6. Badab-e-Surt, Iran
These beautiful travertine terraces in northern Iran are an incredible natural phenomenon that developed over thousands of years. Travertine is a type of limestone formed from the calcium deposit in flowing water, and in this case it’s two hot springs with different mineral properties. The unusual reddish colour of the terraces is down to the high content of iron oxide in one of the springs.
7. The Tianzi mountains, China
Found in the northwest of Hunan Province in China, these staggering limestone pinnacles are covered in lush greenery and often shrouded in mist. A cable car goes as far as Huangshi village and from here there are plenty of trails to take in the breathtaking views of Tianzi (‘son of heaven’); unsurprisingly the inspiration for the floating mountains in the blockbuster movie Avatar.
The animal figures and geometric shapes etched by the ancient Nasca into Peru’s barren Pampa de San José are one of South America’s great mysteries. Visible only from the air or from a metal viewing tower beside the highway, some of the unexplained shapes are up to 200m in length and each one is executed in a single continuous line.
9. The Bermuda Triangle, North Atlantic Ocean
Long shrouded in myth and mystery, the infamous 500,000 square miles also dubbed the Devil’s Triangle is roughly the area between Bermuda, Florida and Puerto Rico. Although the US Coastguard disputes any such area exists, conspiracy theories thrive on stories about unusual magnetic readings and ships, planes and people who have disappeared here without a trace.
10. Socotra Island, Yemen
Separated from mainland Africa more than six million years ago, this remote island looks like the set of a sci-fi film. Socotra’s incredible and unique biodiversity means that there are plants and trees here not found anywhere else in the world – particularly bizarre are the ancient and twisted dragon’s blood tree and the bulbous bottle tree.
11. The Hand in the Desert, Chile
Chilean sculptor Mario Irarrázabal is responsible for this very weird work of art rising out of the sand in the middle of Chile’s Atacama desert, 46 miles south of the city of Antofagasta. Irarrázabal is known for his works associated with human suffering and this huge unnerving sculpture captures a feeling of loneliness, exacerbated by its desolate and secluded location.
Bohol’s 1700-odd conical hills dot the middle of the island; they range in height but are so regular in shape that they could be mistaken for being man-made. However, according to UNESCO they are the uplift of coral deposits and a result of rainwater erosion. The hills only earn their ‘chocolate’ nickname in the dry season when the foliage goes from lush green to brown.
13. Red Beach, Panjin, China
Very cool and very weird, this beach is covered in a type of seaweed called Sueda, which turns bright red in autumn. Thirty kilometres southwest of Panjin, these tidal wetlands are an important nature reserve for migrating birds. Only a small section of the beach is open to the public, but it can be explored via a wooden walkway that stretches out to sea.
14. Plain of Jars, Laos
Shrouded in myth, megalithic stone jars are scattered across Xieng Khouang Province in groups from one to one hundred. A working theory is that the huge cylindrical jars were used in ancient funeral ceremonies, though local legend has it that the jars were used to brew rice wine for giants. In the 1960s Northern Laos was subject to a massive aerial bombardment by the USA and it’s only been relatively recently that some areas have been cleared and declared safe for visitors.
15. Goblin Valley State Park, Utah, USA
No, this is not Mars but an uninhabited valley 216 miles southeast of Salt Lake City in Utah. Soft sandstone has, for many years, been eroded by wind and water to form strange pinnacles or hoodoos that some think resemble goblins. The eerie landscape is only about a mile across and two miles long and it’s well worth exploring the marked trails to get up close to the bizarre formations.
16. Whale Bone Alley, Siberia
A stretch of the northern shore on remote Yttygran Island, 82km off the coast of Alaska, has become a macabre tourist destination. Massive whale jawbones, ribs and vertebrae stand horizontal in the ground forming an eerie alleyway. It’s generally agreed that the site dates back to the fourteenth or fifteenth century, but whether it was a sacred spot for native tribes to meet or simply a gathering place for mass slaughter, no one knows.
17. Glass Beach, California, USA
This glittering sea glass beach in California is a remarkable side effect of years of rubbish being dumped on the beach; it wasn’t until the 1960s that this was stopped and by then the sea was full of everything from electrical appliances to bottles and cans. Over time, the waves broke everything down into colourful pebbles and the beach became a major tourist attraction – now ironically under threat because visitors are taking home the glass.
The deeply creepy catacombs are a network of old quarry tunnels beneath Paris and the final resting place of around six million Parisians. Most are anonymous, skulls and bones taken from the city’s overcrowded graveyards during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; it wasn’t until the authorities realized its potential as a tourist attraction that the bones were arranged in the macabre displays seen today.
19. Fly Geyser, Nevada, USA
This otherworldly geyser is on private land on the edge of Black Rock Desert in Nevada. Created accidentally in 1964 after an energy company drilled down into geothermal waters, today a scalding fountain erupts up to five feet high and the resulting mineral build up means the cone is growing by several inches each year. The brilliant hues of red and green are down to thermophilic algae.
20. Cat Island, Japan
A short ferry ride from Japan’s east coast, Tashirojima has a population of one hundred humans who are vastly outnumbered by their furry friends. Originally the cats were encouraged as the island produced silk and mice are a natural predator of silkworms. Local fishermen regarded them as good luck and the island even has a cat shrine, along with newly built cat shaped cabins for tourists to stay in. It goes without saying that there are no dogs allowed.