From painted forests to pink lakes

Confident that you’ve ticked most, if not all, of the planet’s extraordinary sights off your bucket list? Then it’s time to think again.

Look beyond the Grand Canyon, Eiffel Tower and Angkor Wat and you’ll find a shadow world of marvels that you never knew existed. Some of them are astounding natural phenomenon; others are man-made yet no less magical for that; and all of them are under the radar.

In this excerpt from Lonely Planet’s Secret Marvels of the World, we take a whistle-stop tour of some of the most mysterious, mesmerising and downright bizarre places on Earth.


Rainbow eucalyptus trees, Hawaii, USA

The road to Hana is one of the most incredible drives anywhere on the planet, featuring an overwhelming abundance of sights, sounds and colours as the road winds its way down to the sleepy town nestled in the fragrant bosom of Maui’s rainforest.

Perhaps the most extraordinary thing you’ll see on this journey is the ‘painted forest’ of rainbow eucalyptus trees: a quirk of nature producing trees that literally look like frozen rainbows. The reds, purples and greens are particularly vivid within these spectacular oddities of evolution, thanks to sections of bark shedding at different times during the year. The real beauty of this phenomenon, however, is that the process is ongoing, so the multicoloured streaks continuously evolve, forming a grove of living kaleidoscopes.

The rainbow eucalyptus grove can be found at mile marker 7 on Maui’s Hana Highway in Hawaii. You can also see some of the trees at the nearby Keʼanae Arboretum.


Zhāngyē Dānxiá National Geopark, China

Bands of colour from vermilion to pale green cover a mountainous 500 sq km site in Gansu province, where more than 20 million years of geological movement have pressed the sandstone into a multicoloured layer cake. Over centuries, the sandstone was weathered into pillars, while extreme desert temperatures split the rock to form creeks and cliff faces hundreds of metres high.