15 Surreal Landscapes You Won’t Believe Exist!

May 27, 2024

surreal landscapes

Our Earth is an amazing canvas, almost beyond description. And Instagram has tantalized, enchanted, and inspired many to seek out unique destinations. From mysterious sinkholes to mammoth trees, bizarre stone formations, and mesmerizing beaches, jaw-dropping and surreal landscapes cover the globe.

Here are our picks for our 13 favorite surreal landscapes.

15 Baird Glacier


baird glacier

Like most glaciers, Baird Glacier is not easy to get to. After reaching by boat, we had to hike quite a ways to get to the glacier. Surviving the first part was tricky.  The rocky path is strewn with slippery boulders of every size, from baseballs to toaster ovens and larger, with sharp, frozen raindrops biting your face and fog obscuring your view. It’s worth the effort though, because finally, the view in the soft sand across the lake to the glaciers is nothing short of otherworldly. You literally feel like you’re on another planet.

Baird may not be the biggest or most majestic glacier in the world, but what makes it stand out from other glaciers is the juxtaposition of the bright pink flowers against the ice formations. I don’t know how the bright pink flowering plants can survive, but they make for exquisite photography.

Click here to read 15 Reasons to Take a Small Ship Cruise to Alaska. The Last is Life-Changing.

Click here to read Baranof Island: Alaska’s Adventure Destination

Click here to read Responsible Wild Bear Viewing in Alaska

14 Giant Redwoods


california redwoods

Redwood trees are some of the oldest and most massive tree species in the world. Many of these giants grow to be over 200 feet tall with some of the tallest soaring to over 350 feet.

Don’t miss the awe-inspiring 32-mile drive through Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt Park (4 hours north of San Francisco). Many of the redwoods are more than 2,000 years old. Looking up, you can’t help but be astonished.

Some places to see the giant redwoods in California include Redwoods National Park,  Humboldt Redwoods State Park, Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park, and Muir Woods National Monument.

Click here to read Northern California Road Trip.

13 The Quiraing



The Quiraing (Scottish Gaelic: Cuith-Raing) is a landscape on the Meall na Suiramach, the northernmost summit of the Trotternish ridge on the beautiful Isle of Skye, Scotland. It appears as a craterous hollow surrounded by towering craggy rocks covered in a lush carpet of green.

If you are up for a hike, the Quiraing walk is a 4.25 mile look which takes about two hours without stops.

If you don’t want to hike (and the sometimes harsh weather might dictate this) the expansive sight from the viewpoint is spectacular – thought by many to be the prettiest views on the Isle of Sky.

The Quiraing is part of the Beyond the Tartan Tour offered by Scotland Folk Tours.

12 Plitvice Lakes


surreal landscapes

Located within Croatia’s largest national park, Plitvice Lakes is one of the world’s most beautiful destinations.16 terraced, shimmering emerald green lakes are surrounded by lush rainforest, waterfalls, tunnels, and a limestone canyon.

Boardwalks and hiking trails wind and crisscross the UNESCO World Heritage site, providing easy access to visitors of many physical levels.

Click here to read Island Hopping in Croatia.

Click here to read Dubrovnik Game of Thrones Sites.

11 Miradouro da Boca do Inferno

The Azores

surreal landscapes

Translating to English as “The Mouth of Hell,” Miradouro da Boca do Inferno, is one of the most photographed places in the Azores. Located on the island of Sao Miguel, after a short and scenic hike, you’ll be treated to an utterly unforgettable 360° view of three crater lakes – Lagoa de Santiago in the crater of Sete Cidades, Lagoa, Lagoa Verde, and Lagoa Azul.

Click here to read 13 Reasons to Visit the Azores.

Click here to read Sao Miguel Road Trip.

Click here to read Best Things to Do in Tereira, Azores.

10 Wadi Rum


wadi rum

Known as “The Valley of the Moon” Wadi Rum – Jordan is a protected desert wilderness located in the Rift Valley in the southern part of the country. Dramatic sandstone mountains, high red dunes, strange-shaped rock formations, natural arches sandstone cliffs, and gorges make it one of the best places to visit in Jordan.

One of the world’s most beautiful deserts, Wadi Rum is so vast you seldom meet up with anyone else while exploring. Deserts remain one of the most fascinating places to explore, and Wadi Rum is one of the best.

Some things to do in Wadi Rum include a jeep tour, sunrise by camel, sunset lookout point, and staying in a Bedouin camp.

Click here for Best Things to Do in Wadi Rum.

Click here for 10 Spectacular Places in Jordan You Must See in Jordan Once in Your Life

Click here for What to Wear in Jordan (and still look cute!)

