These incredible spots around the world earned their natural beauty the old-fashioned way: over millions of years and with a little help from erosion, algae, and other environmental factors.
Our world is full of wonders with unusual and beautiful places being discovered every day. Different geographical locations, climate conditions and seasons offer the widest variety of beautiful sceneries. There are places in the world that are so incredible and enchanting that they look like they’re straight out of a storybook. As surreal as the places on this list may seem, they all have one thing in common—they are 100% real.
From multi-colored hot springs in the U.S. to the endless tulip fields in the Netherlands and the pinkest waters you could imagine in Australia, we’ve handpicked some of the most otherworldly places you won’t believe really exist.
Deadvlei Near Sossusvlei, Namibia
Deadvlei is a white clay pan located near the more famous salt pan of Sossusvlei, inside the Namib-Naukluft Park in Namibia. Home to some of the world’s highest sand dunes, Sossusvlei and Deadvlei are unmissable stops on any Namibia trip—it’s truly an awe-inspiring experience. Visit Sesriem Canyon before climbing to the top of Dune 45 or towering Big Daddy as the sun rises over the miles and miles of sand to watch the red, orange and cream hues of the dunes alter in the changing light. You’ll notice the remaining skeletons of the trees, which are believed to be about 900 years old, are now black because the intense sun has scorched them. Known as one of the world’s best photography spots, Deadvlei in Sossusvlei, Namibia, lives up to the hype.
Lake Hillier, Australia
There are a few pink lakes dotted around the state of Western Australia, but Lake Hillier is the most well-known for it’s bubble-gum color and the most frequently visited. Scientists believe the pink color comes from the presence of Dunaliella salina, a micro algae containing a reddish pigment that thrives in salty lakes. Unlike other pink lakes, however, which regularly change colors in accordance with temperature fluctuations, Lake Hillier maintains its pink shade year-round. The water even retains its bubble-gum color when bottled. For the ultimate experience, you can take a flight excursion from Esperance over the white sand beaches and turquoise water of Frenchman’s Peak, the Cape Le Grand National Park and Lucky Bay before cruising over the picturesque Lake Hillier, the photo opportunity every visitor is desperate to have.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
If you want to experience the incredible richness of natural beauty and diverse landscapes that Bolivia has to offer, a visit to Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat, is a must. This incredible Bolivian salt flat is most famous for its jaw-dropping mirror effect and crazy perspective photos. The astonishing mirror effect can be seen on a still day when a thin layer of water covering the salt transforms the salt flat into “The World’s Largest Mirror” reflecting the sky. Despite the desert dryness, freezing night temperatures, and hot desert sun, this landscape is not lacking life. Pink flamingos, ancient cacti, and rare hummingbirds all live in the Salar de Uyuni. Visit during the wet season, which is roughly from November to April, for the best photo opportunities when the whole salar looks like a mirror and creates bizarre illusions.
Grand Prismatic Spring, Wyoming
The crazy-bright colors and enormous size make the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring the most photographed thermal feature in Yellowstone National Park. Known as the largest hot spring in the United States and the third largest in the world, it’s bigger than a football field at 370 feet in diameter. The rainbow of colors effect is caused by varieties of pigmented bacteria that thrive in the warm, mineral abundant waters surrounding the hot spring. Changing along with the seasons, the colors fade and grow more deep depending on what type of bacteria is thriving in the weather at the time. The center of the pool, where the water boils up from underground is so hot that the water is actually sterile. This produces a shockingly clear and bold blue color that the spring maintains year-round.
Batad Rice Terraces, Philippines
The rice terraces are all the product of the Ifugao ethnic group, a minority community that has occupied the Philippine mountains for thousands of years. The breathtaking Batad Rice Terraces form an amphitheater of agriculture, carved into the hillside, that have lasted for 2,000 years. In 1995 various sections of the terraces were designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, described as “a living cultural landscape of unparalleled beauty.” These terraces are designated a National Cultural Treasure by the Philippine government and are undeniably spectacular. But probably the most impressive of all the terraces are at Batad, a tiny, remote village that is only accessible by foot. The best time to visit the Batad Rice Terraces is when they’re lush green and not during rainy season when landslides occur. Your best bet would be to visit sometime in October or November when the wet season is over.
Lake Natron, Tanzania
Lake Natron is a mineral-rich soda lake in northern Tanzania where 75 percent of the Lesser Flamingos are born. East Africa has 1.5-2.5 million Lesser Flamingos, representing three-quarters of the world population and most of them are hatched at Lake Natron. Food is plentiful, nesting sites abound – and above all, the lake is isolated and undisturbed. The water is oversaturated with salt and can reach temperatures of 140 degrees, making it impossible for other animals to survive. Lesser flamingos primarily feed on a cyanobacteria known as spirulina, which grows in bodies of water with high alkalinity levels. As Lake Natron is brimming with alkaline water, it offers the perfect environment for this bacteria to thrive. As a result, flamingos flock there every year by the millions to feed and breed.
