There are certain destinations in the world that are so surreal, and so unbelievable, that they’re impossible to comprehend until you witness their beauty with your own eyes. There is a good reason why many of these locations have been highlighted time and time again by top travel magazines. Here are 6 amazing places in Asia that can be great additions to your bucket list.
Chocolate Hills of Bohol Island, the Philippines
The attraction is exactly what it sounds like: a ground of conical hills, chocolate brown in color during the dry season, located at the center of the tiny island. These hills are leftover limestone deposits from a time when streams and rivers were far above sea level. Rainfall and other natural water sources slowly created the dips and valleys the island has become so famous for. There’s no clear count as to how many hills there are exactly, some say 1,268, while others have counted as high as 1,776. The hills only earn their ‘chocolate’ nickname in the dry season when the foliage goes from lush green to brown, turning the area into a box of ‘Hershey’s Kisses’.
Tianzi Mountains, China
Found in the northwest of Hunan Province in China, these staggering limestone pinnacles are covered in lush greenery and often shrouded in mist. A cable car goes as far as Huangshi village and from here there are plenty of trails to take in the breathtaking views of Tianzi (Son of heaven); unsurprisingly the inspiration for the floating mountains in the blockbuster movie Avatar.
Jiuzhaigou Valley, Sichuan, China
The Jiuzhaigou Valley natural reserve and national park is located at the edge of the Tibetan plateau. Thanks to its location, it boasts a number of waterfalls and vast forests fringed with the snowcapped peaks of the Min Mountains beyond. In autumn, the leaves turn various hues of red, which, along with the waterfalls, gives the place its distinctive, surreal color.
Lakes of Mount Kelimutu, Flores Island, Indonesia
The lakes on top of Mount Kelimutu are, for the lack of a better word, plain weird. There are three lakes, all formed as a result of volcanic eruptions, and all three have different colors at different times of the year. The westernmost of the lakes, called the Lake of Old People, is typically blue. The other two, the Lake of Young Man and Maidens, and the Bewitched Lake, are typically green and red respectively.
Wait, hold on – a red lake?
Yes, thanks to the mineral composition of the Bewitched Lake, its color typically varies from light pink to red at different times of the year. Geologists believe this is caused by the volcanic activity of Mount Kelimutu causing chemical reactions within the water. This results in a rather striking landscape – three lakes, all differently colored, sitting atop an active volcano nestled in the thick Indonesian jungles!
Son Doong Cave, Vietnam
The Son Doong Cave system in eastern Vietnam is the largest cave system in the world. Despite its sheer size, it wasn’t discovered until 1991 when a local man named Ho Khanh found it during a trek. The whistling sound of an underground river, however, kept the locals away and it wasn’t until 2009 that the existence of the caves became public knowledge.
Walking through the caves isn’t unlike walking through another, primitive world untouched by man. To give you an idea of the sheer size of the caves, consider that the largest chamber found yet is 5 kilometers long and 200m high, roughly half the size of the Empire State Building.
Zhangye Danxia landform, Southwest China
Located in Gansu province, a naturally formed landscape of more than 80 million year olds astonishes its visitors with the burst of colors, from yellow, orange and red to emerald, green and blue make it hard to believe it’s all real. The vast area of intensely colored valleys, waterfalls, and natural pillars looks surreal in the pictures, reminding more of an impressionistic painting than a photograph.
Feeling tempted? Check out our inspiring journeys across 10 Asian countries here