If the variables are right and all the ingredients are present, Mother Nature can fabricate a special type of environment known as a cloud forest. They exude mystery and inspire wonder for those brave enough to traipse through, as within their misty depths, animals swing from trees and insects squirm through the verdant greenery. Unlike rainforests, cloud forests tend to be cooler, higher in elevation and have fast, small rivers to sustain life.
There are only a few places in the world where you can experience the thrill of hiking, zip lining, or biking through one of these enigmatic forests. We've highlighted a few cloud forests sure to animate your sense of adventure.
Monteverde, Costa Rica
Past the Gulf of Mexico in Central America, Costa Rica provides the perfect landscape and climate to cultivate lush cloud forests thanks to its position between two oceans. As a result, the country experiences high humidity throughout the wet season, especially in the mountains, creating one of the most dramatic cloud forests on the planet. Enveloping the town of Monteverde, the area echoes with the scream of howler monkeys, the melodious chirp of birds, and the strange saw-like hum of cicadas. Visitors can hike across sky bridges that offer incredible views of the cloud forest below or zip line through the mist. Either way is great for animal spotting, so keep your eyes peeled for sloths, monkeys, deer, and birds of all shapes and sizes.
Yakushima Island, Japan
An island on the far southern end of Japan, Yakushima is only reachable by ferry or air. But beyond the rich culture and intriguing Asian history, the island’s fairytale-like forest is one of its main draws. Filled with thick mists that are a result of the humidity and topography of the environment, all life within vibrates eerily and silently as the clouds mute all sound. The area is home to red-bottomed macaques and sika deer along with many species of insects and birds.
The Sholas, India
In southern India, the Shola cloud forests are persistently dominated by thick moisture that cover the landscape like a shroud. While most cloud forests exist above 6,500 feet of altitude, the Sholas are only at 5000 feet, which means the region is warmer than other cloud forests, and the humidity is that much more intense. The Sholas are home to a number of indigenous species, many of which are endangered or threatened. Sadly, many scientists believe the Sholas are on the verge of an environmental disaster due to climate change and pollution. If the Sholas are on your bucket list, you should definitely visit sooner rather than later.
La Gomera, Spain
Part of the Canary Islands, most tourists overlook La Gomera for its noisier, rowdier neighbor, Tenerife. Even though the island is only 15-miles across, it encompasses as many ecosystems as entire continents. Its heart is a lush green cloud forest, beating with the humid ebb and flow of cloud mist. The main attraction is the diverse wildlife, which is completely snakes and spider-free. Life here is safe, gentle and benign towards humans.
Bale Mountains National Park, Ethiopia
The second largest forest in Ethiopia and the largest cloud forest in the country, Harenna forest is found within the southern region of the Bale Mountains. Sadly, it is also one of the few remaining forests in Ethiopia because of rampant deforestation. This is where the famous forest coffee is grown and a visit to a coffee plantation would be an incredible travel experience.