July 2nd is World UFO Day. This is our "Holiday of the Month" and we're celebrating by encouraging you to explore our home planet. You'd be surprised by how many destinations on Earth look like they should be extraterrestrial! Here are a few of our favorite sites that could double as an alien planet.
Photo accredited to Thrifty Nomads
1. Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni
Like a mirror for the sky, these salt flats in Bolivia are one of the largest in the world. The attraction was once a giant prehistoric saltwater lake; over time it dehydrated to become what many people call “The Place Where Heaven meets Earth”. The famed reflection can only be seen after the rain, which is why its best to visit this destination during the wet season of January - April. You can spend several days touring through this area, as there is more to see besides the glass-like illusion such as flamingos, volcanos, and more out-of-this-world sights.
Photo accredited to Flickr/Travel Directors
2. Turkmenistan’s “Door to Hell”
This crazy looking location was created on accident. Officially called the Darvaza gas crater, this fiery hole was opened up when the ground under a Soviet drilling rig gave away and this natural gas pit was released. The story goes that scientists tried to burn off the noxious gasses but underestimated the size of the reserves in the Tuzmenistan area. Several decades later, this crater can be seen burning from miles away. Professional Stormchaser George Kourounis ventured into the crater in 2013, backed by National Geographic and Kensington Tours to collect samples from the bottom. Surprisingly, life in the form of microbes was found living and thriving at the bottom of this inferno. Plan a visit to Turkmenistan to see this accidental wonder and the UNESCO world heritage sites that this country is home to, such as the Parthian Fortresses Of Nisa.
Photo accredited to Mammoth Mountain Reservations
3. California’s Lake Mono
If you’re located in the states and are understandably not able to travel internationally due to COVID-19, but still want to experience a bit of otherworldly magic here on Earth, head to Lake Mono. The lake is dotted with clusters of “tufa towers”. These are made of calcium carbonate and are created when fresh-water springs fizzle through the waters of the lake and react with its alkaline properties. The lake itself is a fun destination as well; the high salinity level in the water makes you buoyant if you choose to get in it, and its salty content also makes it a great home for shrimp - which make great food for seabirds - and a prime viewing point for birdwatchers!
Photo accredited to Malcolm Raggett/Bios Urn
4. Namibia’s Deadvlei
Neutral color enthusiasts unite! This area is a claypan (an area where there is a higher content of clay in the ground than soil), and the white ground, burnt orange sand dunes, and dark brown remains of the approximately 900-year-old camel thorn trees. These trees have not decomposed due to the climate in this area, making their appearance on the otherwise barren beige and red earth striking. There are so many other attractions within the Sossusvlei area where Deadvlei is located, such as canyons, remote towns to tour through, and diverse desert wildlife.
Photo accredited to Waitomo Glowworm Caves
5. New Zeland’s Waitomo Glowworm Caves
This ancient network of caves is home to a species of glowworm that is native to New Zeland. The caves were created over 30 million years ago and provide a front-row seat to the country’s natural beauty and a backdrop for the worm’s natural luminosity that is out of this world. Water flows through the floors of the cavernous web, appearing dark and deep from the lack of light, but providing a perfect surface for the glowworms to reflect off of, making it seem as if you are surrounded in their light. The caves are only about a two-hour road trip away from Aukland, making it a great excursion request for your Aukland itinerary.