Zhangjiajie National Forest, China
Pictured above, this wildly beautiful forest is located in Zhangjiajie City in China’s northern Hunan Province. Covering an area of of nearly 12,000 acres, it is an officially recognized UNESCO World Natural Heritage Site. And is it any wonder?! With a forest coverage rate of more than 98 percent, the green is punctuated with more than 8,000 pillar formations.
Sunken Forest, Kaindy Lake, Kazakhstan
In Kazakhstan’s Tian Shan Mountains sits Kaindy Lake, a 1300-foot long lake created after an earthquake in 1911 triggered a landslide that created a natural dam. In the process, a large grove of spruce was flooded to become the hauntingly beautiful Sunken Forest. One especially special part of this place is that while the trees are bare above, the cold serene water below has preserved the pine needles, so that from beneath the surface it appears to be a living forest.
Avenue of the Baobabs, Madagascar
Not so sure that 25 trees can be called a forest, but this grouping of baobabs (Adansonia grandidieri) is a striking reminder of the forest heritage of Madagascar, and worthy of inclusion. Lining a dirt road in the western part of the island, the oddly blobby baobab trees can live to be 800 years old and are known locally as renala, meaning mother of the forest. The trees once stood crowded with other flora in the dense tropical forests that fruitfully covered the island; as human population spread, the forests were cleared – yet the beautifully bizarre baobab trees were spared. They do look a bit lonely, but serve as a potent reminder of forests past.
The Crooked Forest, Poland
The Crooked Forest is comprised of some 400 pines trees all with a serious crook. Located outside Nowe Czarnowo in West Pomerania, Poland, no one is exactly sure what is going on here. It is suspected that the human hand was involved, though by which tools or techniques, or better yet why, remains unknown. Speculation includes intentional deformation to create curved wood for building; though some think a prodigious snow could have causes the curves. Nobody has suggested the spell of a sorcerous, but really, nobody knows…
The Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland
Game of Thrones, anyone? More grove than forest, this striking arcade of beech trees was actually planted in the 1700s as a landscape feature near Ballymoney in Northern Ireland – but have served as forest muse to the troves of tourists who come to photograph the incredible array. This one goes in the “future forest” file, as we dream of more of these wonderfully animated beech trees taking over the land to create one of the most enchanted forests around.
Son Doong Cave, Vietnam
Nestled deep in the largest cave known to man is, of all things, a forest. True story. The 5-mile long cave with 500-foot ceilings comes complete with its own river and several areas of rainforest courtesy of collapsed ceilings that have created skylights. In comes the sun, up comes a forest to greet it. It’s one of the most incredible “lost world” places on the planet.
Dragon’s Blood Forest, Socotra Island
220 miles from mainland Yemen exists an isolated island called Socotra. And on Socotra is a strange collection of flora and fauna specifically adapted to suit the hot and harsh island, including the wonderfully weird dragon’s blood tree. Looking like odd Dr. Seuss mushroom trees, Dracaena cinnabari, has a curious skyward orientation to enable the collection of moisture from the highland mist. Plus, they have cool red sap, hence, their name.
Yili Apricot Valley, China
Now we’re approaching the happy Disney type of fairy-tale forest; all the wicked stepmother stuff behind us and the princess and her prince finally get to settle down. Because this is a giant forest of blushing apricot-blossom festooned trees. Apricot Valley is breathtaking, and is the largest apricot forest in the province of Xinjiang, China, located in Xinyuan County close to the border of Kazakhstan. Every year from June to September the valley is flooded with blooms, making it one of the straight-out prettiest forests on the planet. Plus, apricots!