LUNACY

The most fleeting natural tourist attractions to enjoy before they’re gone

There is no more effective tourism slogan than “for a limited time only.”

It worked wonders for the first total solar eclipse visible coast-to-coast in the US in almost a century. The moon blocked out the sun today for under three minutes, making the Great American Eclipse one of the most short-lived tourist attractions around, but visitors overwhelmed small towns to catch a (hopefully, protected) glimpse of the solar eclipse. Hotels, home rentals, and camping grounds sold out along the Path of Totality. Expecting a package? Trucking companies changed their schedules ahead of what was expected to be some of the worst traffic jams ever as tourists and residents clog roads.

Travelers often shell out thousands of dollars for fleeting, natural tourist attractions. Miss the moment and you’ve lost it forever. The Eiffel Tower, however, will likely be there next year.

Here are a few other short-lived natural tourist attractions that are guaranteed to provide a lifetime of bragging rights:

Hurricane waves

Surfers are known to travel enormous distances in search of the perfect wave. Hurricanes churning offshore provide an added kick for adrenaline junkies seeking bigger swells, but those few thrilling hours in the water can also be deadly.

APTOPIX Southern California Storm Surf
Boarding time before the storm. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis

The spectacular displays of greenish ribbons across the globe’s southern and northern skies are the result of charged particles colliding with gases in earth’s atmosphere. While they can be viewed in dark skies (already, some travel is likely required), they only last only 10 minutes at a time.

Norway Northern Lights
The Aurora Borealis are a seasonal and fleeting delight. (AP Photos/Gregorio Borgia)

Wildflower Blooms

Wildflowers in California’s deserts vary from year to year but can last from March to May. The timing is tough to predict, but the trip can be worth it, especially if you experience a so-called super bloom. Unusually strong storms in late 2015 gave way to these once-in-a-decade blooms in Death Valley, the driest place in North America, leaving the desert floor carpeted in a sea of white, pink, and purple petals in the winter.

Blooming Death Valley Q and A
A rare “super bloom” in Death Valley. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Meteor showers

Frequent as they are, peak activity of meteor showers can last a couple of days, but you’ll have to keep your eyes peeled at night. A bright moon could also interfere with your viewing so getting a good show is quite a treat.

Spain Perseid Meteor Shower
Meteor showers are visible for a few hours each night but moon cycles can compromise visibility. (AP Photo/Daniel Ochoa de Olza))

Winter and summer solstices

Humans have been celebrating the summer and winter solstices for millennia, and they’ve built structures that highlight the movement of the sun on these shortest and longest days of the year. During the winter solstice sunrise on June 21 at the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu in Peru, the sun’s rays are directly aligned with a temple window. At the Stonehenge monument in England, stones are aligned with summer and winter sunrises, drawing thousands before dawn.

TRAVELLERS WATCH THE SUNRISE ON THE STONEHENGE MONUMENT.
The longest day of the year. (Reuters/Paul Hackett)
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