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Meteora | © Sergey Novikov / Shutterstock
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The 17 Most Surreal Destinations On Earth

Picture of Naomi Clear-Vekinis
Director of Community
Updated: 11 April 2018
From locations reminiscent of fairytale settings to those where nature exudes its own magic, the following destinations will inspire, stun and leave you yearning to explore.

Southern Iceland

Waterfalls, waterfalls, waterfalls. Iceland has been on nature lovers’ radars for the past few years, becoming a popular bucket list destination. But outside of the Blue Lagoon and picturesque setting of Reykjavik, there’s some serious beauty to take in. Seljalandsfoss, Haifoss and Gullfoss are, simply put, stunning waterfalls to admire and photograph, and you’ll find it hard to believe they’re real.

Seljalandsfoss | © Diego Delso/WikiCommons
Seljalandsfoss | © Diego Delso/WikiCommons
Haifoss | © Moyan Brenn/Flickr
Haifoss | © Moyan Brenn/Flickr
Gullfoss | © Moyan Brenn/Flickr
Gullfoss | © Moyan Brenn/Flickr

Neuschwanstein Castle, Germany

While an increasingly popular place to visit, with 1.4 million people flocking to the castle each year, Neuschwanstein has been open to the public since 1886. It was commissioned and paid for by King Ludwig II of Bavaria out of his own pocket to become one of his main personal retreats. Situated in a beautiful setting, this incredible palace is a destination for anyone in search of a fairytale come to life.

Neuschwanstein Castle | © Marco Cortese/Flickr
Neuschwanstein Castle | © Marco Cortese/Flickr
Neuschwanstein | © Lilen23/Pixabay
Neuschwanstein | © Lilen23 / Pixabay

Vágar Island, Faroe Islands

Home to the Faroe Islands’ only airport, Vágar Island is one of 18 islands comprising this Atlantic archipelago. With a population of just over 3000, Vágar is equally peaceful as it breathtaking. Despite its size, the island has 41 mountains, four major lakes and three major waterfalls, making it a fantastic and unique place to explore.

The village Gásadalur on Vágar, Faroe Islands | © Stefan Wisselink/Flickr
The village Gásadalur on Vágar, Faroe Islands | © Stefan Wisselink/Flickr

Cappadocia, Turkey

Located in Central Anatolia, Cappadocia is Turkey’s picture-perfect destination laden with ‘fairy chimney’ rock formations to mesmerize any visitor. The region has incredible historical significance, with the Göreme Open Air Museum showcasing 30 carved rock churches and chapels, some with frescoes dating back to the 9th century. Cappadocia has also become famous for offering hot air balloon rides to see the area from a rather special vantage point.

Cappadocia | © amlicht/Pixabay
Cappadocia | © amlicht/Pixabay

Hallerbos, Belgium (Bluebell Forest)

Everyone’s favorite bluebell forest comes alive each year for a few weeks in the spring, although the dates vary depending on the weather. Normally, visitors can expect to see the forest at its vibrant peak in the latter two weeks of April when locals abound with tripods to capture the purple flower carpet in all its glory. What’s more, it’s only a quick 30-minute drive from Brussels to Hallerbos, so a pretty convenient magical destination at that.

Hallerbos | © Naomi Clear-Vekinis
Hallerbos | © Naomi Clear-Vekinis
Hallerbos | © Maxim Mayorov/Shutterstock
Hallerbos | © Maxim Mayorov/Shutterstock

Saint Basil’s Cathedral, Russia

Russia’s very own Magic Kingdom, you’d nearly expect to be greeted by Cinderella upon entering St. Basil’s Cathedral on Moscow’s Red Square. Probably the city’s number one tourist hot spot, and for good reason, it’s still hard to believe that this exceptionally beautiful building has been standing since the mid-16th century. St. Basil’s is unlike any other building in Russia and is certainly one to marvel at.

Saint Basil's Cathedral | © Alligator48/Pixabay
Saint Basil’s Cathedral | © Alligator48/Pixabay

Meteora, Greece

Host to a vast complex of monasteries set on, and within, ancient rock formations, Meteora is undoubtedly one of Greece’s most spectacular destinations. Originally settled between the 14th and 19th centuries, 24 monasteries formed part of this Eastern Orthodox religious site, of which six remain today. Meteora is second only to Mount Athos as Greece’s most significant religious site.

Meteora | © Javier Vieras/Flickr
Meteora | © Javier Vieras/Flickr

Glenorchy, New Zealand

A small settlement that has played host to huge film sets, Glenorchy most notably featured in Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of The Ring, and for good reason. The surrounding scenery is undeniably beautiful, with Lake Wakatipu providing the most pristine yet colourful backdrop. You’ve never seen so many shades of blue and turquoise.

Grand Prismatic Spring, Wyoming, USA

The largest hot spring in the USA and the third largest in the world, Grand Prismatic Spring is a sight to be reckoned with. Appearing from afar as a gigantic sliced crystal, this geothermal spring is situated in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. The vibrant colours are a result of pigmented archea in the biofilm of the spring’s mineral-rich water, making this natural site really remarkable.

