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10 'otherworldly' locations on Earth

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It’s interesting to think about what makes somewhere look like it’s from another planet. Perhaps a certain vista is reminiscent of a favourite sci-fi film, or maybe a certain location is so bizarre it’s like nothing ever seen before.

Whatever the reason, finding otherworldly locations right here on Earth is both fascinating and surprisingly easy – if you know where to look. Since today is officially Star Wars Day (May 4th, get it?!), here are a few of the most amazing locations found on planet Earth (believe it or not). Our world is truly incredible.

Salar de Uyuni

The largest salt flat in the world covers an area of 10,582 square kilometres. It is located in southwest Bolivia and sits amongst the mountainous faces of the Andes. When the surface water is still and the sky is clear, the horizon becomes a mirror.

The effect is such that it’s as if the reflection cancels out reality, leaving only sky and cloud. The salt flat creates a sense of floating and weightlessness – creating the closest feeling to leaving gravity behind that can be found on terra firma.

Lake Natron

Located in north eastern Tanzania, this lake is rather exceptional. Its temperature can rise as high as 60 degrees Celsius and the water PH can get so high it causes caustic burning to animals that have not adapted to the extreme alkaline conditions.

But these conditions do also have their upsides. Dangerous predators cannot enter the caustic waters, meaning the lake is a safe haven and breeding ground for flamingos. The lake also has a reputation for turning animals into stone... This is clearly no ordinary body of water.

Zhangeye Danxia

The Zhangeye Danxia landscape is located in northern China. Formed over 24 million years, the distinctive rock patterns are fashioned from a combination of minerals and sandstone.

Each ring of sandstone and minerals reflects a different era in the formation of this landscape. The layer-cake effect is both astounding to look at and perfectly encapsulates the passing of time.

Naica Mine

Naica Mine is home to some of the largest crystal formations in the world, the grandest of which measures 15 meters in length and 1.2 metres in diameter. Located in Mexico, humans cannot last long in the cave formations as the average temperature is 58 degrees Celsius and - with a humidity reading of 99% - breathing is incredibly difficult.

The enormous crystals were formed in water chambers that were warmed over thousands of years over a pocket of magma. The crystals were discovered when the water was drained from the mine – but with water present the crystals appear invisible, some even say illuminated, as they are comprised of clear selenite.

Cuevas de Marmol

Often named ‘The Glass Cathedral’, this 6,000-year-old edifice of ice and marble has a striking beauty. Shaped by the sea and the seasons, it can be found in southern Chile and is celebrated by many as the most beautiful cave in the world.

The swirling pastel blues of Cuevas de Marmol are always in a state of change; light from the sun reflects from the surface of the sea onto the exposed icy marble, mirroring the sea's ripples. 

Waitomo Caves

New Zealand’s northern island is home to the Waitomo cave system, which is made up of around 300 limestone caves. The first extensive investigation of the caves was carried out in 1887 by a Maori chief and an English surveyor on a boat by candlelight. Glow-worms line the walls of the cave generating a speckled blanket of green-blue embers flickering in the gloom.    

The glowing cave walls are otherworldly in appearance but on closer inspection, they actually represent a natural prerequisite in most ecosystems, as the brilliant wall of light is actually a mating call.

Mount Erebus

Antarctica’s second highest active volcano is surrounded by a series of ice caves carved from the ice by ascending volcanic gases. As the hot air escapes from the surface, the air around the vent cools down, causing a funnel of compacted snow to form around the heated area.

With the passing of time and falling of snow, a chimney like fumarole builds up around the vent. These fumaroles can vary in size and diameter and are quite unlike anything else found on earth.

Danakil Crater (Dallol)

The Danakil Desert is one of the hottest and lowest places on earth. There are not many known instances of active volcanic vents that are below sea level, but the Dallol crater is an example of this. Numerous sulphur deposits, acidic water geysers and salt cones are abundant.

The mixture of lava pools, acid pits and hot springs makes this crater a strikingly dangerous area. The waters are vibrant, poisonous and lifeless. This combination mirrors the atmosphere and landscape of many other planets in the solar system.

Antarctic Frozen Ocean

Winter in the Antarctic can cause temperatures to plummet below -60 degrees Celsius. Underneath the ice, the water is considerably warmer, at a relatively warm -2. Here, the water is much more consistent in temperature and has stayed this way for 25 million years.

The threats animals face below the wall of ice are significantly different to what is expected on land or indeed in other seas. Hyper-concentrated frozen brine is the primary concern as high concentrations of salt means that the water's freezing temperature is reduced. The brine sinks and the water around the brine freezes creating a brinicle.

Tsingy Bemaraha

Also known as the forest of needles, The Tsingy Bemaraha National park is situated in central Madagascar. It was formed when ground water eroded a lime stone plateau, leaving limestone shards pointing skyward. Tsingy translates from the indigenous Malagasy, meaning: “where one cannot walk barefoot.”

The rock formations exude viciousness and the jagged angles seem to warn life away. In fact, the whole area seems to embody a threat.

Clearly our little green planet is diverse and breath-taking in more ways than one. Next time you happily call something “out of this world”, consider exactly how otherworldly Earth can be. To be truly out of this world, you'd have to find something very special indeed.

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