I think I actually discovered this link on my own but I’ll give credit to Miranda just in case. This is one of my favorite travel articles I’ve come across lately just because I love quirky things found in nature. I love that our world is so wonderful and strange and that we can visit these places to appreciate Mother Nature’s sense of humor.
Mono Lake, California
Just getting to Mono Lake, near the Nevada border, means an eerily isolated drive through ghost-town country. But the lake takes weirdness to another level: Rising from the surface are gnarled spires of limestone called tufa towers. Normally an underwater feature, the formations have become visible since water diversions began shrinking the lake in 1951.
(I hate that I haven’t spent any time out west. Although I feel fairly confident it’s not a place I’d like to live, I hate that I’ve missed out on really the last untouched part of the United States. From the photos I’ve seen from places west, it really does seem to be one of the most beautiful places on Earth. And that’s being completely biased.)
Pamukkale might just be the world’s most otherworldly place to take a bath. This terraced spot in southwestern Turkey
might look snowy, but that’s the result of built-up minerals deposited by natural hot springs over the eons. It’s been a favored spa retreat for more than 2,000 years, and its name means “cotton castle” in Turkish.
(Along with my fascination for thermal activity, I’m also rather obsessed with hot springs, especially ones that can be used as “spas.”)
Devil’s Tower, Wyoming
It seems almost inevitable that a natural feature as unearthly as Devils Tower
might be considered supernatural. Nearby Native American tribes hold it sacred, and aliens landed here in the 1977 film “Close Encounters of the Third Kind.” Scientists aren’t sure how the monolith was formed, but they agree the rock came from within the Earth, not from another planet.
(I didn’t really like Close Encounters of the Third Kind but after watching the film, you’ll certainly remember what Devil’s Tower looks like. You’ll even know what it looks like if it was made out of mashed potatoes…)
The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
No wonder Irish legend holds that the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland
was constructed by a mythical warrior; it just doesn’t look like something nature would have created on its own. But that’s exactly what it is — a field of thousands and thousands of basalt columns formed by ancient volcanic activity. Follow in the giant’s footsteps with a trek down the causeway to the sea.
(I’ve seen photos of this before and this is really impressive. Definitely on my list of things to see!)
White Desert, Egypt
White Desert gets its name from the chalk that whitewashes the place. Besides making the Sahara outpost look practically snowed under, the chalk stands tall in formations that have been eroded by sandstorms into fantastic shapes — mushrooms, spires, pinnacles and anvils.
Split Apple Rock
Split Apple Rock, New Zealand
Interesting rock formations are abundant in Abel Tasman National Park on New Zealand’s
South Island, but none is weirder than Split Apple Rock, rising from the water of Tasman Bay. The giant boulder has been broken in two pieces so cleanly that it’s almost as if a giant hit it with an ax.
(Even though we were in New Zealand for 3 weeks, you just see it all. Since coming back, I’ve learned about all these other awesome things we missed. I guess we’ll just have to go back one day…)
Racetrack Playa, California
If you were a rock and looking at a sedentary existence, wouldn’t you wish you could explore? Maybe that’s what’s going on with Death Valley’s
sliding stones, which leave trails behind them as they amble around the dry lake bed at Racetrack Playa when no one’s looking. How they move around is unknown — and the stones aren’t telling.
Dragon's Blood Tree
The island of Socotra, at the mouth of the Gulf of Aden
, has been called the most alien-looking place on Earth. A third of its plants are found only here, and many of them look downright strange. The most bizarre of the bunch is the dragon’s blood tree, which looks like a big stalk of broccoli and has red blood — dark red resin, that is.
The Chocolate Hills, Philipines
The island of Bohol is home to hundreds and hundreds of closely clustered limestone domes called the Chocolate Hills
because of their carpet of grass, which turns brown in the dry season. Scientists aren’t sure how they formed, but hopefully it wasn’t due to a giant water buffalo that got a bad case of food poisoning, as one local legend holds.
The Blue Hole, Belize
Lurking ominously off the coast of Belize
is a giant sinkhole — nearly 1,000 feet across and more than 400 feet deep — that almost looks like it wants to drag victims to the center of the Earth. But this hole is a gentle giant; divers visit daily to swim among fish and ancient stalactites, and Jacques Cousteau called it one of the world’s best scuba-diving sites.
(This is one of the few places I had heard of prior to reading this article. Elle has talked about it on her blog. Once I become an accomplished SCUBA diver, I may have to check it out…)
Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah
If you think the Great Salt Lake is salty, head a little ways west and check out the Bonneville Salt Flats
. This 30,000-acre area is encrusted with a layer of salt up to five feet thick, the leftovers from a Pleistocene-era lake that covered parts of three states. It’s estimated that the salt flats hold 147 million tons of salt, enough to keep your shaker filled for quite awhile.
Shilin translates to “stone forest,” and this set of karst formations in southwestern China’s Yunnan Province
really does look like a forest of stone. The stone pinnacles, some of which reach nearly 100 feet toward the sky, are believed to be more than 270 million years old. Visiting after sunset is an especially unearthly experience.
Mud Volcanoes, Azerbaijan
Along the coast of the Caspian Sea in Azerbaijan
are more than 300 mud volcanoes — which are, yes, basically mini-volcanoes made of mud. The bizarre geological phenomena usually belch mud and gases fairly peaceably, but they can turn violent: In 2001, a mud volcano a few miles from the capital, Baku, spit fire nearly 50 feet in the air.
(When we were in Rotorua, New Zealand, we visited an area of boiling mud . I thought it was very cool; I’m very interested in any kind of thermal activity, even if it’s just a geyser, boiling mud, or bubbling lakes. Nice reminder that the Earth is very much alive.)
Baobab Trees, Madagascar
You could be excused for wondering why these trees grow upside down: Madagascar’s
baobab trees look as if they prefer to sprout their roots out the top, especially during the dry season, when they shed their leaves. The trees put those thick, cylindrical trunks to good use storing precious water.
(I remember doing a report on these when I was in Elementary School. I was fascinated with them then but I haven’t thought about them in more than 20 years).
region of Turkey is rife with odd rocks, but none stranger than the tall, thin columns that dot the landscape. Often called “fairy chimneys,” the spires are the result of ancient tuff and lava eroding into stand-alone pinnacles. Other rocks of the region were carved into homes, as well as churches and monasteries in the early days of Christianity.
(How cool would it be to LIVE in one of these rocks!?)
Moeraki Boulders, New Zealand
sports some unusual sunbathers: dozens of giant boulders that are almost perfectly round. Called the Moeraki Boulders, the rocks are hollow on the inside, with cracks radiating outward. How did they end up as beach-dwellers? According to Maori legend, the boulders are the remains of baskets, gourds and sweet potatoes that washed up from a wrecked canoe.
(Yet one more thing we missed while there. It’s official then: we have to go back to New Zealand!)
Rising from the sea like a giant piece of fan coral is Hvitserkur, a looming, 50-foot-tall piece of former volcano just off Iceland’s
northern shore. Icelandic legend says it was once a nocturnal troll who got turned to stone by the rising sun, but its name — Hvitserkur means “white shirt” — reflects a more prosaic reality: the droppings of the birds that call Hvitserkur home sweet home.
So, anyone actually visited any of these places? Have a weird world wonder that you think should be added to the list?