10 places you’d think are on another planet

Where lakes are orange, and land is yellow – it’s earth, but not as you know it.
By Alison Mann

Earth is beautiful, no denying it. But when earth happens to make you feel like you could well be on another planet, it reaches another level. From a crystal-filled cave to a salty red river, these places will make you think you’ve left Earth’s atmosphere… or the whole solar system entirely.

More: 10 magical forests to send your imagination wild

Walking with crystal giants

Naica Mine, Chihuahua, Mexico is a working mine full of selenite crystals
Naica Mine is full of crystals © Carsten Peter/Speleoresearch & F/Getty Images

Where: Cave of Crystals, Mexico

Could the centre of another planet look like this extraordinary cave in Mexico? The glittering Cueva de los Cristales, or the Cave of Crystals, was found by drilling nearly 1000ft below ground in the working Naica mine.

Space-age mountains

Sulfur fumaroles of Lastarria volcano at the Atacama Desert
Another planet, Lastarria volcano, Atacama desert © Gerhard Hüdepohl/atacamaphoto.com

Where: Lastarria Volcano, Atacama Desert, South America

The Lastarria Volcano on the Atacama Desert allows these yellow, sulphur fumaroles to develop. The steaming hills could be the landscape of an inhospitable alien planet – if they weren’t in South America.

Space lake

The Emerald Lakes are found on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in Tongariro National Park, New Zealand
Emerald Lake has an other-worldly colour © Dave Bouskill/theplanetd.com

Where: Emerald Lakes, New Zealand

OK, so the Curiosity Rover didn’t find such a glorious body of water on its travels to Mars. But we can dream that this neon blue lake could be lying on some planet far, far away can’t we? Of course, it exists on earth. Where? The magical-looking Emerald Lakes can be found in New Zealand.

The country that could be another planet

Kerlingarfjoll, Iceland looks like another planet due to the volcanic activity there
Kerlingarfjoll, Iceland could be another planet © Aaron Huang

Where: Kerlingafjoll, Iceland

Iceland. It’s a country still undergoing incredible amounts of volcanic activity which means the whole place is full of scenes that could belong on another planet. These sulphur spewing folds of mountain can be found at Kerlingarfjoll. Countless movies have been filmed in Iceland, including the Alien prequel Prometheus.

A view from space

The Richat Structure in the Sahara Desert seen from space
The Richat Structure in the Sahara Desert © NASA/GSFC/MITI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

Where: Richat Structure, Mauritania

A marking from take-off of a huge spacecraft? Or an impact crater from a meteorite hitting some far off planet? Nope, it’s the Richat Strucutre in Mauritania as seen from space. Astronauts use the circular land feature in the Sahara desert as a landmark when on their missions.

The pink river

This is a colorful river delta in saline Lake Natron, Rift Valley, Tanzania
An eerie looking Tanzanian river © Michael Fay/National Geographic/Aurora Photos

Where: Lake Natron, Tanzania

This shocking pink lake could perfectly host some space explorers running from whatever nasty creature they found lurking beneath. Lake Natron in Tanzania is such a colour because of its composition of salt and soda. The lake has a pH of 10.5 which is pretty nasty if you’re not used to it. It has a preservative nature, meaning animals that die there look like they have turned to stone!

Riding the wave

The Wave, Arizona an area of fantastic eroded sandstone featuring beautiful swirls, wild colors, countless striations, and bizarre shapes
The Wave, Arizona © Phillip Colla/oceanlight.com

Where: The Wave, Arizona, USA

It could host a scene from Star Wars, space pods racing overhead. This sandstone rock formation is called The Wave and can be found in the USA. It is located near the Arizona-Utah border, on the slopes of the Coyote Buttes.

Volcanic scene

Geyserites in many colours are formed by different minerals in the hyperthermal waters at Dallol Volcano, Ethiopia
Reds, yellows, greens... © Olivier Grunewald

Where: Danakil Depression, Ethiopia

It’s sci-fi perfection, but is actually found in the Danakil Depression in Ethiopia. It’s bursting with hydrothermal activity – with water literally boiling out of the ground. The Dallol Volcano causes this activity, and the astounding landscapes that result.

Glowing lake

Waiotapu, New Zealand is home to a colourful volcanic spring
Martain lake? Waiotapu, New Zealand © Dave Bouskill/theplanetd.com

Where: Wai-O-Tapu, New Zealand

Wai-O-Tapu certainly looks otherworldly with its bright orange water. Found in New Zealand, this body of water has also been created through geothermal activity. The area features lots of interesting thermal anomalies, all pretty space age.

Salt pans

The salt pans of the Namibian desert give it an other-worldly look
The salt pans of the Namibian desert © Mariusz Kluzniak/Getty Images

Where: Salt pans, Namibia

The salt pans on the Namibian desert could be situated on another planet. It could certainly host space travellers trekking across some unknown surface! The pans can be found in the Etosha National Park.

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