Despite all the advances of knowledge and scientific research, much of our planet Earth still remains a mystery to us. We can be so preoccupied with our day to day responsibilities that we often lose sight of the beauty and wonder our world blesses us with, simply waiting to be admired and discovered.

We’re always on the hunt for the coolest spot to pack our bags up and visit, but sometimes we might overlook some incredible places only because they’re mostly still unknown and not yet a ‘hot spot’.

Whether you’re a nature lover or just a lover of all things beautiful that inspire awe, you’ll want to take a trip to these surreal locations pronto. Mother Nature’s power is infinite and unpredictable, but one thing for certain is you’ll never be disappointed with the surreal phenomenon that occurs on our planet.

Some of the world’s best-kept secrets are off the radar as of right now but keep in mind that with Mother Nature’s unpredictability, what’s here one day may change form into something else tomorrow. If you’re just as mind-blown by these dream-like nature destinations as I am and need to see for yourself if these places truly do exist, don’t hesitate to go before they become mass tourist attractions!

20 1. Barbie Lake (Australia)

This Barbie pink lake in Australia is a protected nature reserve and can only be visited under special circumstances. With its other-worldly coloring, Lake Hillier is found off the coast of Middle Island located on the Recherche Archipelago. Surrounded by thick eucalyptus trees, this pink infused lake was discovered in 1802 by a Royal Navy explorer.

However, to this day scientists have not yet fully worked out why Hillier’s color is such a strong pink, but it’s likely due microorganisms, specifically the microalgae Dunaliella Salina. Although being 10 times saltier than the ocean, Lake Hillier is safe to swim in, but that’s if you can make it inside because there are very limited ways… unless you have a helicopter.

19 2. Worms With A Glow (New Zealand)

These magical caves found in New Zealand are a sight to behold, especially with the glowworms which light up the way. These glowworms, formally Arachnocampa Luminosa are only native to New Zealand and are sort of like a beetle with bioluminescent organs which radiate unmistakable light.

Glowworms can be found all over New Zealand, mostly in forests or river banks although the best habitats for these magical creatures are in caves. Head over to the revered Waitomo Glowworm Caves only in New Zealand where a boat ride tour will take you through a galaxy of lights created by Mother Nature.

18 3. Naturally Occurring Rainbow Rocks (Zhangye Danxia Geological Park, China)

Known as ‘the eye candy of Zhangye’, these multi-colored rock formations are the product of mineral deposits and red sandstone erosion from over the last 24 million years, according to The Telegraph. Not only will the kaleidoscope coloring catch your eye, but the intriguing jutting shapes of the rocks which vary from resembling castles and cones, to humans and even birds and animals are incredulous.

The best time of year to witness these painting-like rock formations is between June and September when the weather is comfortable and the rainbow colors are brought out. Just don’t visit Zhangye in winter because it is below freezing!

17 4. Reindeer Rides and Lapland Structures (Finland)

These eerie looking creations occur in Finland close to the Arctic Circle where the freezing temperatures of -40 degrees Celsius cause the trees to be covered in frosty snow. The Lapland region includes the northernmost tip of Sweden and Finland and definitely worth a trip to the cold because there’s not only the bizarre snow structure to see, but countless other fascinating phenomena, including the northern lights.

There are so many activities to do in Lapland such as dog-sledding, ice-fishing and even reindeer sleigh rides at Santa Claus Village! I wouldn’t miss out either on the famous ICEHOTEL in Jukkasjärvi which is the world’s first hotel made out of ice and actually rebuilt every year.

16 5. Crater Looking Lakes (Kelimitu, Flores, Indonesia)

The crater lakes at the summit of Mount Kelimutu will definitely convince you that you’re on another planet. Situated in Flores, Indonesia, the three crater lakes are each a different color and are continuously changing colors due to a naturally occurring phenomenon. IndonesiaTravel states the westernmost ‘Lake of Old People’ is typically a mystical blue, while the ‘Lake of Young Men and Maidens’ is more often than not green.

The lake that’s usually a bright red is known as the ‘Bewitched or Enchanted Lake’, but in 2009 and 2010 the lakes were noted to be colors like white, black and even cola brown. We don’t know for certain what causes these mercurial colored lakes but it’s believed the minerals in the water could interact with volcanic gas creating these surreal water colors.

15 6. Clouds From The Greek Gods Over Mt. Olympus (Washington, USA)

For years lenticular clouds have been confused for being UFO’s. This natural phenomenon produces round and smooth oval-shaped structures often found over mountainous regions. These clouds can be found singularly (as in the photo above), or in a stack of lenticular clouds. According to meteorologists, these clouds are different from other clouds as they stay put and don’t move. They occur when air moves over mountains, which then cool down and allow for condensation to occur which produce the clouded ring.

