Four extraordinary natural sites in Europe

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Four extraordinary natural sites in Europe

In Europe, nature sometimes takes fascinating forms: discover a Spanish desert, an immaculate cliff in Sicily, France's Gorges du Verdon and the surreal world of an Austrian lake. 

Four extraordinary natural sites in Europe

Landscapes worthy of Westerns in Aragon

Just three hours from Barcelona lies one of Spain's best kept secrets: the Los Monegros desert hidden within the wild region of Aragon. From Lanaja you will find a natural trail through an arid no man's land. As you come around a bend, a geological marvel appears almost as if by magic! Gargantuan monolithic rock sculptures, known as torrolones, arise from the ravines carved out from centuries of erosion. Along the foothills you can explore the landscapes that feel as though they came straight from an episode of Zorro. Vultures circle above this rocky labyrinth, which bears witness to passing time. Nearby, an improbable hotel-slash-cave dug into the mountainside invites you in for a troglodyte-filled stay in its rooms with a Middle Eastern decor. Get ready for an unforgettable experience at the Hotel Cueva.

Hotel Cueva
Calle Aerodromo Tardienta,
22240 Tardienta
Huesca
Spain
+34 974 340 163
www.hotelcueva.com

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Four extraordinary natural sites in Europe

Scala dei Turchi: A surreal cliff in Sicily

As you arrive in Agrigente, a few hours from Catania on Sicily's south-western coast, you will hardly believe your eyes! A sort of stairway, white as snow, stretches up fifty metres from the beach all the way to the top of the hill. The Scala dei Turchi is like no other place in Europe, with its soft edges and naturally formed caves in a small limestone and clay cliff. Take a moment to sit and admire the immaculate rocky “steps”. You cannot help but feel the magnetic pull of this world sculpted by the sea and wind. Find a spot to spread out your towel along the long cove, often cited as one of the ten most beautiful beaches in the world, and enjoy the translucent waters of the “Big Blue”.

Scala dei Turchi
92010 Realmonte
Agrigente
Italy

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Four extraordinary natural sites in Europe

The vertiginous Gorges du Verdon

You cannot help but feel tiny among these majestic limestone cliffs that stretch out across the southern part of France's Var region and the upper Provence Alps to the north. From one end to the other runs a serpentine river of legendary beauty: the Verdon, next to Nice. As you approach by road, you will catch glimpses of one of the most gorgeous canyons on the Old Continent. The views from several lookout points over the river, babbling 700 metres below you, will take your breath away. When the many tourists go home after summer, the Gorges become peaceful once again – this is the time to enjoy the many activities on offer at this fabulous natural playground. Before heading straight to the water, check in with the tourist office for a day of kayaking or the best places to take a dip. Looking for a bit more excitement? Try white water rafting at the Couloir Samson. Brave this aquatic canyon that will take you from rapids all the way to the Baume aux Pigeons, an impressive cave with 60-metre-high ceilings and an astonishingly surrealist appearance.

Gorges du Verdon
France
www.lesgorgesduverdon.fr/

Couloir Samson
France
www.lesgorgesduverdon.fr/couloir-samson

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Four extraordinary natural sites in Europe

A fanciful dive into Grüner See lake in Austria

Discover a dreamlike world just three hours away from Vienna by car. Put on your scuba suit and mask and slip into the clear water of Austria's Grüner See lake. At the end of spring, the Tragoess park along the edges of the alpine peaks gets covered in six to ten metres of fresh water as the snow melts off Mount Hochschwab. June is the best month to see this incredible phenomenon for yourself. You will be struck by the restful silence all around as you take this fanciful dive into the lake, where you will see prairie flowers in full bloom. Grüner See, or “Green Lake”, owes its name to the colour of the vegetation. Remember to take pictures – otherwise, they might not believe you when you tell them about your trip!

Grüner See lake
Austria