Buckle up, baby — it’s time to go where few globetrotters have gone before. As any ol' hipster knows, the coolest places to explore are the lesser known ones, and we're inclined to agree. That's why VIVA loves sharing underrated destinations, from Greenland to Montenegro to sunny Samoa. But now we're cranking it up a notch, with eight places that literally don't even look like they belong on this planet (even though you can visit them without a spaceship, promise).
Antelope Canyon, US
A trek beneath the sweeping spiral arches of Antelope Canyon will leave you lost for words, not to mention the right Insta hashtag. This winding passageway located on Navajo land (Native American territory) in Arizona is bathed in warm light that makes the wave-like rock walls surrounding you glow in weird shades of orange, red, and purple. Wander deeper into the Upper Canyon and you’ll find the pools of light look even more magical, if that's possible. A wonderland for photographers, be aware that it's also a place of spiritual significance. Various guided tours are available too, if you like that kinda thing.
A far cry from the dry Arizona desert, this world heritage site promises a seriously extraordinary spa experience. In Turkish, Pamukkale means “cotton castle”, and its white-walled pools are defs as pretty as one. After a dip in Pamukkale’s travertines – azure-coloured mineral spa baths, FYI – explore the Roman ruins of the ancient city of Hierapolis, located where Pamukkale stands now. If you can’t get enough of the water, you can pay to take a swim in the Cleopatra Pool near the Temple of Apollo, which has remained a popular spot since, like, a gazillion years ago when Apollo existed.
Lake Natron, Tanzania
Lake Natron is an insanely gorgeous crimson lake found in Tanzania's northern Arusha region, frequented by equally vibrant flocks of pink flamingos. A slightly creepy but interesting feature of the lake is that some animals that land on it are not adapted to its environment so have calcified (i.e. frozen), so they look like they've turned to stone. If you’re interested in a more daring adventure after you’ve seen the lake, climb Ol Doinyo Lengai, the 'Mountain of God', located beside it. See the dead animals, then climb the mountain of the creator of life. #irony
Dead Vlei, Namibia
This crazy place in Africa's southwest is like a Star Trek film set. Dead Vlei is a flat clay pan in Namib-Naukluft Park, dotted with stark black trees and surrounded by ruby red sand dunes. The landscape, which literally translates as "dead marsh", is veryyy interesting – the dunes are red because they literally rusted over thousands upon thousands of years. You can explore the park on foot or quad bike, but honestly, you're gonna want to take advantage of one of the hot air balloon safaris on offer. Bring water and a fully-charged iPhone – a trip to Dead Vlei through the desert will let you see all sorts of creepy crawlies and random animals, from spiders to ostriches to jackals.
Rainbow Mountains, China
Exploring this epic landscape in Zhangye National Geopark is like walking through a trippy Edvard Munch painting. The mountain range in Gansu (a province in China's north) has become a weird 'n' wacky attraction since it was classed a UNESCO Heritage Site in '09. There's buses with A/C on offer to take you from one park view to another, so make sure to bring good hiking boots for enjoying the ridiculously cool views. Insider's tip: the Rainbow Mountains are best enjoyed in the sunshine right after a rain shower. Unleash your inner kid again and walk on a rainbow.
Socotra Island, Yemen
A trip to Socotra Island may just convince you that there is such a thing as heaven on Earth. Well, a rather alternative one – nothing like a classic Maldives island. Here, you can explore a strange nirvana filled with dragon’s blood trees, white sand dunes, and coral reefs in crystal clear water. Spend time at the beaches, snorkel, take an eco tour, or just adventure on your own. On second thoughts, maybe do the tour – the island is off the coast of Yemen. In case you want to spout some trivia, the island is full of so many weird species because the plants and animals have all become uniquely adapted to the hot, harsh island. Bonus: if you do decide to venture there, be sure to keep an eye out for the goats that are everywhere!
Dallol, an abandoned city located in northern Ethiopia, holds the record for having the highest average annual temperature ever recorded. It's pretty freaky stuff, especially because of the hazardous hot springs you'll see in shades of neon yellow and green. In this merciless place, the only trace of humanity you find might be an old brick building that used to belonged to miners in the region. Make the trip out here worth your while with a four-day tour, which includes volcano hiking, lava lakes and salt mining.
Hardcore hikers will love exploring this mountain range in Iceland's unpopulated interior, full of routes that take you across towering summits, deep canyons, and geothermal dunes, where steam billows hauntingly from the ground. Kerlingarfjöll is like two different planets in the summer and winter, and you can explore either season on foot, by snowmobile or by Super Jeep. If you’re down for an extra memorable trip, book a tour of the mountains that let's you see the Northern Lights too.