Experience alien landscapes on Earth! While space exploration remains distant, our planet boasts breathtaking destinations. From icy glaciers to arid deserts, fiery volcanoes to mysterious caves, these astonishing places will transport you. Prepare for otherworldly adventures without leaving Earth. Grab your passport and be captivated by surreal wonders that question reality. NASA’s missions inspire, but Earth’s beauty awaits.
Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park
The grand prismatic spring in Yellowstone National Park is a famous thermal feature. With vibrant colors, it attracts photographers and tourists. This superheated spring is home to thermophiles, microorganisms that thrive in hot environments. The thermophiles display different colors based on water temperature, ranging from yellow in the hottest areas to orange, brown, and green at the spring’s edge.
Wadi Rum, Jordan
Wadi Rum is a desert in south Jordan, spanning 277 square miles. Its striking landscapes, resembling those of Mars, feature towering sandy valleys, red dunes, and captivating rock formations. British liaison officer Thomas Edward Lawrence, known as Lawrence of Arabia, described Wadi Rum as a vast and awe-inspiring place. The desert was a backdrop for the movie “Lawrence of Arabia.”
Vatnajokull Glacier, Iceland
Vatnajokull glacier in Iceland is Europe’s second-largest, covering 3,130 square miles (8% of Iceland’s landmass). Hidden beneath its surface are active volcanoes like Grímsvötn, Öræfajökull, and Bárðarbunga. Geologists predict imminent volcanic activity within the next 50 years. Vatnajokull faces melting due to global warming, with an average annual thinning of 3 feet. Winter visitors can explore enchanting ice caves through guided tours.
Waitomo Glowworm Caves, New Zealand
Experience the mesmerizing glowworm caves in New Zealand’s Waitomo Caves. Considered the country’s best, these caves offer a breathtaking spectacle of thousands of glowworms illuminating the underground space. Whether by boat, kayak, or foot, step into a sci-fi realm with these peculiar creatures, creating a celestial ambiance. Their bioluminescence, explained by the Natural History Museum, produces a captivating light display.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
The Salar de Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia, the world’s largest, cover an area of 3,800 square miles (10,000 square kilometers) and can be seen from space. With depths up to 32 feet (10 meters), it holds over 10 billion tons of salt and 70% of the world’s lithium reserves. Discover this extraordinary destination in Bolivia’s stunning Altiplano region for an unparalleled experience.
Sossusvlei, Namib Desert
The towering red dunes of Sossusvlei, reaching nearly 1,300 feet (400 m), are a major attraction in Namibia’s Namib-Naukluft National Park. These Martian-like landscapes form Africa’s largest conservation area. Named for their obstruction of the Tsauchab River, wind meticulously sculpted these dunes over millions of years. The dust that forms the dunes originates from the Orange River and settles inland after traveling through the Atlantic Ocean.
Lake Hillier, Australia
Located on Middle Island, Western Australia, Lake Hillier captivates with its pink hue contrasting the dark blue waters of the Indian Ocean and lush green forests. The cause of its unique color is still uncertain, with theories suggesting microalgae or salt-loving bacteria or a reaction between salt and sodium bicarbonate. This lake is best admired from above, spanning around 2000 feet in length and 820 feet in width.
Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, Brazil
Lençois Maranhenses National Park in Brazil offers a mesmerizing landscape of vast white dunes. From May to September, rainwater fills the crystal-clear pools. Extending over 43 miles along the coast and 30 miles inland, the park’s name, “lençois,” refers to the dunes’ resemblance to bedsheets. The best time to visit is during June, July, and August when the lagoons are at their most spectacular.
Danakil Depression, Ethiopia
The Danakil Depression in Ethiopia features a Venus-like atmosphere with acid ponds, geysers, and choking gases. It ranks among the hottest places on Earth, with scorching temperatures. Situated in a rift valley over 330 feet below sea level, the landscape is shaped by tectonic plate movements and intense volcanic activity. These mesmerizing features are even visible from space, per NASA Earth Observatory.
Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii
The captivating Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s south coast showcases its power as lava cascades into the Pacific Ocean. Renowned as one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Kilauea is located within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, about 45 miles (72 km) southwest of Hilo. Since 1983, Kilauea has been in a continuous state of eruption, with extensive lava flows covering over 38 square miles (100 square km).