Earth’s Most Out of This World Lanscapes | Space travel for the lucky few going on the maiden voyage of Sir Richard Bransonâ€™s Virgin Galactic isnâ€™t too far away but for the rest of us mortals we can satisfy that dream and not even leave our own planet. I have recently been on a six month expedition flying back and forth to find such places and on my adventures (in no particular order except Lanzarote because that was the last place I visited) travelling to strange and out-of-this-world lands right here on planet Earth.
Salar deÂ Uyuni,Â Bolivia
Youâ€™d think that once youâ€™ve seen a salt flat, that youâ€™ve essentially seen them all right? Nope. The Salar de Uyuni is the largest and shiniestâ€¦and I mean shiny like youâ€™re standing on a giant mirror. The plain not only serves as a main transport route over the Altiplano but is a breeding ground for a number of pink flamingo species.
It may be the driest place on earth but with the oasis town of San Pedro, you donâ€™t have to worry about getting lost in this lunar landscape. The distant volcanoes and dunes crowd the auburn horizon. The entire region is filled with history and opportunities for exploration, especially in the pre-Columbian ruins or the Miscanti and MiÃ±iques lagoons.
Nubra Valley,Â Ladakh,Â India
Some people say that â€œitâ€™s the journey and not the destinationâ€â€¦I disagree because of the Nubra Valley because the travel to it takes you via Khardung-La pass and you get an awesome view of the Himalayas (look out for the abominable snowman, you might get lucky and spot â€˜em). No image can do the valley justice because you canâ€™t capture the first-hand experience, no matter how many selfies or panorama pics you take. Everything is crystal clear from the raging rivers between the mountains to the cobalt blue sky above you.
The valley isnâ€™t the only attraction (although very little can compare), there are also monasteries nearby. We visited Diskit and Hundur Gompa the Buddhist monastery, which has beautiful statues and frescos. We then took a walk up to the Lachung Temple before descending down to our waiting camels to take us on a short trip back to our camp.
The lava fields in MÃ½vatn and its â€œsolfatarasâ€ (steaming gas) with bubbling mud pools are indeed very strange landscapes that certainly made me feel like I wasnâ€™t on Earth anymore. It had no real wildlife but it is striking in its lack of noise other than the slow hiss and bursts of gas and smoke.
Lac AbbÃ©,Â Djibouti
During my investigations and research, I had never come across this small country on the East coast of the African continent. The Lac AbbÃ© is a salt lake that lies midway between Ethiopia and Djibouti (Did you know this was even a country?) and is interconnected with six other lakes in the region. Whatâ€™s amazing is the actually feeling of being on the salt plains and sitting in the lake. Thereâ€™s an ethereal calm with these smoking chimney bursts around you.
Lanzarote,Â Canary Islands
On the last and longest leg of my tour before returning home to Kent, I visited the moonscape that is the Spanish island of Lanzarote. I had already spent a great deal of my budget on accommodation and recreation, so I made sure to check for any cheap Lanzarote flights going to the Island and then booking a return ticket (not immediately, because I wanted to spend some time here and island hop a bit).
Out of all the Canary Islands, this is the most unique of them all. It has a mix of what youâ€™d expect from a tropical island, like beautiful sandy beaches (and I have to iterate â€˜sandâ€™ because Iâ€™ve been to beaches that are covered in shards of shells, which gives your feet a free exfoliation but isnâ€™t pleasant) and these volcanic landscapes that look as though they donâ€™t belong on the island. Although Lanzarote has the same volcanic origin as the rest of the surrounding islands, it definitely makes itself more known here.
The local people who live in the volcanic regions have learnt to live around the craters by planting vineyards between them and cultivating large plantations of veggies and fruit in the fertile soils. Some parts of the island definitely live up to its reputation as being a â€˜moonscapeâ€™ and sentiently colourful waters such as the luminescently green waters in the El Golfo Crater or Lago Verde (Green Lake) I was sorry to leave the area as soon as I did but I had the whole of the Canary Islands to explore and be adorned by the sun by the turquoise clear waters before jumping on a Thomas Cook flight back home to grey and dreary Kent.
So thereâ€™s no need to be beamed up by Scotty when you can fly to anyone of these wonderful destinations (and many others) that can give you a glimpse of what a distant alien planet may look like. What do you think about these transcendental landscapes? Whereâ€™s the strangest places youâ€™ve visited?