Keukenhof Gardens and Tulip Fields Near Lisse, Netherlands
One of the most iconic vistas of the Netherlands are the endless tulip fields in multitude of colors. Known as the most recommended and the most famous place to see the tulip fields is Lisse. That’s because apart from long rows of pretty colorful fields, Lisse has the greatest national flower treasure: the splendid Keukenhof gardens. Keukenhof, also known as the Garden of Europe, is one of the world’s largest flower gardens, situated in the town of Lisse. It is one of the best places to see tulip fields in the Netherlands where more than 7 million flower bulbs are planted every year. Keep in mind that this spectacular view can be seen only in a limited time during the spring. If you want to see the Dutch tulip fields in bloom, you should visit Holland in April and May, which is also when Keukenhof opens its doors.
Marble Caves in Patagonia, Chile
The Marble Caves are one of the best-hidden gems in Chile’s Patagonia region. The water has eroded these calcium carbonate cliffs over thousands of years to create a highly unusual and beautiful cave system that can only be accessed by boat or kayak. Its smooth and vibrant walls are now a reflection of the lake’s azure waters, which often change in color depending on the water levels and time of year. The Marble Caves can be seen at any time of the year, however, for a particularly stunning experience, it is best to visit from December to March when the water levels are at its lowest, allowing the cavern walls to instantly reflect the piercing blue lake and sparkling warm sun. Prepare to be utterly captivated by volcanoes, mountains, glaciers and lakes in Northern Patagonia, a montage of some of the most spectacular natural sites Chile has to offer.
Huacachina Oasis, Peru
Located 4 hours south of Lima, Huacachina is a village built around a small oasis and surrounded by sand dunes. Back in the 1960s, it was thought that bathing in the water had healing powers. Circled by palm trees, the Peruvian watering hole has served as a tourist attraction for over 70 years. Lined with restaurants and hotels, the Oasis was formerly a getaway for the upper class, escaping through the desert from nearby Ica. Huacachina has a permanent population of around 100 people, although it hosts thousands of tourists each year. Known as the only desert oasis in South America, Huacachina is home to extraordinary adventures including, dune buggy rides and sandboarding. You can visit both artisanal and industrial vineyards near Huacachina and see how pisco, the famed national beverage of Peru is made.
Pamukkale is a town in western Turkey known for the mineral-rich thermal waters flowing down white travertine terraces on a nearby hillside. It is undoubtedly one of the most spectacular natural landscapes in the world. Named the “Cotton Castle” in Turkish, from a distance, the terraces look like a castle made of fluffy white cotton. The site has been celebrated as a natural wonder since the second century BC when the city of Hierapolis, the ancient city located on the top of the travertine pools, was formed around the healing waters. Pamukkale was formed when a spring with a high content of calcium bicarbonate cascaded over the edge of the mountain cliff, which cooled and hardened leaving white-coloured calcium deposits and aquamarine mineral-rich water. Today, remains of the ancient city include baths, temple ruins, a necropolis and a massive theatre.
The Wave, Arizona
The Wave is a sandstone rock formation situated on the Utah-Arizona border. The formations are comprised of Navajo Sandstone dunes that have calcified vertically and horizontally, turning into hardened, compacted rocks over time. While the Wave is a smooth, polished bowl of striped wind-swept sandstone, the same exotic rock is displayed in numerous forms, shapes, colors, and patterns throughout North Coyote Buttes. This stunning natural attraction is a dream destination for hikers, photographers, and movie makers. The Wave remained basically unknown until the 1990s when it was largely advertised in German travel brochures and shown in the 1996 movie Faszination Natur. Small groups of Europeans visited the area, and its popularity grew. Interested in hiking The Wave? Well, for starters, you need to win a permit lottery to visit it. Why? Because the number of people allowed to enter it is limited to 20 per day.
Reynisfjara Beach, Iceland
Iceland is home to around 130 volcanos, many of which are still active today. Black sand beaches rise from volcanic ashes and when molten lava enters the water, a violent interaction occurs between the hot lava and the sea water. Reynisfjara’s black sand was formed during one of Katla volcano’s major eruptions. Also along Reynisfjara are the stunning Hálsanefshellir sea cave and the Gardar cliff, which is composed of dark basalt columns that some say resemble a pyramid or organ pipes. From the shore you’ll also have spectacular views of the arched cliff of Dyrhólaey looming over the sea. Reynisfjara black sand beach is the most famous beach on the South Coast of Iceland. Its beautiful black volcanic sand, powerful waves, unique rock formations and smooth pebbles makes Reynisfjara a truly unique place to visit and a popular filming location. The most famous films includes Game of Thrones, Star Trek, and one of the Star Wars movies.
Great Blue Hole, Belize
The Great Blue Hole is the world’s largest underwater sinkhole located off the coast of Belize. Circular in shape and characterized by its rich, blue color, it is over 900 feet across and 400 feet deep. They say, Ned Middleton, a British diver and author, gave the name to the Hole referring to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. The sinkhole originally formed as a limestone cave during the last glacial period, a time when sea levels were much lower. As the ocean began to rise, the cave system flooded and eventually collapsed, creating a hole in the ocean. It is not only a world class destination for diving but also a rich habitat for a variety of marine life like nurse sharks, reef sharks and even giant groupers. It’s possible to dive all year round, however, April to June is considered to be the prime time for better visibility and spotting whale sharks in the area.
