Welcome to a fascinating journey through some of the most otherworldly landscapes that our planet has to offer! From the stark, lunar-like terrain of Iceland’s volcanic regions, to the psychedelic hues of China’s Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park, these incredible sights may make you feel like you’ve landed on another planet.
But rest assured, you are still very much on Earth. These awe-inspiring landscapes have been shaped by millions of years of natural processes, from volcanic eruptions to the shifting of tectonic plates. And yet, their alien-like appearance can still leave us feeling as though we are exploring a distant, uncharted world.
One of the most striking examples is the Salar de Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia, which stretch out like a glittering, endless mirror, reflecting the sky above. Meanwhile, the spiky limestone formations of Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park in Madagascar look like something out of a science fiction movie.
Whether you are an avid traveler or simply a curious armchair explorer, this blog post will take you on a virtual tour of some of the most mind-blowing, surreal landscapes on the planet. So buckle up and get ready to be amazed by the incredible diversity of our planet’s geological wonders!
1. Naica Mine, Mexico
Naica Mine is located in Chihuahua, Mexico, and is famous for its enormous crystals. The crystals in the mine are some of the largest natural crystals ever found and can reach up to 12 meters in length and 1 meter in diameter. The mine was discovered in 1794, but it was not until the early 2000s that the massive crystals were discovered. The conditions in the mine are extreme, with temperatures reaching up to 50 degrees Celsius and 99% humidity. It is not open to the general public, but there are guided tours available for scientists and geologists.
2. Wadi Rum, Jordan
Wadi Rum is a protected desert wilderness in southern Jordan, known for its dramatic landscape of red sandstone and granite rock formations. The area has been inhabited by various cultures for thousands of years, and visitors can explore ancient rock art, Bedouin camps, and natural landmarks like the seven pillars of wisdom. The landscape of Wadi Rum has been featured in several films, including Lawrence of Arabia and The Martian.
3. Salar De Uyuni, Bolivia
Salar De Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat, located in the southwest of Bolivia. It spans over 10,000 square kilometers and is a popular tourist destination. The salt flat is incredibly flat, with variations in elevation of less than one meter over the entire area. When it rains, a thin layer of water covers the salt flat, creating a surreal mirror effect that makes for stunning photographs. The salt flat is also home to several islands, including Isla Incahuasi, which is covered in giant cacti.
4. Mono Lake, California
Mono Lake is a saline soda lake located in eastern California. The lake is known for its unique ecosystem and bizarre rock formations, called tufa towers, which are formed from the interaction of freshwater springs and alkaline lake water. The lake is an important stop for migratory birds and is home to several endemic species of brine shrimp.
5. White Sands National Park, New Mexico
White Sands National Park is a stunning desert park located in southern New Mexico. The park is home to the world’s largest gypsum dune field, covering over 275 square miles. The white sand dunes are incredibly photogenic and create a surreal, otherworldly landscape. Visitors can hike, sled, or even go on a full moon hike to experience the park’s unique beauty.
6. Caño Cristales, Colombia
Caño Cristales is a Colombian river located in the Serrania de la Macarena mountain range. The river is known for its incredible display of colors, caused by the growth of aquatic plants that turn the riverbed into a rainbow of reds, blues, yellows, and greens. The best time to visit is during the rainy season, from June to November, when the colors are most vibrant.
7. Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
Giant’s Causeway is a natural wonder located on the north coast of Northern Ireland. The site is made up of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. The columns vary in height and shape, creating a unique landscape that has inspired legends and myths for centuries. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts over a million visitors each year.
8. Chocolate Hills, Philippines
The Chocolate Hills are a geological formation located in Bohol, Philippines. The hills are made up of over 1,200 conical hills, which are covered in green grass that turns brown during the dry season, giving them a chocolate-like appearance. The hills are believed to have been formed by the uplift of coral deposits and erosion. It is a popular tourist attraction and is considered one of the most iconic natural wonders in the Philippines.