What’s even more fascinating is that they are consistently reformed over the exact location infinitely. You can witness this phenomenon from Washington’s Olympic National Park, specifically at the Hurricane Ridge Lookout.

14 7. Scientists Still Have Questions (Richat Structure, Mauritania)

The Eye of the Sahara, a mysterious geological formation in Mauritania has been hidden from plain sight for millennia. This is because it’s quite difficult to spot from the ground and was only discovered when man made his way into space.

All the way in the Western Sahara Desert of Mauritania is the Eye of the Sahara, formally known as the Richat Structure which is still being studied by scientists for its importance of being a geological impact structure. In other words, the Eye of the Sahara may have been subject to a space rock having crashed into it which is pretty cool when you think about it.

13 8. Spiky Headed Snow (Penitentes, Northern Chile)

Not too far from the Licancabur volcano in Northern Chile you’ll be taking a second look at the spiky objects springing up from the ground called penitentes. Situated in the Atacama Desert of Chile you will find these penitentes, which are spikes of snow which are created often in areas with a high-altitude, and can grow up to 20 feet high.

These peculiar formations are named ‘penitentes’ because they look like a specific group of monks who wear spiky hats which resemble the spiky-headed snow sticks. Scientists have stated they theorize penitentes may also be found on Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons.

12 9.  Fire Rainbows? (Circumhorizons)

What appears to be a swirly rainbow in the sky or a colorful halo is known as a circumhorizontal arc. Unlike with cloud iridescence whose colors are randomly distributed, the colors amidst circumhorizontal arcs are surprisingly extremely well organized and usually feature red at the top with blues and teals at the bottom.

Although characterized by distinct colors, there’s a certain fuzziness quality to circumhorizons. They’re formed due to ice crystals found in thin clouds called cirrus clouds, but occur form only when the sun is set high in the sky (58 degrees above the horizon to be exact).

Circumhorizons are quite rare and are often confused with cloud iridescence, so be sure to take a double take the next time you’re observing some sky phenomena.

11 10.  Sacred Mountains Home To Taoists (Mount Sanqing, China)

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in China’s Jiangxi province is Mount Sanqing which means ‘The Three Pure Ones”. It includes three main summits which are considered to represent the trinity for Taoists. This incredible landscape is marked with surreal shaped pillars and mountain peaks which resemble various animal silhouettes, all naturally formed. These granite pillars are dispersed throughout a majestic forest and blanketed by moss over an area of 220 kilometers!

What’s unique to Mount Sanqing is the geomorphic changes and natural conditions of the region which form bright halos on clouds and white rainbows contrasting against the granite pillars, lush vegetation and Taoist temples. You will marvel at the majestic and sacred scenery and rich Taoist history of Mount Sanqing!

10 11. These Waters Turn Animals To Stone (Lake Natron, Tanzania)

Tanzania’s Lake Natron all the way in East Africa appears to be from a science fiction horror film. With the combination of extreme high salt and soda content, all creatures become calcified like a statue despite remaining entirely intact and preserved. This fruit punch lake is pretty dangerous and inhabitable to forms of life except for the bright red bacteria inside the waters which cause the unusual red colored water.

Although being extremely hot with a temperature of 140 degrees Fahrenheit, there is one endangered species which relies on Lake Natron to survive. The lesser flamingos are the one species that uses Lake Natron’s colors as their breeding grounds. They must be some pretty tough flamingos!

9 12. Psychedelic Murals (Yekaterinburg, Russia)

In Russia’s fourth largest city, Yekaterinburg, you can find not only the magnificent Ural Mountains but psychedelic salt mines and caves. This region interestingly enough lies on the border between Europe and Asia. Located some hundreds of feet below the city of Yekaterinburg you can find the most jaw-dropping salt mines that exist on our planet.

What’s even more mesmerizing is that the designs appear to be man-made but they are completely a product of nature. These abandoned mines span over a dozen of kilometers and you can easily get confused and lost when you’re down there, 650 feet below the Earth’s surface.

8 13. Naturally Occurring Oasis Village (Huacachina, Peru)

This little oasis village in Peru almost seems like a hallucination of sorts, but it’s all a cause of nature. In the very dry and barren region of Huacachina we find an incredible desert oasis just a few kilometers from the coastal town of Ica. In the midst of the barren topography there’s a natural lake surrounded by palm trees and mystical sand dunes.

