Cities above the sea and floating mountains—can places get any stranger than these? All over the world, we are treated to several places which no one, in spite of hundreds of years’ worth of research, can ever explain. For the tourist that enjoys something different, these places are worthy of their time. From time to time, it is nice to have our reasons challenged, and just stare in wonder.
Sure, travel guidebooks abound, and every corner of the earth has been scoured, but these places somehow remain untouched because of their ability to defy reason. Furthermore, these places will challenge your perspectives, and change them. In a world that’s becoming familiar too fast, a trip to these natural wonders—or enigmas—will prove that some things are just beyond our grasp, and will prove to be refreshing. So if you’re a seasoned traveler who thinks you’ve seen them all, think again as you look at this list of the strangest places in the world.
Blood Falls in Antartica
South of New Zealand is Victoria Land, where the 35-mile long Taylor Glacier’s white face is marred with what looks like blood stains. Rest assured, however, that this is not actual blood but a result of a community of sulfur-eating bacteria, which stays underneath the glacier in underground lakes. Their iron-oxide excretions are the color of red, and these dye the ice, creating an illusion of a waterfall of blood. What seem to complete the sordid picture are the corpses of lost penguins and seals scattered in the area, which never decompose. To see this, get a cabin in the final voyage of Kapitan Khlebnikov, a Russian icebreaker which will spend ten days in that region, during October of next year.
Las Pozas in Mexico
This surreal sculpture gardens was created by Edward James, a Scottish poet, trust-funder, and a great fan of the surrealist artist Salvador Dali. It is located in the rainforests of Xilitla—north of Mexico City. Building it in 1949, he kept adding to this wondrous architecture with staircases that lead nowhere, turrets that are off-kilter, and atriums with open sides, until he died in 1984. His own home was a mock Gothic castle that he shared with hundreds of birds, forty dogs, and a boa constrictor. You can visit Xilitla between April and July, for perfect warm weather. His home has also been turned into a budget hotel called La Posada el Castillo.
Eye of the Sahara in Mauritania
In the town of Ouadane is a thirty-mile-wide series of concentric rings, which remind you of crop circles. Unlike their famous counterparts though, we know how these circles came about—the natural erosion of the upwelling of the sedimentary rock has created a rippled pond. It’s not quite easy to travel to Mauritania, as the roads are bad and banditry abound. It is also not easy to see the shape at ground level, so in order to have a great view of the place, hop inside a charter flight from Morocco. The Eye of the
Sahara can be seen from space.
The Boneyard in Arizona
When fighter jets die, where do they go? Where else but Boneyard, Arizona. It’s a dirt lot near Tucson, around three thousand retired military aircraft’s final resting place. These aircrafts range from really old (harvested for parts) to still working (a little polishing will make them fly again).
Aficionados will enjoy the one hour tour organized by Pima Air and Space Museum. Where else can you find B-52 bombers? Make sure to reserve weeks ahead, as plenty of people visit.
Socotra Archipelago in Yemen
A the junction of the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean is the Socotra Archipelago, a place that has enjoyed its relative isolation since breaking away from Gondwana a hundred million years ago. This has let Mother Nature evolve in different ways. The UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to interesting flora—trees with blood-red sap, some with smelly, poisonous cucumbers, others that are bottle-shaped—nearly two hundred exotic birds, and seven hundred unique plants and animals found only in this archipelago. And to top it all off, the local language called Socotri, spoken by some 40,000 people living there, is as unique as the species found there.
Door to Hell in Turkmenistan
Geologists who were drilling in the Karakum Desert in 1971 were surprised to find a cavern that’s 300-feet wide, which was filled with natural gas. When they decided that burning the methane was better than letting it seep into the village nearby, they lit it, expecting a fire burning for weeks. But what really surprised them was that forty years later, the fire is still burning brightly. At night, the bright flames seem to be a picture of hell, hence its local name. Organized by Intrepid Travel, get to camp in yurts with the seminomadic indigenous tribes and listen to their stories. You are advised to bring gas masks, as the sulfuric smells can be quite overpowering.
Mount Sanqingshan National Park in China
Tired of visiting the usual mountains? Trek over to Mount Sanqingshan for a different, other-worldly experience. The 56, 700-acre Park is home to several “floating” mountains. Nearly a hundred of them give off the impression that they are floating, as their bases disappear into thick mists. This beautiful view is often capped with a rainbow that accentuates its wondrousness. While you’re there, tour the Sanqing Temple, a Taoist complex that is 1, 600-year old and filled with beautiful pagodas, gardens, and stone carvings.
Originally planned as a drilling platform in the Caspian Sea, this thirty-mile strip of road has incorporated houses, schools, libraries, shops, and other structures, expanding into a hundred and twenty four miles of streets, creating a town with five thousand inhabitants. This industrial city above the sea—“Oil Rocks” as it is more popularly known, even has its own cinema! If you want to see this but don’t have the time for the three-and-a-half-hour ferry from Baku, just buy a copy of the film, “The World is Not Enough” and see James Bond’s battle in a replica of this city above the sea.
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