35+ Otherworldy Locations That Are Actually On EarthBy Gary G
If you’ve ever wanted to be an astronaut for even the briefest of moments just so you could go exploring out-of-this-world locations and alien-looking landscapes, this is the article for you. The following photos prove that otherworldly locations exist within our solar system — and even more specifically, that they exist right here on the big blue planet that we call Earth! They might be right under your nose, and you just don’t know it yet. So, before you go buying a ticket for a space launch or apply for the Mars One program, check out this list of amazing and unique places that you can explore without leaving our orbit, so maybe it’s time to make some earthly travel plans!
Lake Retba, Senegal
Anyone fancy taking a trip to Candyland? That’s what this bubblegum pink lake makes us want to do! And, before you ask, no, this isn’t a work of a very skilled Photoshop artist. It’s a real lake that can be found in Senegal.
This body of water gets its unusual color from a specific species of algae that live within it. Its English name, Lake Retba, translates to “Lake Rose” in Senegal’s national tongue — and it’s pretty easy to see why! Why wouldn’t you name a pink lake after everyone’s favorite pink flower?
Gates to Hell, Turkmenistan
Fire and brimstone are two of the best words for describing this location. With scorching flames and white-hot embers that would melt metal, this really does look like the gate to the underworld. In actuality, though, it’s nothing quite so sinister. Just a gas field that has collapsed into an underground cavern.
It’s said that the Turkmenistan government initially set fire to the area in 1971 in order to prevent the spread of methane gas. Since then, there have been rumors that the ground is still burning today! However, this has been disputed. The only thing burning here is the gas.
Kawachi Fuji Garden, China
Tucked away within the heart of the Kitakyushu, Japan, is the Kawachi Fuji Garden. This gorgeous garden specializes in flowering trees and plants of all shapes and sizes. One of its most well-known attractions, though, is the wisteria tunnels.
Here, there are more than 150 towering wisteria plants of 20 different species, all held in place and shaped by sturdy iron gates. The main wisteria-related attraction in the garden is, as we said, the whimsical wisteria tunnels through which visitors can walk and be transported into an entirely different world.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
The winter season in Bolivia is known for its heavy rains. As it turns out, though, it’s also known for an influx of thousands of tourists who come here to see the world’s largest salt flat, the Salar de Uyuni, that’s housed there.
During the rainy season, this area transforms into the world’s largest outdoor mirror. The pools leftover from this prehistoric lake create shimmery illusions, and then, when it rains, the entire space turns into a large reflective surface that reflects the sky and everything in it — clouds, planes, satellites, and all.
Fly Geyser, USA
Located in Nevada, USA, Fly Geyser is a small geothermal geyser that is 12 feet tall and situated on a continuously growing mound of land. It was accidentally created in 1964 when a company searched for a new geothermal energy source, making it one of the world’s many “happy accidents”.
There is a five-foot-tall jet of water that’s constantly expelled from the top of the geyser, shooting the water into a series of 30 to 40 pools below it that span over an area of 30 hectares. The stunning colors of the mound are due to a certain type of bacteria and various minerals.
Zhangye Danxia National Geopark, China
Zhangye National Park is located in Gansu, China, and encompasses 80,000 miles of land. The park is known for its colorfully spunky rock formations, which are known by many as the Rainbow Mountains. These mountains are made up of layers of mineral deposits from tectonic plate movement.
Every year they draw thousands of tourists into the area and are captured on camera many times over, with the images finding their way onto social media accounts worldwide. Thanks to them, the town of Gansu has been a hot spot for tourist travel for decades.
Until today, you’ve probably never thought of tectonic plates as anything exciting unless you’re a geologist. After this, though, you’re going to see them in a different light. Enter the phenomena that is the Silfra Rift, which is located near Iceland.
This photo may not look like much, but it’s capturing the exact place where two of the world’s tectonic plates have separated. The plates in question are the Eurasian and North American plates, creating a unique channel between them where divers are known to take underwater photos.
