The colorful waters of Caño Cristales, Colombia
(Photo: Mario Carvajal)

The Earth is filled to the brim with color, but there's some places that take it to another level with a little help from pigmented bacteria, millions of years' worth of sedimentary layering or other serendipitous natural forces.

Take, for example, the Caño Cristales (above) — a river in Colombia that is famous for its vivid coloring. Also known as the "Liquid Rainbow," Caño Cristales is home to the riverweed plant Macarenia clavigera, which casts the river in shades of red, yellow, green and blue every year between the months of July and November.

Continue below to see a few more examples of unusually colored natural wonders that grace the surface of our planet!

Seven Colored Earths — Chamarel, Mauritius

The surreal slopes of the Seven Colored Earths in Mauritius.
(Photo: KKulikov/Shutterstock)

This small set of sand dunes in southwestern Mauritius is named for the number of distinct colors found blended into the sands — red, purple, violet, blue, green, yellow and brown.

The dunes were created through the gradual conversion of basaltic lava into clay minerals. The colors are a result of the various cooling temperatures of the rock. What's extra fascinating is that even if you were to mix up a handful of this multicolored sand, the grains would eventually settle back into their distinct color layers.

The Seven Colored Earths is by far one of Mauritius' most visited attractions, and because of this, a fence has been erected to keep people from trampling the unique geological formation.

Laguna Colorada — Potosí, Bolivia

Flamingos wade through the salty waters of Laguna Colorada in Potosí, Bolivia
(Photo: Byelikova Oksana/Shutterstock)

Located within Bolivia's Eduardo Avaroa National Reserve, this shallow, red-tinted salt lake is a common gathering spot for flocks of flamingos (most prominently James's flamingos, but also sometimes Andean and Chilean flamingos).

The lake's natural red color comes from the reddish pigment of the algae that live there.

Morning Glory Pool — Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

The Morning Glory Pool is a hot spring (and occasionally a geyser) that is found in Yellowstone National Park.
(Photo: Alexey Kamenskiy/Shutterstock)

The brilliants colors present in the steamy pool (and sometimes geyser!) are the result of pigmented thermophiliac bacteria, which thrive in extreme temperatures. The various oranges and yellows are indicative of the varying temperature of the pond. In fact, the farther in you go, getting closer to the greenish-blue center, the less viable bacterial specimens you will find.

Sadly, vandalism and littering by visitors has affected the appearance of the Morning Glory Pool over the years as the supply of water has been clogged by trash and other debris.

Zhangye Danxia landforms — Gansu, China

The colorful, striated slopes of the Danxia landform.
(Photo: SIHASAKPRACHUM/Shutterstock)

Move over, Grand Canyon! China's Danxia landforms are coming through.

Characterized by their unusually colored sandstone, these vibrant cliffs were formed by 24 million years' worth of mineral deposits.

Although you can find this type of geological landform throughout China, the most popular place to view them is at Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park.

Havasu Falls — Grand Canyon, Arizona

Aqua blue waters tumble from Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon.
(Photo: Juancat/Shutterstock)

Havasu Falls is just one of several falls hikers will stumble upon when trekking the Grand Canyon's Havasupai trail near Supai, Arizona. Located within the Havusupai Indian Reservation, the lush green canyon that contains these amazing waterfalls is a welcome respite from the broiling desert that surrounds the area.

The water's deep turquoise hue is the result of a high concentration of magnesium and calcium carbonate. These minerals are also responsible for the nearby travertine deposits.

Painted Desert — Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona

The Painted Desert of Petrified Forest National Park
(Photo: Lsaldivar/Wikimedia)

Stretching across northeast Arizona for about 7,500 square miles, the Painted Desert is a jawdropping sedimentary landscape made up of erosion-prone layers of siltstone, mudstone and shale.

The landscape acquired its "painted" appearance thanks to an abundance of iron and manganese in the rock layers.

Danakil Depression — Northern Ethiopia

Yellow-green formations of Ethiopia's Danakil depression.
(Photo: Aleksandra H. Kossowska/Shutterstock)

In addition to being one of the hottest and lowest-lying places on the planet, the Danakil is notable for its bright yellow and green deposits of sulfur and salt.

Because of its harsh environment, National Geographic has dubbed it the "Cruelest Place on Earth," but the Danakil Depression hasn't always been so harsh. In fact, this broiling landscape — as well as the surrounding Afar region of Ethiopia — is often cited as the "cradle of hominids" thanks to the 1974 discovery of Australopithecus afarensis (more affectionately known as Lucy).

Fly geyser — Washoe County, Nevada

The fly geyser and its travertine mounds
(Photo: jared ropelato/Shutterstock)

Geysers are often considered naturally occurring phenomenons, but in the case of this small yet vibrant geyser, humans played an accidental part in its creation.

While drilling a well on the land in search of geothermal energy sources back in 1964, engineers inadvertently let loose a geyser. Over the years, the geyser's mineral-rich water (which consistently launches water about five feet in the air) has formed travertine mounds around the well.

As for the brilliant colors, you can thank pigmented thermophiliac bacteria for this example, too.

Chinoike Jigoku — Beppu, Japan

The reddish-orange waters of the Chinoike Jigoku pool in Beppu, Japan.
(Photo: Naoima/Shutterstock)

While Japan is renowned for its relaxing onsen culture, Chinoike Jigoku (literally translated as "Bloody Hell Pond" in Japanese) is one hot spring you don't want to take a dip in.

The name is no joke. Due to a temperature hovering around 172 degrees Fahrenheit, this spring was once commonly used for torturing people. Despite this gruesome history, the ominous red color has little to do with blood and everything to do with the pool's high concentrations of iron oxide.

Spiaggia Rosa — Sardinia, Italy

The light pink sands of the Spiaggia Rosa in Sardinia, Italy.
(Photo: Gabriele Maltinti/Shutterstock)

If you've ever wanted to lounge on a beach that resembles cotton candy, here's your chance!

The sand of Sardinia's Spiaggia Rosa contains coral and seashell fragments that provide the lovely pink tinge. When contrasted with the crystalline blue water, the rosy beach really pops.

If you'd like to visit this unusually colored beach, be aware that it's sometimes closed to the public for extended periods of time to prevent the deterioration of its natural beauty.

Paint Mines — Calhan, Colorado

The vibrant rock formations of Colorado's Paint Mines Canyon.
(Photo: John Fowler/Flickr)

Located in east-central Colorado, the Paint Mines Interpretive Park is home to towering hoodoos, a complex ecosystem of plants and wildlife, a rich archaeological history and, of course, beautifully colored sedimentary rock formations.

Evidence of human civilization dates back almost 10,000 years when American Indians used the land's colorful clay to make pottery and other items.

Grand Prismatic Spring — Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

The striking rainbow coloration of Yellowstone National Park's Grand Prismatic Spring
(Photo: Berzina/Shutterstock)

This massive jewel of a hot spring is notable for its sheer size (the largest in the U.S. and the third largest in the world), but its striking rainbow-like coloration is what people really remember.

Like many other hot springs, the Grand Prismatic Spring is home to a variety of pigmented bacteria that thrive along its mineral-rich edges.


Catie Leary is a photo editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

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