6 Real Places on Earth Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel


Honestly, we're sick of hearing about the planet's freaking natural beauty. Yes, those snow-capped mountains are very nice, and we're sure those white sand beaches of St. Barts are even prettier in person. But if we're adding vacation spots to our Bucket List, we're going for the weird shit.

You see, every once in a while the malevolent robot lords in charge of programming the shared illusion that is our world will slip up and let a chunk of broken code go through, resulting in geographical phenomena that defies explanation. Like ...

Kelimutu, Indonesia's Color-Changing Lakes

6 Real Places on Earth Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel
Michael Day

The three lakes of Kelimutu, in addition to sounding like the title of a fantasy novel, are a geological oddity found snuggled up against the base of a dormant volcano in Indonesia. They've become a popular tourist attraction, but not for swimming, unless you're looking to re-create the most accidentally hilarious sequence from Dante's Peak -- the acid-saline pools are too caustic for taking a dip. No, these lakes are famous for their ability to change color like three giant bowls of melted chameleons.

6 Real Places on Earth Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel
Tom Casadevall

It's entirely possible that they are giant bowls of melted chameleons.

Each lake can change its color completely at any time, independently of the other lakes. The various hues range from light to navy blue, deep teal, and even yellow, brown, or red, stiffly occupying most of the Power Rangers color wheel. These massive, natural mood rings are most likely caused by underwater fumaroles, which are cracks in the Earth's crust that emit volcanic gases. However, similar volcanic lakes have fairly predictable patterns of color variation. The Kelimutu lakes, on the other hand, change color whenever they damn well please. It's a different scene every time researchers arrive at the lakes, and so far they have been unable to explain or predict it. The fact that the lakes are so close together makes their independent flavors all the more mystifying.

6 Real Places on Earth Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel
Rosa Cabecinhas

A million people pooped in this one. Why? That's the mystery.

Don't let the lakes' beauty fool you, though. In addition to being highly acidic, the lakes have been the site of phreatic eruptions in the past, a phenomenon in which volcanic activity instantly vaporizes the water, causing an explosion of steam, acid, and dislodged skeletons at the surface. So if you do plan on making a trip out to observe their bizarre majesty, make sure you don't actually stand anywhere near them.

6 Real Places on Earth Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel

RIP, Kermit and Rowlf.

The Yamal Sinkholes

6 Real Places on Earth Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel
AP via washingtonpost.com

In July 2014, a gargantuan sinkhole opened up in Yamal, a Siberian peninsula so remote that it is literally referred to as "The End of the World." The inexplicable appearance of a giant doom hole has only added further credence to this description.

6 Real Places on Earth Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel
Siberian Times

Don't worry, it's only 260 feet wide ...

The pit appeared overnight without warning, as hellmouths are wont to do. In the following months, researchers dug in the surrounding area for clues and developed theories as to the pit's origin, but they were unable to settle on anything more concrete than "there is now a big-ass hole in the Earth where once there was only frozen wasteland."

As if in response to their collective shrug, two more Siberian pits of darkness opened up, further confounding any analysis. The interior structure of these holes is so peculiar that some researchers believe them to be a brand-new type of sinkhole, never before documented. Exploration into the ground caves (or "Earth anuses," as they are not known within the scientific community) found an icy lake 230 feet below the surface, which was presumably full of ghosts.

6 Real Places on Earth Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel
Uralkali Press Service

The sudden appearance of giant death cavities was part of a membership drive.

Conflicting reports place the largest of the sinkholes at between 200 and 260 feet wide. Also, unlike standard sinkholes that just kind of swallow everything around them like the worms from Tremors, the Siberian Titan Hole appears to have ejected the soil into the area around it like a subterranean shotgun blast. The current theory is that a huge amount of methane gas collected in a hollow underground pocket and eventually exploded at the surface. Basically, scientists have more or less confirmed that there's an invisible farting giant living in the center of the Earth.

6 Real Places on Earth Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel
AP via telegraph.co.uk

And he's hoping to re-create goatse with actual falling goats.

