How to find amazing destinations around the world

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.

 

1. Marfa, Texas

This small desert city in America’s Southwest is gathering notoriety for championing contemporary art and culture. In this unlikely location, you’ll find historic architecture juxtaposed with minimalist sculpture in a vast expanse of arid desert. Tales of paranormal phenomena are also rife, with UFO sightings and unexplained incidences of eerie lights – known worldwide as the ‘Marfa Lights’ – witnessed with surprising regularity to this day. Marfa is charming, mythical and altogether unmissable.

2. The ‘Devil’s throat’, Iguazú Falls, Argentina

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.

3. The Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Sunrise on this crystalline plane is surreal to the point of supernatural. Once a prehistoric lake, it is now dried to a desert-like landscape of flat, white and endless salt. The salt crust stretches as far as the eye can see without a single blip or spot, save for the odd vehicle ferrying passengers and a cacti-covered island named Isla Incahuasi. The sense of space and expanse is enthralling. Couple this with the altitude and you’ll be left even more breathless than you imagined.

4. Škocjan Caves, Slovenia

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.

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5. Pamukkale, Turkey

These striking natural hot springs at first glance look like icy pools, but the mineral rich thermal waters of Pamukkale are the perfect temperature for bathing. Terraced travertine basins form natural swimming baths, but there are also blindingly white mineral forests and petrified waterfalls to discover here. Plus the site of an ancient Roman and Byzantine city named Hierapolis, testament that people have been soaking in these therapeutic waters for thousands of years; one of the pools even boasts an ancient submerged column.