Out-of-this-world destinations that will cause you to wonder whether you’ve stepped foot on another planet, making them some of the most unique places in the world. Prepare to be stunned by these surreal places and leave this post with an even greater spark to explore.
1. Bonneville Salt Flats – Utah, USA
Catherine of Postcard Narrative believes this is one of the most unique places she’s ever visited.
“As we drove our rental out onto the seemingly endless field of Salt, I couldn’t help but feel as though we were about to fall through ice. It resembled the frozen lakes we have in Wisconsin and the crystallization created the illusion of a cracked surface. Despite my mistrust, it IS perfectly safe to drive your vehicle out on the salt flats.
Only 90 minutes west of Salt Lake City, Utah, the Bonneville Salt Flats are one of the most surreal places we’ve been in the world. There’s no bad time to visit, rather, there are two times you must! Once while it is dry and another for the mirror like surface after heavy rain (most likely in November – May).
Tips for your visit: Do not forget to apply sunscreen as the ground acts like a giant reflector so even if you are wearing hats, your face can easily burn. Bring a few outdoor games for the kids, a frisbee will suffice!”
2. Spiti Valley – India
Contributed by Avantika from Wayward Wayfarer as one of the most surreal places in the world.
“Spiti Valley is a high altitude region in the Lahaul and Spiti district of the Himalayan state of Himachal Pradesh. Located at an average altitude of 4,000 meters above sea level, it is one of the highest inhabited regions in the world – and also the coldest come wintertime. What makes this place truly special is its Mars-like terrain featuring jagged cliffs and naked, barren mountains with dust flying just about wherever you look. If Mars ever had a river flowing through it – I kid you not, Spiti Valley would look exactly like it! The Spiti River is a quiet, narrow river that flows silently through breathtaking landscapes, running through steep gorges and canyons. The high altitude of the region attributes to the low levels of oxygen here, because of which no trees grow – only a few shrub species. This cold desert look adds to the entire desolate feel of the region.
The best time to go to Spiti Valley is unquestionably during summertime. Though the days are bright, sunny and hot, the nights can become very cold even in peak summers. Winters in Spiti Valley are a different ball game altogether with temperatures dropping to -30 degrees Celcius. Think dry compost toilets, no shower for days and just pure survival. If you’re an adventure junkie at heart, try spending some time in Spiti Valley during winters.
For kids, it’s good to prepare for altitude mountain sickness (AMS) by starting the dosage of Diamox. It’s important to constantly sip on water at regular intervals to avoid AMS – for both children and adults alike.”
3. Kelimutu National Park – Flores Island, Indonesia
Contributed by Carryn from Torn Tackies, The Kelimutu Lakes in Flores Island is one of the most spectacular places to visit in Indonesia.
“This natural phenomenon consists of 3 tri-colored lakes perched at the peak of a dormant volcano. Their colors vary from red to white, brown and blue, but the most striking is the turquoise color of the lakes. Locals believe these crater lakes are the resting place of their ancestors and when their spirits become restless, it results in the changing of the color. However, a more common theory is that the color of the lakes is a result of gas activity and chemical reactions within the volcano.
These lakes are situated in Kelimutu National Park on the far east of Flores Island. The nearby village of Moni is the perfect place to stay as it’s untouched when compared to the rest of Indonesia.
It’s an easy 1.5km hike to the Kelimutu Lakes and it’s best to give yourself 3 hours to explore the park. With a gradual incline and well-marked path, the trail is suitable for the whole family, no matter your age of fitness level.
If you’re travelling Indonesia during the dry season from May to October, you have a greater chance of optimal hiking conditions. While many people visit the lakes for sunrise, it’s best to keep an eye on the weather and plan your hike for a sunny, clear day – whether that be sunrise or during the afternoon.”
4. Hverir and Leirnjúkur – Iceland
Contributed by Suzanne from Meandering Wild as one of the most unique places in the world.
“In the north of Iceland, close to the scenic Lake Mývatn, is a large geothermal area. This area is best visited during the summer months as it can be exposed and cold in the winter.
Between 1724 and 1729 a large series of volcanic fissures opened spreading lava across the landscape. In 1975 and 1984 the volcano erupted again. This resulted in a surreal landscape covered in lava fields and steaming areas of geothermal activity.
It is possible to walk to one of the craters which is known as Krafla Víti. This crater has a deep green lake and is an easy walk from the nearby parking area.
Within sight of the crater is Leirhnjúkur, part of the huge Krafla crater. Here the earth is steaming and mud pools bubble as you follow the marked walkways through the lava fields.
