We are lucky enough to have a world that spoils us with unusual, awe-inspiring landscapes. And what better way to discover them than on a cruise? From far-flung lands to scenes closer to home, you’ll have the opportunity to see the world’s most unusual landscapes.
Found across the hilly and mountainous slopes of China, rice terraces have been cultivated by the rural population for hundreds of years. They are among the finest places for hiking and walking and a great way to appreciate the geology of China.
Dug by the Hani people, the Yuanyang rice terraces can be found in the southern Ailao Mountains and are one of the most stunning landscapes in the world. Unlike other terraces across China, Yuanyang’s terraces are shallow and do not have as many layers. From afar, these terraces look like contours on a map. The layers run up the hillsides and are home to multiple communities that stick to layers based on the altitude. Walking through the area, you’ll come across pretty yet modest dwellings that still resemble the Hani style and are often created in mushroom-like shapes.
The fields are officially recognised by UNESCO as a World Cultural and Natural Heritage Site and with good reason. They are a photographer’s dream location, especially when the sun rises from behind the imposing mountains and shimmers over the waters. To experience the fields at their best, visit between January and March, when the terraces are irrigated and the sun’s reflection from the water is most prominent.
Over the last few years, Iceland has become a popular cruise destination, with millions heading there for the unusual landscapes and close affinity with the natural world. But don’t be fooled by its name, Iceland isn’t covered in ice and snow. Instead, you can expect an incredibly diverse and active landscape compiled of magnificent waterfalls, fjords, volcanoes and Europe’s largest glacier.
We chatted to Suzanne from The Travelbunny, she told us, “Iceland is celebrated for its unique landscapes, glaciers and waterfalls but there’s also a whole lot more going on under the surface. Simmering springs, bubbling mud pools and plumes of steam waft freely from the earth’s crust.”
Listing Iceland’s top landscape hotspots is close to impossible, largely due to the sheer volume of geographical highlights. But there are more popular attractions than others, like Haukdalur, as Suzzane says: “A visit to the geyser field Haukdalur shows off the country’s geothermal landscape to full and impressive effect. Haukadalur geyser field can be visited as part of the Golden Circle Tour. This is where you’ll come face to face with the geyser Strokkur (Icelandic for churn). Strokkur is one of the island’s most active and flamboyant geysers. A hole in the earth’s surface ripples and rolls with steaming water until it gradually comes to a rolling boil. This culminates in a jet of hot water and steam which Strokkuer blasts violently skywards for up to 30 metres. Strokkur’s not shy; hang around for 5 to 8 minutes and she’ll give a repeat performance.
The earliest records of geysers erupting in Haukdalur date back to 1294, when a number of earthquakes caused significant changes to the landscape and geology of the area. This corner of southwest Iceland is home to more than 50 hot springs, multi-coloured mud pots and the two geysers, which, as Jon from Stuck in Iceland says, is a must-visit: “The geysers of Iceland are a must-see for those who visit the country. I always enjoy seeing the eruptions of the highly active Strokkur - you’re certain to get some great pictures. Plus, these eruptions highlight the power of the geological forces that continue to shape my home country.”
Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
Whether you’re intrigued by myth and legend or want to be wowed by a phenomenal geological site, Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland is certainly one of the world’s most unusual landscapes and is just a stone’s throw from home. This UNESCO World Heritage site is certainly one of the most spectacular coastal settings in the world, with its jagged coastline facing the force of the Irish and Atlantic Sea. As the legend goes, Irish giant Fionn mac Cumhail (or Finn McCool) created the causeway as a path to Scotland where he would fight the Scottish giant Benandonner.
It is believed the Fionn fell asleep when walking to Scotland and is wife Oonagh laid a blanket on top of him which led Benandonner to believe that he was actually an infant child of Fionn’s. Believing that Fionn must be an extremely large giant to produce such big children, Benandonner ripped up the rest of the Causeway to prevent him from being followed.
Mendenhall Ice Caves
Alaska, United States of America
The Mendenhall Ice Caves are one of the only places in the world where you can witness every stage of the water cycle. The tunnel of blue runs underneath a 12-mile glacier within its namesake valley, close to Juneau in Southeast Alaska. Though it’s not an easily accessible sight, it’s worth the effort. For those who are willing, you’ll need to kayak across the beautiful lake before tackling an ice climb to the glacier.
This is one of the world’s most unusual and surreal landscapes but it is suffering from climate change. Juneau Icefield Research Program monitors the Mendenhall Glacier and has found that it has receded almost two miles since 1958. This is a stark figure, considering it had only receded 0.5 miles between 1500 and 1958.
Anyone who is fortunate enough to visit the caves on a cruise to Alaska will be completely captivated by the natural beauty of it. Water falls like rain as the ice melts from the blue-coloured ice ripples overhead, as you walk through a landscape like no other.