Our planet is dotted with places that are surreal, eerie and sometimes downright bizarre. And, while many of these mysterious phenomenon have logical explanations, others remain unsolved. Let’s take a look at the science, theories and legends surrounding the scientifically impossible places that actually exist.
With lightning striking up to 280 times an hour, 10 hours a day, 160 nights a year, the so-called Everlasting Storm takes place where Venezuela’s Catatumbo River meets Lake Maracaibo. Often referred to as the "Lighthouse of Maracaibo," the area is considered to be the world’s largest single generator of tropospheric ozone.
Here’s the gist: heat and moisture collect across the plains to create electrical charges with storm clouds over 5 km high. Then, as the air masses are destabilized at the mountain ridges, continuous thunderstorm activity continues as a result for most of the year.
There’s more. There’s no thunder, with the lightning strikes taking place in a deafening silence that can be a little eerie. Then there are the colours, with the darkening skies here lit in red, orange, pink and blue. Catatumbo Lightning can be seen, on average, on 160 days a year — making for a natural phenomenon that demands to be seen. Interested? You can join a guided night tour to witness the spectacle and explore the tropical savannas nearby.
In January 2014, the phenomenon was officially entered into the Guinness Book of World Records for the highest number of lightning strikes per square kilometer per year, at 250.
The Devil’s Kettle waterfall, also called Disappearing River, has long fascinated visitors to Minnesota’s Judge CR Magney State Park. Located on Lake Superior’s scenic northern shores, there’s a great deal to see and do in this beautiful park, but most are drawn to this wonderful wilderness to see its extraordinary waterfall.
The fast-flowing river defies the laws of nature and puzzles scientists and explorers alike. It splits in two, with one side dropping over a standard 50-foot waterfall, whilst the other vanishes without a trace.
Scientists think the river must drain somewhere beneath Lake Superior but they’ve been unable to prove it. An other hypothesis is this portion of the river plunges into a vast pothole that cannot be seen from the surface, before rejoining the main flow a little further downstream. Researchers and other curious visitors have dropped various objects into the hole and searched for signs of them in an attempt to solve the mystery, but so far, none have been found.
Tourists flock to Piedmont to see Italy’s famous Double Tree. Here — on a much-visited site, between Grana and Casorzo, a cherry tree grows atop a mulberry.
Science suggests that such a thing should not be possible. But there can be no disputing the facts. This place and these trees do actually exist.
Called the Double Tree of Casorzo — or Bialbero di Casorzo — this is quite an anomaly. It isn’t unheard of for one tree to grow on top of another. But growth tends to be limited in such instances, with neither tree able to thrive or to reach a significant size.
This is where Bialbero di Casorzo stands out, defying science and proving that anything is possible. It is thought that, long ago, a bird must have dropped a cherry stone onto the mulberry tree when flying overhead. This sounds plausible but no-one could have imagined that it would turn out quite like this.
It was once thought that witchcraft was at play in North Yorkshire. Here, not far from Knaresborough, a well that was said to turn objects to stone appeared to be doing the impossible. Mother Shipton, a much-feared local witch and oracle was blamed for such sorcery. There are still some who think that not all is as it should be here, although science suggests otherwise.
Mother Shipton was associated with several tragic events having made it her business to predict certain horrors that she claimed would befall England’s Tudor reign. The Petrifying Well left local people terrified in the 1600s.
Items that came into contact with its waters, it was said, would turn to stone. It has since been discovered that the water’s high mineral content can have a petrifying effect. It doesn’t make for such a good story but it’s a more likely explanation than witchcraft.
Science suggests that the Bermuda Triangle is a little more than a myth. Rational researchers are adamant that this is the stuff of folklore, but doubts persist and anything seems possible. The Bermuda Triangle covers a huge area in the North Atlantic Ocean, spanning more than 500,000 square miles.
It’s also known as the Devil’s Triangle or Hurricane Alley, as countless ships and planes are said to have disappeared without a trace whilst in this area. But does this mean that the legend is true? Science suggest that the legend of the Bermuda Triangle is a manufactured mystery, perpetuated by writers who either purposely or unknowingly made use of misconceptions, faulty reasoning, and sensationalism. One explanation pins the blame on leftover technology from the mythical lost continent of Atlantis when another says that unusual local magnetic anomalies may exist in the area, confusing compasses and leading ships to get lost. There is also the myth that violent storms occur in the triangles, sinking ships.