Click here for What to Eat in Jordan

9 Halong Bay


surreal landscapes

Does Halong Bay even need an introduction?  Located in northeast Vietnam, this iconic UNESCO Heritage Site is known for its dreamy landscape of shimmering emerald waters and more than 1600 rugged karst limestone islands rising up in the natural bay and topped by rainforests. The landscape is simply surreal.

Known as the “Bay of Descending Dragons,” Ha Long Bay was officially recognized as one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature in 2011 and enjoys popularity on many, many travelers’ bucket lists and is one of the most beautiful places in Vietnam.

Embarking on an overnight cruise through the emerald waters on a traditional Chinese junk is an experience like no other. Sunsets over the bay are glorious and the fog climbing up from the still emerald water creates an ethereal element to this natural beauty. Some even claim this seascape is the most beautiful in the world.

Must-do activities include trekking through mythical caves, visiting floating fish farms, and exploring the cliffs, lagoons, and grottos by kayak.

As a further incentive, Vietnam is one of the 10 Cheapest Countries to Travel to in 2024.

Click here for Most Beautiful Places in Vietnam for 1st Time Visitors

8 Rice Terraces


bali rice terraces

Rice has been the staple of the people in Asia for centuries. The paddies are cultivated on flat terraces that zig-zag up the sides of hilly slopes creating beautiful and mysterious landscapes that look more like art than food planting.

Dating back thousands of years, the original farmers used stone and mud to carve out the walls with the water supply from rain, streams, and rivers.

You can find rice terraces in Asia in places like Bali, the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Japan, and Nepal.

Click here to read Where to Go in Bali. #8 is a Hoot. #12 is Insane!

7 Phang Nga Bay


surreal landscapes

The body of water between Krabi and Phuket is called Phang Nga Bay, and it is one of the most breathtaking destinations in all of Thailand. Many compare it to Vietnam’s famous Halong Bay (see #10 above).

Over 100 towering limestone karst “islands” jut precariously out of the jewel-green bay casting a surreal – almost otherworldly – vista. Khao Ping Gan is the most famous of these craggy outcroppings because it provided the backdrop for the James Bond iconic film Man with the Golden Gun.

Most visitors to Phang Nga Bay opt for boat tours so that they can see as many of these rugged craggy formations as possible, but sea kayaking is also a fun way to discover the bay. You’ll want a local guide to escort your canoe through the mysterious waters laden with hongs (sea caves) pristine wildlife mangroves, and unspoiled rivers. Along the way, you can stop to take a dip in the warm waters of a deserted lagoon, interact with wild monkeys at the edge of the formations, and weave in and out of the caves and chambers – some of which can only be entered at low tide, and even then you’ll have to lie flat in your kayak inching your through.

Things to do include trekking, rafting, rock climbing, snorkeling, and fishing.

Click here for 10 Best Things to Do in South Thailand.

Click here for 20 Things to Do in Phuket for Couples.

6 Cenotes


mexican cenotes

Scattered throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, cenotes are underwater sinkholes which the Mayans considered to be sacred places. They are found in areas that are rich in limestone, creating incredible swimming holes filled with fresh water.

Each cenote has its own unique character… some are completely underground caves that have stalagmites and stalactites; some are open-air grottoes through which sunlight streams creating a surreal landscape; others are simply giant holes in large water bodies, some of which are deep and dangerous.

There are a variety of cenotes scattered throughout the Yucatán; Just to name a few, at Cuzamá you can visit three cenotes located on the same property; Cenote Suytun, the Instagram sensation, has a stone platform jutting out into the middle of the cenote underneath a hole where sunlight streams through; Cenote Ik Kil (near Chichen Itza ruins) is a very deep, but open-top cylindrical cenote with hanging vines cascading into the water.

As a further incentive, Mexico is one of the 10 Cheapest Countries to Travel to in 2024.

Click here to read How to Do a Road Trip in the Yucatan.

5 Whitehaven Beach


surreal landscapes

Part of the world-renowned Great Barrier Reef, pristine Whitehaven Beach is consistently named one of the most spectacular beaches on Earth. An otherworldly fusion of shimmering turquoise water and blinding white silica sand, seeing Whitehaven Beach from the air is an experience you’ll never forget.

Click here to read Discover Queensland, Australia.

4 Meteora


surreal landscapes

Perched on the peaks of towering limestone pillars formed millions of years ago, the monasteries of Meteora view is hauntingly enchanting.

