May 7, 2024 | Jamie Hayes

Psychedelic Travel Destinations That Don't Even Look Real

Far Out, Man

Take as many pictures as you want—people still won't believe that these psychedelic travel destinations are real.


Zhangye Danxia Landform

The same tectonic plate that's pushing the Himalayas up into the sky has...tilted the layers of sandstone that have built up over millions of years in China's Zhangye National Geopark, leaving multicolored stripes cutting across the landscape that have to be seen to be believed.

:Linze, Zhangye, Gansu, ChinaHan Lei, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Li River, China

The tree-covered limestone mountains that erupt into the air along either side of China's Li River seem impossibly steep. Venture into the river's Reed Flute Cave for an even more otherworldly experience.

Li River at DuskEdwin Poon, Flickr

Meteora, Greece

The enormous rock formations at Meteora in Greece are an impressive sight to behold, but the Eastern Orthodox Monasteries dotting the monoliths—some even resting on top, floating hundreds of feet in the air—are what make the place seem like a dream.

Meteora - GreeceMarios Ioannides, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni is the biggest salt flat in the world. When the conditions are just right, the ground can reflect the sky for nearly as far as the eye can see. Don't see that every day.

Sunrise at Salar de Uyuni salt flats BoliviaRicksonliebano, Adobe Stock

Tianzi Mountains, China

Water can dissolve limestone, which can carve some extremely bizarre formations—and few places on Earth show that like Tianzi Mountain in China, where the eerily skinny limestone pillars can reach over 1,000 feet tall.

Tianzi Mountains, ChinaAlex Berger, Flickr

Hitachi Seaside Park, Japan

A rose by any other name would usually smell as sweet—but it's hard to smell as sweet as Japan's Hitachi Seaside park, where it looks like the flowers go on forever.

Field of Nemophila with tree at Nemophila, Hitachi Seaside Park,Bunwit, Adobe Stock

Caves in Algarve, Portugal

Someone carved a gigantic hole in the top of this idyllic, beachside cave in Portugal!

Caves in Algarve, PortugalValerija Polakovska, Shutterstock

Pamukkale, Turkey

Pamukkale means "Cotton Castle" in Turkish. That's actually an incredible name for this bizarre formation where carbonate material is deposited by a hot spring.

turquoise water travertine pools at pamukkaleMuratart, Adobe Stock

Naica Mine, Mexico

At first when you see a picture Naica Mine, you might think you're looking at an image from a microscope. Then you see the people and realize those crystals are 20 feet tall...

Naica MineAssignment_Houston_One, CC BY-SA 2.5, Wikimedia Commons

Hang Son Doong, Vietnam

Hang Son Doong, Vietnam is the largest natural cave on Earth. The reflecting pool is impossible to really capture in photos.

Hang Son Doong, VietnamBrian Hancill, Flickr

Lençóis Maranhenses, Brazil

In the dry season, the rolling dunes of Lençóis Maranhenses National Park in Brazil are impressive enough—but during the rainy season, the valleys between the dunes fill with freshwater lagoons and the whole landscape looks like an abstract paining.

Lençóis Maranhenses, ID: 2279314691Wilson Santos Marques, Shutterstock

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and Zambia

It looks like the Earth just opened up and swallowed the entire Zambezi River at Victoria Falls—and that's exactly what happened, actually.

Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe and ZambiaJoachim Huber, Flickr

Tulip Fields, Netherlands

The vibrant stripes of color that cut across the Tulip Fields of the Netherlands look impossible.

Tulip Fields, NetherlandsFilio, Wikimedia Commons

Mount Roraima, Venezuela, Brazil, and Guyana

Mount Roraima is pretty impressive, jutting suddenly out of the earth, but it's even better when the clouds come in and the entire mountain looks like it's floating in an ocean of white.

Cliffs of Mt. Roraima, Venezuelakevincure, Flickr

Vatnajokull Glacier Cave, Iceland

The rippling, bubbling patterns across the ice in Vatnajokull Glacier Cave look like they're not from planet earth.