If you are brave, on the way back to the main road you can have a shower under the roadside shower which is heated from the energy just below the surface.
The most stunning part of this area is found at Hverir which sits at the base of the Námafjall volcanic mountain. You’ll find steaming fumaroles, bubbling mud pots and beautiful crystal deposits. The paths are clearly marked and while kids love this area they need to be watched as there are hot areas everywhere. This isn’t just a bit warm, but dangerously warm.”
5. Merzouga – Morocco
This unique locale was recommended by Martina of Places of Juma
“Merzouga in Morocco is definitely a place where you’ll feel like you’re on another planet. This tiny desert town is located in the southeast of the country, not far away from Algerian borders and is often called the gateway to the Sahara desert. Impressive and absolutely unique is the Erg Chebbi, probably one of the most beautiful sections of the Sahara. Here you can expect an imposing landscape like that of another world, where sand dunes with heights of up to 200 meters conjure up an almost surreal scenery.
When getting to Merzouga, you can see the spectacular sand dunes rising seemingly just behind the townhouses. If you’re coming with the family, be sure to book a night ,or better two nights, in a Berber desert camp. Here you will sleep under the stars in the middle of the Sahara – an experience you will certainly not forget so quickly.
Another unique local experience is a camel ride over the high dunes or a lively tour with a quad. A real highlight, however, are the spectacular sunsets, which are best enjoyed from atop a high sand dune.
Merzouga can be visited all year round, but in summer it gets extremely hot in the desert so camel tours only take place in the evenings. In winter it can actually get cold and sometimes they even had snow. Anyway, always you should take very warm clothes because the nights are very cold.”
6. Quebrada de las Flechas “Gorge of Arrows” – Argentina
This shocking location was submitted by Erin from Sol Salute
“Argentina’s Northwest is filled with geographical phenomena worth visiting. It’s a road trip lover’s dream with highways weaving through otherworldly landscapes. One of these unique destinations is the Quebrada de las Flechas or Arrow Gorge. It’s not easy to reach and it’s best to have your own rental car. The Quebrada is located on Ruta 40, a highway that covers all of Argentina north to south. This particular stretch of Ruta 40 connects the cities of Cachi and Cafayate, both important hubs in this region’s wine route. This route makes for an excellent Salta road trip itinerary.
The road is in good condition, but you will need to drive slowly to avoid any rocks or debris in the road. You can visit year-round but in winter the temperatures are at their most mild. Summer months (January and February) bring more rain and this road can be impossible to pass without a 4×4 if there has been a storm. Always check with the locals on the ground when traveling in these months to find out the current state of the road.
The tiny town Anafogasta is located right at the entrance to the Quebrada (if driving from Cachi). This is a great stop for lunch or facilities. After this, look for the sign for the Ventisquero viewpoint. This 5-minute hike uphill brings you to a panoramic viewpoint of the entire formation.
Argentina is an excellent country to travel with children and Salta is no different. But when exploring the Quebrada take care of their safety. Motorcycles and tour buses can come around the corner unexpectedly and if you’re parked taking photos it is important that children remain off the road. When at the Ventisquero viewpoint keep a tight grip on little ones as it can be very easy to fall.”
7. Uluru – Australia
This unique destination was submitted by Linda at Muy Linda Travels
“Uluru is one of Australia’s most sacred places and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Formed millions of years ago, Uluru is a mammoth, mountainous outcrop of orange-red sandstone that rises from the vast desert near Alice Springs in the center of Australia. Surrounding Uluru, there are hundreds of kilometers of flat red sand and scrub. Its sheer size is surprising and commands attention. Uluru has a massive presence that dominates the landscape and the atmosphere is otherworldly.
For the local Aboriginal people, the Anangu, Uluru is a sacred place that has spiritual significance. They believe it was created at the beginning of time and is a resting place for ancestral spirits that have lived in the landscape since its creation. In the surrounding area, there are springs, waterholes, and caves with ancient aboriginal artwork.
There’s an easy walking track around the base of Uluru, but you are no longer allowed to climb to the top. Make sure you see Uluru at sunset. The rock turns from orange to dark red and reflects the colours of the setting sun. You can book a helicopter flight to appreciate the magnificent landscape from above. Aboriginal culture tours, desert stargazing, and camel rides are also fun things to do around Uluru. The best time to visit is in winter when the weather is cooler, from June – August.”
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8. Hopewell Rocks – Canada
Nina of Nina Out and About recommends a visit to this unique place.
“The Hopewell Rocks are a Canadian landmark that cannot be missed. They are the location of the highest tides in the world, where the Bay of Fundy is sucked nearly dry every day from the powerful pull of the Atlantic Ocean current.