9. Danakil Depression, Ethiopia
The Danakil Depression is a geological wonder located in northeastern Ethiopia. It is known for its colorful landscapes, including salt flats, geysers, and hot springs. The area is also home to several active volcanoes, including Erta Ale, which has a continuously active lava lake. The extreme conditions of the depression make it one of the harshest environments on earth, with temperatures regularly exceeding 50 degrees Celsius.
10. Mount Zaō, Japan
Mount Zaō is a volcanic mountain located on the border between Miyagi and Yamagata prefectures in Japan. It is known for its stunning natural beauty, including a crater lake, hot springs, and the famous “snow monsters.” The snow monsters are trees that are covered in ice and snow during the winter months, creating a surreal, otherworldly landscape. The mountain is also a popular skiing destination in the winter.
11. Reynisfjara Beach, Iceland
Reynisfjara Beach is a black sand beach located on the south coast of Iceland. The beach is known for its stunning basalt columns, towering cliffs, and crashing waves. Visitors can also see the Reynisdrangar sea stacks, which are basalt columns rising out of the sea. The beach is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Iceland and is a must-see for nature lovers.
12. Yuanyang Rice Terraces, China
The Yuanyang Rice Terraces are a series of agricultural terraces located in the southern Yunnan province of China. The terraces were carved into the mountainside by the Hani people over 1,000 years ago and are still used for farming today. The terraces create a stunning, tiered landscape that is especially beautiful during the spring planting season when the fields are filled with water.
13. Dead Vlei, Namibia
Dead Vlei is a surreal, white clay pan located in the Namib-Naukluft National Park in Namibia. The pan is surrounded by towering red sand dunes and is known for its dead trees that have been scorched by the sun. The trees are estimated to be over 900 years old and create a hauntingly beautiful landscape.
14. Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii
Kilauea is an active shield volcano located on the Big Island of Hawaii. It is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and has been erupting continuously since 1983. Visitors can see the lava flows, steam vents, and sulfur banks that make up the volcanic landscape. The volcano is considered sacred by native Hawaiians and is an important cultural site.
15. Tsingy De Bemaraha National Park, Madagascar
Tsingy De Bemaraha National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in western Madagascar. The park is known for its incredible geological formations, including jagged limestone pinnacles, underground rivers, and canyons. The park is home to several endemic species of lemurs and is a popular destination for nature lovers.
16. Antelope Canyon, Arizona
Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon located in northern Arizona. The canyon is known for its beautiful, swirling rock formations, created by centuries of erosion from flash floods. The canyon is divided into two sections, Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon, and is a popular destination for photographers and nature lovers.
17. Cappadocia Valley, Turkey
Cappadocia Valley is a historical and geographical region located in central Turkey. The area is known for its unique landscape, including fairy chimneys, cave dwellings, and underground cities. The area is also famous for its hot air balloon rides, which provide an incredible bird’s eye view of the valley at sunrise.
18. Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Yellowstone National Park is one of the most famous national parks in the United States. It is located primarily in Wyoming but also extends into Montana and Idaho. The park is known for its incredible geological features, including geysers, hot springs, and mud pots. It is also home to a wide range of wildlife, including grizzly bears, wolves, and bison. Yellowstone is a popular destination for camping, hiking, and wildlife watching.
19. Underwater Waterfalls, Mauritius
The underwater waterfalls off the coast of Mauritius are a natural wonder that is visible only from the air. The “waterfalls” are actually an optical illusion caused by the movement of sand and silt on the ocean floor. The contrast between the deep blue water and the sandy ocean floor creates the illusion of a cascading waterfall. It is a unique and stunning natural phenomenon.
20. Richat Structure, Mauritania
The Richat Structure is a circular geological formation located in the Sahara desert in Mauritania. It is also known as the “Eye of the Sahara” due to its distinctive circular shape. The formation is believed to be the result of erosion and is estimated to be over 100 million years old. It is a unique and stunning natural wonder in the midst of the desert.