The Triangle is one of the busiest shipping lanes on Earth and experts think it’s not unusual that vessels are lost here from time to time. But still, those entering the Bermuda Triangle often do so with a deep sense of unease, the triangle legend enduring and not entirely proved wrong.
Found in the Maldives, the lapping waves look like the night sky, filled with bright lights, twinkling like stars in the ocean. It’s all down to plankton, microscopic organisms that make the impossible possible. The dazzling effect could not be more magical.
Like to see the ‘stars’ for yourself? Vaadhoo Island, part of the picturesque Raa Atoll, is a prime spot, with the late summer months the best time to visit. The bioluminescent plankton are often at their brightest here, with the movement of the waves prompting a chemical reaction that causes the ‘stars’ to shine. It might seem too good to be true. But the Sea of Stars is there for all to see. Far from impossible, this is a destination that demands a visit.
Sargasso is a sea within a sea, a body of water with no land boundaries, surrounded on all sides by four ocean currents. The North Atlantic waters in which it sits are cold and rough, but the Sargasso Sea is strangely calm and warm.
Some 2000 miles long and 700 miles wide, the Sargasso Sea is sizeable. But it’s not its scale that sets this place apart. The Gulf Stream, North Atlantic Current, Canary Current and North Atlantic Equatorial Current swirl around its fringes.
But within its watery boundaries, all is tranquil, the warm blue waters offering a sanctuary to countless creatures. The conditions here encourage the sargassum to grow a kind of seaweed that gives the sea its name. This attracts nesting sea turtles and ensures a unique environment that appeals to the inquisitive.
The Blue Pond’s fabled waters are almost impossibly colourful. Located close to the popular hot spring town of Shirogane Onsen in Japan, this is a place that beckons those with an eye for the unusual. The pond itself is man-made, but the intriguing bright blue waters within are all natural.
Yet they also seem supernatural, and we could definitely add this lake to our list of places that look like from another planet. The pond’s origins date back to the 1980s, when nearby Mount Tokachi erupted, threatening the small town of Biel. In order to reduce the risks that were posed by lava flows and mud slides, a dam was built to help strengthen Biel’s defences. This led to several ponds forming — including the Blue Pond.
The main reason for the vibrant hue that provides the Blue Pond’s name is the high level of aluminium hydroxide that can be found in the water. The white birch and Japanese larch trees which stand in the middle of the lake are adding to the Blue Pond mystical aura, and it’s definitely a spot you want add to your travel bucket list.
Strange light activity in this small valley in central Norway appears to peaked in the early 1980s, when sometimes hundreds of light orbs and fireball-like streaks (some as large as cars) could be seen dancing across the sky 15 to 20 times a week. Since then activity has decreased, but, at times, the lights can still be seen for more than an hour. It has intrigued scientists for years, so much so that, in 1998, an automated research station was built to monitor the appearances. The event is likely explained by the relationship between the valley’s electromagnetic field and its overall geologic makeup.
Scientists are very confused by the Baltic Sea Anomaly. Discovered in the dark depths of the Gulf of Bothnia, this is an underwater find that has long stoked debate. Some think that it’s a natural geological formation, whilst others insist it’s a sunken UFO. Either way, this is a strange find that continues to push the realms of possibility.
Treasure hunters combing the ocean floor for historic artifacts happened upon the Anomaly in June, 2011. Known as the Swedish Ocean X team, they even produced a sonar image. But this is indistinct and so unclear that experts remain divided on what, exactly, it shows.
The most rational continue to argue that, whilst unusual, it is possible for volcanic rock to have settled in such a formation. But those pursuing a more far-fetched explanation are adamant this is evidence of life in Outer Space — even pointing out clear similarities in shape with Star Wars’ Millennium Falcon.
This is a spot to avoid at all costs. Lake Karachay’s scenic shoreline is considered the most polluted place on the planet. In the 1990s, tests revealed that just standing close to the lake for a single hour would, in all likelihood, result in death.
The big problem here is radiation. For decades, the Soviets worked on a top secret atomic bomb project in this remote region. The radioactive waste? It was all dumped into Lake Karachay. Convenient, perhaps. But this came at quite a cost.
