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Natural wonders in Europe

Spanning 50 countries and a huge diversity of climate, language, history and geography, Europe has endless beautiful corners to explore. Towering waterfalls, pink lakes, fascinating forests, thermal waters and caves under glaciers - the range of Europe's wonders is truly breathtaking. 

1. Salinas de Torrevieja, Spain

If you're someone who looks at life through rose-tinted spectacles then there's no pinker place than the Salinas de Torrevieja in Valencia. Marvel at a huge lake of pink salty water covered in flocks of vivid flamingos. Micro-organisms and micro-seaweeds combine to create the pink colour while during the breeding season up to 2,000 flamingos arrive. These gradually turn pink as they tuck into the abundant saline shrimp. As well as bird watching, relax with gentle walks or admire the scenery from horseback. The lake also has health-giving properties. The black mud removes skin toxins helping those with eczema while the white sand exfoliates the skin. 

Best time to visit:
Between February and July when migratory flamingos arrive to breed 

2. Etretat Cliffs, France

Dover has its white cliffs but the natural rock arches or "falaises" of Etretat in Upper Normandy are just as spectacular. Towering over the white pebble beach and the Atlantic Ocean, these natural wonders were popular subjects for artists such as Monet. Scaling the cliffs via the steep paths that start in Etretat is as beneficial as a good workout. The views from the top make the exertion more than worthwhile. The three natural arches were formed by a millennium or more of sea and river erosion. 

Best time to visit:
For the best weather, visit between mid-June and mid-September 

3. Saxon Switzerland Natural Park, Germany

Saxon Switzerland National Park is conveniently located just 60 minutes from Dresden. It features awesome limestone pillars intersected by steep ravines which are covered with dense forests or mountain meadows. Several hundred kilometres of hiking and cycling trails wind through the national park while there are 700 or more summits for rock climbers of all experience levels to tackle. Hike to the top of the Bastei, a major viewing point or, if you want something a little less energetic, enjoy the limestone rock formations from a leisurely boat ride on the Elbe River.  

Best time to visit:
For real photo opportunities, visit at sunset

4. High Force, County Durham, UK

High Force in County Durham is among Britain's most impressive waterfalls. The River Tees has plunged deep into the gorge for thousands of years while the rocks below date back over 300 million years. From its trickling start in the North Pennines, the river suddenly drops 21 metres into a plunge pool which can be reached by a gentle hike. Walk, cycle or kayak to enjoy the breathtaking scenery of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty that surrounds you.

Best time to visit:
At dawn or dusk to catch sight of timid deer and rabbits 

5. Crooked Forest, Poland

Near Gryfino in western Poland is a strange, eerie and photogenic forest that is shrouded in mystery. Several hundred pine trees grow with a right angle at their base instead of straight up as normal pine trees do. To add to the mystery, this collection of trees, planted in the 1930s, is surrounded by straight trees. When the trees were mere saplings, something resulted in their curved trunks. But what was it? Freak and bizarre weather conditions or damage wreaked on the young trees by World War II tanks? In both cases, what about the surrounding trees? The theory accepted now is that the curves were man-made by farmers manipulating the trunks for use in future construction or, most likely, for shipbuilding. This activity would have been interrupted by the war and the trees subsequently left unattended. As the area was deserted during the war and afterwards there are no locals or written records from the time to give us an answer.

Best time to visit:
Between the spring and summer months of April to September when the ground is reasonably dry.

6. Ice Caves, Iceland 

Admiring volcanoes, soaking in hot springs or walking on glaciers are just some of the activities the landscape of Iceland has to offer. One activity that will blow you away, however, is a visit to the luminous ice caves that sit below glaciers such as Vatnajokull. Take a guided tour inside and you'll be dazzled by the bright blue colours and the wonderful geometric ice sculptures that nature has formed. This is a natural wonder that can be visited again and again. Each year, these unusual spaces melt and reform in a different dazzling way.

Best time to visit:
During winter months when the ice is secure 

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