10 of the Most Otherworldly Places on Earth

Where lakes are pink and land is yellow — they're here on our planet, but not what you'd expect.
Naica Mine, Chihuahua, Mexico is a working mine full of selenite crystals
Naica Mine is full of crystals © Carsten Peter/Speleoresearch & F/Getty Images
By Alison Mann

Earth is beautiful, there's no denying it. But when the Earth happens to make you feel like you could be standing 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.

Cave of Crystals, Mexico (pictured above)

Could the center of another planet look like this extraordinary cave in Mexico? The glittering Cueva de los Cristales — or the Cave of Crystals — was found after drilling nearly 1,000 feet below ground in the working Naica Mine.

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

Lastarria Volcano, Atacama Desert, South America

The Lastarria Volcano in 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.


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

Emerald Lakes, New Zealand

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 on some planet far, far away, can’t we?


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

Kerlingarfjoll, 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."


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

Richat Structure, Mauritania

Is it a marking from takeoff of a huge spacecraft? Or an impact crater from a meteorite hitting some far-off planet? Nope, it’s the Richat Structure in Mauritania — now thought to be simply a product of erosion — as seen from space. Astronauts use the circular land feature in the Sahara desert as a landmark when on their missions.


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

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 color 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!


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

The Wave, Arizona

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


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

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.


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

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.


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

Salt pans, Namibia

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

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