Trekking around rust-coloured landscapes, geologic formations, and geothermal activity can create an uncanny feeling of being transported to another planet. These are some of the otherworldly destinations to be found right here on earth.
Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park
The Grand Prismatic is so named because it shows all the colours of the rainbow, just like light bending through a prism. The water’s centre is a deep blue, while its outer rings vary in colour depending on the time of year.
Go in the spring to see the deepest blues, in the summer to see the outer rings turn red, orange and yellow, or in the winter when the rings display a variety of greens.
Mendenhall Ice Caves, Alaska
Breathtakingly blue walls shimmer inside the Mendenhall Glacier. The glacier sits in the Mendenhall Valley, about 20km from downtown Juneau in southeast Alaska.
The stunning ice caves radiate a deep and milky blue, and visitors can actually get underneath the glacier in the ice caves that have formed over the millennia.
While the glacier itself is fairly accessible, you’ll have to take a sea craft up to the entrance of the caves, and a kayak is the best approach.
Koekohe Beach, New Zealand
Known to some as the Stonehenge of New Zealand, giant spherical stones can be seen scattered along Koekohe Beach on the Otago coast. Each boulder weighs several tonnes and stands up to two metres high.
New Zealand has many fascinating legends to offer, all of which only make travelling there more enchanting. According to Maori legend, the boulders are gourds washed ashore from the great voyaging canoe Araiteuru when it was wrecked upon landfall in New Zealand hundreds of years ago.
Isolated Socotra, 355km from mainland Yemen, is home to an array of strange plants and animals uniquely adapted to the hot, harsh, windswept island.
The island is home to a high number of endemic species that make up its uniquely diverse ecosystem. It has been described as “the most alien-looking place on Earth”.
Crooked Forest, Poland
A bizarre collection of around 400 pine trees that grow with a 90-degree bend in their base makes up the Crooked Forest. There have been numerous theories proposed over the years, but no-one truly knows what caused the trees to adopt this form.
An area legend claims that carpenters wanted to build furniture from the pine trees, so they stunted their growth to create the curve soon after planting them in the 1920s. Other theories claim that an intense blizzard damaged the pines, or that a strange gravitational pull was the culprit.
Curiously, the Crooked Forest is fully surrounded by straight growing pine trees.
Sea of Stars, Maldives
The ‘Sea of Stars’ is a beautiful phenomenon that occurs during late summer in the reefs of the Maldives, caused by bioluminescent phytoplankton called Lingulodinium polyedrum. The movement of the waves causes the plankton to glow, creating an incredible shimmering effect that looks like the sea is full of stars.
Pink Lake at Port Gregory, Australia
The pink lake is actually called Hutt Lagoon, because of its location close to the mouth of the Hutt River. Its pink hue is created by the presence of carotenoid-producing algae, Dunaliella salina, which is a source of beta-carotene; a food-colouring agent; and a source of Vitamin A.
The lake’s colour changes through the spectrum of red to bubblegum pink to lilac purple, depending on the time of day, season and amount of cloud cover. The best time of day to visit is typically around noon when the sun is high.
Have you visited any of these alien-like destinations? Why not share any others you’d add to the list in the comments section below?
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