You don't have to travel to another planet to get a dose of alien surroundings. Multiple spots on earth feature such geographic and natural anomalies that they give off a distinctly unearthly vibe. These surreal spots on our planet are far more intriguing destinations than the typical sandy beach.
If you are enchanted by images from the Mars Rover or the moon landing, consider making a vacation destination out of one of earth's most alien landscapes. Start with these five bizarre terrains.
1. Socotra: Straight out of Dr. Seuss
Socotra, a tiny archipelago of four islands off the coast of Yemen, is often called the "hidden gem of the Arabian sea." The islands are rife with bizarre trees and rock formations found nowhere else on Earth. Over one third of Socotra's plant life is entirely unique to Socotra. The island's rare plants are caused by its extreme geographical isolation, and the rock formations resembling man-made pillars are a result of unique wind erosion patterns. Socotra's level of biodiversity is rivaled only by the Hawaiian and Galapagos island chains. Several of Socotra's endemic tree species are so oddly shaped that they channel the quirky shapes of a Dr. Seuss illustration.
2. Chocolate Hills of the Philippines: A Willy Wonka Paradise?
Over 1,200 cone shaped hills dot the Phillipine island of Bohol. Local legends say the odd formations were caused by the tears of a giant who fell in love with a local human girl. Their epic romance failed, and the chocolate hills were borne of the giant's sadness. You can reach Bohol in about an hour, by air, from Manila. True to their name, the chocolate hills are a deep brown in winter, but change into an emerald green in the summer. The geological explanation behind the chocolate hills has to do with unusual limestone erosion patterns, but we prefer the story about the giant's failed romance. You can hike among the hills which vary between 40 and 100 feet high and lament the sad story of the jilted giant.
3. The Spotted Lake in British Columbia
Spotted lake has been dubbed the most psycedelic landscape on earth. IT is a lake that evaporates in th esummertime, leaving gigantic ring-like formations that reflect iridescent blue, green and yellow. The Osyoos, a local native tribe, say that the high mineral content gives the lake's shallow waters powerful healing properties. Unfortunately, the lake is located in a cultural and ecological protected area and not open to the public, so we can't give you a map. We can tell you that Spotted Lake is about a 10 minute drive from the town of Osoyoos and can be seen from Highway 3 just north of the Washington State border. You're on your own to find the mysterious Spotted Lake.
4. Simpson Desert: a Blood Red Aussie Wasteland
While Australia is a land of many extremes, the Simpson Desert is even extreme for Australia. Extremely isolated, the Simpson desert lies an estimated 20 hour drive from the nearest city, Adelaide. The sand that fills the Simpson desert is blood-red, swirling into high dunes. In some places, the red color looks exactly like human blood, owing to the high iron oxide content in the local bedrock. The desert is accessible by four-wheel drive, and the national park is closed during the hottest months when temperatures can soar above 120 degrees fahrenheit.
5. Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland: A Cause for Awe
Along the northern end of Northern Ireland's jagged coastline lies a bizarre landscape filled with over 40,000 ballast columns. The columns reach to 40 feet high and were formed over 60 million years ago by magma as it spewed and then cooled along the coast. Within the Giant's Causeway, you'll find a spot known as Giant's Organ where the unique formations resemble a gigantic musical instrument. Giant's Causeway is easily accessible by car--a short 1.5 hour drive from Belfast. When you wander amid the bizarre columns, you'll feel caught in an unearthly labyrinth.
Earth is teeming with land forms that could have originated in the mind of some crazed artist. Some are remote and dangerous, and some are closer to home. Look no further than our own little blue gem of a planet to experience an utterly alien atmosphere.Read more »