The landscape here might be beautiful, but it’s also deadly. Science might suggest that such levels of radiation are impossible, but the slapdash Soviets have proved otherwise. The lake has since been filled in, but risks remain, with the soil here presenting grave dangers to human health. The Russian government has restricted access, meaning it’s impossible to visit — not that you’d want to.
Peru’s puzzling Nazca Lines have long baffled scientists seeking a plausible explanation. Etched into the hot desert sands, these ancient geoglyphs are enormous. Some dating back to 500BC, their sheer size alone makes them all but impossible to understand. But these head-scratching symbols are real — as all those fortunate enough to have seen them in person can attest.
Comprising more than 10,000 individual lines, there are over 300 figures to find in an area that spans 1,000 square kilometres in this remote corner of South America. It’s hard to believe, but new geoglyphs are being discovered all the time.
Indeed, in 2019, a further 100 figures were found, adding to a tally that was already impressive. Some depict animals and others plants, but all continue to confound those determined to fathom their purpose. Best seen from the air or the neighbouring hilltops, it’s hard to believe that these Peruvian treasures are even possible. But make no mistake about it: the puzzling Nazca Lines are all too real.
Here in northern Pennsylvania, not far from the scenic Delaware River, those with a penchant for the inexplicable gather to experience a genuine scientific oddity.
The large rocks that litter the ground here ring like bells when struck. Our advice for anyone planning a visit? Make sure to bring a hammer. Scientists have long studied Pennsylvania’s remarkable Ringing Rocks, but a clear explanation remains elusive.
Make no mistake about it: this is something that shouldn’t be possible. But there’s no question that the rocks here do ring — although not all are audible. It was once thought that just one third of the rocks made their distinctive sound. Yet research in 1965 discovered that all the rocks here ring, but some sound at a pitch that is lower than the human ear can detect. That research didn’t, alas, determine the cause.
The active Kawah Ijen Volcano in Banywang Regency, Java is one of the world’s most extraordinary volcanoes. Instead of producing the usual red lava and black smoke, its underground activities result in electric blue lava and flames rising into the air.
Kawah Ijen’s fabled blue lava has long drawn the curious to Java. Here, on this stunning Indonesian island, the volcano’s spectacular eruptions are a sight to behold. The phenomenon has long fascinated scientists. But although the colours cannot be questioned, the underlying cause is not as most believe. The lava here is not originally blue, but becomes it due to a natural phenomenon. Indeed, the volcano has some of the highest levels of sulfur in the world and when the volcano’s sulfuric gases come into contact with air temperature above 360°C, the lava turns blue.
An other interesting fact about this place is that it’s home to one of the world’s most dangerous sulfur mining operations in the world. The working conditions are precarious, and the workers being exposed to the toxic sulfur gases for long periods of time develop long-term health issues. Interested in visiting? Don’t adventure here on your own. A really cool thing to do is a night guided group tour to the volcano to see the blue flames phenomenon.
There can be no question that Lake Hillier is a scientific oddity. It takes just a quick look to realise that this is a body of water with a difference. Most lakes appear blue, or maybe green. But the shimmering waters that lap Lake Hillier’s scenic shores are bubble gum pink. Located on Middle Island, in Western Australia’s picturesque Recherche Archipelago, this is a puzzle that has long baffled scientists. It shouldn’t be possible for a lake to be bright pink. But Lake Hillier? It most certainly is.
There are various theories — the main one being that the lake’s high saline levels, coupled with a rare algal species, are responsible for its most notable feature. Yet Lake Hillier remains pink all year round — and even when removed from the lake and bottled, the water’s distinctive colouring stays as vibrant as ever. Such things ensure that Lake Hillier is a scientific oddity.
Science suggests it isn’t possible for a river to reach such temperatures. Yet hidden deep in the Peruvian Amazon, researchers have uncovered evidence to the contrary. Here, in Puerto Inca, the Boiling River continues to defy scientific norms.
It isn’t quite boiling. But it is very hot. Located in Peru’s dense jungle, the Boiling River reaches temperatures close to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Tempted to take a dip? You shouldn’t. The waters here are hot enough to burn — and in some instances, kill.
The Boiling River is a sacred place and local shaman believe the waters have healing powers. Scientists have long been baffled and explaining this place is difficult. But it’s thought underwater fault lines are responsible — the waters being heated deep underground before being pushed back to the surface. The Boiling River ranks amongst the largest geothermal features on Earth. It’s hard to believe such a place actually exists, but there’s no arguing with the evidence.
