10 Places So Strange They Could Be From Outer Space
Obsessed with images from the Mars Rover? Turns out you don't have to go intergalactic to see extraterrestrial terrain. These 10 spots may look like they are on another planet, but they are right here on earth.
See it for yourself: The visitors' center for Giant's Causeway is outside the town of Bushmills, about an hour and a half-hour's drive from Belfast. There are two paths down to the coast, including a gentle two-mile hike. There is also a shuttle, about $3 round-trip (nationaltrust.org.uk, entrance fee $13 per person).
Spotted Lake, British Columbia
This may be the most psychedelic place on earth. During the warmest months of the year (June through September), the water in this 61-acre lake evaporates, leaving behind rings that make canonical shapes. The high levels of minerals like calcium and magnesium (plus silver and titanium) have the water reflecting blue, green, and even yellow. The lake is a spiritual place for the people of the Osoyoos First Nation and legend has it that the minerals give the water healing powers. Don't even think about filling up a bottle, though. The lake is protected and there is no direct access to the public.
See it for yourself: The Spotted Lake is about a 10-minute drive from the town of Osoyoos, just a few miles north of the Washington state border. You can easily see the lake from along Highway 3.
Socotra Island, Indian Ocean
While the other locations on this list are amazing due to the landscape, it's the flora on this island 250 miles off the coast of Yemen that makes it so unbelievable. The largest of the four-island Socotra Archipelago, the island has about 250 species of plants that are not found anywhere else in the world. This includes the canopy-topped dragon's blood tree, which has blood-red resin that runs down if the trunk is pierced and the desert rose, which can grow to 10 feet with a bulbous trunk that swells with water absorbed in anticipation of dry weather.
See it for yourself: The island has a long monsoon season, so it's best to visit during the drier months of January through March. There are regular flights from the Yemen capital of Sanaa on Felix Airways (around $180 each way). The hotel options on the island are limited, but try the 29-room Summer Land Hotel (from $100 per night for a double room) in the island's capital of Hadiboh.
Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Arizona
This wilderness in northern Arizona/southern Utah is home to some of the most striking landscapes in the American Southwest, and that's saying a lot. The nearly 300,000-acre site is known for its abundance of colorful shale and Navajo sandstone that been eroded by the elements to create cliffs and escarpments that rise as high as 3,000 feet. In the northwest of the park is the Coyote Buttes, where you'll find The Wave, a wall of red sandstone that twists and turns in a way that just doesn't look natural—but is.
See it for yourself: Permits are required to hike in Vermilion Cliffs. Paria Canyon and Buckskin Gulch permits are available at on-site pay stations or in advance ($5 per person), while permits for Coyote Buttes are available online only ($7 per person) and there are only 20 issued per day. Be aware that the hike can be fairly rugged.
Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina
The immense size of the Perito Moreno Glacier is incredible—it is more than 50 miles in length and 500 feet deep. The terminus of the glacier is Lago Argentino, where a 50-foot blue-hued ice wall rises from the lake. The Perito Moreno is also one of the only glaciers left on earth that is still growing. As it expands it causes a dam in the lake, and when the lake's water wears away at the ice, a giant rupture is caused. The natural occurrence happens every few years. The last one was in March 2012.
See it for yourself: The glacier can be found in Las Glaciares National Park and is about two hours from the town of El Calafate, Argentina (which is itself a three hour flight from Buenos Aires). Many tour companies offer day trips to Perito Moreno from El Calafte. Viator's full-day tour includes transportation from a local hotel and a guided tour to some of the best spots to see—and hear—the imposing glacier (viator.com, from $106 per person).