12 Amazing Balancing Stones Around the World

Balancing rocks are truly stellar (and indeed interstellar) features that attract tourists, geologists, and increasingly, artists.

1. BALANCED ROCK // COLORADO, USA

A few hundred million years ago, Colorado was covered by a shallow inland sea that eventually turned into sandstone. As the area rose during the creation of the Rocky Mountains, the softer areas of sandstone eroded away, while the areas of the sandstone that were harder stayed put, giving us Colorado’s Garden of the Gods. Eventually, the erosion and weathering around the base will cause Balanced Rock (see photo above) to lose its balance and collapse.

2. BALANCING ROCKS // SEVERAL PLACES AROUND ZIMBABWE

Carine06, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

As in Colorado, these features were originally surrounded by softer rock that eroded away. As the rocks warmed and cooled, they cracked into nice geometric patterns. When the surrounding rock and dirt disappeared, they fell onto each other, just like bricks would if you removed the mortar [PDF]. Zimbabwe so appreciates these features that they have the rare geologic distinction of being featured on the 100 trillion Zimbabwe dollar note.

3. BIG BALANCED ROCK // CHIRICAHUA NATIONAL MONUMENT, ARIZONA

Al_HikesAZ, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Around 27 million years ago, the Turkey Creek volcano (now a caldera) erupted, covering areas of modern Arizona with over 1600 feet of ash and pumice that fused into a soft rock called welded tuff. But tuff isn’t very tough, and it began eroding away along the weaker areas at the rate of two thirds of an inch per thousand years [PDF]. Thankfully, the USGS says there is no risk to these rocks from erosion for the next several thousand years. A much bigger concern for the rocks is earthquakes, although they came through a recent 7.2 quake with only minor damage (nearby buildings weren't so fortunate).

4. PRECARIOUSLY BALANCED ROCKS // NEAR SAN ANDREAS FAULT, NEVADA AND CALIFORNIA

Nick Hinz // Nevada Bureau of Mines & Geology

If there's any place in the country where balancing rocks shouldn’t exist, it's near the San Andreas fault, where you'd think earthquakes would topple them like dominoes. Yet they are there, and have been for at least 10,000 years, through at least 50 large earthquakes. An attempt to address the mystery of how the rocks stay put was published in August, suggesting a theory that since the rocks are between the San Andreas and San Jacinto faults, there might be an interaction between the faults that protects the balanced rocks by lessening ground vibration in the area. This idea would fit into geologic theory—but would mean all our current models of the San Andreas fault are incomplete.

5. IDOL ROCK // YORKSHIRE, UNITED KINGDOM

The strange Brimham Rocks in Yorkshire, of which Idol Rock is the most famous, were formed around 400 million years ago when the area was under a river. During the last glacial maximum, the nearby mountains were covered in glaciers, and where there are glaciers, there are glacial winds. The winds blew sand across the rocks at great speed, carving them into their odd new look—think of it like a natural form of sandblasting.

6. KUMMAKIVI BALANCING ROCK // FINLAND

Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 4.0

The name translates as “strange rock,” but in English we have our own name for these features: erratics. As glaciers advanced, they picked up boulders from the surrounding countryside, and carried them along—sometimes for hundreds of miles. But when the glacier began retreating, the rocks didn’t make the trip back, and instead were set down on the surrounding countryside—sometimes perfectly balanced on top of another rock.

7. BALANCING ROCK // HOLLISTON, MASSACHUSETTS

WikimediaCommons // Public Domain

What makes this rock interesting is less the rock (it's a standard glacial erratic) than who attempted to knock it over. According to local legend, George Washington was traveling through and tried to push the rock down. Obviously, he failed.

8. RUGGESTEINEN // NORWAY

Sometimes a rock is so perfectly balanced that it can be rocked with just a bit of effort. This is the case with Ruggesteinen in Norway, also known as the Rocking Stone. Despite being over 70 tons, a couple of people pushing can move it.

9. KRISHNA'S BUTTER BALL // MAHABALIPURAM, INDIA

Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

This one is mysterious. It might be a glacial erratic, it might have been eroded out of the surrounding rock, or it may have been placed there by ancient Indians. According to legend, in 1908 the local British Governor decided that it was dangerous and needed to be removed. Seven elephants supposedly weren’t able to budge it. While the elephant story might be a myth, glaciers can transport extremely heavy rocks—there’s one in Canada that weighs 16,500 tons.

10. GOLDEN ROCK PAGODA // MYANMAR

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

This 25-foot-tall rock is also mysterious. Myanmar does have glaciers, so that is always a possibility, but according to Buddhist tradition, the rock was placed there to enshrine a hair from the Buddha’s head.

11. MANMADE BALANCING STONES // AROUND THE WORLD

Recently, rock balancing has become a popular art. Based on traditional cairns (stacks of rocks that are either memorials or landmarks) they can become extremely intricate. But the craze is not without its critics. The removal of the rocks for the balancing act can cause the underlying soil to erode faster, as well as destroy the homes of small animals. In addition, building them in areas where cairns are used as trail markers is a quick way to get a lot of people very lost. Because of this, modern rock balancers prefer to place their rocks back where they found them after they take a few photos.