The Laos Plain of Alien Jars

6 Real Places on Earth Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel
Nick Hubbard

OK, we don't think they were actually made by aliens. But nobody knows who did make them, and they're weird as hell. The field of massive stone jars, which are estimated to be about 3,000 years old, was discovered by a French archaeologist in the 1930s in the Xiangkhouang province of Laos:

6 Real Places on Earth Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel
Oliver Spalt

He initially assumed they'd been made by a tribe of lost, genius Frenchmen.

Since their discovery, no one has been able to identify the purpose of the jars or the civilization responsible for their creation. Stranger still, these jars are so finely constructed, researchers say, that carving them would have taken a near-impossible effort with the technology of the time. A few appear to have been made with some kind of enormous lathe, which is just ... just ridiculous.

6 Real Places on Earth Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel
Oliver Spalt

They had gigantic stone lathes in ancient Asia, right?

The largest of the jars is just over nine feet tall, which is probably enough to hold all of the jam produced in the past 10 years. They appear to have once included lids, and many of them are decorated with depictions of humans, animals, and other embellishments. There are local legends that say the jars once contained wine for an ancient emperor, but their real purpose might be more grim, as archaeologists have found human remains inside many of the empty vessels, although the bodies could have been placed inside centuries later. It could be that the jars were built to hold both wine and corpses, which raises infinitely more questions.

6 Real Places on Earth Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel
Joe Ray/NY Times

A nine-foot mountain jar would hold entirely too much of either thing.

The most obvious explanation is that the jars were part of some sort of funerary ritual, but even that still leaves a handful of unanswered questions. How were the jars constructed? Were they built by slaves or by the community? Does the size of the jar correspond to the importance of the person (or persons) within? Could you have a custom engraving on your jar, or were you limited to what the giant jar store had in stock?

It's difficult to say with any certainty, because we still don't have any solid evidence about who built the jars in the first place. Furthermore, extensive research is kind of difficult, because the area where the jars are located is still littered with unexploded bombs from the Laotian Civil War. "You might suddenly explode at any given moment" doesn't exactly inspire too many people to sign up for an archaeological expedition.

6 Real Places on Earth Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel

What, you're not willing to get blown up for a chance to look at ancient rock jars?

6 Real Places on Earth Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel

In a remote field in Siberia (which is apparently a hotspot for inexplicable natural phenomena), there stands an informal gathering of seven monolithic stone structures known as the Manpupuner Rock Formations. As luck would have it, that word is pronounced "manpoopooner."

6 Real Places on Earth Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel
Republic of Komi

In case you were unclear of the scale, those tiny things at the base of that rock chimney are people.

Though their narrow bases and curved, drunken posture make them look as if they are on the verge of collapsing at any moment, the Manpupuner Formations are solid enough that centuries of wind, snow, and time have yet to topple them. The commonly agreed-upon theory is that the rocks were formed over millions of years of erosion; however, as we previously mentioned, they are in the middle of a flat grass ocean. There aren't any other rock formations for miles around, let alone anything like the giant flint titan boogers pictured here.

6 Real Places on Earth Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel
Republic of Komi

This one is apparently on its way to pick up beer for the rest of the group.

So how the hell did they get there? Clumsy aliens? Dinosaur art students making an esoteric installation piece? While we wait around for science to come up with a more plausible explanation, the rest of the world has wasted no time in exploiting the Manpupuner Formations for dumbshit things like scaling them in the name of Red Bull, which world-renowned mountain climber Stefan Glowacz did back in 2013. Glowacz later said that, in 30 years of globetrotting mountain domination, he'd never seen a similar rock formation.

When an eccentric German adventurer tells you he's never seen anything like the Manpupuner Formations before in his life, it's time to pay him for a second trip up that stone colossus to search around for weak points.

6 Real Places on Earth Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel
Klaus Fengler/Red Bull Content Pool

"It should be glowing. When you find it, mash the X button."

