27 Surreal Places To Visit Before You Die

1. Zhangye Danxia landform in Gansu, China

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No, you are not wearing some kind of psychedelic, multi-color, kaleidoscope glasses, nor have you take a trip through the wormhole. The Himalayas may have their harrowing heights, the Andes their multi-continent wingspan, but what the Zhangye Danxia landform boasts is nothing short of art. Its palette derived from red sandstone and mineral deposits arriving over 24 million years ago, and that particular tectonic plate shift that yielded the Himalayas - it was also the artist that took Danxia’s palette and painted it into strips, as well as catalyzing its carved out slopes.

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2. The swing at the “End of the World” in Baños, Ecuador

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So they tell you the best way to conquer a fear is to addressit head-on. Heights being one fairly common phobia, there are so many conventionalways to throw oneself in head first and face it: bungee jumping, skydiving,rock climbing, hopping on a swing. “Wait, a swing you say?” Not quite theclimactic option when posed next to each of the preceeding activities. Well,consider this: plop your derriere down on a regular swing, pump back and swoopforward over a wide gaping abyss below. Did we forget to mention the part whereyou lock in some security harness for safety? No. Because there isn’t one.

3. The Great Blue Hole in Belize

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With a photo like this, who need much more enticement to hop on plane and swim out into that big beautiful ocean blue? A UNESCO World HeritageSite and one among Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s dubbed top 10 diving sites in the world, this large submarine sinkhole can be found off the coast of Belize’s Yucatan peninsula. One can visit its clear blue waters teaming with several varietiesof fish, including sharks, and explore its submarine caves via day trips from one of many coastal communities on mainland Belize.

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4. Tulip fields in the Netherlands

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What better way to celebrate the Spring season, a shift away from the cold depths of winter towards the sunny warmth of a looming summer than exploring rows upon rows of the colorful, blooming tulip fields in the Holland region of the Netherlands. South Africa may have the Garden Route, but this European country has the floral route. Take a drive through the 25 mile stretch of dutch flora and allow your senses of sight and smell to be delighted. Don’t forget to make a pitstop at one of the many vendor stalls to pick some up and take home with you!

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5. The Hang Son Doong cave in Quang Binh Province, Vietnam

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A darkly ethereal world inhabited by stalagmites and stalactites, Vietnam’s unworldly Hang Son Doong cave is the largest of its kind in the known world. Literally translating to “mountain river cave,” the Son Doong was created over millions of years worth of water erosion filtrating against the limestone walls inside the mountain, eventually collapsing weak parts of its ceiling and allowing sunlight to penetrate its depths. In order to truly grasp the magnanimity of its size, consider this: it holds a river (of course), a small jungle, and could fit one half-mile stretch of 40-story skyscrapers within its depths.

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6. Hitachi Seaside Park in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki, Japan

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When it comes to a blooming floral season in Japan, it’s the cherry blossoms generally calling out to those tourists hoping to feast their eyes the nation’s natural beauty. Not to take anything away from a dreamy tree line whimsically dusted in soft shades of light pink, but the Hitatchi Seaside Park is worth jotting down on the list of natural highlights to hit on a Japanese tour. Not only is the park dotted with various hues of red, blue,and green, but it's a site yielding something different every season of the year. So if the high season prices that coincide with the peak of Japanese cherry blossoms don’t fit your budget, perhaps a visit to Hitatchi will be consolation enough!

7. Mendenhall Ice Caves of Juneau in Alaska, United States

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Though cruises and trips to Alaska seem slightly catered towards a particular age group, don’t chuck this rugged terrain into your “that’ll be one for retirement” bucket just yet. The largest of the American States has a lot to offer of the outdoor variety, and you might want to consider exploring while you’re still young and limber! Take these ice caves for example. Located inside the Mendenhall Glacier, this frozen underworld is reachable only after a trip in a kayak and a climb atop the glacier itself. Global warming is taking its toll and causing the glacier to rapidly retreat, so time is ticking if you want to explore the ice caves before they disappear altogether.

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8. Mount Roraima in Venezuela, Brazil, and Guyana

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Perhaps the most famous of its tempui brothers, Mount Roraima lies in the Canaima National Park located in Venezuela, along the borders of Brazil and Guyana. About 65% of this, the sixth largest national park in the world, is occupied by tempuis - a name dubbed by the indigenous Penom population to mean “house of gods”. This particular house served as inspiration for the hit animated film, Up. If you’re short on balloons but still want to check out what all the hype is about, you can always hire a guide and porter and set out on your own adventure!

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9. Ancient Cappadocia in Anatolia Region, Turkey

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Like the chateaux of the Loire Valley in France and the ancient temples of Batan in Myanmar, the otherworldly, moonlike landscape of Cappadocia is among the top-rated spots to check a hot air balloon ride off your bucket list. Once back on the ground, you’ll find a host of different sites to see, ranging from painted cave churches to wineries. This land’s history is teaming with pockets worthy of exploration. Did you know records of Cappadocia reference back to well before biblical times?

