The top 5 extra-terrestrial landscapes

Rough Guides Editors

written by
Rough Guides Editors

updated 06.05.2024

Things aren’t always as they seem and although you may feel like you’ve stepped onto the set of a sci-fi movie, these extra-terrestrial looking landscapes are set firmly on our planet. Feel like you’ve been transported to a whole new world in these five striking, stunning and perhaps even a little bit spooky landscapes.

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Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia


The salt mounds at Salar de Uyuni © Peky/Shutterstock

Some 3650m above sea level in the remote Andes of southwest Bolivia, the Salar is the largest salt flat in the world, a brilliantly white and perfectly flat desert that stretches over 10,000 square kilometres. In some places the salt is over 120m deep, saturated with water, its thick surface crust patterned with strange polygons of raised salt crystals that add to the unearthly feel. When dry, the salt shines with such intensity you'll find yourself reaching down to check it's not ice or snow. And after a heavy rainfall the Salar transforms into an immense mirror.

Chocolate Hills, Philippines


© Adwo/Shutterstock

The surreal Chocolate Hills are known throughout the Philippines; named so because during the dry season the scrub vegetation that covers them is roasted brown, and, with a short stretch of the imagination they really do resemble endless rows of chocolate drops. They look and feel like something from a prehistoric world - but blink again, they are really there. Some geologists believe that these unique forty-metre mounds - there are said to be 1,268 of them if you count - were formed from deposits of coral and limestone sculpted by centuries of erosion. Most locals, however, will tell you that the hills are the calcified tears of a giant, whose heart was broken by the death of a mortal lover.

Tsingy's bread-knife forest, Madagascar


© mikluha_maklai/Shutterstock

Serrated limestone rock formations, sharp as bread-knives, cut up through the landscape of western Madagascar, creating baroque grottos and pinnacles. Dry and seemingly unhospitable, they are home to extraordinary wildlife. Even fat boababs manage to grab hold in this alien environment. But extraordinary beauty is also found in the detail: miniature red ants and tiny jewelled orchids dazzle against jagged bone-coloured stone.

Valley of the Moon, Chile


© Jiann/Shutterstock

Enveloped in silence, you ride across the Atacama in Chile with a stunning panorama for a backdrop - flat arid fields punctuated by jagged age-old boulders, give way to red crested dunes and valleys layered in a thin orange and white crust, its easy to see why NASA chose here to field test their Martian rover. When dawn breaks, the sky springs to life in fiery hues, from blood red to burnt amber.

Sci-Fi plants of Mount Kenya, Kenya

On day three of the Naro Moru trail in Kenya, once you've overcome the slightly daunting 'vertical bog' the wonders of alpine Africa's otherwordly flora, seemingly designed by some 1950's science-fiction writer, are all around you. When you first see them, it's hard to believe the 'water-holding cabbage' or 'ostrich-plume plant'. This is the land of giant shrubs and weeds: the giant lobelia found only on Mount Kenya is perhaps the only plant in the world that could fairly be described as cuddly.

Start planning your trip to Kenya with our Kenya itineraries, and our guide to the best time to visit Kenya will help you choose the season to fully enjoy Kenya's terrestrial scenery.

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