From glowing beaches to rainbow-coloured landscapes, there are places in the world so surreal, they are hard to imagine. With so many of these places in Asia (especially China), that continent might as well be an entirely different planet. But it's not, and you can visit any of the destinations on this list.
Here are 15 of the most surreal destinations in the world:
1. The Glowing Shores of Vaadhoo, Maldives
This bioluminescent beach is something straight out of a fairytale. At night, the waves glow a neon blue because of microorganisms that chemically react to being stressed. Fortunately, the reactions aren't harmful, so yes, you can swim in the water. In fact, all that extra movement just makes them glow brighter.
2. Zhangye Danxia Landform, China
While the most dominant colour is the red of the hilltops, the Zhangye National Geopark has rainbow-coloured layers. The hilly terrain has different viewing platforms with cute names befitting the vibrant views they provide. The geographical wonder is magnificent at sunrise and sunset.
3. Uyuni Salt Flat, Bolivia
Locally called Salar de Uyuni, this is the world’s largest salt flat. Places like this are created after water bodies (e.g., lakes and ponds) evaporate in deserts. They leave behind the salt (and other minerals) that shine white under the sun and, sometimes, a thin reflective surface of water — which makes this place one of their world’s most enormous mirrors. It’s also home to many pink flamingos.
4. Cherry Blossom Avenue, Germany
On the street in Bonn, Cherry Blossom trees line either side of the entire avenue, creating a dreamlike canopy. During the bloom season, you can't even see the sky through the dense cover of the pink leaves. And even if you miss the bloom, you can walk in a sea of fallen pink leaves.
5. Hang Son Doong, Vietnam
The name of this place translates to Mountain River Cave, the world’s largest cave. However, the extraordinary size is not the only wondrous thing about it. It’s big enough to have its own ecosystem and weather, making its clouds inside. (Quite literally a whole nother world.) The cave is also home to the most enormous known stalagmite in the world.
6. Lake Retba, Senegal
This eye-catching lake is also called Lac Rose, which translates to Pink Lake. During the dry season (November to June), it can get even saltier than the Dead Sea. That much salt content attracts bacteria that produce a red pigment to absorb sunlight, making the colour especially vivid. It’s all harmless, though, and you can swim in the lake if you don't mind the taste.
7. Hitachi Seaside Park, Japan
This Japanese public park has a giant Ferris wheel in the middle of a large stretch of land, but that's not even the best part. Here, the flowers steal the spotlight, coming in 170 varieties of tulips that are all the colours of the rainbow. There are also baby blue-eyes and Bassa Scoparia. The peak tourist season is spring and early autumn for the breathtaking blooms.
8. Mount Roraima, South America
Peaking above clouds and providing an incredible view of the undulating green landscape of South America, this mountain top is sometimes referred to as heaven on earth. From Venezuela, you can take a hike up this mountain, but it takes no less than three days.
9. Red Beach, Panjin, China
This gorgeous expanse isn’t actually covered in sand and sea, so there won't be any swimming or sunbathing. Instead, it's a fantastic landscape of the red plant of Suaeda salsa. It's also the world’s most extensive wetland and reed marsh. Before planning your visit, remember that the dominant colour starts as green in spring, turning bright red in autumn.
10. The Enchanted River, The Philippines
The unbelievable blue of these waters has led to a history of legends and poetic appraisal (which is how the river got its name). Fishing is banned here because the locals believe the fish are as sacred as the water and that supernatural beings protect them. Swimming, however, is possible in designated sections, although not in the main pool.
11. The Kawachi Fuji Garden, Japan
This is a private garden with a tunnel draped in 150 types of Wisteria Flowers across 20 different species. Many describe being here as an incredibly tranquil experience, an effect of the array of flowers. The flowers bloom in spring, and there is an annual Wisteria Festival to celebrate.
12. The Door To Hell, Turkmenistan
Darvaza Gas Crater is a desert site that has burned for more than 50 years now. The phenomenon results from a gas extraction gone wrong, but the fantastic spectacle has attracted daring tourists over the past few decades. The president of the country has recently mandated efforts to put out the blaze, but considering a failed attempt in 2010, some are sceptical that they’ll be successful this time — but you might want to plan your visit quickly, just in case.
13. Tianzi Mountain Natural Reserve, China
Besides the surrounding peaks, other main attractions are the Sea of Clouds beneath, the Radiance of the Moonlight at night, Rays of Sunshine during the day and the Snow in winter. This place exists such that no matter when you climb the top of Tianzi mountain, there's an incredible sight waiting for you.
14. Canola Flower Fields, China
The landscape here becomes a golden sea of flowers in spring. While the practical use of the fields is the extraction of cooking oil from the flowers, the golden yellow decorates the whole landscape, attracting sightseers when the flowers are in full bloom.
15. Tunnel of Love, Ukraine
This destination with the same name as the 1980s song is a section of an industrial railway that's actually still in operation. The arches are covered from top to bottom and all around with bright green plants that are as gorgeous as the air is tranquil. However, trains pass only three times a day, so couples like to take walks under the green arches, hence the name.