Spectacular places to see before you die

Sep 15, 2016 | World

Plato, the great Greek philosopher, once said that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Yet, there are some things whose beauty is beyond doubt and nature exemplifies this in many ways. While humans continue to break the barriers of imagination, nature’s beauty goes way beyond our imagination. It has a way of surprising and dazzling us in numerous ways. Here we look at 10 of the most fascinating places on Earth that’ll amaze you and are a treat for all travel and photography enthusiasts. So, where are you going today?

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“The poetry of Earth is never dead.”

John Keats

Zhangye Danxia, China

Zhangye Danxia is a colorful landform located in China. Covering an area of 510 sq. km, it became a national geopark in 2011. The unusual colors of the rocks are the result of deposits of sandstone and other minerals that occurred over 24 million years. Wind, rain and time have sculpted some extraordinary shapes including pillars and ravines with varying colors and patterns. It is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat at 10,582 sq. km. It is located in south-west Bolivia near the crest of the Andes. The Salar, formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes, is covered by a few meters of salt crust and contains 50-70% of the world’s lithium reserves. Its large area and exceptional flatness is also useful to calibrate the altimeters of Earth observation satellites.

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Antelope Canyon, Arizona (US)

Antelope Canyon in Arizona was formed by erosion of Navajo Sandstone primarily due to flash flooding. During monsoon season, rainwater containing sand rushes into the narrow passageways with speed causing the passageways to erode over time. This erosion made the corridors deeper and smoothed hard edges, resulting in the characteristic ‘flowing’ shapes in the rock.

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Mamanuca Islands, Fiji

Mamanuca Islands in Fiji are a volcanic archipelago consisting of 20 islands, 7 of which are covered by the Pacific Ocean during high tide. These beautiful islands offer crystal clear waters, palm-fringed sandy beaches and live coral reefs. One of the islands, Monuriki, was the main location for the movie Cast Away (2000).

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Mendenhall Caves, Alaska

Mendenhall Caves are ice caves located in the 12-mile-long Mendenhall glacier in Alaska. Words such as “surreal” and “otherworldly” have been used to describe the caves, were water runs over rocks under blue ceilings. However, the glacier is receding increasingly fast, receding almost 2 miles since 1958, while previously it had receded only 0.5 miles since 1500.

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Lake Hillier, Australia

Lake Hillier is a saline lake in Australia, particularly notable for its pink color. A long and thin shore separates the lake from the Antarctic Ocean. The high salt content levels of the lake are comparable to those of the Dead Sea (it’s safe for swimming though!).  The only living organisms in Lake Hillier are microorganisms, which cause the salt content in the lake to create a red dye, thereby giving the lake its color.

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Great Blue Hole, Belize

Great Blue Hole in Belize is a giant submarine sinkhole about 70km from the mainland. The circular hole is 300m across and 124m deep. It is a part of the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The submerged caves here contain some very impressive stalactites. It was ranked number 1 by Discovery Channel in 2012 on its list of “The 10 Most Amazing Places on Earth”.

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Chocolate hills, Philippines

Chocolate hills in Philippines form a rolling terrain of cone-shaped hills that are almost symmetrical. Estimated to be between 1268 to 1776 in number, they are actually made of grass-covered limestone. During the dry season, the grass-covered hills dry up and turn chocolate brown, lending them the name Chocolate hills.

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Blood Falls, Antarctica

Blood Falls in Antarctica is an iron oxide-tainted plume of saltwater, flowing from the tongue of Taylor Glacier. The iron oxides lend it the blood-red color. It has a rare ecosystem of bacteria that metabolizes sulfate and ferric ions, a metabolic process that has not been observed anywhere else on Earth.

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Socotra Island, Yemen

Socotra Island in Yemen is considered the jewel of biodiversity in the Arabian Sea. There are nearly 700 endemic species here that are found nowhere else on Earth (only Hawaii, New Caledonia, and the Galápagos Islands have more!). One of its most striking plants is the dragon’s blood tree (Dracaena cinnabari), which is a strange-looking, umbrella-shaped tree. The island was recognized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a world natural heritage site in July 2008.

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