When you get used to the world around you, it can be hard to fathom that there are places just around the corner that look so otherworldly. It’s hard to imagine them being a part of the same planet, but they are.
The world is an incredible place that’s full of landscapes that will shock you, delight you, and maybe even freak you out a little bit.
Naica Mine, Mexico
The Naica Mine is nestled away in Chihuahua, Mexico. Beneath the Naica Mine is the Cave of Crystals, which is 980 feet deep and contains a collection of giant selenite crystals in the main chamber, the largest of them reaching as tall as 39 feet!
The aptly named Cave of Crystals was just discovered in the year 2000 and is still being explored by researchers today.
Wadi Rum, Jordan
Jordan’s Wadi Rum is one of the most beautiful and space-like landscapes there is to see on Earth. It’s so reminiscent of other planets that it actually played the role of Mars in a handful of blockbusters, including The Martian.
Salar De Uyuni, Bolivia
Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia is the largest salt flat in the world, stretching over 10,000 kilometers. It was formed as a result of the transformation of many prehistoric lakes. Not only is it beautiful, but it contains 50% to 70% of the world’s known lithium reserves and is also a choice mating ground for flamingos.
Mono Lake, California
Mono Lake formed at least 760,000 years ago as a lake inside an endorheic basin. It has almost no outlets, which causes salt to build up in the lake and makes the water alkaline.
The water is the perfect place for brine shrimp to thrive, and it supports a surprisingly productive ecosystem for a desert lake. Two million migratory birds visit the spot annually and feed on those shrimp as well as alkali flies.
White Sands National Park, New Mexico
At first glance, it may look like the White Sands National Park is a sweeping landscape of snow, but as its name suggests, it’s actually home to some of the whitest sand in the world. The white sand is made from gypsum, which is a soft sulfate mineral.
Caño Cristales, Colombia
Caño Cristales, otherwise known as the River of Five Colors, is in Meta, Colombia. It got its name for the striking colors seen at various spots throughout the river. Between the months of July and November, the river can be seen changing color between black, green, yellow, blue, and an especially vibrant red thanks to plants that live on the riverbed.
Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
The Giant’s Causeway is one of the greatest natural wonders in the United Kingdom. It’s made up of over 40,000 interlocking basalt columns that are the result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption. However, according to local legend, the columns are what is left of a bridge built by a giant.
Chocolate Hills, Philippines
The Chocolate Hills spread over 50 square kilometers, and it’s thought that as many as 1,700 hills could occupy the area. The green grass that covers them turns brown in the dry season, giving them their name. The hills are actually mounds of collected limestone and contain a large number of ancient sea creature fossils.
Danakil Depression, Ethiopia
The Danakil Depression is the most northern part of the Afar Triangle in Ethiopia. The depression was created by the divergence of three tectonic plates. The separating of these plates caused a rise in volcanic activity. It’s known to be the hottest place on Earth in terms of year-round temperature and rarely gets any rain.
Mount Zaō, Japan
Mount Zaō are a group of complex volcanos in Japan. What makes this place so un-Earthly is what is known as the “snow monsters.” Harsh winds full of water droplets blow over a nearby lake and up the mountain. They then freeze against the trees to form these stark ice formations.
Reynisfjara Beach, Iceland
This ominous-looking beach is located in Iceland. The black-sand beach is one of the world’s most beautiful non-tropical beaches, but it’s also a place of myths and fairy tales. Legend has it the large basalt columns were once trolls who tried to push ships away from the shore and turned to stone when they couldn’t escape the rising sun the next morning.
Yuanyang Rice Terraces, China
The rice terraces in Yuanyang are quite the sight to see. Because of the temperatures in the area, the environment can only support one rice crop a year. After it’s harvested, the terraces are often filled with water until they are ready to be used again in April.
Dead Vlei, Nambia
Dead Vlei translates to “Dead Marsh,” and for good reason: the place is kind of creepy-looking enough to merit the name. But its unique look is mostly due to the clay that makes up the soil. Dead Vlei was originally created after the nearby river flooded, creating temporary shallow pools. The pools were there long enough for camel thorn trees to start growing, but when the water dried up and drought hit the area, the trees died.
Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii
Kilauea’s name means “spewing” or “much spreading,” which makes sense based on its frequent activity. The first well-documented eruption if the volcano was in 1823, and it remains highly active to this day. Because of this, the mountainsides are largely barren since nothing can grow in that climate.
Tsingy De Bemaraha National Park, Madagascar
Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park is a geological marvel and unlike any other place on Earth. The large limestone plateaus were created by groundwater cutting caverns and fissures into the landscape. What makes this site even more unique is its unusually large number of endemic species of both plants and animals.
Antelope Canyon, Arizona
Antelope Canyon in a place that most people are familiar with. It was created by flash-flooding. Fast-moving rainwater would habitually pick up sand as it rushed through the basin, eventually eroding a path through the stone.
Cappadocia Valley, Turkey
Cappadocia Valley is a place that is rich with history both geological and cultural. Dotted across the landscape are tall columns of stone that are referred to as “fairy chimneys.” They were created over millions of years by volcanic ash.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park is a beautiful place to visit that is full of wildlife and geological wonders. But some of the main draws of the park are the geysers and hydrothermal features. The beautiful colors and constant outpouring of steam make them look a little bit alien.
Underwater Waterfalls, Mauritius
Mauritius is home to one of the coolest illusions there is on planet Earth. Just off the shore, there is a spot where sand and silt from the ocean floor run off in such a way that makes it look like there is a waterfall under the water.
Richat Structure, Mauritania
The Richat Structure is an eroded dome with a diameter of about 40 kilometers, composed of exposed layers of sedimentary rock in what look like concentric rings. The dome is so large and impressive that it can even be seen from space!