OUT OF THIS WORLD

We’re all familiar with iconic images seen ‘round our world; The Eiffel Tower overlooking Paris, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, Christ the Redeemer atop Rio de Janeiro and The Great Wall of China, just to name a few. You’ve no doubt either visited these recognizable sites or have placed them at the top of your must-do travel itinerary. Well, here are six unique spots to add to your list that are downright whimsical and deserve your consideration.

 

SAKONETA, Spain

Sakoneta is a small, pristine cove located between the towns of Deba and Zumaia in northern Spain.  There is a trail that follows along the top of the cliffs, offering a splendid view of the coastline. You’ll pass by sheltered coves, crumbly limestone walls, streams, waterfalls and one of the best stretches of marine abrasion platform on the Bay of Biscay.

It’s best to see Sakoneta at low tide when the water recedes far enough to reveal the whimsical rock formations sculpted by the sea. At low tide, venture down from the trail to the beach to see the multi-layered geological flysch formations and intertidal rock platform in detail. The harsh winds and powerful waves make swimming too dangerous, but watching the sun set over this cove will leave a lasting impression.

 

SALAR DE UYUNI, Bolivia

Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni is considered one of the most extreme and remarkable vistas in all of South America. Stretching more than 4,050 square miles, it is the world’s largest salt flat. Left behind by evaporated prehistoric lakes, the thick crust of salt extends to the horizon, covered by quilted, polygonal patterns of salt rising from the ground.

Salar de Uyuni has two distinct seasons. During the rainy season ( December to April), nearby lakes overflow and a thin layer of water transforms the flats into a stunning reflection of the sky. During the dry season (May to November), when temperatures are colder and the ground has hardened, travelers can drive across the stark white landscape to places that aren’t accessible in the rainy season.

This beautiful and otherworldly terrain serves as a lucrative extraction site for salt and lithium—the element responsible for powering laptops, smart phones, and electric cars. In addition to local workers who harvest these minerals, the landscape is home to the world’s first salt hotel.

 

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK, California

The name Joshua tree was given by a group of Mormon settlers crossing the Mojave Desert in the mid-19th century. The tree’s unique shape is said to have reminded them of a Biblical story in which Joshua reaches his hands up to the sky in prayer. Ranchers and miners who were contemporary with the Mormon immigrants used the trunks and branches as fencing and for fuel for ore-processing steam engines.

Boulders and buttresses, rugged mountains, gold mining ruins, desert plains dotted with the oddball trees—this is one weird place. Joshua Tree, nicknamed “J-Tree” by locals, lies at an ecological crossroads, where the high Mojave Desert meets the low Colorado Desert. The result is amazing desert flora, including those wacky namesake trees which actually a species of yucca. Joshua Tree’s vibrant sunsets that melt into nights filled with uncountable stars are especially beautiful.

 

LAKE HILLIER, Australia

Located on Middle Island, just off the south coast of Western Australia, is Lake Hillier. From above, the lake appears to be a solid bubble gum pink, but from the shoreline it appears more of a clear pink hue. The vibrant color is permanent, considered to be due to  the presence of microorganisms Dunaliella salina living in the water and bacteria present in the salt crust deposits that surround the shoreline. The combination of the two cause the salt content in the lake to create a red dye.

Despite the unusual pink shade, the lake exhibits no known adverse effects upon humans. With high salt content levels comparable to those of the Dead Sea, Lake Hillier is safe to swim in. The lake is surrounded by a rim of sand and a dense woodland of paperbark and eucalyptus trees with a narrow strip of sand dunes covered by vegetation separating its northern edge from the northern coast of Middle Island.

There are two ways to reach Lake Hillier. Helicopter is one of the most common methods of travel. Cruises are also an option for passengers wanting to visit the isolated lake, and surrounding forest area.

 

CAPPADOCIA, Turkey

As if plucked from a whimsical fairytale and set down upon the stark Anatolian plains, Cappadocia in Turkey is a geological oddity of honeycombed hills and towering boulders.

The unique topography has dictated the locale’s architecture. Residents have long utilised the region’s soft stone, seeking shelter underground and leaving the countryside scattered with fascinating cavern structures. The fresco-adorned rock-cut churches of Göreme Open-Air Museum and the subterranean refuges of Derinkuyu and Kaymaklı are the most famous sights. Just spending the night in one of Cappadocia’s cave hotels is an experience in 21st-century cave living.

Whether you’re wooed here by the hiking potential, the history or the bragging rights of becoming a modern troglodyte, it’s the sunset panoramas that you’ll remember. This region’s accordion-ridged valleys, shaded in a palette of dusky orange and cream, are otherworldly.

 

LAKE RESIA, Italy

This takes “walking on water” to an astonishingly real-life level. In Italy’s Lake Resia, near the borders of Austria and Switzerland, a lone bell tower shoots up from the perfect, blue-green water.

It’s the only visible remnant of Graun, a town that vanished underwater more than 60 years ago. The town’s residents protested, but they were no match for a power company’s plans to join two natural lakes and create a giant artificial one. When the company finally got its way, the surrounding towns were blasted and flooded. Only Graun’s bell tower was permitted to survive, as a historic site.

Nowadays, you can bike or hike along the beautiful mountain path surrounding the lake, also known as Reschensee or Lago di Resia. In winter, when the lake freezes, you’ll also be able to walk right out to the bell tower on frozen water. Rumor has it the church bells still ring… even though they were removed some over six decades ago.