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En español | Above ground, Central Anatolia's Cappadocia region is known for the unique "fairy chimney" rock formations into which dwellings were carved (some of them have been "converted" into rock hotels in recent years). In towns such as Ürgüp and Göreme you can make arrangements to see this surreal landscape from a hot-air balloon. Below ground, Cappadocia has myriad Bronze Age cities, whose dwellings and other structures were carved into stone cliffs, several floors deep, by troglodytes. You can tour a handful of these underground metropolises, including Derinkuyu.
This giant desert crater in Central Asia's Karakum Desert has been on fire for decades, resembling a scene from a sci-fi movie. Known by locals as the Door to Hell, it was created when the Russians drilled here for natural gas, causing the earth to collapse, gas to be released and fires to rage. Geologists believed that the fires would quickly go out — but that was back in 1971. The crater, now quite a tourist attraction, is 160 miles south of the capital, Ashgabat. Most visitors use the nearby village of Derweze as their base.
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Anyone looking for an adventurous camping trip should head for this swath of dazzling white sand at the fringes of the Sahara. Here the landscape is occasionally cut by jagged rocks, some as high as 100 feet. They were once part of a continuous plateau, but whipping sandstorms eroded them into these isolated formations. About 5,000 people, mainly Bedouins, live in the region, which is approximately 300 miles southwest of Cairo.
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This undulating landscape consists of 40,000 basalt columns perched at the edge of the Atlantic and the North Channel (on a clear day you can see all the way to Scotland). Thousands of visitors each year wander the coastal path at Northern Ireland's only UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the many legends about the causeway describes it as the handiwork of a giant named Finn McCool.
Floating on your back while reading the newspaper is half the fun here; the other half is taking a healing mud bath. Numerous private and public "beaches" surround this landlocked body of water, which straddles the Israel-Jordan border, 15 miles southwest of Jerusalem and 64 miles southeast of Amman. At 1,300 feet below sea level, it's the lowest point on Earth. A dense, rich cocktail of salts and minerals makes its water more than 10 times brinier than seawater.
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You'll find two unique wonders in this national park just an hour's drive from Baku, Azerbaijan's oil-rich capital. At Gobustan, prehistoric carvings — well-preserved sketches of men hunting antelope and women dancing — cover flat-fronted rocks. A few miles away are the famous mud "volcanoes," where hundreds of pools of relatively cool slurry bubble and gurgle amid remote and otherwise silent gray hills.
Europe's tallest sand dune — 350 feet high and 2 miles long — is an hour's drive from Bordeaux, in the Arcachon Bay area. The dune is actually expanding inland, slowly pushing back the forests at its northern and eastern sides. From its summit you can gaze at spectacular views of the Atlantic and, on clear days, the distant Pyrenees.
The enormous plateau that might have inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's 1912 novel, The Lost World, straddles the borders of Brazil, Venezuela and Guyana, and is, along with Angel Falls, part of Venezuela's Canaima National Park. The reward for an adventurous trek to the flat top of this behemoth is a view of unique rock formations and cascades that drop dramatically from precipices. Members of the area's indigenous community can help you arrange guided tours.
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Northern Europe spends much of the year shrouded in darkness, though the night skies are often lit with the ribbons of green, red and purple light known as the aurora borealis. The chance to see this depends on timing, weather and simple luck, but in Iceland a good bet is to visit between September and March. The lights are visible from Reykjavík, though geothermal pools in rural locales, some just a 30-minute drive from the capital, make for great viewing points.
This pond in the Wright Valley of eastern Antarctica's Victorian Land District is definitely a destination for hardy adventurers. It's considered the saltiest natural body of water on Earth, which keeps it fluid even in such a frigid climate. Scientists are studying it in search of clues as to how water could exist in the ultra-frigid climate of Mars.
The world is filled with strange and wonderful things: from colorful lights in the Icelandic night sky to bubbling mud pools in Azerbaijan to bizarre "fairy chimney" rock formations in Turkey. Here are some of the planet's most unusual places to visit.
10 Strange Destinations
Wacky places to visit across the United States
5 Extreme Trips to Consider
National parks and other places that are the hottest, wettest, biggest or highest of their kind
10 Things to Avoid Eating While on Vacation
Tamer alternatives to deep-fried scorpion and other exotic delicacies
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