Best Optical Illusions in Nature That Will Defy Your Logical Brain!

Finding optical illusions in nature can be a fun and exciting experience when you travel. Throughout the world, you’ll discover a handful of strange places that perplex your eyes and mind. Add these 5 natural marvels to your itinerary and you’ll witness attractions that are uniquely different – and real head trips!

CONTENTS: In this article, you will learn about incredible optical illusions in nature the you simply have to see in your lifetime. We’ll cover:

Amazing Places to See that Will Trick your Eyes & Puzzle Your Mind

We travel to meet new worlds and cultures.

To know different cultures and people who live in another way of life from our own.

But sometimes we travel to watch closely attractions that play games with our minds and fascinate us.

Sights and places that we see with our eyes, but our mind fails to understand.

You can blame “optical illusions.” Optical illusions occur when your eyes perceive something misleading. The brain cannot interpret what it is seeing.

There are three main types of optical illusions:

  • Literal optical illusions – images that are different than what is physical; often our mind fills in what’s not there. One example is a mirage in the dessert.
  • Physiological optical illusions – due to over stimulation in brightness, color, tilt, or movement, for instance, the the after-image of the bright lights of a camera flash
  • Cognitive optical illusions – when the brain and eyes infer something that is not there or even possible, based on our understanding of the world. An example would be the Penrose Stairs, which depict the impossible figure of a never-ending stair case, in continual ascent (or descent!).

Interestingly, you’ll find optical illusions in nature, if you know where to look.

These places present something inexplicable and certainly offer us this feeling of the unknown and the mystery. That is why these travels are so unique and worth discovering.

But what are those destinations that create unexplained images in our minds and attract thousands of visitors each year?

Let’s find out.

Green Flash, Hawaii [USA]

Being in Hawaii is a unique experience in itself with all of its amazing beaches and the great weather.

But if you sit in the right place at sunrise or sunset, you will notice a remarkable visual phenomenon that will mark you forever.

In this phenomenon, a green spot appears above the upper edge of the sun. But beware, this particular phenomenon only occurs for a second or two – hence the name flash!

It’s an optical illusion caused by atmospheric conditions.This combination of two optical illusions (mirage, dispersion of sunlight) occurs when the sun dips below the horizon, but the light is dispersed through the earth’s atmosphere like a prism.

How is it that the color of green also appears in the crimson color of the sun?

It’s something obscure, but it does not stop you from watching it with your own eyes.

Sun Dogs, Stockholm [Sweden]

Another optical illusion created by sunlight, the Sun Dogs or Phantom Suns, makes a rare image for visitors. When sunlight hits the ice crystals in the clouds, which act as prisms.

During this atmospheric phenomenon, a halo frame is created that surrounds the sun, producing two new foci of light to the sun’s left and right. Sometimes they are white, but if you are lucky, they are a full range of brilliant rainbow colors.

If you go to Stockholm, Sweden, because of the local atmosphere in the country, you will be able to observe this special event that you will definitely want to capture with your camera.

Magnetic Hill, Ladakh [India]

Travelling to the enchanting Ladakh in India, you will be confronted with an extraordinary and curious phenomenon of optical illusion: Magnetic Hill.

The mountainous and sandy layout of the area, combined with the slope of the hills, creates the feeling for drivers crossing this road that their car is going uphill, when in fact, it is rolling downwards. 

It is a rare experience that can not easily be compared to something similar.

However, the bad news is that due to the climatic conditions and the human intervention through the technical works, this route may cease to exist in the coming years.

So if you are interested, you should go immediately to try this unique experience, one of the world’s natural optical illusions.

The Wave, Colorado Plateau [Colorado, USA]

Something is happening on the Colorado Plateau that not even a talented painter could create. The mountain plain formations create a kind of “wave” in the intense color of the sandstone.

It is a truly magnificent work of nature itself, which is impossible not to leave you with your mouth open and dizzy at the sight of its various formations.

Reversing Falls, Saint John [New Brunswick, Canada]

Reversing Falls in Saint John, New Brunswick is a series of rapids affected by the immense tides of the Bay of Fundy, a natural wonder in itself. As the tide rises or falls as much as 28 feet (9 meters), the currents on the Saint John River reverse directions.

It’s not really an optical illusion in nature, because the reversal really happens, but it will certainly leave you scratching your head!

This strange change of direction, which happens twice a day on the Saint John River, also causes a bit of an inconvenience to water vessels. That’s because they have to wait until “slack time,” the 20 minutes between tidal extremes, to pass. This brief window of calm waters is the only time it’s safe for vessels to pass through the gorge.

Final Thoughts on Optical Illusions in Nature

You will never forget the incredible experiences of these optical illusions in nature. The phenomena above are incredible experiences for any traveler looking for a special and unique travel experience. You might watch them with your eyes, but you will experience them with your soul!

Through our eyes, we can enjoy majestic and puzzling elements that exist all around us. But be forewarned: these optical illusions in nature might just lead you to get your vision checked in disbelief!

To find out more about taking a road trip to Nova Scotia by way of New Brunswick, click here.

Photo credits: Green flash By ESO/G. Lombardi CC BY 3.0, All other photos courtesy of Canva Pro.

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Jackie Gately

Jackie Gately is a seasoned travel writer, photographer, and marketing consultant who is passionate about travel. She loves casual-luxury experiences, coastal getaways, cultural attractions, and local, wholesome food and wine pairings. A perfect day ends with her toes in the sand or by chasing the sunset with her camera--ideally both.

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