Jan 30, 2011 5:14:11 AM
Fly me to the moon: Planet Earth’s best unearthly landscapes
How’s this for a space oddity? Forty years have passed since the historic Apollo moon landing, and yet the prospect of space tourism remains as distant as ever. Just as well, then, that getting that out-of-this-world feeling without leaving the planet is easier to do than a Vulcan salute!
So all you cosmic cadets, moonwalkers and astral travellers out there – prepare for lift off, as we take you to some of our favourite outer-space hotspots here on earth.
Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon), Chile
Buzz Aldrin could have been talking about Chile’s Valle de la Luna when he described the moon’s ‘magnificent desolation’. Strange lunar landforms eroded by eons of wild weather crowd the horizon; bleak dunes and distant volcanoes amp up the surreality. For maximum impact, visit at sunset, when the valley is bathed in an unearthly purple, pink and gold glow…
Dotted with dramatic steaming fumaroles, bubbling mudpots, weird rock formations and lava fields, Iceland is a sci-film waiting to happen. The starkly beautiful and gloriously strange landscapes around Mývatn will make you question what planet you’re on.
Mars is closer than you think! Canyonlands and Arches National Parks in southeastern Utah give the Red Planet a run for its intergalactic money with their rugged arches, bridges, needles, spires, craters, mesas and buttes. Touch down in high summer for that extra blast of Martian intensity.
Lac Abbé, Djibouti
…seen from out here everything seems different. Time bends. Space is boundless. Gazing awestruck upon Lac Abbé’s natural smoking ‘chimneys’ and vast, eerie salt plains, you may recall these words spoken by astronaut George Taylor in Planet of the Apes. Well, he should know: the movie was filmed here!
This immense, shimmering sea of salt will haunt your daydreams for years to come. In fact, such is Salar de Uyuni’s breath-taking, blinding-white otherworldliness, it might just send you into interstellar overdrive.
With its exquisite fairy chimneys, valleys of cascading cliffs, and labyrinthine underground cities, Cappadocia is outer space as it might have been imagined by Jim Henson: picturesque and endearing.
The extraordinary volcanic moonscape of central Lanzarote would make Armstrong and Aldrin feel right at home. The glowing green waters of El Golfo Crater might even tempt them to shrug off those cumbersome spacesuits and go for a paddle…
Was Erich Von Daniken onto something? One of Peru’s most impressive and enigmatic sights, the mysterious Nazca Lines could easily be mistaken for the doodlings of ancient astronauts. Deep in desolate desert, and only visible from the air, these mysterious lines will certainly stir your imagination…
Great Barrier Reef, Whitsunday Islands, Australia
Plunge beneath the waves into the technicolour parallel universe that is the Great Barrier Reef. No spaced-out superlative could do this coral wonderland justice; no cinematic alien could come close to the marvellous marine critters that call it home…
Sometimes known as ‘Moonland’, Ladakh is bound by mountains and comprised of mountains. Human habitation is sparse, and during the wild winter months, the region is only marginally easier to reach than the moon itself. The imposing, inhospitable Nubra Valley is its wild lunar heart.
Beam us up, earthly astronauts! What do you think is the world’s best otherworldly destination?