13 Otherworldly Landscapes

These are the vistas: Rocks and sand twisted into curious shapes; mist hanging low over lakes and seas. These photos capture the mysteries of place. And these places are waiting for you.

Highlights
Lake Tekapo 7999, New Zealand
Lake Tekapo is one of those places in New Zealand that is instantly recognizable but few know its name. Bright blue with clear water surrounded by pink and purple lupines in the summer, it’s the perfect background for these blooming flowers. A perfect holiday destination, there are heaps of treks, walks, and lake activities to participate in while visiting. There are even scenic flights over the lake that show the surrounding mountains.
Sun Moon Lake National Scenic Area, Nantou County, Taiwan
Sun Moon Lake is Taiwan‘s largest fresh water lake. When I lived in Nantou County, central Taiwan, I would often ride my scooter to Sun Moon Lake for a bit of fresh air and reflection. One day I drove to the lake and traveled up a hill to the Ci-en Pagoda. Parking my bike, I climbed to the top of the pagoda and gazed out at the misty lake, which seemed magical in that moment. Many legends surround Sun Moon Lake, including the one which says the lake was once inhabited by two dragons. These dragons used the sun and moon as toys, causing the world to fall into darkness. Eventually a young couple came and defeated the dragons, brining light back into the world. Sun Moon Lake is one of the most peaceful places I’ve ever visited.
Oljato-Monument Valley, UT 84536, USA
Nuzzled up against the Arizona border about 100 miles west of Four Corners are some 30 square miles of the most iconic scenery in the American West. Monument Valley is one of those places that you’ll recognize as soon as you see it, even if you’ve never been there before, as dozens of movies, TV shows, and even video games have used the area as a setting. It’s made up of mesas both small and large reaching up from the valley floor, some rising as high as 1,000 feet into the sky. Part of the Navajo Reservation, the area charges a $20-per-vehicle entrance fee to drive the dirt-road loop. Once in, however, you can also enjoy a number of hikes, or hire a guide for a horseback tour.
253, Taiwan, New Taipei City, Shimen District, 下員坑路33之6號
Located in the Guanyinshuan National Scenic Area in New Taipei, Taiwan‘s Yehlio Geopark showcases an otherworldly landscape that is not to be missed. It is the only place in the world where you can see the geological features present in this park, like mushroom rocks, sea-eroded troughs, and honeycombed formations that make you feel like you’re walking through a Salvador Dali painting. Make sure to also explore the nearby markets, which offer free samples of local foods.
Nordurljosavegur 9, 240 Grindavík, Iceland
Iceland’s largest and most famous geothermal spa lies around an hour outside Reykjavik, quite close to Keflavik Airport. With a dramatic setting amidst large black lava boulders, the steam-filled, creamy-blue pool area is a striking and surreal sight. The Blue Lagoon has been open since the 1980s and today draws some 700,000 visitors a year. The pools are actually created by heated seawater that flows from the adjacent geothermal power station. The waters allegedly cure all manner of skin-related ailments (eczema, psoriasis), but whether these claims are true or not, it’s certainly an atmospheric place to unwind, with very comfortable (99 degrees Fahrenheit) temperatures. The complex includes a small bar that dispenses healthy juices and beer, as well as a spa area for massages andbeauty treatments, and a very good restaurant; there’s also an upscale hotel if you wish to stay overnight.
Aydinli Mah., Yavuz Sok. No:1, 50180 Göreme Belediyesi/Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir, Turkey
When you travel to the Cappadocia region of Turkey you have to stay in a cave hotel. Sleeping in a room carved out of the area’s ‘fairy chimney’ rock formations is inherently cool. When you realize that your room is also literally cool—even in the midday heat—you suddenly have a better understanding of the clever ways people managed to live in a challenging environment for centuries. The hotel’s best feature might be the terrace, where you relax on pillows and eat a Turkish breakfast of apricots and yogurt as you watch dozens of hot air balloons rise from the valley below. From $76. This appeared in the August/September 2014 issue.
Easter Island, Valparaíso, Chile
Easter Island is a strange, remote, and magical place. After a full day of wandering around this tiny island, we were fortunate enough to witness an absolutely breathtaking sunset over the Pacific. The “beach” here is made up of pitch black volcanic stone. I found it to be utterly fascinating.
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