Constructed during the Middle Ages, Meteora is a marvel of human creativity. The Greek word meteora means “suspended in the air,” and this phrase aptly describes the otherworldly Meteora view.

Originally there were 24 uniquely different Byzantine monasteries; today only six remain, inhabited by 60 monks and nuns, and are living museums housing fascinating historical relics. The Meteora complex is included on the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Click here for Best Places to Visit in Greece.

3 Anse Source d’Argent


surreal landscapes

Arguably the most beautiful beach in the world and the most photographic beach according to National Geographic., Anse Source d’Argent is magical. The shallow water here is surreal – variegated light turquoise and pale emerald-colored water that is crystal-clear as to be almost translucent. In fact, at low tide, it’s so clear that the rock formations below give the illusion of a coral reef.

A jungle path led us to this dazzling white sand beach, framed by massive pieces of granite protruding into the sky, which also provide a shady respite from the blazing sun. The ethereal vibe made me feel like I was on another planet.

On a cruise through the Indian Ocean on the Costa Victoria, we visited the Seychelles’ best beaches, along with the stunning beaches of MauritiusReunion, and Nosy Iranja (Madagascar).

Click here to read Seychelles Best Beaches and Activities.

Click here to read 10 Best Things to Do in Mahe.

2 Ta Prong


surreal landscapes

Dubbed “the Tomb Raider temple” because it provided a surreal backdrop for the 2001 movie “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, root-entwined Ta Prohm is arguably the most mystical ruins in Cambodia’s magnificent Angkor Wat complex.

Constructed in 1186, the Ta Prohm Buddhist temple was once home to more than 12,500 people, including 18 high priests and 615 dancers.

After the fall of the Khmer Empire in the 15th century, this temple was abandoned for centuries and nature has run wild over the ancient carved masonry transforming the site into the magical and mystical ruins it is today.

While most people might consider Angkor Wat to be the best landmark in Cambodia, for me, Ta Prohm is the most photogenic with temple ruins overgrown with trees. The centuries-long abandoned and neglected temple is pretty much in the same condition as it was initially found: with the roots of the trees growing through the structures which are crumbling under the weight.

The fact that Ta Prohm’s ancient ruins are not as well-maintained as the other Angkor monuments is a plus for me and many others, and I hope remain in the current condition (although the roots do appear to be swallowing and pulling the structures down).

As a further incentive, Cambodia is one of the 10 Cheapest Countries to Travel to in 2024.

Click here to read 10 Landmarks in Cambodia You Can’t Miss!

1 Cappadocia


surreal landscapes

I’ve traveled extensively all over the world and Cappadocia ranks #1 as the most magical place on earth!

Cappadocia is a semi-arid region in central Turkiye famous for its unique “fairy chimneys” – surreal cone-shaped rock formations, created million years ago by volcanic eruptions and erosion. These bizarre structures are clustered in Monks Valley, Love Valley, Göreme, Uchisar, and elsewhere. Uchisar Castle and Goreme Open Air Museum contain Bronze Age homes carved into valley walls by troglodytes (cave dwellers) and later used as refuges by early Christians seeking to avoid persecution.

Somewhere between 3 and 9 million years ago, Mt. Erciyes erupted, depositing ash, basalt, and lava across the landscape which hardened to become “tuff” (volcanic ash solidified into a soft rock). Tectonic movement and erosion also contributed to the odd-looking hoodoos that exist today.

Around 4000 B.C., locals discovered they could hew the rock and use the structures as houses and churches. Today, some of the fairy chimneys have been converted into boutique hotels.

Click here to read Best Things to See in Cappadocia.

Click here to read How to Spend Three Days in Istanbul.

Click here to read How to Visit Ephesus.

Click here to read Alanya Beaches & Attractions.

Click here to read Famous Turkish Food to Try.

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About the Author

Patti MorrowPatti Morrow is a freelance travel writer and founder of the award-winning international blog Luggage and Lipstick and the southern travel blog Gone to Carolinas. TripAdvisor called her one of the “20 Baby Boomer Travel Bloggers Having More Fun Than Millennials” and she was named one of the “Top 35 Travel Blogs” in the world.

She is also the star of the upcoming TV series “Destination Takeover” which is scheduled to premiere in the next few months.

Patti is the author of the book “Girls Go Solo: Tips for Women Traveling Alone,” and has over 150 bylines in 40 print and online publications, including The Huffington Post, International Living Magazine, Washington Post Sunday Travel, Travel Girl, Travel Play Live Magazine, and Ladies Home Journal. She has traveled extensively through six continents looking for fabulous destinations, exotic beaches, and adventure activities for her Baby Boomer tribe.

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