1. Hell’s Door, Turkmenistan
Apparently no one really knows why this gaping hole filled with deposits of natural gas ignited near the small town of Derweze, Turkmenistan. A guide to the site, one of Derweze’s mere 350 residents, apparently claims the phenomenon is “wholly natural”. Meanwhile other, more conspiracy friendly, theories blame Russian oil prospectors who decided to ignite the gaseous pit in 1971 as a precautionary measure, fearing their drilling had hit a poisonous gas pocket. Instant world wonder!
2. Pamukkale, Turkey
While you’re in the area checking out the sites in Turkmenistan, swing over to Turkey for a little less fire and brimstone action at these travertine hot springs in southwestern Turkey. This spot is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and while you can’t bathe in the pools anymore, they’re still pretty darn cool to look at.
3. Great Blue Hole, Belize
Perhaps this is where my missing purse and matching pairs of earrings have ended up? Well either way, this “large submarine sinkhole” off the coast of Belize is pretty formidable, at more than 500 feet deep as far as anyone can tell. So if it has my stuff, or yours for that matter, it looks like it’s staying there. Regardless, it was made famous by none other than Jacques Cousteau (so you know it’s legit!) and is distinguished as one of the best scuba diving spots in the world.
4. Nine Hells of Beppu, Japan
So apparently “hell-related” monikers bring tourists running, as this fourth spot illustrates. Located in Japan on the east coast of Kyushu Island, Beppu has 9 geothermal hot-spots, known as jigokus (or, as you guessed it, “hells”). These 9 ponds come with some pretty fun, not so translatable names. Maybe in Japanese “Oniishibozu Jigoku” strikes fear into the hearts of many. But its english translation “Shaven Head Hell”… well not so much. While you’re there check out some other “hells” like “White Pond Hell”, “Cooking Pot Hell”, or “Blood Pond Hell”. Fun fact, Beppu also apparently has a sex museum, commemorating the towns former sex industry, and about 100 resident hell pond crocodiles. Hopefully these are unrelated attractions.
5. Mount Sanqingshan National Park, China
With “bright halos on clouds”, “white rainbows”, “misty fogs” and “striking sunsets” this place sounds like an extraordinarily tranquil box of Lucky Charms. Pictures of the Sanqingshan National Park in eastern China look like some of the most beautiful landscapes I’ve ever seen. With massive unusual granite outcroppings, tons of natural waterfalls, lush forests and fresh springs this place sounds like heaven on earth. Which is exactly what ancient local legend believed it was. And if your not sold on any of that, well, they have pandas too.
6. Racetrack Playa, Death Valley, California
No passport? No problem! Simply head on over to the northwestern portion of Death Valley to check out this very surreal place. Besides being a barren wasteland dry for entire years at a time, this locale offers the added wacky bonus of “sailing stones”. No one knows what moves these massive rocks across the Playa, however their paths can be seen in the trails they leave. Some scientists believe it is strong winds, however some rocks move inexplicably ninety degrees opposite their previous direction. I simply wonder, don’t the aliens have better things to do with their time?
7. Eye of the Sahara, Mauritania
And lastly, this monstrosity. You may need to rent a space shuttle to see this formation in its entirety, but it’d be worth it. This 24 mile-wide structure is in the middle of the Sahara Desert and strangly resembles a human eye. The picture above is technically the “pupil”. The Richat Structure, as it is also known, expands to northern and southern cliffs making the edges of the eye. Scientists believe it is the product of millenniums of erosion. Also as an added plus, wittier visitors to this site can also make Lord of the Rings Sauron jokes to their hearts desire (Eye of Sauron… Eye of Sahara, “all seeing”, Mordor… anyone?).