The most surreal places on Earth aren’t just spell-bindingly beautiful, but possess the power to transport you into a fantastical reality. Here, Phoebe Lowndes picks 14 of the world's most awe-inspiring destinations. You have to see these places to believe them.
This small desert city in
Eleanor Roosevelt famously exclaimed "Poor Niagara" upon laying eyes on Iguazú Falls, and it would be hard to disagree. Dare to lean even a tiny bit over the rail on the jutting viewing platform at the heart of the Falls, known as ‘the Devil’s throat’, and you will be rewarded with a surreal and breathtaking rush. As water surges underfoot, the sensation of being swept away (although safely stationed) is nerve-tingling. The sound is roaring and intense; it shakes you to your very core.
Sunrise on this crystalline plane
Journey underground into the depths of the Škocjan caves and you'll discover a natural spectacle straight out of fantasy fiction. As you venture along undulating pathways lit by low lamps and explore large rock chambers, you might boggle at the caves' extraordinary likeness to the cavernous lair of J.R.R Tolkien’s demon Balrog. Cross a bridge straddling the largest underground canyon in the world, and dare to stare into its seemingly endless abyss. The surreal beauty of these caves is underscored by their significance as a site of rare natural history.
These striking natural hot springs at first glance look like icy pools, but the mineral rich thermal waters of Pamukkale are
Approximately six million people lay interred in the depths of the Parisian catacombs. Their remains were brought here from overcrowded cemeteries during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and stacked up the walls to create a grisly display. A surreal "attraction" to say the least, this crypt-come-tourist-site is certainly not for the squeamish, but morbid fascination draws plenty of curious visitors.
Swimming with pigs in the Bahamas is one of the most surreal travel experiences out there. Forget mud and troughs of slop, the unlikely residents of this uninhabited island of pure white sand and glassy water love nothing more than basking with visitors in the shallows. Whoever coined the phrase "happy as a pig in muck" was sorely misinformed. There’s nothing more to be said other than: remember snacks – these greedy little piggies love a treat.
Embark on a pilgrimage to the shining
For adventure on an epic scale, journey to Tsingy. The joint effect of horizontal and vertical erosion has formed geological ‘forests’ of limestone here in the northwest of Madagascar. Giant rifts on these rock needle edifices create exclusive ecosystems, with each peak, niche and slope providing an environment for rare and unique species. It's somewhat off the beaten track, but worth the effort to get here, especially to be one of the few tourists that do.
Chiselled into a mountainside, grazing the heel of
Come spring, Japan is a country beset by excitement that can only be described as blossom fever. Before the first bud blooms, the nation turns to ‘blossom officials’ who scrupulously monitor the trees and forecast the date when these much anticipated flowers finally burst into life. Shops are swamped with blossom-related products and customary hanami picnics are enjoyed by all, thrown specifically for the purpose of admiring the exquisite clouds of pink.
An atmospheric phenomenon occurs over Lake Maracaibo every evening for 300 days of the year. In
The colour blue carries connotations of peace, calm and serenity. So it is hardly surprising that the beautiful town of Chefchaouen, awash with shades of sapphire, is an escape from the frenetic heat and energy of typical Moroccan cities. Surrounded by the rugged Rif mountains, this world of narrow streets and archetypal doorways provides a surreal and alluring escape.
The largest snow and ice festival in the world is just as surreal as you might expect. Life-sized buildings, built from blocks of ice taken straight from the Songhua River, are chiseled to perfection and lit in fantastic displays of bright neon. Visitors can climb the steps of full-scale ice palaces, wander the battlements of glacial castles and ogle replica landmarks, built in frosty facsimile. We recommend hailing a flashing horse and carriage to whisk you around this curious wonderland of kitsch.