Marvel at These 10 Strange and Surreal Mountains

Explore some of the world’s most unusual mountain summits.
The pillars of Zhangjiajie, China
Misty pillars of Zhangjiajie, China © William Yu Photography/Getty Images
By Josh Gale

When we think about notable mountains we often just consider extremes of height, ranking them according to the tallest in the world. That's only part of the story, however. They come in all shapes and sizes, and quite often it's the most unusual that are the more eye-catching and rewarding to visit.

From ice-plastered peaks in Patagonia to striped mountaints in China, we've collected some of the world's more weirdly shaped and oddly decorated mountains — see them in the photos below.

1. Zhangjiajie Pillars, China

If these mysterious quartz-sandstone pillars (pictured above) in China’s Zhangjiajie National Forest Park look familiar, they should. One of the tallest of the 3,000 pillars in the park was previously named the Southern Sky Column but was officially renamed Avatar Hallelujah Mountain in honor of the film "Avatar" — it was the creative inspiration for the floating peaks in the James Cameron film.

 

View of Bali Hai Mountain on Moorea
Mount Mouaroa in French Polynesia © Richard Goerg/Getty Images

2. Mount Mouaroa, Moorea

Moorea in French Polynesia is considered one of the most beautiful islands in the Pacific. At 2,497 feet, Mouaroa isn’t the tallest peak on the volcanic island, but it's probably the most impressive. Good luck getting to the top!

 

View of Danxia Landform, China
Mountain stripes in China © Melinda Chan/Getty Images

3. Rainbow Mountains, China

China’s colorful Rainbow Mountains look like a work of art. Located in Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park, the unusual colors on the mountains are the result of sandstone and minerals being pressed together more than 24 million years ago.

 

A sunset over the imposing Devils Tower, Wyoming
The imposing Devils Tower, Wyoming © Kennan Harvey/Aurora Photos

4. Devils Tower, Wyoming

Located in the Bear Lodge Mountains in Wyoming, Devils Tower is a mere 1,267 feet and was the first declared U.S. National Monument. Its greatest claim to fame is being the setting for the action in the classic Steven Spielberg film "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." It’s been a popular tourist attraction ever since.

 

The unique towers make an interesting sight at Cappadocia, Turkey
Unique towers at Cappadocia, Turkey © Julien Garcia/Getty Images

5. Fairy Chimneys, Turkey

Fancy climbing on top of one of these daddies? If you’re thinking what we’re thinking, then probably not. These chimneys in Turkey’s Cappadocia region are the result of lava flows from volcanic eruptions. A few centuries back, monks living there hollowed some of them out and transformed them into homes. One monk even lived on the top of one.

 

Sunrise over St John’s Peak, Mount Kinabalu, Borneo
St John’s Peak on Mount Kinabalu, Borneo © Nora Carol Photography/Getty Images

6. Mount Kinabalu, Malaysia

The vertical distance between the summit of Mount Kinabalu (13,425 feet) and the lowest contour line circling it on a map earn it the title of 20th most prominent mountain in the world. Located in Malaysia’s Kinabalu National Park on Borneo Island, the mountain and surrounds are the home of the orangutan and one of the most biologically diverse places on Earth.

 

The Bungle Bungle Range in Purnululu National Park, Australia
Bungle Bungle Range, Australia © Cultura RM/Art Wolfe Stock/Getty Images

7. Bungle Bungle Range, Australia

Appearing like giant beehives, these dome-shaped towers in Australia’s Bungle Bungle Range are fragile — climbing them is strictly forbidden.They are located in Purnululu National Park, which has been home to Aboriginal people for more than 20,000 years.

 

A snow mushroom on Cerro Torre’s west ridge, Patagonia
Cerro Torre’s west ridge, Patagonia © Rolando Garibotti/Aurora Photos

8. Cerro Torre, Patagonia

The steepness, remoteness and sheer badass character of 10,262-foot Cerro Torre make it only within the grasp of the world’s top alpinists, climbers like David Lama for example. It requires the highest level of rock and ice climbing skills but the icing on the cake, literally, is saved for last — the summit is a giant mushroom of rime ice formed by Patagonia’s famously strong winds, making it even more difficult to reach.

More: 10 Icebergs That Look Like Works of Art

 

Mount Otemanu on the island of Bora Bora, French Polynesia
The rocky peaks of Mount Otemanu, Bora Bora © Garry Black/Getty Images

9. Mount Otemanu, Bora Bora

The very top of 2,385-foot Mount Otemanu would offer spectacular views of the lagoon and coral reefs surrounding Bora Bora Island. However, the bad news is that climbing to the top is now impossible because the mountain’s brittle volcanic rock is too fragile and dangerous. Spectacular views can still be enjoyed from the mountain’s shoulders, however. Otemanu and its neighbor, Mount Pahia, are the leftovers of an extinct volcano that once existed in the center of the island.

 

The Chocolate Hills of Bohol Island, Philippines
The Chocolate Hills of Bohol Island, Philippines © Per-Andre Hoffmann/Aurora Photos

10. Chocolate Hills, Philippines

There are more than 1,260 chocolate hills spread over an area of about 19 square miles in the Philippines’s Bohol Province. They got their name because the green grass covering them turns chocolate brown during the dry season, giving them appearance of hundreds of chocolate kisses. The highest hill is a mere 394 feet tall.

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