The world is filled with magical places that can feel so otherworldly they almost seem foreign. Created by nature or happy accident, many of these destinations are difficult to get to, but that’s exactly why they’re so special. They aren’t dream vacations by any means as they’re barely on people’s radars. They’re more than just a pretty Instagram backdrop, they’re a mesmerizing, transformative experience for those that understand that travel isn’t always pretty, but powerful. In short, add these unique destinations to your bucket list.
Joshua Tree National Park – USA
Joshua Tree National Park looks like it jumped right off the pages of a Dr. Seuss novel. The place where the Mojave and Colorado deserts converge, a unique landscape of whimsical twisting trees, cactus forests, hiking trails, and storybook-esque attractions like Skull Rock and the century-old ruins of Key Ranch reside.
Joshua Tree National Park is near Palm Springs, California a desert town with lots to offer. Palm Spring villas are pristine, offering a luxurious retreat where you can soak in hot springs and enjoy a haute culinary scene between adventures.
Plan Your Trip: Where to Stay in Joshua Tree
Pamukkale and Cappadocia – Turkey
Pamukkale is a small town in Turkey and a recognized World Heritage Site. The mineral-rich waters of these natural springs cascade from terrace to terrace, the beautiful turquoise water contrasting with the white stone beneath. Pamukkale is just down the road from Hierapolis, an ancient Roman city that’s over 2000 years old. Hierapolis is home to an ancient theater and wading pool accentuated by sunken columns damaged in an earthquake in days gone by.
If you have more time in Turkey, make the 330-mile trek to Cappadocia, another otherworldly landscape. The night bus takes 10 hours but is well worth it. Cappadocia overlooks a rock valley where hotels are built right into the cliffside (yes, you can sleep in a cave!) and troglodyte homes from thousands of years ago still exist within the walls. Every day, hundreds of hot air balloons drift over the canyon, creating a magical sight unlike any other.
Plan Your Trip: Where to Stay in Pamukkale
Zhangjiajie National Forest – China
The fictional land of Pandora in the movie Avatar created an incredible sense of awe and wonder, presenting itself as the most beautiful place to ever exist. Many scenes were filmed in Zhangjiajie National Forest in China, known for its towering sandstone and quartz columns that reach up to 6200 feet in the air. 98% of the forest is covered in greenery with many species of the trees not found anywhere else on Earth. For the best views, if you dare, head to the cliff-hang walkway and glass skywalk.
Plan Your Trip: Where to Stay in Zhangjiajie
Kromlauer Park – Germany
Kromlauer Park in Gablenz, Germany, is filled with beautiful floral displays of rhododendrons and azaleas. The English style garden boasts an array of water features, the most famous being Rakotzbrücke, better known as the Devil’s Bridge. The thin arch was built in the 1800s to be a half-circle, allowing the calm waters below to create a perfect full circle with its reflection. This precarious form of architecture was believed to be so impossible that the Devil must have created it. The best time to visit is in autumn when the fall foliage is a brilliant shade of gold, red, and orange.
Plan Your Trip: Where to Stay in Gablenz (Chemnitz)
Socotra – Yemen
Socotra is an archipelago in Yemen, scattered over the clear waters of the Indian Ocean. Home to 700 species of trees and animals not found anywhere else on earth, it is often compared to the Galapagos Islands in terms of its biodiversity. One of the most notable features is the Dragon’s Blood Tree, a mushroom-like fixture that emits bright red sap. All of Socotra’s trees grow through infertile rock and sand to create an otherworldly landscape where life persists despite seemingly impossible conditions.
Plan Your Trip: Where to Stay in Yemen
Jasper National Park – Canada
Jasper National Park in the Canadian Rockies is located in the province of Alberta. Some of the incredible sights to see include the Sunwapta Valley, where you can walk the Glacier Skywalk to see everything from almost 1000 feet above. The Maligne Canyon has stone encased waterfalls, while the lake of the same name has glistening seafoam-colored water. Jasper is ideal for those who love the great outdoors. Hike through the trails, camp under the stars, and keep an eye out for wildlife. Take a drive along the world-famous Icefields Parkway and see the rapidly diminishing glaciers up close.
Plan Your Trip: Where to Stay in Jasper
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