Forests are downright magical.
They’re where some of our favorite fables take a twist, where Mother Nature hides her most fascinating creatures, where we go to escape the manmade chaos that consumes far too much of our time.
Forests are the lungs of our world, absorbing carbon and keeping our climates stable, and the protectors of some of our most precious resources. They safeguard habitats and wildlife that allow life to move onward and even make us healthier, too; trees clean our air, lower our stress, and can actually make us happier just by being nearby. They’re spectacular.
But some forests, you might argue, are just a bit more spectacular than others.
Here are 11 otherworldly forests to remind you just how incredible life on Earth really is:
1. Bamboo Forest, Japan
The Sagano Bamboo Forest on the outskirts of bustling Kyoto is famous for its towering green stalks that make enchanting rustling noises in the breeze you really can’t hear anywhere else. Japan’s Ministry of Environment included the destination on its “100 Soundscapes of Japan” list, encouraging visitors to find some much needed tranquility by listening to the natural sound effects.
2. Otzarreta Forest, Spain
Foggy and tucked away, the Otzarreta Forest in Basque Country flaunts some of the quirkiest trees and branches you’ll see on Earth (not to mention the most gorgeous fall colors, if you time it right). Northern Spain never looked so enticing.
3. The Blue Forest, Belgium
Hallerbos, dubbed “The Blue Forest,” covers hundreds of acres in Halle. Come mid-April, the entire region blossoms with a bright underbelly of bluebells, so the forest certainly lives up to its name. See the bluebells quick, though — they die in early summer, and the forest fades back into shades of greens and browns.
4. Redwood National Park, United States
Redwood National Park stretches alongside the northern coast of California and boasts some of the tallest, most massive trees on the planet. Its trees can live to be — get this — some 2,000 years old, sprouting from seeds that are about the same size as one from a tomato.
5. The Black Forest, Germany
In the hilly southwest corner of Germany, the sprawling Black Forest covers an area nearly 100 miles north to south. Its landscapes shift hues depending on the season — Germans know the frustration and beauty that come with a bitter, dreary winter better than anyone, after all — and its pines can be so dense in certain areas that sunlight can’t break through to reach the forest floor. (Which is how it got its name. Get it?)
6. Amazon rainforest, Brazil
News flash: The Amazon Rainforest is massive. Stretching nearly from coast to coast along the northern half of South America, the Amazon holds an abundance of life like no other place. It has 390 billion trees and 2.5 million various insects, which is one of the many reasons why it’s so crucial we protect it from deforestation.
7. Jiuzhaigou, China
The Jiuzhaigou takes over a vast region of Sichuan province and boasts everything from towering alpine mountains and waterfalls to pools of purplish, teal waters and coniferous trees. Maybe shoot the next “Avatar” here? (See No. 11.)
8. The Daintree Rainforest, Australia
The Daintree Rainforest off the coast of Queensland is an incredible example of why biodiversity is so important. As many species Down Under have been isolated from other mainlands, plants and animals have adapted over time to the geography’s landscapes and features in unique ways. This is incredibly helpful for scientists who want to study how and why evolution works the way it does.
9. Avenue of the Baobabs, Madagascar
These “upside-down trees” in Madagascar are hundreds of years old and upwards of 98 feet. The avenue thankfully gained protective status in 2007, becoming the country’s first national monument in an attempt to keep the area pristine for generations to come. One might argue it’s not technically a forest, per se, but it’s one cluster of trees too impressive to keep off the list.
10. Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, Costa Rica
Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve — located in one of the most biodiverse countries in the world — has a whopping 755 known species of trees. A wet and tropical climate means weather there stays relatively consistent throughout the year, and committed conservation efforts means sustainability stays a big priority.
11. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, China
Zhangjiajie National Forest’s natural beauty and ecological importance to Asia earned its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which means it’s very protected by conservation efforts. Famous in large part due to its towering, bare-rock formations, the forest was the inspiration behind some of the scenery in “Avatar.”
Those were just 11 of the world’s most magical forests. But really, this list could go on and on … and on.
In fact, chances are, there’s an amazing forest waiting to be explored not too far from your own front door. Safe adventuring.