Richat Structure, Mauritania
The Richat Structure of Mauritania goes by many names, including the Eye of Africa, the Eye of Mauritania, and the Eye of the Sahara, but nobody really knows what it is. All we know for sure is that it’s an eroded dome that leaves layers of sedimentary rock exposed.
There are plenty of rumors as to how this unique formation came to be. Some say that it’s the ancient landing place of an alien spacecraft, while others claim that it’s merely an earthly phenomenon that just kind of happened. Regardless, it’s definitely a location with otherwordly charm.
Slope Point, New Zealand
There’s nothing overly otherworldly about a grassy field atop a mountain, right? Sure, unless, of course, you’re talking about Slope Point, in which case we’d have to disagree. New Zealand’s icon mountain-top field looks like something out of a sci-fi film.
All the trees located here are windblown and twisting to the side due to the unruly, unrelenting winds that constantly batter this mountaintop. The only creatures you’ll find grazing here are sheep, as the area is privately owned farmland and only accessible via a 20-minute long walk through the owner’s fields.
Lake Natron, Tanzania
Located in Tanzania, this lake-that-looks-like-it-came-from-outer-space can rightly be described as terrifying. While it does, admittedly, look a bit unsettling with its reddish hue, what it does to the unfortunate souls who die there is what really puts our hairs on end.
This lake is so salty that when an animal dies within it, its body turns into a statue of sorts. The high amount of bicarbonate in the red water works to calcify the bones, creating a sight that is both incredible and scary. Just imagine how many body statues are hiding in there!
Son Doong Cave, Vietnam
Vietnam is home to the world’s largest cave, Han Son Doong. This cave is big and mystical enough that it manages to look like the portal to another world or maybe a piece of scenery from a martial arts movie where the characters have magical powers, and the Chosen One reigns supreme.
What’s most amazing about this cave system, though, isn’t its 5.5-mile length but its ability to generate its own weather system! That’s right; this cave generates its own clouds and wind. The clouds rise to the roof of the cave and then fall like rain. Crazy, right?
Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Zambia
Forming part of the Zimbabwe-Zambia border, Victoria Falls is one of the world’s largest waterfall systems. This collection of close-knit falls creates a picture of beauty and a strong mist that can be observed from up to 30 miles away.
Atop the falls is an area known as the Devil’s Lip and, during the dry season, when the falls are at their weakest, brave swimmers can wade near the edge of the falls. We think it goes without saying that there’s most definitely no diving allowed here.
Fingal’s Cave, Scotland
Anyone looking for a portal to enter an evil alternate reality? We weren’t either, but it looks like we’ve stumbled across one to include on our list of otherworldly places. Meet Fingal’s Cave, a large and fascinating cave located in Scotland.
This cave is made up of hexagonally joined columns of basalt and is 72 feet tall. Its water is 270 feet deep at its center. Some say that it’s a result of lava flows millions of years ago, while others believe in a most sinister beginning.
Mount Roraima, South America
Bordering Guyana, Brazil, and Venezuela, Mount Roraima is a tabletop mountain that dates back over 2 million years ago. It is 400 meters tall on all sides and rises above the low-lying clouds like a platform waiting for an angel to land on it.
Its cliffside features several different waterfalls, which makes it nearly impossible to climb. Only the most experienced rock climbers can take on this mountain — and for good reason! It definitely looks intimidating, and we wouldn’t be crazy enough to attempt to scale it.
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
If you’ve ever wondered where the ever-fabled unicorns would live (if they were real, of course), then this is the photo to answer your question. It’s hard not to imagine groups of happy unicorns frolicking through the falls and grazing on the lush grass here at Plitvice Lakes National Park.
These gorgeous falls are part of what makes the park so charming, but its array of wildlife, peaceful atmosphere and protected shorelines are what set the stage. It’d be easy to lapse into a beautiful daydream while visiting this place.
