Out of this world

Some the earth’s most spectacular and beautiful landscapes

by Dolores O'Donoghue
Words Dolores O’Donoghue

The world is full of so many magical places, some so extraordinary that it’s difficult to believe they actually exist on Planet Earth. These breathtaking travel destinations are some of nature’s most spectacular and beautiful masterpieces and deserve a place at the very top of any nature lover’s travel list.

Mù Cang Chai, Vietnam

Vietnam is a fascinating country with an extensive collection of historical and cultural attractions. The country is also renowned for its spectacular and diverse scenery. One of the most unique and exquisite landscapes is Mù Cang Chai, a rural district of Yen Bai province, in the northeast. For centuries farmers in this mountainous region carved these graduated steps into the steep slopes creating platforms to grow their crops. These terraced paddies follow the contours of the mountain creating a stair-like pattern.

The cultivation of rice requires a lot of water, and levelling this mountainous land into terraces increases the water holding capacity as the water source descends from higher streams and waterfalls. The best time to visit is after the rainy season in September or October when the crops carpet the landscape in vivid green as they bloom.

Tsingy de Bemaraha, Madagascar

In Malagasy, the word ‘tsingy’ means ‘where one can only walk on tiptoe’. It can also be interpreted as ‘going with fear’, as is required for the exploration of this unusual and unforgiving landscape of jagged spires of limestone, carved by millennia of water and wind erosion. The Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park, located in a very remote area of western Madagascar, is a strict nature reserve, and is an important habitat for a wealth of endemic plant and animal species.
It is a great place to spot rare and endangered lemurs and birds, with eleven different species of lemur living within the park’s boundaries.

Ashikagi Flower Park, Japan

Wisteria blooms have been cherished by the Japanese people for centuries. The flower, known as ‘fuji’ in Japanese was even mentioned in the ‘Manyoshu’, the oldest existing collection of Japanese poetry which was compiled around the 8th century.

During Japan’s wisteria season from mid-April to mid-May, the best places to see these magnificent blooms is Ashikaga Flower Park, which is about a two-hour journey from Tokyo, in Tochigi Prefecture’s. To the delight of flower lovers, there are more than 350 wisteria trees in different varieties from violet, pink, purple, yellow and white that bloom successively over the course of a month.

Not just a wisteria park, Ashikaga is home to lots of other amazing flowers such as azaleas, petunias and carnations. So from season to season, the garden changes its colours and appearance giving visitors the opportunity to enjoy seasonal flowers throughout the year.

The Rainbow Mountains of Zhangye Danxia, China

Part of the Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park in the Gansu province, this naturally formed landscape is a kaleidoscope of vivid shades of reds, greens, yellows and blues. The striking hills are the result of sandstone and siltstone mineral deposits several million years old. Layers of sand, iron and trace elements provided the key ingredients to form the colours. The principal dark red colour is because of iron oxide coating, yellow is the result of iron sulphide and green from chlorite. The dramatic textures, shapes, sizes and patterns were formed by the natural weathering processes.

  • ‘Out of this world’ is published in Anthology Volume 14. Read more features from this volume or buy it now.
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