The Darvaza Gas Crater is better known as the Door to Hell. It is a fitting nickname. Located close to Derweze, a small village in Turkmenistan’s barren Karakum Desert, this is a place that does not seem possible. Yet countless visitors have travelled here during the last four decades or so — and all can attest that this is all too real.
Calling it the Door to Hell ascribes this place a mythical status. But science has an explanation that is rather more prosaic, the door to hell is actually product of men. It was opened in the 1970s and happened by accident, when careless Soviet engineers caused a natural gas field to collapse into a vast underground cavern below.
The fire is said to have been started deliberately, in order to prevent methane escaping. The result is spectacular, with immense flames and boiling mud beckoning tourists galore. The fire have raged ever since and no-one knows how to put it out. Looks more like the product of hell to us.
This phenomenon—known as light poles or light pillars—can be extremely hard to predict, as several factors need to be in alignment in order for them to occur.
The location must be a relatively large city or town—like Laramie, Wyoming (population 31,000)—with bright lights at night. It must be extremely cold, -4 degrees Fahrenheit or lower. There must be no wind (or very slow wind), and tiny ice crystals must be present in the atmosphere. The ice fog reflects the light into pole-like streaks.
This cerulean eruption takes place in the Danakil Depression, a low-lying plain in Ethiopia. At dusk, the glow comes from the combustion of sulfuric gases that pushes through the cracks of the volcano. When they come into contact with the air, they ignite and can send electric blue flames more than 16 feet in the air.
In the Crooked Forest (known locally as Krzywy Las), about 400 pine trees do indeed grow crookedly with full 90-degree curves at their bases that bend towards the north. Just up from their bases, the trees curve into a “C” shape, bending from three all the way up to nine feet sideways before curving back to grow straight up from there. They grow to be about 50 feet tall and are generally healthy despite the unnatural curves at their bases.
While plenty of other anomalous trees around the world have been known to develop curves or other strange shapes, the trees in the Crooked Forest are different. They are smooth, not gnarled like other trees that are curved because they have suffered from a genetic mutation. Furthermore, of course, the Crooked Forest is unique because so many trees grow so strangely and in such a uniform way.
Neptune's Grotto is a stalactite cave near the town of Alghero on the island of Sardinia, Italy.
The cave was discovered by local fishermen in the 18th century and has since developed into a popular tourist attraction.
The grotto gets its name from the Roman god of the sea,
Huacachina is built around a small natural desert lake, commonly referred to as the "oasis of America".
According to local legends, the water and mud of the area is therapeutic. Both locals and tourists often bathe in the waters or cover themselves with the mud in an attempt to cure ailments such as arthritis, rheumatism, asthma and bronchitis. Huacachina has a permanent population of around 100 people, although it hosts many tens of thousands of tourists each year.
Legend holds that the lagoon was created when a beautiful native princess removed her clothes to bathe, but after looking in a mirror she saw a male hunter approaching her from behind. Startled at the intrusion, she fled the area, leaving behind her mirror, which turned into a lake.
Devetashka cave is an enormous cave in Bulgaria, which has provided shelter for groups of humans since the late Paleolithic era, and continuously for tens of thousands of years since then. Now abandoned by humans, it remains a site of national and international significance and is home to some 30,000 bats.
Devetashka cave, which is known as Devetàshka peshterà in Bulgaria, is located roughly 18 kilometres north of Lovech, near the village of Devetaki.
It is a karst cave formed from the dissolution of soluble rocks and characterized by sinkholes, caves, and underground drainage systems.
Blyde River Canyon is a 26 km long Canyon located in Mpumalanga city of South Africa. Behind the Grand Canyon and Fish River Canyon, it is the third largest canyon in the world. Unlike the Grand and Fish River Canyon, the Blyde River Canyon is a "green canyon" dominated by subtropical vegetation.
The Elephant Rock...Iceland is a land of volcanos and here, centuries of volcanic eruptions formed sea-cliffs that appear almost fairy-tale-like. A portion of the volcano-formed coast on Heimaey (which means Home Island) looks almost exactly like the head of a large elephant sticking its trunk in the water...Some people think that it must have been shaped with human intervention...The elephant's realistic appearance is, at least partially, due to the fact that the cliff consists of basalt rock, which gives the figure "skin" that looks wrinkled and grayish, just like a real elephant.