Holidays don’t have to be all sun, sea and sand. These days’ travellers want to experience the most adventurous, unique and downright weird destinations that are out of this world.
There are a few places on Earth that appear as they could be straight out of space, with their surreal shapes, mysterious origins and too-beautiful-to-believe features.
We wanted to show you some of the rarest places in the world that you really will need to see to believe they exist.
From Croatia’s brilliant Blue Cave to Tenerife’s spectacular Sea of Clouds and the Maldives’ glowing beaches – Take a look at some of these surreal places you must add to your travel bucket list.
Zhangye Danxia Landform, China
With its rolling hills, rocky peaks and multitude of colours, this otherworldly site looks like no place on Earth. The spectacular lunar landscape can be found at the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park in Gansu Province, China. Like one giant red, orange and yellow-hued paint spattered artwork, the park offers breath-taking views that blaze with colour. The unusual colouration in the rocks is the result of red sandstone and mineral deposits being laid down over 24 million years.
Tunnel of Love, Ukraine
Ukraine’s leafy Tunnel of Love, near the town of Klevan, is a three-kilometre section of private railway that serves a nearby fibreboard factory. A train runs daily through the ethereal tunnel delivering wood to the factory. At other times the beautiful avenue of trees is witness to a very different journey – love. It is a favoured spot for young romantics to stroll with their special someone. The magic happens in spring when the trees that line the rails burst into life and create a leafy enclosed arch over the track.
Whitehaven Beach, Australia
Whitehaven Beach is a pristine beach stretching seven kilometres, gently lapped by rippling waves of turquoise and aquamarine. The sand at the Australian beach is so pure and white that it is 89 per cent silica, and is believed to have been brought to the beach from sea currents over millions of years.
The Door to Hell, Turkmenistan
This giant hole in the Karakum Desert has been burning for over 40 years. Named by locals as ‘The Door to Hell,’ the crater in Turkmenistan was created by Soviet geologists in 1971 who were drilling at the site and tapped into a cavern filled with natural gas. The ground underneath the rig collapsed and left a hole with a diameter of 70 metres. The team was afraid the hole would release poisonous gases and decided to burn it off. They hoped it would be put out after a few days but the hole has been burning ever since.
Keukenhof Gardens, Holland
Lake Gairdner, Australia
This salt lake in South Australia is surrounded by brilliant red sand hills and the shimmering surface is a photographer’s dream. When standing in the centre of the surreal Lake Gairdner, the horizon seems to disappear. The site hosts the annual Dry Lake Racers event in March.
To Sua Ocean Trench, Samoa
The To Sua Ocean Trench (which literally means ‘big hole with water’) is an idyllic site located in Samoa’s Lotofaga village. The trench is surrounded by beautiful manicured gardens with views out across the Pacific Ocean. A ladder is installed allowing visitors to descend 15 metres down into the trench filled with turquoise waters and lit up by the bright Samoa sunshine. The gurgling sounds of the water can be heard through the underwater caves.
Arashiyama Bamboo Forest, Japan
The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest in Kyoto is a 500-metre pathway through the Sagano Bamboo Forest. It is one of Japan’s most picturesque natural environments and is known for the sound that is made when the wind blows through the thick bamboo grove. The music was even voted one of Japan’s must-preserve sounds.
Lake Hillier, Australia
Western Australia’s Lake Hillier is a bubble gum pink-coloured lake that is surrounded by a rim of sand and dense woodland. It is a complete mystery to scientists, who have never been able to identify why the is pink. Some say the colour comes from a dye created by bacteria living in the salt crusts. The lake is best viewed from the sky, but there is also the Pink Lake lookout, which offers stunning views of the 600-metre-long lake.
Fingal’s Cave, Scotland
The uninhabited island of Staffa is home to Fingal’s Cave, Scotland, which is formed entirely of hexagonally jointed basalt columns – the same as the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. A walkway made of fractured columns allows visitors to go far inside and during spring and early summer the cliffs and grassy slopes provide nesting sites for various seabirds including guillemots, razorbills and puffins.
Blue Cave, Croatia
This spectacular blue cave or grotto can be found on the remote limestone island of Bisevo in Croatia. The Blue Cave is at its most beautiful between 11am and noon when the sun’s rays pass through an underwater opening to create a beautiful blue light. Boats can be taken inside the cave, but for a surreal experience you should take an underwater swim to see the rocks glimmer in silver and pink.
Sea of Clouds, Spain
Visit Mount Teide in Tenerife to see the strange phenomenon known as the Sea of Clouds from Spain’s highest peak. This happens when the moist trade winds (sea level) condense as they rise over the steep northerly slope of the island and meet drier, warmer winds coming from the Azores at a higher altitude. The result is an extraordinary thick ‘blanket’ of white clouds at the foot of Mount Teide. Visitors to the Mount Teide National Park, at an altitude of more than 1,700m above the sea of clouds, can enjoy the volcanic landscapes with perfect blue skies and the weird experience of being above the clouds.
The surreal landscape of Cappadocia is characterised by subterranean cities, cave houses, fairy chimneys and winding valleys, and is one of the most enchanting places on the planet. The otherworldly landscape is best enjoyed from the sky on a hot air balloon ride, where you can see the extraordinary rock formations, vineyards and villages of the historical region in Turkey.