A visit to these famous rocks requires two trips: one at high tide and one at low tide. To help you out, the conservation park ticket allows for a two-day trip so you’ll have plenty of time to see the magic of the changing tides.
Your visit at high tide will let you see the full height of the Bay of Fundy, where the waters reach nearly to the top of the rock monuments that give the area its name. You can even kayak through the sea caves created by the high waters.
However, low tide is when you’ll really get to marvel at the otherworldly environment. When the tide drops by over 40 feet, you’ll be able to walk along the sea floor, and pass beneath the Hopewell Rocks that were islands just hours before!
The best time to visit is in summer, when you can put your bare feet in the clay as you explore the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
If you bring your kids, be sure to have a towel to clean up their muddy feet as well as a spare set of clothes.”
9. A Dormant Volcano – Antarctica
Pamela of The Directionally Challenged Traveler shared this unique site.
“There isn’t a place on Earth like the pristine continent of Antarctica. Only 10,000 people visit the continent yearly, making it one of the most remote destinations in the world.
Antarctica is its own continent, not a country. Various countries have bases for scientific research, but they do not own the continent. The Antarctic Treaty System is in place so all of these countries protect the ecosystem. Even tourist cruises have to abide by the Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) to ensure that people visiting also protect it.
Tourists can visit from November through March which are the summer months in Antarctica. The journey to Antarctica is as temperamental as Mother Nature herself. The Drake Passage can be mild (10 foot swells) or extreme (30 foot swells). While the journey may be tumultuous, the immaculate beauty is worth it.
There are also plenty of things to do once you’re there! You can learn about the geography of the continent including the various dormant volcanoes, go kayaking past icebergs and penguins, or brave the cold in a polar plunge! You can even go camping on the ice for a true bucket list experience.
The immaculate landscapes of Antarctica and lack of human impact on the environment makes it feel like you’re on a different planet.”
10. Red Dunes Safari – Dubai, UAE
Recommended by Francesca of Travel Heal Love
“If you are visiting Dubai and you are looking for a little outdoor adventure you have to visit the Big Red Sand Dune Desert. In detail, these natural 300-foot-high dunes are situated in the Rub-al-Khali desert at 50 km from Dubai, about a 30 minute drive. Moreover, it is known locally as Al Hamaris and it gets its amazing red color, and name, due to a high iron oxide content in the sand.
The Big Red Sand Dunes Desert safari is a unique experience for the whole family. In fact, you can do many things like:
- Bashing dunes in a 4×4 car: Driven by some of the most experienced and highly skilled (and crazy) dune riders, the car will climb an almost 80 degree climb up on the thick sand to then fall down to a downhill ride. You will feel like you’re in a boat in the middle of a storm in the high seas while the sand covers the screens of the vehicle. This is not something for the faint of heart, but it is absolutely exhilarating and an incredible adrenaline rush!
- Sandboarding (Sand-surfing): Jump or sit on a board at the top of the dune and slide down like you would do on the best waves in California!
- Take incredible pictures: Admire beautiful 360-degree views of the desert landscape as the sun slowly sets or rise and get a shot at one of the most incredible nature wanders.
Although you will have sand literally everywhere after this experience I could not recommend it enough. It is a totally unforgettable and worthy adventure!”
11. Cave Houses – Guadix, Spain
This unique locale was submitted by Joanna of Andalucia In My Pocket
“Guadix is one of the most intriguing places to visit in Andalucia. Not just the city, but the entire north of the Sierra Nevada Mountains is home to a unique landscape and way of life. One of the things that attracts tourists to visit Guadix is the Barrio Cuevas – an entire neighborhood of cave houses, inhabited for centuries. The houses here are usually passed from generation to generation, but some of them have been converted to touristic accommodation, so everyone can experience what it is like to live inside.
The cave houses in Guadix are mostly underground and can be recognized by the white concrete façades and the long white chimneys that come out on top of the ground. Some houses don’t have a façade, making them identifiable only by the chimneys. When you climb towards the viewpoints of Guadix, you will often step over the caves.
Guadix is located in a natural semi-desert known as Granada Geopark. The landscape here is so unique, with gorges and canyons sculpted in the red rocks by the erosion. It is highly recommended to visit the Geopark at sunset, when the sun intensifies the color of the rocks, making them look as if they are on fire.”
