Much of the Earth's crust has been shaped by volcanoes over billions of years--and is ever-changing due to active volcanoes. Build-ups of ash, pumice, and cinder create the conical shape we associate with volcanoes, but they can also result in impressive rock formations including columns, beaches, even entire islands.
The Earth's surface is dynamic, constantly evolving and building on the existing landscape. Volcanoes, with their fiery power, have a huge impact on the Earth, influencing the very way life exists on this planet. Not to mention the wonderful photograph opportunities! Check out these glorious volcanic landscapes from around the world.
10 Catarata Del Toro, Costa Rica
Costa Rica is known for its ethereal rainforests, but Catarata Del Toro might be its best-kept secret. Situated between Poas Volcano and Juan Castro Blanco National Park, Catarata Del Toro is Costa Rica's tallest waterfall, plunging 295 feet into the crater of a dormant volcano.
Thrillseekers and sightseers alike will want to hike to the volcano. The path is not long and can accommodate all level of ability. When the weather is good, you can even rappel into the crater-- but remember, it's not an extinct volcano!
9 Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland
The Giant's Causeway is a geological formation of over 40,000 basalt columns, and one of Northern Ireland's biggest tourist attractions. Located in County Antrim, very close to the centre of the island of Ireland, the Giant's Causeway is a designated UNESCO World Heritage site.
Irish mythology tells of the legendary hero Fionn mac Cumhaill, who built the causeway across the North Channel so he could challenge a Scottish giant to a fight, and the existing causeway is what remains. Science tells us, though, that the causeway was formed 50,000 years ago by a volcanic fissure eruption.
8 Vulcan Point, Philippines
Vulcan Point is like the world's ultimate geological Russian nesting doll. It's an island within a lake (Crater Lake), in the middle of an island (Volcano Island), located in a lake (Lake Taal), on one of the islands in the Philippines (Luzon). Good luck remembering how many islands within lakes are in this one.
But all of these lakes and islands were formed over thousands of years of volcanic activity. Taal Volcano, a huge and highly active volcano, sits quietly underneath Lake Taal until every decade or so, it violently erupts. Taal has been responsible for thousands of deaths in recent years, but close study of the volcano's activity has made visiting and photographing the islands totally safe.
7 Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
Like Iceland, the Hawaiian islands have a huge number of geological landscapes formed by volcanoes, and they're growing. Hawaii was formed by volcanoes hundreds of thousands of years ago, and the youngest island, Hawaii, still has many active volcanoes, and even has a national park named after them.
You'll find some breathtaking scenery here, including Kilauea and Mauna Loa, two of the world's most active volcanoes. Kilauea famously blew its top in May 2018, closing the park and ravaging anything nearby. The park has since reopened after a long and tiring eruption, and Kilauea is likely exhausted now, so there's little chance of it erupting again. Mauna Loa, on the other hand, is a different story...
6 Hvítserkur, Iceland
There are some stunning volcanic features in Iceland, the island having been formed by volcanoes some 18 million years ago. Many active volcanoes (and geysers--water volcanoes!) dot the landscape, occasionally spraying lava.
Hvítserkur is a 15-metre basalt stack protruding out of the water in Húnaflói Bay. Also known as the Troll of Northwest Iceland, Hvítserkur is sometimes described as looking like a dragon bending down to drink. It's a nesting ground for various species of birds, whose constant movement makes the monument itself seem to come alive.
5 City of Rocks State Park, New Mexico
Something like America's natural Stonehenge, City of Rocks State Park features hundreds of rock columns, some as tall as 40 feet high. Volcanic ash, along with the help of wind and water erosion, formed the City of Rocks some 30 million years ago. The Emory Caldera was responsible for the formation, as well as the nearby Kneeling Nun formation.
While the rock stacks may not look as huge as they are, get up close and you'll suddenly find yourself in a gigantic stone forest. Since it's within a state park, there are campgrounds near by so you can sleep among giants.
4 Eldgjá, Iceland
You could write an entire travel guidebook on the incredible volcanic landscape in Iceland, but another not-to-miss location is the Eldgjá canyon. Formed by its namesake volcano, Eldgjá (meaning "Fire Canyon") is the world's largest volcanic canyon, at a 40-kilometre stretch from Gjátindur Mountain all the way to the volcano Katla.
Aside from the dramatic waterfalls and rock formations in Eldgjá canyon, it has a fascinating and unique history. It was formed in the 10th century, just after the island was settled.
3 Staffa, Scotland
Just across the way from the Giant's Causeway (and perhaps fueling the legends) is a similar basalt column formation at Staffa, Scotland. The island of Staffa is just off the coast of the Isle of Mull in the Hebrides Overture. These stacks were formed in a very similar way to those of the Giant's Causeway.
Staffa is Old Norse for "Stave Island," named so for their similar appearance to Viking houses, which were made of vertically placed logs. Uninhabited since 1800, Staffa is now home only to local wildlife, with daily tours departing from nearby Iona, Oban, and the Isle of Mull. Don't miss the island's largest sea cavern, Fingal's Cave.
2 Devil's Tower, Wyoming
You may have seen a photo of the Devil's Tower National Monument in advertisements for the National Park Service. This enormous, 1,267-foot tall rock formation was the first United States National Monument, designated by President Roosevelt in 1906.
While geologists aren't entirely sure how the igneous formation came to be, its surroundings are from as far back as the Triassic Era, about 200 million years ago. But about 60 million years ago, magma created the nearby Black Hills and Rocky Mountains, making it possible that the Devil's Tower was a result. Some geologists even believe it is the remainder of an ancient, long extinct volcano itself.
1 Diamond Head State Monument, Hawaii
No, Diamond Head is not the result of a huge meteor that crashed into the Earth, but rather a volcanic crater. It is part of an intricate system of cones and vents on the island of Oahu known as the Honolulu Volcanic Series, but these volcanoes are long dormant.
Designated as a U.S. National Natural Monument, thousands of tourists in Honolulu flock to Diamond Head each year. It is one of the most accessible volcanic formations, being only a few minutes' bus ride from Waikiki.