Earth is an incredibly varied planet, with a huge variety of climates, terrain and vegetation on almost every continent. If you’ve always dreamed of exploring the universe and travelling to different planets, you may be happy to find out that you don’t need to jump on a spaceship to witness alien looking places. Whether it’s a valley in Chile that looks like it’s straight from the moon or a multi-coloured spring in America that could easily be from a distant galaxy, the following are 10 places on earth that look like they’re from another planet.
Dallol Volcano – Ethiopia
Dallol volcano is located in the Danakil Depression in the north part of Afar Triangle. It is an unusual landscape which is full of yellow, black, pink, green salt deposits as well as hot springs and gas geysers.
This area is also considered to be one of the hottest places on earth, the temperature easily reaches 45 C degrees and it rarely rains. If you are travelling here please make sure to bring loads of water to keep yourself hydrated.
What causes these unusual colours?
It is a natural phenomenon caused by seawater reaction with the volcanic minerals in the magma creating this fascinating sight. The sulphur and salt reaction creates bright yellow acidic colour, whereas in colder water copper salts create a bright blue colour.
How acidic are the waters in Danakil Depression?
This is actually quite interesting average pH levels would be 0.2 which is considered “Ultra” acidic, it is almost the same as the acid within a battery. Which means definitely no swimming in the water! Also ask your tour operator if they can provide a gas mask since you don’t want to be always inhaling those poisonous fumes. Just for comparison the acidity of a lemon is 2.0.
Is it safe to travel to Danakil, Ethiopia?
There were a few incidents when tourists were killed or kidnapped. In 2012 5 tourists were killed during their tour and in 2017 one German tourist got shot dead. Hence tour operators must provide you with armed escort. The UK government website continuously updates travel information to Ethiopia.
Here is a great blog post written by BoB if you decide to go Danakil.
In summary, this landscape will definitely make you question if you are still on Earth. Surreal landscapes make it look like Fallout, a post-apocalyptic game.
Painted Dunes – Lassen National Park, US
The photos above may look like the surface of Mars or another distant planet but the Painted Dunes are actually found in Lassen National Park in California. The incredible formations are actually ‘multicoloured pumice fields, formed by the oxidation of volcanic ash.’
Grand Prismatic Spring – Wyoming, US
Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in the US as well as third largest in the world. It was first discovered in 1871 and is located in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming state. It is not the size of the spring that amazes visitors but the incredible rainbow colours that surround the lake.
The colourful stripes are Microbial mats which is a multi-layered sheet of microorganisms. Colours Depend on the temperature and the amount of carotenoids produced by the bacteria. If it is a hot sunny day you can predominantly see yellow and orange colours. If it is winter the layers become dark green. So it would be better to visit the spring during summer.
Another interesting fact is that Grand Prismatic Spring discharges 2,100 litres of water per minute. Imagine an Olympic swimming pool (50 metres) evaporating within a day!
Lake Natron – Tanzania
This incredible lake in Tanzania looks like it could be straight out of a science fiction film but Lake Natron is 100% real. The incredible colour of the water is caused by the 120 degree temperature of the lake and the low PH levels, which is the perfect breeding ground for the pink-coloured algae to flourish.
Zhangye Danxia Landform – Gansu, China
Zhangye Danxia Landform is considered to be one of the most beautiful rock formations in Gansu, China. The breathtaking colour of the rocks have been formed by many different layers of red sandstone and mudstone over 24 million years. Today the landform covers 50 square kilometres (19 square miles) of the area. It may look like it’s from another planet but the Zhangye Danxia Landform is one of Earth’s most unique places.
The local guide will take you to the best viewing platforms so you could capture all the best views. Make sure you tour is during sunset to see continually changing colours of the rocks.
Salar De Uyuni – Bolivia
Salar De Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world covering an area of 10,582 square kilometers and is considered to be one of the most fascinating places ton Earth. Thousands of years ago Lake Minchin that used to be on this spot evaporated leaving behind a thick crust of salt.
The most mesmerising view is when nearby lakes cover the salt with a thin layer of water creating a mirror effect by reflecting the sky and everything around you. Think about all of those cool pictures you can take by playing with the perspective.
Salar De Uyuni definitely looks surreal and if there will be some water covering the salt it will make you feel like you are standing between two worlds. If you are visiting Bolivia this place is a must-see. You can even stay in a salt hotel.
Hang Son Doong – Vietnam
Hang Son Doong in Vietnam is officially the largest cave in the world. The cavern is so wide and so deep that it would be capable of housing a small city, with room for 40-floor high skyscrapers! The small sinkholes in the roof of the cave also allow enough light to enter the cavern for Hang Son Doong to have its own little underground forest, making it truly feel like another world.
Ice Caves in Skaftafell- Iceland
Iceland is a beautiful place with loads of stunning sceneries that you can explore. But for the list of most surreal places ice caves fit perfectly.
You can only see them during winter when the temperature drops below 0 degrees and the water underneath the glacier freezes leaving this extraordinary natural phenomena. Imagine yourself stepping inside a glacier and exploring the deep blue ice. The place gives its visitors an opportunity to take mind-blowing photos.
The ice caves can be found in Skaftafell Natural Park which actually used to be a massive farm on the South-East of Iceland. Make sure to book a local tour if you are going to explore the caves, remember safety comes first!
Moon Valley – Chile
If you’ve ever dreamed of landing on the moon, then a visit to Chile’s Moon Valley may just make you feel like your dreams have come true. The Valle de la Luna is located in Atacama Desert and many years of erosion have left the area with jagged peaks and dried-out riverbeds, giving the valley an uncanny resemblance to the surface of the moon.
Fly Geyser – Nevada, US
Fly Geyser might look alien but it is an incredible natural formation that is made out of accumulated minerals from the geothermal geyser below. Before the geyser became what it is today on this spot in 1916 there used to be a man-made well that was supposed to water the plants. However when people realised that the water coming out is almost at boiling point they quickly abandoned the well leaving it open. Thanks to the minerals carbon calcium carbonate and silica in the water a cone was formed.
Later in 1964 an energy company drilled a second hole to try and use the water for energy purposes, but unfortunately it wasn’t hot enough! That is why now there are multiple cones shooting out hot water 1.5 metres high.
Fly Geyser is located on private land north of Gerlach in Nevada, be sure to book a tour in advance to avoid disappointment.
Tianzi Mountains, China
Located in the Zhangjiajie National Park these thin mountains look like they are piercing the sky with their sharp edges. A scenery that even impressed James Cameron to film “Avatar” in these unusual surroundings.
Some of the pillars reach 4,000 feet above sea level, the mountain range also covers a whopping 17,000 acres.
The best time you could visit Tianzi Mountains would be during summer months when the temperature is warm. If it rains that is even better, evaporated water will create a thick layer of fog that will cover the mountains creating a surreal experience.