These images are not photoshopped – there really are places in this world that are so surreal, they seem like alien landscapes or the sets of fantasy movies. From a cave in Mexico with crystals five times the height of a human to a river in Colombia that runs in a rainbow of five acid-bright colors, these 15 places are almost too beautiful and amazing to be real.
Cave of the Crystals, Mexico
This image is not photoshopped, though it seems like it must be. Cave of the Crystals in Mexico is filled with some of the largest crystals ever found. The largest one found to date was an astonishing 39 feet in length, 13 feet in diameter and 55 tons in weight. With the crystals resembling icicles, the cave looks like it would be cold, but actually reaches temperatures up to 136 degrees Fahrenheit. The cave lies on an ancient fault just above an underground magma chamber.
Crooked Forest, Poland
Why are the trees in this Polish forest all bent in the same exact way? Nobody really knows. The grove of trees was planted around 1930, and it is thought that they must have been manipulated in some way, but it’s still a mystery.
From a distance, this waterfall seems to emerge dramatically from a mountain and disappear into the ground. Huldefossen is located near Muskog in Norway.
Wave Rock, Australia
Looking like a wave about to crash onto the shore, Wave Rock is a natural rock formation found near Hyden, Western Australia. This granite wall is an example of what geomorphologists call a ‘flared slope’. It wasn’t made by the hand of man, but it serves a convenient purpose, collecting and funneling rainwater to a storage dam.
Fly Geyser, Nevada
Fly Geyser resembles a sculptural water fountain, sending streams of water shooting into the air on a raised flat platform of rock. Located on the private Fly Ranch in Nevada, the geyser is not entirely natural; it was accidentally created in 1916 during well drilling, when geothermally heated water began escaping to the surface. This caused an accumulation of dissolved minerals, creating the mount upon which the geyser sits.
Thor’s Well, Oregon
Sometimes referred to as the “Pacific Gateway to the Underworld”, Thor’s Well is a huge, churning saltwater fountain powered by the Pacific Ocean. Found at Cook’s Chasm on the central coast of Oregon, Thor’s Well looks like a portal sucking the ocean into some subterranean location. The forces of the water make it extremely dangerous and difficult to photograph. See more photos atEnvironmental Graffiti.
Spotted Lake, British Columbia
For most of the year, Spotted Lake in British Columbia, Canada looks like an average lake. But during the summer, most of the water evaporates, leaving behind circular pools of oddly-colored water. The lake has a high concentration of minerals, including some of the world’s largest quantities of magnesium sulfate, calcium and sodium sulphates. The minerals harden to form natural ‘walkways’ between the pools.
Danxia Landforms in Zhangye, Province of Gansu
China’s Danxia landscape is absolutely out of this world, between strange and amazing rock formations and sky-high cliffs, many of which seem to be painted in stripes of red and orange. The landforms are made of red-colored sandstones and can include shallow and isolated caves.
Cano Cristales, The Five Colors River
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This river in Colombia looks like a rainbow, running with shades of pink, red, yellow, green and blue when the water level is just right. Often called the world’s most beautiful river, Caño Cristales gets its unusual coloring from a variety of algae that flourish within it.
Lake Retba, Senegal
Senegal’s Lake Retba is Pepto-Bismol pink due to high concentrations of Dunallella salina, a type of algae. Very few organisms can survive within its waters. These images are actually a mild example – check out some amazing photos at Amusing Planet.
Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
The basalt columns of Ireland’s Giant’s Causeway are so perfectly geometric, they seem to have been carved and then put in place like a puzzle. The area includes about 40,000 of these interlocking hexagonal columns, which were created as a result of an ancient volcanic eruption. During the eruption, fluid molten basalt formed a lava plateau and cooled rapidly, contracting and fracturing in a similar way to drying mud.
Antelope Canyon, Arizona
The striped, sloping, curving walls of Antelope Canyon in Arizona seem to have come from an artist’s brush. Located on Navajo land, the canyon was formed by erosion of sandstone, primarily from flash flooding. Over time, passageways were created with fluid lines that echo the flow of the water. During the monsoon season, the canyon can still quickly fill with water, and after 11 tourists were killed in 1997, the site is now only accessible through guided tours.
Rotorua, New Zealand
This little city in New Zealand smells like sulfur thanks to its many geothermal areas, including pools of boiling mud, geysers and strangely-colored lakes that get their unusual hues from various minerals.
Mount Roraima, Venezeula, Brazil and Guyana
Bordering three countries, Mount Roraima rises from the landscape in strangely geometric form, looking as if it were carved from the rock. This natural plateau has vast 400-meter-tall cliffs on all sides, making it extremely difficult to climb. Most of the species that grow there are endemic, meaning they aren’t found anywhere else.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
When covered in water, Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni looks like the world’s largest mirror – and when it’s dry, it’s covered in strange crystalline geometric shapes. This is the world’s largest salt flat, located 11,995 feet above sea level. It’s a pool of brine covered by a few meters of salt crust, and contains 50% to 70% of the world’s lithium resources.