Grand Prismatic Spring | © Jim Trodel/Flickr
Grand Prismatic Spring | © Jim Trodel/Flickr
Grand Prismatic Spring | © Clément Bardot/WikiCommons
Grand Prismatic Spring | © Clément Bardot/WikiCommons

Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

Located in Pahang state, the Cameron Highlands is one of Malaysia’s largest hill stations and is primarily known for its sprawling tea estates. Tea plantations cover the area and the landscape provides views similar to those of rice field plateaus in other parts of the world. Layer upon layer of Camellia sinensis, or tea shrubs, line the Cameron Highlands hills and the vivid green shades are unmatched anywhere else.

Cameron Highlands | © Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/WikiCommons
Cameron Highlands | © Bjørn Christian Tørrissen/WikiCommons

The Wave, Arizona, USA

Northern Arizona plays host to this wondrous rock formation which provides lucky photographers and hikers alike with the perfect subject to explore, should they be able to. In addition to being difficult to reach (a 3 mile hike one way from the nearest trailhead), only 20 permits per day are granted to prospective visitors. Ten of these permits are offered through an online lottery four months in advance of the month in which a person hopes to visit. The other ten are offered through another lottery the day before a person’s intended visit at the nearby Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Visitor Center in Kanab, Utah. It’s basically a once in a lifetime destination, if that.

The Wave | © John Fowler/Flickr
The Wave | © John Fowler/Flickr

Antelope Canyon, Arizona, USA

Only 54 miles from the Wave, Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon located in northern Arizona on Navajo land. Popular with experienced photographers, Antelope Canyon includes two separate slot canyon sections which are equally photogenic. Access to the area is granted only through organised tours authorised by the Navajo Nation, but it’s well worth the money spent to join one.

Antelope Canyon | © Moyan Brenn/Flickr
Antelope Canyon | © Moyan Brenn/Flickr

Paro Taktsang Bhutan (Tiger’s Nest Monastery), Bhutan

Paro Taktsang, also known as Taktsang Palphug Monastery and Tiger’s Nest Monastery, is a Buddhist temple which sits on the side of a cliff in the Paro Valley of Bhutan. Originally constructed in the late 17th century, the monastery was all but destroyed in a 1998 fire. Its restoration, funded by the Government of Bhutan, was completed in 2005. Known for its remote location, visitors must walk 2-3 hours from the nearest parking lot to reach this exceptional site.

Tiger's Nest (Paro Taktsang) | © Nagarjun Kandukuru/Flickr
Tiger’s Nest (Paro Taktsang) | © Nagarjun Kandukuru/Flickr

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park, Hunan Province, China

If your first thought is Avatar, we’re right there with you. The Zhanghjiajie National Forest Park was the first to be recognized as a national park in China in the 1980s. Famous for its pillar rock formations and abundant flora, the park has featured in many ancient Chinese paintings. It is located within northern Hunan Province in the Wulingyuan Scenic Area. The rock formations were actually used as inspiration for the mountain setting in Avatar which led to the Southern Sky Column, one of the park’s main pillars, being renamed ‘Avatar Hallelujah Mountain’ in 2010.

Zhangjiajie National Forest Park | © cncs/WikiCommons
Zhangjiajie National Forest Park | © cncs/WikiCommons
Zhangjiajie Cable Car | © John Philip/Flickr
Zhangjiajie Cable Car | © John Philip/Flickr

Leshan Giant Buddha, Sichan Province, China

The Leshan Giant Buddha statue is an incredible feat of human construction, located near Leshan in the south of Sichuan Province. Commissioned in 713, it took 90 years and thousands of workers to complete the project, making it the largest stone carved Buddha in the world at the time, and to this day. Equally fragile and intricate, the statue is the subject of constant maintenance work under the supervision of UNESCO experts. Interestingly, there are over 1000 buns in the Buddha’s hair. You’ve need to see it to believe it.

Leshan Giant Buddha | © Ariel Steiner/WikiCommons
Leshan Giant Buddha | © Ariel Steiner/WikiCommons

Marble Caves, Patagonia

General Carrera Lake, also known as Lake Buenos Aires, is home to stunning geological formations. The Marble Caves, comprising the Marble Cathedral and Marble Chapel, are located in the centre of this glacial lake, situated in Patagonia on the Chile-Argentina border. The Marble Caves are only accessible by boat, for obvious reasons, and a local tour company operates a thirty minute tour for visitors. The result of waves washing up against calcium carbonate for more than 6000 years, the reflective blue swirls on the cavern walls make this a sight to behold.

Marble Cathedral | © Javier Vieras/Flickr
Marble Cathedral | © Javier Vieras/Flickr

Door to Hell, Turkmenistan

The Door to Hell, the ominous but widely known name of the Derweze Crater, is a natural gas crater that formed when a natural gas field collapsed into an underground cave in 1971. It was set on fire to prevent the spread of methane from a cavity the size of an American Football field. A relatively popular tourist destination in Turkmenistan, the crater is located near Derweze village in the Karakum Desert. It was actually expected to burn out within a few weeks of being set on fire but continues to breathe fire to this day…

Door to Hell | © Tormod Sandtorv/WikiCommons
Door to Hell | © Tormod Sandtorv/WikiCommons