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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Out of This World: Earth’s Most Bizarre Landscapes


How can earthly locales look so utterly extra-terrestrial? Production teams scouting out locations for films set on other planets need look no further than these 15 bizarre, alien-like landscapes, which seem entirely removed from the nature found on Earth. From rivers in Spain that run blood red to a legendary place of underground rock cities and ‘fairy chimneys’ in Turkey, these locations seem to have come straight out of science fiction.

Giant’s Causeway, Ireland


(images via: touristnorthernireland, Wikimedia Commons, wanderingwhistler, kyz)

Visitors have been puzzling over the bizarre hexagonal basalt columns at Giant’s Causeway along the Causeway Coast of Ireland since the area was first documented in 1693. The columns, which resemble ancient paving blocks, were originally part of a volcanic platueau 50 to 60 million years ago.

The Wave, Arizona, US


(images via: Wikimedia Commons)

Images of The Wave, a sandstone rock formation in Arizona, often inspire cries of “Photoshopped!” when they appear online, because they look so incredibly unreal. Strange undulating forms seem to have been carved into the landscape, creating what looks like a natural skate park of sorts. Approximately 190 million years old, The Wave is made of Jurassic-age Navajo Sandstone that calcified into rock from sand dunes in vertical and horizontal layers.

Dry Valleys, Antarctica


(image via: Dark Roasted Blend)

It seems strange enough that there are areas of Antarctica that get almost no snowfall – but the landscape itself of these ‘Dry Valleys’, located within Victoria Land west of McMurdo Sound, is like some kind of twisted, desolate film set. Vast stretches of sand, seal skeletons, rocks eerily sculpted by wind and steaming ice fumaroles (volcanic gas vents) make this place seem like it can’t possibly be real.

Rio Tinto, Spain


(images via: Wikimedia Commons)

The blood red Rio Tinto, a river originating in the Sierra Morena mountains of Andalusia, Spain, gets its unusual hue from its high iron content. A site along the river has been mined for copper, silver, gold and other metals for over 5,000 years. However strangely beautiful it may be, this river is actually an environmental disaster due to heavy metal contamination and mine leaks. Though it’s been on hiatus for 10 years, a recent increase in copper prices has prompted plans to reopen it in early 2010.

Black Rock Desert, Nevada, US


(image via: National Geographic)

The Black Rock Desert of Nevada is a rather mystical place, with its brilliantly colored geysers, dry rock bed and dramatic mountains. So, it’s not too surprising that this place was chosen as the setting for Burning Man, an annual festival known for its emphasis on disengaging from reality.

Cave of Crystals, Mexico


(image via: National Geographic)

It looks like a microscopic image of crystals – until you see the tiny little man standing amongst them. Mexico’s Cueva de los Cristales (Cave of Crystals) is home to some of the world’s largest known natural crystals, measuring as much as 36 feet long. Geologist Juan Manuel García-Ruiz said the crystals have thrived for millenia in the very unusual environment of the cave, where the temperature stays around 136 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.

Spotted Lake, Canada


(image via: Spot Cool Stuff)

About a mile north of the border between Washington State and British Columbia, Canada, you’ll find what’s sure to be the weirdest body of water you’ve ever seen. The Spotted Lake – known as Klikuk in the indigenous language – divides itself into a strange patchwork of white, green and yellow pools in the summertime. The ‘walkways’ in between the pools are actually made up of salts, titanium, calcium, sulphates and other minerals.

Tessellated Pavement, Mauritania


(image via: Wikipedia)

It may be hard to believe that the extremely straight, geometric rectangles that form at Eaglehawk Neck on the Tasman Peninsula of Tasmania aren’t man-made. But, this ‘tessellated pavement’ is a natural phenomenon – a rare erosional feature formed when sedimentary rock fractured through stress on the Earth’s crust. As the rock dries out at low tide, salt crystals form on the surface, wearing it away and leaving just the joints behind.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia


(image via Wikimedia Commons)

Driving across the world’s largest salt flats – Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia – can feel as if you’re about to disappear into nothingness. The way the sunlight reflects off the vast expanse of salt makes the sky seem to blend into the landscape. Alien-like piles of salt piled into cone shapes by workers, waiting to be collected and processed, enhance the feeling that you’re in a very unique place. Salar de Uyuni contains about 10 billion tons of salt, with only about 25,000 tons extracted every year.

Cappadocia, Turkey


(images via: Life in the Fast Lane)

The rocky lunar landscape of Cappadocia, Turkey is truly one-of-a-kind. Tunnels rigged with booby traps and vast underground cities carved by the Hittites 3,000 years ago are just a few highlights of this strange place, where houses are carved into the rock and so-called ‘fairy chimney’ rock formations dot the volcanic tufa rock land. This area, located 200 miles south of Ankara, is claimed by some to have magical magnetic healing powers.

Vale de Lua, Brazil


(images via: Amnemona, Wikipedia, Clauamorim)

It’s not hard to feel as if you’ve left the planet Earth when visiting Vale de Lua, Brazil. This ‘valley of the moon’ is the most-visited area of Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park, located on the Chapada dos Veadeiros, an ancient plateau thought to be about 1.8 billion years old. Its rock formations, eroded by the waters of the San Miguel river, are among the oldest in the world.

White Desert, Egypt


(images via

Towering chalk rock formations stand like gigantic mushrooms in the White Desert, sculpted by the sandstorms that have whipped through the area for millennia. Located in the Farafra Oasis of Western Egypt, this bizarre landscape is a popular area for camping and tourism.

Blood Pond Hot Spring, Japan


(images via: Travel Photo Gallery)

Literally called “hell” in Japanese, the Blood Pond Hot Spring in Beppu, Japan certainly doesn’t look too inviting. High iron content turns the waters a deep, unsettling red, and the effect is magnified by the steam that rolls off the surface.

Stone Forest, China


(images via:

“If you have visited the Yunnan province of China without seeing the Stone Forest, you’ve wasted your time”. That old local saying hints at the grandeur of this attraction, a 400-square-kilometer stone wonderland where tall rock formations tower overhead like trees. The Stone Forest was formed over millennia as the sea, which once covered the area, gradually retreated, slowly eroding the bedrock.

Eisriesenwelt Ice Caves, Austria


(images via:

The entrance to the Eisriesenwelt ice caves in Werfen, Austria, doesn’t look like much – just a hole in the mountainside. But step inside, and it’s as if you’ve fallen into another world. The caverns located near the entrance are lined with ice that gets up to 65 feet thick and are covered in stalactites, stalagmites, domes, frozen waterfalls and other ice formations.