Out of this world: Mind-blowing landscapes

Even the most seasoned of travellers can sometimes come across surprises; some corners of our incredible planet are home to landscapes that look like they belong in outerspace. Here are five of the world’s most surreal landscapes:

Dankil Depression, Ethiopia

 Danakil Depression. Photo Credit: Andrea Moroni. Used under  Creative Commons license

Danakil Depression. Photo Credit: Andrea Moroni. Used under Creative Commons license

The striking Danakil Depression dips down to more than 400 feet below sea-level, as the result of tectonic plates parting ways. Quite literally a melting pot of vibrant colours, it's a mix of sulphur, gassy geysers, salt formations and acidic springs - and truly one of the world’s most astonishing natural sights. Located in Northern Ethiopia on the border with Eritrea these are fairly inhospitable lands to travel through so the Danakil Depression is not somewhere many travellers can say they have been to. If you’re up for the challenge you’ll struggle to believe your eyes, even when it sits directly in front of you. 

This is one journey that must be undertaken with an Ethiopian tour operator, who knows the area and will arrange security. We recommend using Ethio Travels and Tours (ETT) as well as keeping an eye on the local news before you depart. 

Zhangye Danxia Landform, China 

 Zhangye Dana Landform

Zhangye Dana Landform

Rainbow mountains, surreal stripes zig zag in an out of one another to create what is commonly called the ‘eye candy of Zhangye’. Zhangye is the name of the national park in which these mountains are situated, in a remote region of central north China. They are the result of movement in the earth's crust which pushed sandstone and other minerals, most of which is over 25 million years old, together in this layered format. Just wow. 

Cappadocia, Turkey 

 Hot air balloons over Cappadocia, Turkey

Hot air balloons over Cappadocia, Turkey

This moon-like region in south central Turkey is home to cone-shaped rocks created by volcanic ash. Historically communities have dug down underneath these formations, known as ‘fairy chimneys’ to create a safe base as a hiding place away from would-be invaders. Today, a favourite way to see the fairy chimneys is from above; hot air balloon rides here are ever popular and really add a sense of the scale to the area. 

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

 Jumping for joy at the Solar de Uyuni salt plains, Bolivia

Jumping for joy at the Solar de Uyuni salt plains, Bolivia

We’ve probably all seen some fun photos from friends who have visited these vast salt plains, where the white lands stretch out as far as the eye can see. With nothing to quantify size or perspective, these plains have often been the base for some visual trickery and imaginative photos. That said, at more than 3600 metres above sea level you may feel the altitude has caused hallucinations on arrival - nothing will ever quite prepare you for this dreamlike vista. 

Socotra, Yemen 

 Socotra, Yemen. Photo Credit: HopeHill. Used under  Creative Commons License .

Socotra, Yemen. Photo Credit: HopeHill. Used under Creative Commons License.

When we talk of places belonging to another world, Socotra comes close to making this a reality. Harsh landscapes, isolation and a potentially unstable political position means that this is one of the last unexplored lands on our planet. Belonging to Yemen, but an archipelago of four islands off its southeast coast, the inaccessibility means that up to 40% of the island’s species are endemic - with some a staggering 200 million years old. The Socotra Dragon tree (or Dragon Blood tree) is just one of these. A beautiful land, like no other. 

Due to the political situation at the time of writing, commercial flights to Socotra do not exist at the time of writing. However, a UAE based community, UAE Trekkers do from time to time organise chartered flights and excursions.

- By Katie Silcox

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