Vacations are wonderful, but sometimes you just feel like you keep visiting the same places — or types of places — over and over again. To mix things up, you can visit (or at least daydream about!) one of these unusual places. Instead of a trip to another popular beach or resort, prepare for an almost otherworldly travel experience.
1. Blood Falls, Antarctica
The deep red Blood Falls were first discovered in 1911 by Australian geologist Griffith Taylor, but the “why” behind the coloration of the waters has only been confirmed this year, thanks to explorations beneath the glacier by a probe. Iron deposits and other minerals have colored these ancient waters, buried beneath the mountain of ice for millennia and resulting in the stunning natural wonder.
If you plan to head to this unusual destination, go between October and late March when the continent receives the most sunshine. Learn about how to travel to Antarctica and plan on a helicopter tour since that’s the only way to get to this incredibly remote location.
2. Puerto Mosquito, Puerto Rico
There’s nothing quite so romantic as a moonlit beach on a remote shore. Unless you can meander the sands of a glow-in-the-dark beach, that is. So venturing to Puerto Mosquito, the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world, on Vieques Island in Puerto Rico will boost the awe factor all the more.
Don’t let the name scare you. The bay is named for the pirate, Roberto Cofresí, and his small boat, El Mosquito, not for those blood-thirsty insects.
You’ll probably want to visit this incredible destination during the summer months. You’ll have glassy water for clear, crisp views of the bright beaches at night and the underwater life by day. Aim to travel around the new moon for the brightest views possible. You can either fly or take the ferry to Vieques and the bay from San Juan.
If you want to photograph this phenomenon, you’ll also want to invest in a reasonably high-quality camera that works well in low-light settings since your typical iPhone won’t capture the glow.
3. Lake Hillier, Australia
Lake Hillier is located on Middle Island, part of the Recherche Archipelago. It’s believed that the unusual lake looks like a strawberry milkshake because of the extremely high salinity of the water, which is only separated from the ocean by a thin strip of sand and forest. The pink waters were first written about by Matthew Flinders in 1802 and have been a wonderment for the world since.
While you can get to the island via boat, the view from the air is most spectacular. But if you want to spend a day on the island, you won’t regret that, either. Go swimming in pink waters — it’s like taking a dive into the Dead Sea with its incredible buoyancy — and hike through the forests. If you’re lucky, you’ll even come across the colony of little penguins that live there.
4. Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
While this incredible destination is more well-known than some others on this list — being a UNESCO Heritage Site and all — there are still some pretty odd aspects that qualify this natural phenomenon as one of the strangest spots on the planet.
Giant’s Causeway has about 40,000 interlocking columns of basalt. Each pillar has a hexagonal shape and gives the whole area the look of steppingstones — giant steppingstones. Some of these columns are 39 feet tall and each column typically has five to seven irregular sides.
The Causeway runs about four miles along the shore and can easily be accessed by a variety of means, including some stunning bike trails that follow the Irish coast. Buses, trains, and tour companies run from nearby and semi-distance cities, including from Belfast.
5. Goblin Valley State Park, Utah
Out in the heart of Utah lies Goblin Valley State Park, where thousands of hoodoos — referred to as goblins by locals — create a unique landscape of earth pyramids and red rock. Certain parts of the park even form maze-like sections where you can explore and play for hours.
At the heart of the park, you’ll find the Valley of Goblins, with three established trails that just about anyone can hike. The overlooks, strange formations, and wilderness make this a unique experience as it is, but what’s even better is that the park has no restrictions on where you can hike. Scramble across the sandstone, hide in the rock formations, or bike the 21-miles of graded dirt bike trail to catch views of Capitol Reef, Thousand Lake Mountain, Factory Butte, the Henry Mountains, and Boulder Top.
6. The Nazca Lines, Peru
The Andes Mountains and Rainbow Mountain range in Peru are incredible wonders from the air. But a third flightpath — stranger by far — will take you over the Nazca Lines. These giant geoglyphs — designs etched into the ground — lie south of Lima by about 250 miles and are well worth the flyover.
The Nazca Lines were created by the ancient Nazca people and depict plants, animals, and other shapes meaningful to their culture and way of life. The UNESCO World Heritage Site was created at least 2,000 years ago. How and why the people formed these shapes a quarter of a mile long remains a mystery to researchers today. Over 70 animals and plants, including a hummingbird, cactus, and llama, are represented by the lines, along with 800-plus straight lines and over 300 geometric designs make up the ancient wonder.
You can book tour flights with various companies to experience the Nazca Lines or a combination outing with the Nazca Lines and other natural wonders in the vicinity.
7. The Tianzi Mountains, China
For fans of the movie Avatar, you’ll find this fascinating: The Tianzi Mountains inspired the film’s setting. Because of this, the mountains are sometimes referred to as Avatar Mountain. The stunning and unusual quartz sandstone mountain range is believed to have been formed millions of years ago through the irregular rising of the earth’s crust over a two-million-year period.
To get there, you’ll need to book travel with a specialized shuttle service or tour company and take a cable car to the top. There are no trails here, however, so, hiking’s not an option. That said, stunning photos are guaranteed!
8. Pamukkale, Turkey
When you research popular Turkish attractions, you’re guaranteed to learn about Pamukkale. The white travertine terraces and bright pools are a picturesque natural phenomenon near the ancient ruins of the Greek-Roman city of Hierapolis. The UNESCO World Heritage site receives nearly two million visitors each year thanks to the glory of the natural wonder, the historical sites, and the hot springs.
You can take a minibus, cab, or bus or train from Denizli and other nearby cities. A short 15-minute hike from the town takes you to the pools of Pamukkale. Headed to Turkey? Make time for these four places in Turkey you’ve probably never heard of (but need to visit).