It’s a big wide world, full of the most breathtaking & surreal landscapes. These are our pick of the 10 places we think most look like they belong on another planet, but are actually right here on Earth.
1. Waitomo, New Zealand: Glowworm Caves
In a tiny village situated just a couple of hours from Auckland, lies a cave system full of bioluminescent larvae or Glow Worms. Watching thousands of these tiny creatures sparkle, lighting up the spectacular 12,000-year-old underground limestone caves is like looking up at the Milk Way and definitely, a must see sight. Tourists can either opt to view the caves on a boat ride or try using the black water rafting – donning an inflatable inner tube and a wetsuit and floating through along the underground river via the caverns.
2. Zhangjiajie, China: Wulingyuan Scenic Area
It is not only the first-ever national forest park in China, but it is also home to over 3,000 salient limestone pillars. It’s like something out of Avatar – truly out of this world. It was formed over 300, 000 years ago when giant sinkholes were believed to have collapsed. Caught in the right light or when the mist comes rolling in, the caves are an eerie sight and over 20 million visitors come to marvel at these extraordinary sandstone towers each year. Additionally, the park also boasts of beautiful streams, wildlife, gorges, natural bridges, waterfalls, and caves. Zhangjiajie is a UNESCO-protected park, and it also received “World Geological Park” stature in 2004. You won’t find anywhere else on the planet quite like Zhangjiajie!
3. Vietnam, Quang Binh: Hang Son Doong
“Son Doong” is the biggest cave in the whole wide world at more than 150m wide, 200m high and 5km long. Just to give you a little perspective, this cave so big that a Boeing 747 could fly into its largest cavern. A cave so ginormous that it has its own jungle, river, and climate. It’s essentially it’s very own little world. With stalactites dangling from the ceiling, dramatic stalagmites protruding from the ground, sunlight shining in through gaps in the roof and a misty moisture drifting through the air, this mesmerising space will transport you to a whole other planet.
4. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming: Grand Prismatic Spring
Yellowstone National Park derives its name from the close by Yellowstone Lake. The park was established in 1872 as North America’s first national park. Not only is it home to a variety of roaming wildlife (most remarkably, bison) it also boasts over 10,000 active thermal traits and approximately 300 active geysers. The Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring found in the Midway Geyser Basin and the third biggest in the world. The pool that surrounds the spring is an intense blue tone, surrounded by circles of colour that range from vibrant red to intense alien greens.
5. Chile: Moon Valley, Valle de la Luna
Valle de la Luna is located in Chile’s Atacama Desert, and it makes up an unexplainable scenery with its amazing geographical formations, which have been battered over time. Valle de la Luna is an incredible place that forms part of the Salt Mountain Range or Cordillera de la Sal that belongs to the Los Flamencos National Reserve. It is a little depression of salt ground, 500m (1,650 feet) in diameter, that displays strange sculptural shapes which resulted from a series of transformations on the earth’s outer layer due to the breakdown of the watery ground beneath the salt lake. Due to lack of humidity, life here is unbearable, which has made it into one of the most hostile places on earth.
6. Northern Ireland: Giants Causeway
The Giant’s Causeway is the impressive section of shoreline in Northern Ireland -a cluster of interlocking giant geometric-shaped rocks overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The fascinating pillars of black rock were formed approximately 60 million years ago due to volcanic eruptions and the basalt rock was formed after the lava cooled. Along with over 40,000 curious columns, many of which possess six sides and have a honeycomb-like mold, you’ll find many mythical and magical alternative explanations as to how the causeway was formed….
7. Turkmenistan, Derweze: Door To Hell
This 230-foot-wide crater situated in the heart of the desert close to Derweze village was formed in 1971 after a team of Soviet researchers set up a drilling machine looking for gas reserves. The rig crashed, and dreading the spread of the toxic methane gas, the scientists set the crater on fire hopeful that it would be used up in a few hours, however, more than 40 years later, the hole is still burning leaving a landscape that wouldn’t look out of place on Jupiter.
8. Pamukkale, Turkey: Thermal Springs
Pamukkale is a startling display of natural pools of hot water in Turkey’s Denizli Province. The thermal springs have terraces that owe their distinctive shape to the carbonate minerals that collect up as the flowing water encircles. Pamukkale in Turkey means “cotton castle,” a name that was derived from the true beauty of this great tourist attraction. The springs can be visited at any time of the year, but winter time is spectacular when the natural hot water pools form and visitors can enjoy long, calming baths.
9. Iceland, Reykjavík: Skaftafell Glacier
Skaftafell is situated at the base of Vatnajökull glacier, the largest glacier outside the Polar Regions, right at the middle of Vatnajökull National Park the biggest national park in Europe. If you are searching for great hiking, spectacular views, and memorable glacier trips, or looking to pretend you’re on an ice planet, this is surely Iceland’s top spot. Lots of outlet glaciers slide down from the chief glacier plateau of Vanajökull, with most them being unique in shape, appearance, and accessibility. Tourists have the chance to get into the glacier caves around as they listen to loud cracks and moans owing to the shifting ice since glaciers are overly active.
10. Bolivia, Salar De Uyuni: Salt Flats
Enclosed by volcanoes and mountains that reach about 5000 meters above the sea level, the Salar de Uyuni (Uyuni Salt Flat) in Bolivia is a large white plain of salt covering 12.000 square kilometres. It is the only area on Earth-observable by the naked eye from the moon. Visiting this lake of salt by car is an amazing experience, especially during the winter, since at that season the sky is totally lucid and the sky’s brilliant blue colour contrasts luminously with the salt. During the cloudy days, a “white-out” effect can be seen and the horizon appears to merge with the sky, and you can hardly see the end of the salt lake. It’s pretty surreal and a great photo opportunity!
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