Spotted Lake, Canada
During the winter and spring seasons, this lake just Northwest of Osoyoos, British Columbia, looks like any other lake in the world. Then, when summer rolls around and the lake begins to thaw, it transforms into the magical spotted lake that every Canadian recognizes by photo.
This effect happens because of how salty the lake is. When it melts every summer, small deposits of brine are leftover. These deposits pool in small craters within the lake and, in aerial photos, give the lake its yellow, green, and blue-spotted look.
Cano Cristales, Columbia
During the hot summer months, this Columbian river turns a number of colors and effectively earns its nickname, “The River of Five Colors.” It’s also called the “Liquid Rainbow,” but regardless of what you chose to call it, there’s no doubt that it serves as one of the weirdest places on our list.
The unique plant life that grows on the bed of the river is what gives the river its vibrant colors, but if we didn’t know that, we’d think that we’ve stumbled upon the earthly rendition of another dimension. It would be quite the sight to see, that’s for sure.
Danakil Depression, Ethiopia
Although these pools are a yellow-green hue that defies logic, you wouldn’t think that they are anything more than simply unsettling collections of water, right? Well, you’d be surprised then because these unassuming pools are actually full of acid.
The green and yellow water is acid, and the areas that look like land are actually brittle crusts of hardened sulfur and salt. To add even more interest to this alien landscape, the tectonic plates below are constantly moving, gradually bringing the depression even further below sea level.
Tunnel of Love, Ukraine
Nothing more than an industrial section of railway, this leafy green tunnel looks like it was dropped straight out of a fairy tale — and not the Grimm fairy tales. During the early morning and evening hours, it’s common for couples to stroll through the tunnels.
The Tunnel of Love is the perfect place for surprising your sweetheart. Whether you’re looking to whoo them with your romantic date ideas or do something as life-changing as popping the big question, this is the place to do it. Don’t forget to take photos!
Candy Cane Mountains, Azerbaijan
Nicknamed for their red and white candy cane-like stripes, the Candy Cane Mountains of Azerbaijan were dubbed by Mark Elliot, a travel writer who, when coming across the mountains, was working on a travel book. These festive mountains quickly made it into his documentation.
The coloration of the mountains comes from groundwater production that has oxidized the natural iron compounds found within the earth. These chemical changes turn the shale red, while the striping effect comes from the various layers of the shale being exposed.
Camecuaro Lake, Mexico
Situated within the protective borders of Mexico’s Lago do Camecuaro National Park, this lake makes us think of the Jurassic Park movies. The tall, towering trees and their sturdy, over-grown roots seem very prehistoric, while the lake itself looks like the perfect watering hole for dinosaurs.
In addition, though, we can’t help but see a large heart..so now we’re stuck trying to decide between whether this space is best suited for the dinos or the fairy folk. Either way, it’s still a gorgeous spot that transports us to somewhere else entirely.
Las Lajas Sanctuary, Colombia
If you’re looking for an otherworldly location that is free of the typical tourist traffic that the world’s most beautiful locations always attract, the Las Lajas Sanctuary might be the location for you. It’s located within Colombia and Ecuador’s borders and is the country’s most majestic neo-gothic church.
The church was built in the 1700s by a family who claimed that they had seen the Virgin Mary in the sky above the building. We don’t know how true that is but we do know that since this marvel is off the beaten path, you won’t run into too many other people while admiring it.
Playa del Amor, Mexico
Also known as “The Hidden Beach,” Playa del Amor is a secretive beach destination on the coast of Puerto Vallarta. It’s been said that the giant hole under which the beach has formed was the result of bomb testing in the 1900s; however, this has never been proven as a fact.
We’ve never been to this beach, but we can only imagine how much of a unique experience visiting would be. You’d almost feel like you were in on a secret of some sort. We can already tell that we wouldn’t want to leave.
Kawah Ijen Lake, Indonesia
The Kawah Ijen lake and subsequent volcano manage to be both terrifying and mesmerizing at the same time. Just looking at them transports us to a faraway planet where anything and everything is possible, which, in all honesty, is a feeling that suits this location well.