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10. Sea of Stars on Vaadhoo Island in the Maldives

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The photo says it all, really. What a magical, romantic phenomenon to behold firsthand: the sea of a thousand stars, an ocean reflecting a clear, sparkling night sky. As if one needed any more reason to daydream of a vacation spent lounging along the clear blue waters that brush the warm shores of the islands that make up the Maldives. Is it possible such a place becomes even more fantastical at night? Move this spot up to the top of your bucket list, as global warming threatens to swallow the entire small island nation up whole.

11. Victoria Falls bordering Zimbabwe and Zambia in Africa

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Making another addition of a UNESCO World Heritage site to our list, Victoria Falls is one waterfall fit to give Niagra a run for her money. Its magnanimity allows not merely one, but two African nations to stake its claim to the natural wonder as the Zambezi River cascades over its cliffs and divides Zimbabwe from Zambia. Both countries have designated national parks surrounding the falls, which fuel a tourism industry attracting thousands of visitors every year. Once trekkers reach the main attraction, they can partake in a wide range of activities from helicopter flights to bungee jumping.

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12. Trolltunga in Hordaland, Norway

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First things first: what exactly is trolltunga and why does it look like a trapeze artist is doing an ab workout off of a cliff? Well, trolltunga is the Norwegian translation for troll’s tongue. So you can probably now easily infer that Trolltunga refers to that rock cliff jutting out over the water. As for the crazy person posed horizontally over its edge, he’s a Norwegian extreme artist performing a balancing act. While we wholeheartedly recommend the trek up to this spectacular Pride Rock-like viewpoint, we would suggest you leave the balancing acts to the professionals.

13. Whitehaven Beach at Whitsunday Island in Australia

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With such an expansive variety of beaches to choose from, it’s no wonder Australia would boast such a unique, pristine specimen for us to snatch up and plop on our list. The South Pacific has no shortage of dreamy beach bunny hideaways, but Whitehaven is truly something you won’t see anywhere else. Its windswept pattern sand filled in with crystal clear blue waters looks like a watercolor that could hold its own next to a display of Monet’s Water Lillies. It’s as if Mother Nature herself picked up a paint brush and created a masterpiece for us to enjoy.

14. The Grand Canyon in Arizona, United States

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A trip to the grand canyon will have you feeling like the great explorers of the wild, wild west - back before the land became overrun with casinos, burlesque shows, and an overload of hedonism and debauchery. Smell the fresh air and take in one of nature’s most stunning displays of mountain architecture. To truly catch the Grand Canyon at the peak of its beauty, we suggest you scope out a place to watch the sun cast its shadow over the red cliffs. Pack a picnic, sit back, and enjoy the show.

15. Marble Caves at General Carrera Lake in Patagonia (Argentina and Chile)

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Though that deliciously blue water might resemble the hue we saw earlier at Australia’s Whitehaven Beach, you may want to think twice before plunging into its depths. Straddling two South American countries, Argentina and Chile, Lake General Carrera to the Chileans and Lake Buenos Aires to the Argentinians is located in the Patagonia region (read: COLD). In fact, you’ll be much better prepared for a boat tour of these cave sculptures by packing a scarf and gloves than a swimsuit and sunscreen!

16. Tunnel of Love in Klevan, Ukraine

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It’s as if the Ukrainian trees of Klevan developed a secret pact to form a long collaborative hug along either side of this path, turning what was once simply a beaten track frequented by an industrial train into something beautiful, I daresay poetic. Lovers from near and far gravitate to the romantic tunnel, whispering their hearts’ desire into the crevices of its silent walls. They say that here, a wish uttered here by two lovers is a wish granted. Is it possible this special little corner of the world has been blessed with a bit of magic?

17. Salar De Uyuni in the Potosí and Oruro departments of southwest Bolivia

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The mirror effect reflected in the photo above is no work of some gifted photoshop wizard. Here, in the southwestern pocket of Bolivia is the home of the world’s largest salt flat, the Salar de Uyuni. This white expanse of salted plain becomes a surreal, other worldly landscape when rainfall turns the land into a mirror of the sky. Blurring the lines between where the earth ends and the sky begins, here visitors can snap truly mind-bending, ethereal photographs.

18. Enchanted Well at Chapada Diamantina in Bahia, Brazil

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If you plan to make a wish at this particular enchanted well at some point in your life, you may want to begin the planning process now. In the interest of preservation, access to this delicate ecosystem remains highly controlled. Even through a photo one can understand the desire to preserve its beauty. Though its depths reach 120 feet, the water’s clarity and transparency allow for visibility of hidden rocks and ancient tree trunks lurking at the bottom. The water is so blue, in fact, that the right angle from the sun peaking through a rooftop crevice creates a vibrant blue reflection on the water's surface.