Crooked Forest, Gryfino, Poland
The Crooked Forest is a grove of oddly-shaped pine trees located near the town of Gryfino, West Pomerania, Poland. This grove of 400 pines was planted in the village of Nowe Czarnowo in around 1930. The trees curve into a “C” shape, bending from three to nine feet sideways before curving back to grow straight from there. Despite unnatural curves at their bases, the trees tend to grow to be about 50 feet tall and are generally healthy. This bizarre collection of curved trees is an ongoing mystery and despite the numerous different theories that have been proposed over the years, no one truly knows what caused the trees to adopt this conformation. Some believe that the trees may have simply been buried beneath a terrible snowstorm in their infancy while others still believe the gravitational pull in that area has morphed their trunks.
The Giant’s Causeway, Ireland
The Giant’s Causeway, renowned for its polygonal columns of layered basalt, is the only World Heritage Site in Northern Ireland. The Giant’s Causeway lies at the foot of the basalt cliffs along the sea coast on the edge of the Antrim plateau and is made up of more than 40,000 massive black basalt columns sticking out of the sea. The dramatic sight has inspired legends of giants striding over the sea to Scotland. Geological studies of these formations over the last 300 years have greatly contributed to the development of the earth sciences, and show that this striking landscape was caused by volcanic activity over 50–60 million years ago. It is worth going to Northern Ireland just to visit the Giant’s Causeway—it’s that impressive. The best times to visit are early in the morning or just at sunset for the best lighting and picturesque photos.
Socotra Island, Yemen
The island you have to see to believe, an island like nowhere else. Socotra is the hidden gem of paradise in the Indian Ocean between Somalia and Yemen. Socotra Island is the most alien-looking place on Earth, located within the four-island Socotra Archipelago in the Arabian Sea. The island became a territory of Yemen in 1967 when the island joined the Democratic People’s Republic of Yemen, or better known as South Yemen. The island is well known for its its surreal landscapes full of towering sand dunes and deep canyons, making it one of the most beautiful and unique places on Earth. It is so isolated that a third of its plant life is found nowhere else on the planet. Notable are the dragon’s blood trees that look like flying saucers perched on trunks. In recognition of its distinct plant and animal life, the archipelago was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008.
Lake Retba, Senegal
Less than an hour away from the capital city of Senegal there is an unusual lake that will surely catch the unsuspecting visitor’s eye because of its unusual color. Lake Retba (or Lac Rose as it is known by locals) produces a distinct pink color caused by the Dunaliella salina bacteria, which is attracted by the lake’s salt content. Not many living organisms are able to survive in Lake Retba because of its high salt content, so it serves mainly as a tourist point and for salt production. The bacteria produces a red pigment in order to absorb the sunlight, thus giving the lake its unique color. As weather patterns and times of day change, a wide spectrum of shades emerges resulting in the water’s color to change—from coral, to fuchsia, and a light chocolate brown.
Tunnel of Love in Klevan, Ukraine
One of the most photographed places in Ukraine, the Tunnel of Love, is a beautiful railway surrounded by green arches. Visitors travel from around the world to see the famous tree tunnel running through the small western town of Klevan. This beautiful natural train tunnel is said to grant the wishes of visiting lovebirds, hence why it is very popular for couples and newlyweds. The Tunnel of Love is kept neatly trimmed by industrial freight trains operated by the Odek plywood factory, the largest plywood producer in Ukraine and one of the top 20 birch plywood producers in Europe, that run through the tunnel several times a day. Be careful—the tunnel has no official protection…keep your eyes out for the trains!
Glass Beach in Fort Bragg, California
Glass Beach is a popular attraction in Fort Bragg, California, where the beach is covered in small pieces of smoothed glass. After the inner city of Fort Bragg California was destroyed during the San Francisco 1906 earthquake, Fort Bragg used a nearby beach, now known as the MacKerricher State Park Glass Beach, as dumping ground for its trash. Tons of garbage was bulldozed into this area of the pacific coast ocean of California. Over the years, the ocean flattened and broke down the glass into smooth, colorful bits of glass stone. Although it may be tempting to take a few of these sparkling treasures home with you, it’s actually illegal to remove the glass from this state park.
Darvaza Gas Crater, Turkmenistan
There are definitely places on Earth that are a little terrifying even for the ultimate adventure seekers out there. The Darvaza gas crater, also known as the “Gates of Hell” or “Door to Hell,” is one of those places. Located in the desert of Turkmenistan, a central Asian country bordering Afghanistan and Iran, the pit attracts hundreds of tourists each year. It all started in 1971 when a Soviet drilling rig accidentally punched into a massive underground natural gas cavern, causing the ground to collapse and the entire drilling rig to fall in. After puncturing a pocket of gas, poisonous fumes began leaking at an alarming rate. They figured it would stop burning within a few weeks, yet this hellish fire pit has been on fire for almost 50 years. If you dare to visit the Darvaza gas crater, it’s best to go at night, when the fire can be seen from miles away.