Unfortunately, despite Elon Musk’s best efforts to ensure we can all take a budget airline to space, the final frontier, remains, for the time being, off-limits. However, there are other ways budding Buzz Lightyears can take a trip that’s out of this world. While the rest of the Instagram set are taking hotdog legs pictures on golden beaches and snapping themselves in front of somebody else’s private jets, why not try something a little more out of the ordinary and visit some of these weird and wonderful landscapes?
Antelope Canyon, Arizona, United States
The closest you’re going to get to walking on Mars is a visit to this sandstone canyon in Arizona. The smooth, ribboned red rock formations look like the strokes of a colossal UFP (Unidentified Flying Paintbrush). You can hike through two parts of the canyon; the upper section is the more popular thanks to the way the light plays through the rocks. Remember that those amazing screensaver images on Windows 7? Yeah, it’s one of those.
Tianzi Mountains, China
It doesn’t get much more out of the ordinary than the landscape that inspired Pandora, the alien planet that is the setting for James Cameron’s blockbuster, Avatar. The rock formations eroded at different rates, leaving towering structures with ‘floating peaks’ covered in forests and foliage. Don’t worry, there’s a cable car to get you up there.
The Avenue of the Baobabs, Madagascar
In Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic children’s book The Little Prince, the prince’s alien planet is populated with baobab trees. With their huge thick trunks and root-like formations in the canopy, the strangely beautiful trees appear to be growing upside down. Legend has it that the reason they look like that is the Devil ripped them up and planted them back in the earth the wrong way round. Well thank God he did, they look amazing.
Door to Hell, Turkmenistan
Speaking of the Devil, you can go and see him if you want. Although I doubt you’ll get travel insurance if you decide to stray off the beaten path. A soviet drilling operation gone wrong resulted in a burning lake of fire, located in a hole in the desert officially called the the ‘Darvaza gas crater’. After a rig collapsed, the authorities decided to burn off the natural gas. It was estimated it would take a few weeks – almost fifty years on and it’s still going strong.
Mutnovsky Ice Cave, Russia
If a gate to the underworld feels a little bit too… stuffy, maybe visit this eerie cave in the Kamchatka peninsula. It’s not the easiest place to get to but it’s worth it when you do and out of the ordinary to say the least. The way the snow freezes and thaws has left some strange rock formations on the ground, but even cooler than that is the ice roof, which is thin enough to allow sunlight to break through, giving the cave a magic grotto-like feel (albeit a freezing one).
Rainbow Mountains, Peru
If magical places and fairytale settings are a bit more your thing, then why not visit these candy-striped mountains in South America that look like something from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Part of the Peruvian Andes, Vinicunca Mountain is striped with deep maroon, gold, yellow and even lavender and light blue hues. There are a range of treks you can take and hot springs you can take a dip in. Just don’t eat the rocks.
Underwater Waterfall, Mauritius
A waterfall that flows underwater, that is best seen from the air and doesn’t actually exist. Nothing ordinary about that! Ok, the truth is it’s an optical illusion, but it’s still incredibly cool. The island of Mauritius sits on an Ocean Shelf, which drops off from 150m below sea level to 4000m. Sand and silt on the ocean floor being forced over the edge makes it look like a waterfall under a… Ok, I’m not going through all that again. Just check it out.