At first glance, Ringing Rocks Park in Upper Black Eddy, Pennsylvania, just looks like a collection of mismatched boulders sitting in a dry river bed. Yet visitors come with hammers in hand from miles around to see these gray-red boulders. Why? Because when struck with a hammer or similar tool, many of the rocks produce unique, audible "pings" that sound eerily like ringing glass or plinking piano keys:

Yes, for reasons unknown to man or beast, these rocks can sing, giving an entirely new meaning to the term "rock opera."

6 Real Places on Earth Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel
Andrew Stroud

Amazingly, that pun was less obnoxious than an actual rock opera.

Like the most obtuse video game puzzle brought to life, nothing about the appearance of these rocks suggests there's anything unusual about them, and their musical resonance seems to occur for no real reason beyond terrifying the deeply superstitious. Much scientific work has gone into determining what's special about these particular rocks, and many plausible theories abound. But much to researchers' bewilderment, the magical singing rocks of mystery refuse to make any kind of scientific sense.

The structure of the boulders isn't vastly different in any way from an average rock, and even the most far-fetched possibilities -- abnormal magnetic fields, radiation, tiny singing pixies entombed within the stones -- have been ruled out. The most plausible theories have to do with boring things like iron content and stress levels within the boulders, but we like to focus on the curious lack of plant and animal life in the vicinity of the rocks. One scientist noted that during his visit, he saw no birds fly over the boulder field and observed no bird droppings on any of the rocks there.

6 Real Places on Earth Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel
Mike Parker

Certainly that has nothing to do with the groups of people milling around banging hammers on rocks.

The Seven-Colored Sands of Mauritius

6 Real Places on Earth Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel
Stefano Cellai/SIME

Picture yourself on a remote island nation. Maybe you're there to abduct a giant gorilla, or perhaps you've just finished outrunning the Germans and it's time to escape via seaplane. But when you finally break through the tree line, you suddenly find yourself standing at the edge of a small Technicolor desert in the middle of the jungle, as if Dr. Seuss' house had just been detonated by a mummy curse. Even more curious, when you disturb the sand, it eventually sorts itself back together according to color like a bowl of M&M's backstage at a Rolling Stones concert.

6 Real Places on Earth Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel
Shankar S.

Keith Richards' veins now flow with a similarly multicolored dust.

Congratulations: you've stumbled on the Seven-Colored Earths of Mauritius. Despite sounding like something you'd spend 40 hours farming World of Warcraft to discover, you'd actually have to leave your house to find it -- the Seven Colored Earths is a tiny rainbow desert on the island of Mauritius off the coast of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. It's about as remote as anything can get, but, if you're a wealthy eccentric or just have a ton of Delta points saved up, it's well worth the trip.

6 Real Places on Earth Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel
Ilee Wu

Desperate to escape government regulation, Willy Wonka opened an offshore candy factory
with a criminally relaxed nuclear safety program.

Formed from weathering of the volcanic basalt bedrock, the sand dunes have settled into distinctly sorted bands of color. Even when mixed together in your hand, the grains will eventually reorganize themselves. Arguably just as bizarre is the fact that the sand dunes never erode despite Mauritius' relentless tropical rainfall, which can exceed 60 inches per year. It's the most supernaturally stubborn desert in the history of existence.

6 Real Places on Earth Straight Out of a Fantasy Novel
Toutaitanous 2/Wikimedia

Twelve quadrillion flakes of fairy dandruff will do that for you.

Due to their charming hauntedness, the sand dunes have become a popular tourist attraction, although the desert is now fenced off, presumably to prevent people from stealing pocketfuls of magic dust to take home with them. The area has been studied extensively, but so far there is no definitive explanation for the sands' ability to continually separate into distinct colors. We honestly wouldn't be surprised if some researcher eventually discovers that the goddamned stuff grants wishes.

For more fantastical locations that are totally real, check out 6 Fictional Places You Didn't Know Actually Existed. And then check out 18 Sci-Fi Locations That Exist in the Real World.

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