10 out-of-this-world places
The salt flats of Bolivia. (Photo: Laumerle / Dreamstime.com)
Rivers that run red. Blinding white landscapes. Cliffs that wave in swirls of orange. No, those aren't works of science fiction. They are wonders of nature that will leave you shaking your head and wondering just how that is possible.
The best part? You won't need a spaceship to get there. We've outlined exactly how you can get there—which in most cases is surprisingly easy.
Salt Flats, Bolivia
The name says it all. This blindingly white landscape in central Bolivia really is salt. Also known as Salar de Uyuni, the area is said to have been created about 30,000 years ago when Lago Minchin dried up, leaving the salt behind.
Today, 10 billion tons remain spread across around 4,000 square miles, where it cracks in naturally occurring hexagonal designs. Go during the rainy season (January to March) and the thin layer of water spread over the flats creates the illusion of a never-ending mirror.
The Chocolate Hills, The Philippines
(Photo: Olga Khoroshunova / Dreamstime.com)
Local lore has it that the mounds on the Philippine island of Bohol were formed from the tears of a giant who fell in love with a local girl. The scientific reason behind the formation of the limestone hills is likely far less romantic (though geologists have not been able to reach a conclusion on the hills' origin). Alas, this is not a Willy Wonka paradise. The name comes from the brown color of the mounds in the winter. If you go in the summer, they will be a vibrant green. Either way, the more than 1,200 conical hills, which vary between around 100 and almost 40 feet high, are a site to behold.
Rio Tinto, Spain
(Photo: Luis Estallo / Dreamstime.com)
Rio Tinto literally translates to Red River, and it is not a misnomer. The 62-mile-long river does run red and the banks look downright lunar as well. The cause? A combination of rare bacteria, a low oxygen count, and pollution from mining for gold, silver, and copper—which has been going on since 3,000 B.C. The river and landscape in this area of southwestern Spain are so Martian that NASA scientists have studied the composition.