12. The Magical Island of South Georgia – British Overseas Territory
Submitted by Bella from Passport & Pixels
“If you’ve never been to South Georgia Island you can’t possibly imagine what it’s like. You think you might understand the words ‘magical’ or ‘otherworldly’, but until you’ve actually stood with your two feet on the pebbly beach, with you and your few dozen shipmates overwhelmingly outnumbered by wildlife, those words are meaningless.
Because South Georgia is home to so much wildlife, you’ll feel like an alien landing on another planet. Hidden away in the middle of the South Atlantic, a thousand miles from any mainland, this place is a biodiversity Eden. No one lives here apart from a tiny summer community of researchers and wardens (no one at all can visit during the southern winter), so the animals are free from the impacts of pollution, farming or any other human activity. As a result, it’s one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, bursting with wildlife, from the enormous colonies of hundreds of thousands of penguins, to beaches rammed with fur and elephant seals, to waters teeming with whales.
It’s not just the animals that make this place feel like you’re in another galaxy. The landscape is impossibly beautiful too, with craggy snow-capped mountains and bright blue glaciers, and of course not a road or car or tower block in sight. Try to visit if you can, because there really is nowhere else in the world like it.”
13. Craters of the Moon National Monument – Idaho, USA
Cynthia from Sharing the Wander shared this mesmerizing place.
“Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is just outside Arco, Idaho. This small park is a terrific addition to any family road trip. The most accessible part of the park is a 7-mile loop, from which you can see splatter cones, cinders, and explore lava tubes. Covered in volcanic rock of various shapes, this landscape is so other-worldly that NASA sent astronauts to train here in 1969 just after the first moon landing.
Starting approximately 15,000 years ago, and continuing up to 2,000 years ago, The Great Rift in this area sent volcanic material shooting into the air. The hot flowing lava formed tubes as the outer lava cooled. As the ceilings of some of these tubes caved in, caves were formed. You can explore the cool formations of volcanic lava on the surface at Craters of the Moon, as well as climb into caves to explore inside the lava tubes.
The best time to explore Craters of the Moon is in the spring, when flowers are blooming but you can still spot snow and ice in caves, or in the popular summer season. There are various levels of caves you can enter, from easy, to difficult so it’s a great stop for differing ages and abilities. Don’t forget to bring headlamps, as most of the caves are quite dark. For more details check out Walking on the Moon: Exploring Craters of the Moon with Kids.”
14. Big Red Sand Dune – Australia
Submitted by Chris Fry, The Aquarius Traveller
“Located in remote Outback Queensland are 1100 Sand Dunes just outside of the small town of Birdsville. The first of which is “Big Red” – the largest sand dune in Australia, and being there will make you feel like you’re in a whole other world.
Big Red stands 40 meters high, and you’re challenged to four-wheel drive up to the top, only to experience this bucket list destination. Once up there, you can walk around and admire the wind-formed sand ripples, find wildflowers or sit and watch a spectacular sunset.
Outback Australia is known for extreme temperatures, so the best time to visit is during winter. Anywhere between April and October can be warm during the day and cool at night. Therefore, it’s always best to pack a variety of layers to prepare for the trip. More importantly, make sure you take a fly net – you’re definitely going to need it here.
The kids will love playing in the dunes and driving over the dunes, and especially camping in the bush. All 1100 sand dunes run parallel from Big Red throughout the Munga-Thirri National Park into Poeppel corner. This is a joining point of three Australian states (Queensland, Northern Territory & South Australia). This takes a couple of days to complete, but you do have the option to experience just Big Red and drive back into Birdsville.
However you enjoy Big Red, you won’t be disappointed.”
15. Cabo de Gata – Almeria, Spain
Cristina of My Little World Of Travelling recommended this must see.
“When visiting Almeria, you can’t miss out on the opportunity to explore Cabo de Gata-Níjar, a unique natural park in Southern Spain.
The park has incredible natural features that you won’t find in any other part of Spain – high cliffs, hidden coves, volcanic rock formations. The flora and fauna are similar to the ones found in the north of Africa, and finding similar natural features across continents is unusual.
Cabo de Gata offers a wide range of activities for adventure travellers such as snorkelling, hiking, kayaking, and horseback riding, but it’s also a wonderful place for families who want to relax in the tranquil whitewashed fishing villages with crystal clear beaches.
Kids can get involved in many water sport activities, but if kids aren’t keen on swimming in the water, there are other nearby activities close to the park such as visiting Mini Hollywood, a Western-styled theme park.
The best time to visit Cabo de Gata is in September because the weather is still nice and you’ll avoid most crowds. The park is popular among Spanish holidaymakers although you’ll also find tourists and expats. Unlike other Southern Spain cities, Almeria and Cabo de Gata are quieter all year round.”