Vatnajokull Glacier Cave, IcelandRoman Popelar, Flickr

Antelope Canyon, USA

It's a classic for a reason.  

antelope canyonteyi, Pexels

Fly Ranch Geyser in Northern Nevada, USA

I don't even know how to describe Fly Ranch Geyser. You'll just need to see it for yourself—and lucky for you, the Burning Man Project, who owns the land around the site, offers limited tours.

Fly geyserJeremy C. Munns, Wikimedia Commons

Vinicunca, aka "The Rainbow Mountain of Peru" or "Mountain of Seven Colors"

If you need me to explain why "The Rainbow Mountain of Peru" is worth seeing in person, I don't know what we're doing here.

Rainbow Mountain PeruMichaellbrawn, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

Lake Natron in The Great Rift Valley, Tanzania

Lake Natron in Tanzania's Great Rift Valley is the closest on Earth you can get to the red salty planet of Crait.

Lesser Flamingos nesting in shallow salt waters of Lake Natron.Danita Delimont, Shutterstock

"The Sea of Stars" on Vaadhoo Island

In many Pacific Islands, the Maldives especially, the shoreline itself lights up on special nights. The Sea of Stars looks like something from an alien planet—but it's just regular Earth plankton.

Vaadhoo Island in the MaldivesTharuka Photographer, Shutterstock

The Kawah Ijen Volcano in Java, Indonesia

When the sulfur gas spewing out of Kawah Ijen Volcano on Java ignites, the mountain itself ignites into blue flame. Pretty cool, huh?

Blue sulfur flames, Kawah Ijen volcano, East Java

The Darvaza gas crater, aka "The Gates Of Hell," in Turkmenistan

It takes a lot for a place to earn a name like "The Gates of Hell," but the Darvaza gas crater in Turkmenistan, where the natural gas seeping out of the Earth has been burning since the 1980s, fits the bill.

Darvaza Gas CraterAlexelA, Shutterstock

The Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland

It's hard to imagine what natural process might have created the uniform hexagonal pillars of the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland. So just trust me when I saw: There is a natural explanation for them, but it's very, very complicated. Just enjoy the view.

Giant's Causewaycode poet, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Spotted Lake in the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia

The different types of minerals in Spotted Lake in British Columbia's Okanagan Valley give each of the lake's spots their own unique color. Something about it is just unsettling though...

Spotted Lake in British ColumbiaGalyna Andrushko, Shutterstock

The Grand Prismatic Spring In Yellowstone Park

The Grand Prismatic Spring would be good enough if it was just the largest hot spring in the United States, but the psychelic fade from red, to orange, to yellow, to green, to blue just seems like it shouldn't occur naturally. 

Grand Prismatic Springs in JulyVmm1234!, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

The Red Beach in Panjin, China

A specific kind of plant called Suaeda salsa, known for its red coloration, grows in abundance in Panjin, China. At the right time of year, it turns the entire landscape vibrant red. 

The Red BeachWu Zhangfan, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

The Great Blue Hole, Belize

During the last Ice Age, Belize's Great Blue Hole would have been above land, so probably not quite so blue. Then the glaciers receded, the oceans rose, and the Great Hole got a lot bluer.

The Great Blue Hole in BelizeGlobe Guide Media Inc, Shutterstock

Cavernas de Mármol, or "The Marble Caves" in Chile

Cavernas de Mármol is a painting. The paint was limestone (as usual) and the painter was the waters of Chile's General Carrera Lake. It took 6,000 years but...I'd say it was worth it.

Cavernas de Mármol, or Steffen Sauder, Flickr

The Tunnel of Love - Klevan, Ukraine

The Soviets planted trees all along the rail line near Klevan, Ukraine out of secrecy. But they eventually abandoned the track, and after nature slowly reclaimed it, tourists rediscovered it and dubbed the ethereal pathway "The Tunnel of Love". 

The Tunnel of Love made by  treesMyroslava Rakovets, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons



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