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Photoshop has got nothing on Mother Nature. From Australia to the Americas, Earth features stunning scenery around every bend. Although these photos might look like movie sets or surreal works of art, the places in these images are 100% real. Don't believe us? Go see them for yourself — as if you needed another reason to get outside!
Lake Hillier, Australia
You're forgiven for doing a double-take. Lake Hillier in Australia looks like a bubblegum-flavored ice cream cone melted in the middle of a forest. It is an actual lake, however, and is one that you could safely swim in if the area wasn't part of a nationally protected reserve.
Lake Hillier sits on Middle Island, which is part of an archipelago off the coast of western Australia. Its pink color is likely a result of certain micro-algaes such as Dunaliella salina that thrive in the lake's salty water. These microorganisms produce beta-carotene, a pigment that you might know from carrots, which is believed to cause the lake's pink hue.
Naica Mine, Mexico
In Mexico, the Cave of the Crystals within Naica Mine looks like a supersized salt shaker you can climb inside. This cave is home to the largest crystals in the world, which were only discovered 20 years ago.
The conditions inside the cave are perfect for growing calcium since the cave is hot and humid with acidic air and no natural light. As a result, the crystals inside the cave have reached lengths up to 36 feet. The largest crystal is believed to have been growing for half a millennium. Unsurprisingly, the ideal conditions for growing crystals aren't ideal for humans, so you can't enter the cave without wearing a special suit.
Grand Prismatic Spring, Wyoming
Offering vibrant, tie-dye-like beauty to Yellowstone National Park is the Grand Prismatic Spring. This third-largest spring in the world is also the most photographed thermal sight in Yellowstone and we can understand why.
The varying bands of color around the spring are due to the different bacteria species that survive at different temperatures. As the water moves from the center of the spring, it cools down after leaving the Earth's hot crust below — creating a rainbow of bright, bacteria-generated shades.
Mosquito Bay, Puerto Rico
Mosquito Bay in Puerto Rico is the world's brightest bioluminescent bay. The bay is located off the island of Vieques and gets its neon blue color from microscopic organisms in the water that light up when they move. Though these microorganisms live throughout the ocean, you can only find them in a few rare spots on Earth such as Mosquito Bay where there is a high enough concentration for their glow-in-the-dark effects to be visible. Visit during a new moon when the water's glow is even more pronounced against the dark night sky for a truly otherworldly experience.
Mendenhall Ice Caves, Alaska
For those willing to brave cold temperatures, walking through tunnels of blue ice formations in the Mendenhall Ice Caves is a dream. Just a few miles outside of Juneau, Alaska, the Mendenhall Glacier is 12 miles long and partially hollow, which allows for space inside the caves. Unfortunately, climate change has already had effects on the glacier — causing it to recede nearly two miles over the last 60 years. If the ice melts and the caves continue to shift, they may eventually become inaccessible.
Tulip Fields, The Netherlands
With rows of blooms in vibrant colors, the seasonal tulip fields in the Netherlands look like a postcard came to life. The flower season begins in March with crocuses and the tulips bloom in full force from mid-April through the first week of May. Though there are a number of fields across the country, the largest and most famous are at Keukenhof. Every autumn, over seven million bulbs are planted, which turn the area into an enormous patchwork quilt of kaleidoscopic colors. Keukenhof is conveniently located just southwest of Amsterdam — making it an easy destination for your springtime travels.
Dead Vlei, Namibia
The landscape at Dead Vlei looks like a surrealist painting with its starkly contrasting colors and post-apocalyptic trees. Located on the western edge of Namibia, the land today is a dried white clay pan, which is situated amidst red-orange sand dunes. The trees grew when the area was flooded by a nearby river. In later centuries, however, changing sand dunes moved in and cut off the water supply. Though the trees are around 900 years old, they haven't decomposed due to the extreme dryness of the climate — leaving them intact in all their bleak, barren beauty.
Zhangye National Geopark, China
Also known as the Rainbow Mountains, these colorful peaks offer one of the most surreal sights in the world. The Danxia landform covers approximately 19 square miles in China's Gansu province and has become a popular UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The colored stripes are reflective of how the mountains formed. The land was once flat — containing layers of different minerals. When the tectonic plates collided millions of years ago, the land was pushed up and the various layers were revealed — creating an array of colors.
Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico
The Carlsbad Caverns feature eerie formations. Featuring stalactites and stalagmites, underground pools, and rippled stone walls, these limestone caves look intimidating to would-be explorers. However, the caverns are actually delicate environments home to a surprising amount of biological diversity such as the bat colonies that dwell there. The caverns create one of the oldest cave systems in the world and the various chambers such as the Temple of the Sun and the Hall of the Giants each have their own unique features that have formed over the centuries.
Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe, Germany
Combining ornate Baroque architecture with waterfalls and overgrown gardens, Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe is most evocative of a fairytale castle. Europe's largest hillside park offers a mix of unexpected sights from a Chinese pagoda to a towering statue of Zeus. The park is located in the city of Kassel in central Germany, where construction on it began in 1696. In the centuries since, various features were added to the park's Baroque beginnings such as Romantic-era gardens and fountain displays.