There are fascinating karst landscapes throughout the world, but what makes Russia's Manpupuner rock formations particularly astounding is the way the rocky monoliths appear to have risen abruptly from an otherwise even, grassy plateau.
Located north of the Ural Mountains in the Komi Republic, these craggy pillars known as the Seven Strong Men range in height from 98 to 138 feet. You can't really get a good measure of how tall that really is unless you visit in person or see a photo with a human to get a sense of scale:
In 2008, the surreal landscape was declared one of the seven wonders of Russia, along with Saint Basil's Cathedral, Lake Baikal, Mount Ebrus, the Valley of Geysers, Peterhof Palace, and Mamayev Kurgan, the site of the massive Soviet statue, "The Motherland Calls."
According to SevenWonders.org, local legends say the "pillars were originally a group of giant Samoyeds marching to conquer the Mansi people. Once they laid eyes upon the holy Mansi mountains, the leader dropped his drum with the entire group freezing [into] stone pillars."
While the Seven Strong Men legend is a compelling story, a more scientific explanation for the pillars' creation is that they were carved from long-term exposure to harsh Arctic winds and ice as a result of their position on a windy hilltop.
Wondering if the formations would make a great rock climbing destination? Don't pack your gear just yet.
While not an impossible endeavor, climbing the Manpupuner rock formations is definitely a serious challenge — even for experts — due to their sheer height, textures and wonky shapes. To add to the difficulty, the closest road is about 62 miles away, which means you either have to hike in or, if you can afford it, take a helicopter.