Mountain Top Monastery, Greece
At one time, there were 24 peak-top monasteries in the region of Meteora in central Greece. Built on sandstone megaliths that rise up to 1,800 feet (550 meters) from the valley floor, the first of these precarious enclaves dates to the 14th century. Now accessible by road and bridge, earlier monks and pilgrims had to rely on ladders and baskets raised by winches to reach the top.
(Source: National Geographic)
Slot Canyons of the American Southwest
Few places on Earth have such beauty and mystique on an intimate scale as the delicately sculptured and colored slot canyons of the American Southwest. There are thousands of scenic canyons in this region but most are relatively wide; in contrast, slot canyons have vertical walls and may be hundreds of feet deep but only a few feet wide.
The general rock is sandstone, in various shades of red and orange; it is sunlight, shining down and reflecting along the canyon walls that gives the canyons their special beauty; the shadows and colors change constantly as the sun moves overhead.
Zhangjiajie National Park Forest
Narrow sandstone pillars, some over 650 feet high, fill the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in Hunan Province, China. The park is one of several within the Wulingyuan Scenic and Historic Interest Area, a Unesco World Heritage site. Cable cars and an incredible elevator attached to the side of a giant pillar are available to see the incredible sites. The surreal alien landscape and scenery looks like the set from the movie Avatar. This is not a coincidence.
According to park officials, photographs from Zhangjiajie inspired the floating Hallelujah Mountains seen in the film. One of the park’s quartz-sandstone pillars, the 3,540 foot Southern Sky Column (third picture), has been officially renamed “Avatar Hallelujah Mountain.”
Horseshoe Bend, Arizona
Located on the Colorado River, Horseshoe Bend is a geological marvel. Here is where the Colorado River, cutting through rock over the course of millions of years, created a wide sweep around this sandstone escarpment. It created a 270° horseshoe-shaped bend in the canyon. This beautiful spot is only 7 miles north of the Grand Canyon.
The Wave consists of 200 million year old sand dunes that have turned to rock. These large sandstone formations are located on the slopes of the Coyote Buttes in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness in Arizona. The spectacular ribbons of various colors, called Liesegang Bands, were formed by the movement and precipitation of oxidizing materials such as iron and manganese in ground water. The Wave is accessible only on foot via a three-mile hike and is highly regulated.