12. 67P/CHURYUMOV-GERASIMENKO // OUT OF THIS WORLD

ESA/Rosetta/MPS for OSIRIS Team MPS/UPD/LAM/IAA/SSO/INTA/UPM/DASP/IDA

In 2014, the European Space Agency landed on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. In the images sent back to Earth was a picture of what look like balancing rocks on the surface of the comet. Their origin is mysterious: it could be that as the comet neared the Sun, ice melted away around these more impervious objects, leaving them behind. It could be that various interactions cause these boulders to move. Or it might even be camera perspective, and better imaging will reveal nothing out of the ordinary. Until then, any tour of the best balancing stones will require a space suit.

The World’s 50 Most Beautiful Cities

A peek at Bruges, Belgium.
A peek at Bruges, Belgium.
Yasonya/iStock via Getty Images

The multitude of blogs, websites, and social media accounts dedicated expressly to travel means that we now have a seemingly infinite number of resources to help us decide where to book our next vacation. Having the world at our fingertips is undoubtedly a great thing, but it can also make the final choice seem pretty far out of reach.

To help you decide what’s worth using that precious PTO for, Canada-based travel agency FlightNetwork asked more than 1000 travel experts—professional writers, recreational bloggers, travel agencies, and more—to share their insights on which cities around the globe are quite simply the best.

Though the resulting list is called the world's 50 "most beautiful" cities, it’s “beauty” in a much broader sense than just visual appeal. If you delve into some of the individual entries in FlightNetwork’s guide, you’ll come to find that history, culture, food, entertainment, and other elements have significantly factored into the experts’ assessments of each city.

And, according to these experts (and probably everyone else in the world), Paris really does have it all, including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, Versailles, and wine so fine it might ruin you for all other beverages.

New York was the runner-up, because apparently not even the grimy subway rats can dull the sparkle of the City That Never Sleeps. While it might not boast the same snow-capped mountain peaks of Vancouver or the radiant beaches of Barcelona, the sheer quantity and variety of activities The Big Apple has to offer make it a must-visit—maybe more than once.

“You could visit hundreds of times and still discover new things on every trip. It has it all,” David Jagger, reporter for Bradford, England's Telegraph & Argus, told FlightNetwork.

The rest of the top 10 was mostly filled up by other cities that you probably expected to see on this list, like London, Venice, and Rome. Having said that, if you’re a “road less traveled” type of person, there are plenty of offbeat options for you, too. Colombia’s Cartagena, number 44, is a beachgoer’s paradise—complete with a breathtaking cathedral and castle—and you’d be hard-pressed to find a more charming waterfront town than Bruges, Belgium, number 26 on the list.

Scroll on to see the full top 50, and read more about each city in FlightNetwork’s guide here.

      1. Paris, France
      2. New York, New York
      3. London, England
      4. Venice, Italy
      5. Vancouver, Canada
      6. Barcelona, Spain
      7. Cape Town, South Africa
      8. San Francisco, California
      9. Sydney, Australia
      10. Rome, Italy
      11. Singapore, Singapore
      12. Lisbon, Portugal
      13. Amsterdam, Netherlands
      14. Prague, Czech Republic
      15. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
      16. Budapest, Hungary
      17. Istanbul, Turkey
      18. Tokyo, Japan
      19. Vienna, Austria
      20. Buenos Aires, Argentina
      21. Toronto, Canada
      22. San Diego, California
      23. Quebec City, Canada
      24. Hong Kong, Hong Kong
      25. Chicago, Illinois
      26. Bruges, Belgium
      27. Madrid, Spain
      28. Havana, Cuba
      29. Dubai, United Arab Emirates
      30. Jerusalem, Israel
      31. Edinburgh, Scotland
      32. Quito, Ecuador
      33. Zurich, Switzerland
      34. Cusco, Peru
      35. St. Petersburg, Russia
      36. Berlin, Germany
      37. Hanoi, Vietnam
      38. Queenstown, New Zealand
      39. San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
      40. Seoul, South Korea
      41. Dubrovnik, Croatia
      42. San Sebastian, Spain
      43. Bangkok, Thailand
      44. Cartagena, Colombia
      45. Dublin, Ireland
      46. Marrakesh, Morocco
      47. Bergen, Norway
      48. Jaipur, India
      49. Beijing, China
      50. Athens, Greece

There Are 13 Winter Road Hazards in This Image—Can You Spot Them All?

trendobjects/iStock via Getty Images
trendobjects/iStock via Getty Images

If you've already found the hidden stocking and the sheep among the Santas in these brainteasers, see if you can solve another seasonal puzzle that's both fun and educational. The hidden image challenge below, which is a collaboration between Specialised Covers and IAM RoadSmart, is filled with winter road hazards experienced drivers will recognize.

This puzzle fits 13 hazards into a scene of cars driving down a snowy road. According to the makers of the image, it takes the average person 32 seconds to find them all. See if you can beat that time, and then check out the picture below for the answers.

Puzzle of winter road hazards.
Specialised Covers

Winter weather like snow and freezing rain make for dangerous conditions when traveling by car. Some driving risks—like large snow drifts—are obvious, while others are harder to spot.

Factors like freezing temperatures, darker days, and nasty weather make winter a treacherous time to hit the road in many parts of the country. According to the National Highway Safety Administration, an average of 800 fatalities a year occurred as a result of weather-related accidents between 2011 and 2015. Here are some tips for staying safe while driving this winter.

Solutions to winter road hazards puzzle.
Specialised Covers

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