Whether you’ve traveled the world or stayed within the parameters of your home state, at some point you’ve probably encountered a landscape that feels a little unearthly. From discovery-filled hikes to a swim in an unfamiliar lake, the planet we inhabit has a remarkable ability to remind us that it is, in fact, just another sphere in the universe. This phenomenon exists in deserts perhaps more than anywhere — the vast and sprawling sandy landscapes where water is difficult to come by are often the very definition of “otherworldly.”

Read on to learn more about the amazing assortment of deserts, dunes, and mountainous terrain below, then click through to our entire collection for even more out-of-this-world adventure.

1. Ojo del Mar (Salinas Grandes), Argentina

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Ojo del Mar, Argentina by Galyna Andrushko
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Ojo del Mar is known for its unlikely salty make-up. The nearby mountains are responsible for this composition, which comes as a by product of rain. The scattered and sparse rivers that run through parts of the desert also contribute to the vibrant and vivid colors of the landscape.

2. Death Valley, California

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Image by liseykina

Pictured: [1] Image by liseykina [2] Image by liseykina

Situated in Eastern California, Death Valley holds the record for the highest (reported) temperature in the world, coming in at around 134 degrees Farenheit (56.7 degrees celsius). It’s known as the hottest and driest area in all of North America.

3. White Desert, Egypt

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White Desert, Egypt by elena moiseeva
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The sculpture-esque formations found here formed as a result of sandstorms. The White Desert is a popular destination for school field and camping trips, as well as for tourists who visit the town of Farafra.

4. Lençois Maranhenses National Park, Brazil

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Image by T photography
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Image by Thomas Campos

Pictured: [1] Image by T photography [2] Image by ostill [3] Image by Thomas Campos

That which looks like a desert may not always be one, as proven by Lençois Maranhenses National Park. Subject to regular rain seasons, the park also boasts turquoise blue lagoons and sweeping salt-colored sand dunes.

5. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

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Image by Alexey Kamenskiy
Image by evantravels
Image by Wildnerdpix

Pictured: [1] Image by Alexey Kamenskiy [2] Image by evantravels [3] Image by Wildnerdpix

This site contains some of the largest sand dunes in all of North America. You’ll also find that, despite the desert-like appearance, much of the sand is wet, which can be discovered by digging just a couple of inches into the ground.

6. Painted Desert, Arizona

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Image by Laurin Rinder
Image by Laurin Rinder
Image by JNB Photography
Image by Ekaterina Pokrovsky

Pictured: [1] Image by Laurin Rinder [2] Image by Laurin Rinder [3] Image by JNB Photography [4] Image by Ekaterina Pokrovsky

The picturesque quality of this area can be attributed to a variety of eroded stones, along with mud and silt. It measures around 7,500 square miles — roughly 16 times the square mileage of New York City.

7. Atacama Desert, Chile

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Image by Serjio74
Image by Serjio74
Image by Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH
Image by D'July

Pictured: [1] Image by Serjio74 [2] Image by Serjio74 [3] Image by Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH [4] Image by D'July

Often referred to as the driest place in the world, the mountains of Atacama rise to about 20,000 feet, without a trace of snow. Rain and snow happen so rarely that when they do occur, residents of the bordering towns often find themselves trapped due to lack of preparedness.

Discover even more cosmic visions on Earth in our curated “Otherworldly Landscapes” lightbox »

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Top image: Namib Desert, The Magestic Red Dune by PhotoSky