There are some pretty old legends attributed to how this haven appeared out of nowhere, the most famous which has to do with a beautiful native princess. Only about a hundred people live in Huacachina today, but if you’re craving a majestic dungy ride through the Peruvian sand dunes you can still make a tourist stop.

7 14. Ring Pit Of Fire (Turkmenistan)

Out in the Karakum Desert in Turkmenistan lies the famous fire pit made out of actual fire. It’s officially a crater known as the Darvaza crater, in the desert which has been burning for some several decades. It seems like a horrifying scene created for a movie, but was created in 1971 when geologists were drilling around the site when they touched upon some natural gas.

Unfortunately the drilling rig collapsed, leaving in its wake a 70-meter wide hole. The team in charge of the rig had attempted to burn the hole, but it actually never stopped burning and is still a pit of fire to this day.

6 15. Multi-Colored Hot Springs (Rotorua, New Zealand)

The region of Rotorua in New Zealand is recognized as the world’s most remarkable geothermal spots to exist. In fact, since the 19th century Rotorua’s thermal springs were revered for their healing properties right along the edge of Lake Rotorua. If you’re in New Zealand, these geothermal springs which offer public pools and private hot springs should be a must on your list of things to do.

There are even luxurious Rotorua spas where you can indulge and revitalize surrounded by breath-taking scenery. The famous bubbling mud pools and shooting geysers play a part in the deep Maori culture of the native New Zealanders of the area.

5 16.  Bent Forest (Szczecin, Poland)

These mysteriously crooked trees in a Polish forest are found in Krzywy Las, Poland’s ‘crooked forest’. It’s still unknown what causes these 400 trees to take on a uniformed bent formation situated outside the town of Gryfino. What we do know however, is the small town was largely destroyed during World War II, along with the lush forest.

It’s not only in northwest Poland where these bizarre bent trees are found, but there is no other location where they are in such great number and so uniformed. The best time to visit these fantastical trees is at the beginning of spring when the trees are bare and you can fully appreciate its lean.

4 17.  Blue Enchantment (Philippines)

What’s known as the Enchanted River and only discovered recently is located along the Hinatuan River in the Philippines. Even with the clearest of waters there still remains a mystery to the Enchanted River. It’s uncertain as to where this water stems from; whether it is an ocean or a spring it’s a phenomenal body of water you wouldn’t believe.

Situated in the fishing area Surigao Del Sur in Mindanao, what most people know about the river is that it’s extremely deep, almost unfathomably deep and this is why most visitors stick to the shallow waters which are recognizable by its shades of aquamarine and blue.


3 18. Troll's Tongue (Trolltunga, Norway)

This breath-taking cliff in Norway about 1100 met Ringedalsvatneters above sea level is one of the best Nordic trails to take a hike too. Sitting atop Lake Ringedalsvatnet is a 10 kilometer hike which takes you to the awe-inspiring Trolltunga cliff which is worth every second. Known in English as Troll Tongue’s Rock, if you hike this trail ensure you are prepared for unpredictable situations because it’s rather challenging.

The route is also only accessible through June to September for safety precautions. If you’re not the hiking type and a 10 kilometer hike is too extreme, even hikes of 1 or 2 kilometers will bless you with Norway’s dramatic landscape.

2 19. Fairy-Tale Getaway (Ancient Anatolia, Cappadocia, Turkey)

The Ancient Region of Anatolia or formerly ‘Asia Minor’ is today a remarkable region with fairy-tale like landscape. It is now the modern Republic of Turkey and in the specific area of Cappadocia lies a truly incredible wonderful through millions of years of the natural process of erosion.

Prior to any civilization in this area, Cappadocia was blanketed with volcanic ash from nearby volcanic eruptions which then solidified into a sock rock known as ‘tuff’.

The Hittite civilization inhabited these rocks and created underground residencies which today are luxury hotels, museums, restaurants and shops. The main town for visitors is Göreme but Nevşehir, Avanos, and Urgüp will also be an unforgettable stay.

1 20. Sand Swirl Beach (Whitehaven Beach, Australia)

Whitehaven beach might be something like heaven on earth. This remote beach on Queensland’s Whitsunday Island has won countless awards and is regarded as one of the world’s most unspoiled and beautiful beaches. It’s no surprise Australia is home to some of the most stunning beaches, but you may not have known it’s also home to unique natural phenomenon.

Photographed above is Hill Inlet at the northern end of the beach where the tide shifts the sand and water, forming a surreal swirl of distinct shades of colors. For life-changing views of the Hill Inlet head over to the lookout at Tongue’s Point.

References: EarthSky, TheTelegraph, Forbes, Business Insider