ground at Chimera, and natural tectonic openings in the earth, flames seep out from underground and lick at the air. The fires have been present here for at least 2500 years, when Greek historian Ctesias remarked on the chimerical qualities of the land here, full of snakes and wild beasts, with flames appearing from the earth as if by magic. Yet the Chimera fires are believed to be much older than this, a permanent blazing feature on the landscape used by the sailors and traders of antiquity to navigate. Visitors to these beautiful shores can get within inches of the eternal flames, using the heat to boil mint tea, making this one of the world’s finest fiery destinations.Write a Comment
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