Planet Earth is filled with natural beauty. However, there are some places that stand out as places that look like they belong on another planet altogether. These scenic locales are so mesmerizing that they are worth scheduling your next trip around. Most of us have likely dreamt of visiting a galaxy far, far away and seeing life beyond our solar system. Fortunately for us, we don’t have to be an astronaut to witness surreal and fantastical settings. The good news is that you won’t need a spot on the USS Enterprise to see some of these spectacular sites that look like they’re straight out of a science fiction movie. If you want to see these seemingly unearthly places for yourself, all you need is an airplane ticket.
Sea of Stars, Vaadhoo Island, Maldives
Its spectacular glowing blue waves has led this Maldivian beach to be dubbed the “Sea of Stars.” While the surreal blue glow may seem magic, this phenomenon is caused by a natural chemical reaction called bioluminescence, which occurs when a microorganism located in the ocean is disturbed by oxygen.
Lake Hillier, Australia
This bubble gum pink-colored link on Western Australia’s Middle Island remains a bit of a mystery to scientists. However, they’re spectacular that the florescent color comes from a dye created by bacteria that lives in the lakes’ salt crust.
This isolated island in the Arabian Sea looks like something straight out of a Star Wars movie as you’ll find flora and fauna you won’t see anywhere else in the world. In particular, the Dragon’s Blood Tree with its umbrella-shaped top makes Socotra high up on the list of places that look like they belong on another planet.
Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
While it may seem like something straight out of Game of Thrones, these majestic rock formations are one of the more rugged places that look like they belong on another planet. The 40,000 large, stone polygonal columns in perfect horizontal sections weren’t created by mythological men. Instead, they formed 60 million years ago when volcanic activity forced tectonic plates to stretch and break. Giants make for a much better story, though.
Turquoise Ice, Lake Baikal, Russia
Located in Siberia, Lake Baikal is the largest freshwater lake in the world and is home to 20 per cent of the Earth’s freshwater. The water is so clear that when it freezes in the winter, large shreds of the translucent ice form on the surface of the ice and create the appearance of turquoise ice.
Glowworm Caves, Waitomo, New Zealand
The glow worm, Arachnocampa luminosa, is native to New Zealand and is the cause of the magical lights that illuminate this stunning natural cave system. Visitors can go on a boat ride on the underground Waitomo River and through the Glow-worm Grotto, where the only light you’ll see comes from the tiny glow-worms, creating a stunning night sky effect.
Meaning “cotton castle” in Turkish, Pamukkale is home to hot calcium-laden springs, which when cooled, transform into fantastical travertines of hard, white calcium. This phenomenon creates natural warm-water pools, which visitors can swim in while marveling at their otherworldly surroundings.
Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
The largest hot spring in the United States is also one of America’s most spectacular places that look like they belong on another planet. Like its name suggests, the colors of the Grand Prismatic Spring match the six colors that make up white light. Its multicolored waters are caused by the heat-loving bacteria that call the spring home.
Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley), Chile
Have you ever wanted to walk on the moon? Luckily, there’s a place on Earth that looks like an exact replica of the lunar surface. Head to Chile where you can experience the beauty of the appropriately named Moon Valley, which was formed by erosion to its landscape caused by centuries of flood and wind.
Wulingyuan Scenic Area, Zhangjiajie, China
Scenic is an understatement as there’s nowhere else on earth quite like the Wulingyuan Scenic Area. This magnificent region stretching more than 26,000 ha features more than 3,000 narrow sandstone pillars and peaks, with many over 650 feet high.
This fantastical volcanic crater was formed by the intrusion of salt deposits, combined with hydrothermal activity caused by volcanic eruption. In addition to year-round average daily highs of 105 degrees Fahrenheit, Dallol is surrounded by boiling hot springs which bring hot minerals and toxic gas bubbles to the surface.
Painted Dunes, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California
These multicolored fields located inside Lassen National Park is another example of volcanic places that look like they belong on another planet. They were formed as a result of explosions coming from the nearby 700-ft tall Cinder Cone volcano which last erupted in the 1650s.
The Wave, Coconino County, Arizona
This stunning sandstone rock formation is well known to hikers and photographers for its colorful, intersecting U-shaped troughs. While its open to the public, due to the rock formation’s fragile nature, only 10 permits a day are issued to visitors.
Salar de Uyuni, Potosí, Bolivia
At 4,086 square miles, Salar de Uyuni is not only the world’s largest salt flat; it is also one of the most stunning to see. In the right light, it possesses a mirror-like surface that allows visitors to see their reflection in the salt beds.
Plitvice Lakes, Croatia
Croatia’s most popular tourist attraction is also its most spectacular. The national park consists of sixteen lakes, connected by a series of waterfalls, and deep green woodland populated by endless wildlife.