Here, sulfuric gasses burst through the land’s rocky crust, combusting when they come in contact with oxygen. This creates 16-foot high flames that shoot into the air and burn a bright, electric blue. They then flow down the volcano-like liquid blue lava.
Marble Caves, Chile
Chile’s fantastical marble caves have been in formation for over 6,000 years. They form much like other cave systems do by water erosion, but obviously, something sets them apart from the rest. Can you guess what that is? We’ll give you a minute.
If you guessed the gorgeous marbling that’s happening on the walls of the cave, you’re right! The marbled effect that’s happening here is what attracts travelers from all over the world and encourages them to take the long boat ride to the access point of the caves. That’s dedication.
Apukunaq Tianan, Peru
Okay, so this isn’t really a place, but it’s definitely something that looks like it belongs on another planet (or has come from one?). It made its way onto our list because of the minor technicality that, yes, it is located somewhere on Earth, which is a place. Logic.
Believe it or not, this rock-creature was hand-made by a Peruvian artist with a lot of creativity and an affinity for carving. We’re highly impressed with this list item because it was made by a human’s own two hands — and check out all those details! This thing is definitely worthy of being otherworldy.
Mount Roraima, also known as simply Roraima, is a large mountain range in Venezuela. It is popular for its unique rock formations and how they make visitors feel. For us, they provoke feelings that can only be represented by sentences like “We’re not on Earth anymore.”
We’ve never actually been to these formations, but if we had, we’d surely be left feeling like we had crossed onto another planet for a while and then came back. The formations look like they belong in an alien movie! They’d be perfect for creatures to hide behind…
Window to Hell, Russia
Where there’s a gate, there’s a door, right? In this case, there is, anyways! The Gate to Hell resides in Turkmenistan; its sister, the Window to Hell, calls Russia its home. Despite having similar names, the two places look very, very different and give off very, very different vibes.
This one seems to beckon us closer while the Gates of Hell, well, we’d rather not get too close to. This being said, that’s probably what makes this entrance to hell so much more dangerous! It looks relatively unassuming and, admittedly, very inviting.
Firefly Forest, Japan
The area in which the Firefly Forest lies, Masubuchi, has been deemed a national monument thanks to its large population of Genji fireflies that gather there. As if the fireflies themselves weren’t enough, their light reflects off streams and small lakes in the area and effectively lights up the entire forest.
This photo (and all the others like it) reminds us of a magical fairy forest and, if we squint our eyes just right, it takes us to another place. We could look at this photo for hours, but we’re too busy booking our tickets to Japan. Who’s joining us?
Reed Flute Cave, China
China’s reed flute cave is known as “The Palace of Natural Arts,” and it’s crystal clear as to how it got that name. This cave is stunning! It got its name from the reeds that grow outside of it, which can be weaved and used as musical flutes.
Inside the cave, its the dewy stalagmites that give it its beauty. Together with the bright colored lights and gently flowing underground lake, the cave is serene and dreamy. It’s definitely one of the more beautiful places on our list, and we’d be thrilled to get the chance to see it for ourselves.
Yuanyang Rice Terraces, China
The Yuanyang rice terraces of China’s Yunnan province have been captured millions of times on both film and video. Tourists and locals alike are drawn to the area when seen from afar because of the interesting patterns the various rice fields make on the landscape.
To us, they resemble a piece of art. More specifically, they resemble the aftermath of a mosaic-making session, with all their organic lines and prominent divides. Not to mention the color variations! Up close, you can’t see the beauty of these fields, which is why all the photos of them are shot from a distance.
Glowworm Caves, New Zealand
You’ve probably seen photos of this wondrous cave (known as the Waitomo Glowworm Cave) before. But now you know its name and where it’s located! It’s amazing what you can find out online, huh? You can visit the cave if you aren’t afraid of bugs because, well, the cave is full of them.