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19. Antelope Canyon in Arizona, United States

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If there weren’t pictures of ordinary people posing within the curving, twisted, colorful walls of this canyon, one could hardly believe this to be a real place one could actually visit on Earth. Worthy of Star Trek-level sci-fi landscape, a visit to this Arizonian canyon will have you imagining what a world could look like in other dimensions or galaxies out there in theuniverse. This is one place you might be glad has become a tourist destination- a solo trip deep into this canyon would perhaps be a bit too eery for comfort.

20. Fingal’s Cave on the island of Staffa in Scotland

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Something about this photo screams Ariel’s grotto, but with a slighter darker twist than the Disney version - perhaps ala Grimm Brothers? Or maybe it's a site more befitting of the cave Harry Potter and Dumbledore journey to in a hunt for another of Voldemort’s dark magic sealed horcruxes. If you’re not following the drift, worry not. There is no record of this mystical cave inspiring either of these stories. It does, however, boast quite the extensive resume in regards to creative inspiration, musing the works of poets, musicians, and authors alike. Take a trip here and allow your mental juices to stew beneath its mystical walls.

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21. To Sua Ocean Trench in the Lotofaga village on the south coast of Upolu, Samoa

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It is truly mind-blowing how many fantastical works of nature exist in the actual, tangible, real world here on Earth. Here we give you just another example of such hidden gems: the Sua Ocean Trench in southern Samoa. Sua is the Samoan word for “big hole”. Well, guess they’ve summed it up quite well then. Take the plunge and leap into the 30 meter deep pool waiting for you at the bottom of this sua. Think the jump is all that’s waiting to antagonize your fear of heights? Don’t forget that wee, short ladder awaiting your climb out. YIKES.

22. Bamboo groves of Arashiyama in Kyoto, Japan

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A stroll through these groves will leave you perplexed as to whether you’ve stumbled across an enchanted forest, or somehow taken a wrong turn in life and ended up in the playgrounds of Panda heaven. Don’t tell me you didn’t picture what a hundred fat, happy pandas would look like if they happened upon these grounds. I know you were thinking it too. Unfortunately,you may have to hit Kyoto in the off-season to experience Arashiyama’s groves as deserted as they are depicted in this photo.

23. Glowworm Caves in Waitomo, New Zealand

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We’ve shown you the starry waters of a nighttime beach in the Maldives, and here we present you the glittering roof to Waitomo’s caves in New Zealand. Impressive as the above photo is, we implore you to shoot the title into a google image search and you will be truly awestruck - all before you even behold the site with your own two eyes! The light emitted by these little creatures reflect off the cave’s pools wading below. A boat ride through these magical waters will leave you humming the tune “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. . . let it shine, let it shine, let it SHINE!”

24. Haiku Stairs of Oahu in Hawaii, United States

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I think we may have left Imagination Station on the literary inspiration express; have you sensed the theme here? Here we have arrived at the HAIKU stairs. Explore all the beauty Hawaii has to offer from a view worthy of poetic creation. Also known as the Stairway to Heaven Hike, this path will take you into the clouds for a view non-translatable to film. Strap on your tennis shoes and some workout clothes, but don’t forget to load your backpack with a camera and journal because. . . well, duh.

25. Volcanoes of Kamchatka in Russia

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While volcanoes always pack a bit of a wow factor, the truth is they exist all over the world. So what’s so special about the volcanic region of Kamchatka? Consider the fact that this a volcanic region, rather than simply one volcano. The UNESCO World Heritage site is home to over 300 of different varieties, 29 of which are still active - therefore creating thermal and mineral springs, geysers, and other phenomena associated with such activity. Its juxtaposition to glaciers and sea afford the region a lush, diverse landscape home to a wide variety of wildlife.

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26. Cenotes of Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico

The word cenote refers to a pit or sinkhole such as the one pictured above: the result of a collapse in limestone rock that exposes a natural pool of water hidden beneath its ceiling. Though hidden, natural swimming pools such as this exist all over the world, those found in this particular region of Mexico have interesting historical significance to ancient Mayan civilizations. Archaeological research has discovered such sinkholes provided a stable water source for small villages, and even functioned as a centerpiece for religious ceremonies - including those performing human sacrifices!

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27. Kelimutu crater lakes in Flores Island, Indonesia

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At first glance one might believe these lakes, though a beautiful specimen of Mother Nature’s work, are much like the other crater lakes one might come across elsewhere throughout the world. However, the standout quality of Kelimutu’s version is the significant variance in the ever-changing color of the lakes' waters, as well as the unpredictability of such change. Local legend suggests the lakes serve as the spiritual resting place of their ancestors, and as for their tendency to change color? They believe theshifts correspond with the restless moods of those spirits lying there. How’s that for eery?

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