Natural wonders are unique terrain features that may be found scattered throughout the world. All natural wonders cover between 1 and 4 tiles, and provide powerful bonuses which are of great strategic importance to nearby civilizations. Though players cannot build Districts or improvements on wonder tiles, the bonuses they provide to their surroundings make them attractive locations for constructing cities.
Finding natural wonders
Natural wonders are relatively uncommon, and are scattered randomly around the map. As a result, natural wonders are strategically valuable, and should be played around carefully. They may generally be found in terrain that is similar to their real-life environment: stand-alone wonders are usually situated in open regions of a suitable type (e.g. Uluru is always circled by Desert tiles), and wonders that are part of larger structures tend to be placed in their appropriate surroundings (e.g. Mount Everest is always part of a range of mountains).
Though many natural wonders have similar properties to their ordinary terrain counterparts, this is not always the case. For instance, all mountainous wonders are impassable, but they are not treated as Mountain tiles unless specified otherwise in their in-game notes. Mount Everest and Mount Kilimanjaro are considered mountains, and provide adjacency bonuses to Campus and Holy Site districts, while Eyjafjallajökull and Torres del Paine are not, despite being described as mountains in their introductory quotes.
Discovering natural wonders is a valuable experience for Recon class units - they get XP for finding them. Also, in Rise and Fall discovering a wonder is a Historic Moment worth 1 Era Score (3 if you're the first civilization in the world to discover it). In the Secret Societies Game Mode, finding a natural wonder has a chance to unlock the Hermetic Order Secret Society.
The number of natural wonders in a game ranges from 2 to 7 depending on map size (equal to the number of continents plus one).
Bonuses and effects
Though each natural wonder is unique, all wonders have a few things in common. Natural wonder tiles cannot be improved, nor can the player construct districts or wonders on them. All natural wonders provide +2 Appeal to adjacent tiles, which makes them ideal spots for Neighborhoods and National Parks. They also net a major adjacency bonus to Holy Sites.
Natural wonders can be broadly categorized into "passable" and "impassable" wonders (depending on whether or not units can move on the wonder tiles). Generally speaking, passable wonders provide bonuses to the wonder tiles themselves, while impassable wonders provide bonuses to the surrounding landscape. And of course, passable wonder tiles can be worked by the citizens of a nearby city, while impassable cannot.
Passable wonders are usually modified forms of ordinary terrain features that provide extra Culture, Science, Gold, or Faith in addition to the normal yields from a tile of their type. Passable wonder tiles share some traits with terrain: Marsh wonders (such as Pantanal and Ubsunur Hollow) have a higher Movement cost, and some Lake wonders (such as Crater Lake) provide fresh water to adjacent tiles.
Most impassable wonders are modified forms of impassable terrain such as mountains and rock formations. Their bonuses affect adjacent tiles, providing all sorts of extra yields (not only Food and Production, but often Culture, Science, or Faith) to their surroundings. Bonuses act on both land and water tiles, and in the case of multi-tiled Wonder, they stack for each adjacent tile - see diagram for a visual explanation. The tiles where bonuses stack are very valuable and a prime candidate for Tile improvements. Many impassable wonders also grant units a one-time bonus, such as a free Promotion.
Natural wonder picker
With the August 2020 Update, players can now choose to include or exclude certain natural wonders when setting up the game. The included wonders are not guaranteed to show up in the game, but rather are a part of the wonder pool that will be then randomly selected.
Since certain natural wonders have restrictions on which terrains they can spawn on, if the chosen pool of natural wonders is too small, there is a chance you will see fewer natural wonders than the expected number of wonders dictated by the map size.
Because natural wonders are relatively scarce, they should be used strategically. Each natural wonder has unique advantages and abilities (as well as disadvantages), so no single strategy is effective in all cases. Natural wonders normally provide +2 Appeal to adjacent tiles (Uluru provides +4, also the Cliffs of Dover provide +4 in Gathering Storm), and many offer additional Culture, Science, and/or Faith. Players looking for a Culture Victory may wish to look out for nearby wonders, and should compete to incorporate them into their cities whenever possible. (National Parks are one of the best sources of Tourism later in the game.)
Impassable wonders are perhaps the easiest to use effectively. Impassable wonder tiles offer no benefits, and cannot be worked by Citizens or be otherwise developed; however, they provide valuable bonuses to nearby tiles which can be worked and improved easily! Large impassable wonders are most effective when they are on the outskirts of cities (or even slightly beyond the city's border), since the wonder tiles are essentially dead space. If a city is strategically placed in this fashion, it receives the adjacency benefits of the wonder without sacrificing valuable development space. Note that impassable wonder tiles can also be incorporated into National Parks - you only need a single passable tile next to the wonder, and in the correct position, where the Naturalist can go and activate its ability. However, if a player seeks to create a Park as soon as possible, then placing the City Center closer to the wonder might be more helpful; otherwise the player will be forced to wait for the cultural expansion of the city borders to cover all required wonder tiles, and this might not only take a while, but sometimes prove impossible (e.g. if another city is also close enough to claim some of the required tiles).
Passable wonders are somewhat harder to use. Their bonuses almost always apply to the wonder tiles themselves, so they are most effective when incorporated within city limits. Since Culture, Science, and Faith production is slower in the early game, these yields can be game changing if you manage to work those tiles. However, since passable wonders alter the tile yields completely, other than adding yields on top of the base terrain, the ones that do not provide Food (and, to a lesser extent, Production) are notoriously hard to make use of: you cannot work those tiles as soon as you settle your cities, and when your cities are big enough to support tiles that do not provide Food and Production, the yields tend to be less meaningful. Later in the game, natural wonders may be more of a hindrance than an asset - a natural wonder near the City Center can spoil adjacency bonuses for Farms and districts. In short, passable wonder tiles are significantly better than an unimproved tile of any kind, but are often less productive than an ordinary tile with an improvement or a district.
List of natural wonders
- Main article: List of natural wonders in Civ6