More specifically, the cave is full of a species of glowworms that are found exclusively within New Zealand’s borders. The glowworm cave also boasts an underground water system consisting of several streams that are connected to various other caves.
Champagne Pool, New Zealand
The champagne pool is New Zealand’s most colorful geothermal attraction. It lies in a natural area that has been carved by geothermal activity and volcanic features such as bubbling mud, volcanic craters, steaming areas of ground, and various terrace formations.
The water of the colorful champagne pool itself, though, is always bubbling and emitting a hot steam that you can actually feel if you get too close. The bubbling is due to a high amount of carbon dioxide and makes for a particularly amazing sight to behold.
Bigar Waterfall, Romania
The Bigar waterfall is one of Romania’s most popular tourist attractions. Hidden away on top of the Anina Mountains, this majestic waterfall is truly a natural wonder. After all, it’s not every day that you see a rounded waterfall fit for the fairy folk.
While most waterfalls flow straight down, this one flows over the apex of a very large, rounded stone and is then diverted into a series of smaller streams. The effect gives the area a magical atmosphere in which we can easily imagine fantasy creatures and castles.
Na Pali Coast, Hawaii
This gorgeous coast off of Hawaii’s Kaui island is a more-than-ideal vacation spot. Unfortunately, you can’t stay on the coast in the technical sense of the word, but you can stay on the island and take trips to the coast to capture photos and hike.
We’re not sure if it’s the way the sunlight hits the greenery and makes it shine or the tree-like rock formations that make up the background, but something about this particular piece of coastline catches our eye. It’s very peaceful looking and makes us want to curl up in the sunshine and have a nap on the grass.
Stuðlagil Canyon, Iceland
This unusual canyon is a rock formation consisting of various basalt towers poised over a turquoise-blue glacial river. It’s a beloved location for both locals and tourists, attracting thousands of people each year, earning it a spot on almost every list of beautiful places in Iceland.
Until recent years, the vast canyon was fully submerged in the river that runs through it. The water level began to fall a few years ago, leaving the canyon that was hidden beneath for so many years on full display.
Salt Mine, Russia
Beneath the city of Yekaterinburg is a salt mine unlike any we’ve seen before – and unless you’ve been there, the chances are that you’ve never seen one like it, either. Most salt mines are dull, but this one is anything but. In fact, it’s actually what we’d consider being one-of-a-kind.
The red and white stripes pictured here are a result of the layers of natural carnallite present. Carnallite is the same mineral used in many plant fertilizers and is most often red and white but can also be yellow and colorless.
Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, Brazil
This Brazilian park will make you feel like you’ve entered another realm. The otherworldly atmosphere is made up of rolling sand dunes, crystalline lakes, and vibrant green lagoons. When pictured with the bright summer sky above, there’s no other word for this place than beautiful.
As weird as it is to say (and think!), the inviting green hues of the lagoons kind of make us want to dive right into the water and go for a swim even though we know better than to go swimming in lagoons. Talk about a magic pull or what?
Lake Bled, Slovenia
One of Slovenia’s most picturesque locations, Lake Bled, is atmospheric enough to make us feel like we could go back in time if only we got a little closer. With its ancient castle in the center and clear-blue water, the area is both calming and mesmerizing.
The photographer who captured this photo is more than talented — they’re a photographic genius! This photo gives the natural beauty of the lake all the credit that it’s due. It’s not very often that a photo renders us speechless, but this one has done it successfully.
Mývatn Geothermal Peninsula, Iceland
Northern Iceland is home to the naked area of Earth known as the Mývatn Geothermal Peninsula. Here, there are no trees, no plants, and no animal life — there are certainly no humans! This landscape looks and feels (it’s very hot!) like it should belong on Mars.
Even though the area is full of natural wonders and strange sights to see, it’s not a place that you’d want to get too close to. The unassuming, relatively normal-looking ground, bubbles, and boils, releasing hot steam from the craters that mark the surface.