Unearthy – 6 getaways from planet Earth

As you travel the world, patterns start to evolve. Impressions repeat. Are duplicated. Generalized. And somehow the great mountains, canyons, and lakes, eventually become common experiences. But same places are different. So different they reminiscent few or no other places on earth. These unearthy environments constitute the most unique places you can visit and will mentally send you off to another planet.

1 Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia. After rain, the Uyuni Salt Flats transforms to the largest mirror in the world. But it’s the dry parts of the Bolivian desert that will give you the feeling of being on a different planet. Take a walk on the white shining salt flats, surrounded by a 360 degrees horizon, and get a surrealistic experience found at few other places on planet Earth.

2 Atacama Desert, Chile. The martian landscapes of the Atacama Desert is the closest you will ever get to Mars. Used by NASA for future space mission training, the red soil of Valle de la Marte mirror the landscapes of the red planet. Not surprisingly, the area is one of the driest on earth with some parts not having rain for over 400 years.

3 Darvaza, Turkmenistan. The burning gas crater in the heart of Turkmenistan is probably the most unique place you will ever encounter. A 70 meter wide opening into the Karakum Desert, referred to as the Gate to Hell, so hot you can’t approach it on a windy day. Accidentally set on fire in 1971, the Darvaza Gas Crater was believed to burn out in a couple of days. Today, 50 years later, it’s still burning.

4 Waiotapu, New Zealand. A boiling hell-broth of green, yellow, and orange, surrounded by hot springs, geysers, and bubbling mud pools. The geothermal area of Rotorua might be a bit touristy, but it’s a different experience for sure. Meaning “sacred water” in old Maori language, the colourful hot springs of New Zealand are as mythical as they are fascinating.

5 Reynisfjara, Iceland. The black beach of Reynisfjara is not the most far-fetched destination you will find, but it is a unique one. What sets it apart from its competitors in Hawaii, Japan, and Indonesia, is the strange nature of Iceland. A shore of pitch black sand, surrounded by a basalt stacks cave and black magma rocks shooting out of the ocean.

6 Mount Etna, Italy. As one of the most active volcanoes in the world, Mount Etna is a hazardous place. It’s also one of few places where you can walk from crater to crater on smoking hot ground. Literally speaking. Trail up the pitch black lava stones and warm your hands in the hot air steaming up from the ground beneath you.

Written by Erik Ekberger. Photography: Erik Ekberger

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