Despite the popular fiction of outer-space worldbuilding in galaxies far, far away, the reality of our own wide world travel destinations only includes our precious Earth. While we can’t escape into intergalactic outer space, we still can travel to places that offer fresh perspectives of our planet in ways we’ve never seen before.
The yearning for wanderlust is relevant to the reality of our times during a global pandemic. While you may have to wait to see the following destinations, they are top-notch contenders to cap off the top of your travel-worthy list.
Here are some of the coolest and most unusual places on Earth that look like they’re on another planet:
1. Dos Ojos: Tulum, Mexico
This cenote—a deep, water-filled limestone sinkhole created when an underground cavern collapses—has two separate pools that lead into a crystal-clear cavern of cobalt blue water. Its moniker “dos ojos”—or “two eyes” as it’s translated from Spanish—refers to its two entry points.
Located along the Caribbean coast of the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico, this 40-mile long cave is home to a wide array of fish species that create the most incredible backdrop scenery. This ethereal cave is a snorkeler’s unearthly paradise.
2. Socotra, Yemen
The Socotra Archipelago of Yemen consists of six islands that extend over the horn of Africa in the Indian Ocean. The main island of Socotra is so extraterrestrial-esque that its terrain appears similar to that of a rugged, hostile planet. Over 40 percent of the plant, animal, and marine life on the island can be found nowhere else on the planet.
This luscious location of biodiversity is famous for the so-called Dragon Blood Trees found across its land. These UFO trees resemble upside-down broomsticks with tightly-clustered branches that fan upwards into a cone-shaped head. Sometimes what’s beautiful is truly bizarre.
3. Death Valley National Park: Southeastern California, USA
As one of the hottest and driest places on Earth, the massive Death Valley is well-known for its oxymoronic nature of being full of life. Scenes from the original Star Wars movie were filmed within this national park, so visitors can authentically imagine they are on the dusty two-sunned planet of Tatooine with Luke Skywalker if they please.
NASA also used this cratered, below-sea-level valley for testing runs of the Curiosity Rover before it was launched to land on Mars.
4. Tianzi Mountains: Hunan Province, China
The unbelievable sandstone and quartz pillar peaks of Tianzi rise over a thousand feet into the air. It’s no wonder these incredible pillars are the home of one of the places on Earth that look like they’re on another planet.
Considered nature’s own version of skyscrapers, this unusual scenic site was a major inspiration for the world of Pandora in the movie Avatar. If you are traveling to China, add the Tianzi Mountains to your list just after the Great Wall of China!
5. Craters of the Moon: Central Idaho, USA
The largest basaltic lava field in America was formed after a super-volcano erupted thousands of years ago. “Craters of the Moon” resembles a vast ocean of lava flows, cones, and craters.
Located along the Snake River Plain, this national monument is only one of Idaho’s most incredible natural features. A visit here will surely evoke a sense of outer-worldly adventure you could only picture in a sci-fi film.