Far away from the madding crowd

Far from the madding crowd

With travellers likely to gravitate towards greener, less populated places and those tucked away in the lap of nature, here’s a quick guide to places that are mystical, mythical and majestic, writes Shobhana Sachidanand

Giant's Causeway, Northern Ireland

The travel stasis induced by the pandemic has left most of our plans of 2020 in a limbo as we are stuck at home trying to distract ourselves through virtual tours. But, if you are the kind who believes in the real thing, stay optimistic. The timeline may get extended but there’s no stopping future travellers from tackling that bucket list with big trips that explore our natural environs, are more distant and can be planned further in advance.

The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

Imagine tiptoeing on the tops of basalt columns that form stepping stones leading from a cliff foot and disappearing under the sea. That’s the Giant’s Causeway. The estimated 37,000 polygon columns at this World Heritage Site are geometrically perfect and legend has it that they were created by Irish giant Fionn Mac Cumhaill (Finn MacCool). Sixty million years ago a huge volcanic eruption spewed out a mass of molten basalt which then solidified and contracted as it cooled, creating the cracks that can be seen today. If mythology, giants and supernatural beings intrigue you, head to the Northern Island. It also has a stromatolite colony which is an unusual find as stromatolites are more commonly found in warmer waters with higher saline content than those found at the causeway.

Thor’s Well, Oregon, USA
Thor’s Well, Oregon, USA

Thor’s Well, Oregon, USA

Mind you, this Thor is no less than your Marvel character! Part of Cape Perpetua (a forested headland that extends out into the Pacific Ocean) on Oregon’s coast, Thor’s Well releases jets of water which are pumped into the air via the power of the ocean tide and waves. Also known as Spouting Horn, the surf rushes into the gaping sinkhole and then shoots upwards with great force. It can be viewed by taking the Captain Cook Trail. Nature lovers flock here to see the aggressive waters that live up to their godly namesake’s stormy personality.

Badab-e-Surt, Iran
Badab-e-Surt, Iran

Badab-e-Surt, Iran

A natural phenomenon, these beautiful travertine terraces in northern Iran have been created over thousands of years as flowing water from two mineral hot springs cooled and deposited carbonate minerals on the mountainside. Travertine is a type of limestone formed from the calcium deposit in flowing water, and in this case, it is two hot springs with different mineral properties. The unusual reddish colour of the terraces is due to the high content of iron oxide in one of the springs.

The Nazca Lines, Peru

Wouldn’t we all want to draw the line on the pandemic and how it has altered our lives? Perhaps the geoglyphs at the Nazca Lines could show us how. The Nazca Lines, a group of very large geoglyphs made in the soil of the Nazca Desert in southern Peru, were created between 500 BCE and 500 CE by people making depressions or shallow incisions in the desert floor, removing pebbles and leaving differently coloured dirt exposed. The animal figures and geometric shapes etched by the ancient Nazca into Peru’s barren Pampa de San José are one of South America’s great mysteries. Visible only from the air or from a metal viewing tower beside the highway, some of the unexplained shapes are up to 200mts in length and each one is executed in a single continuous line.

Goblin Valley State Park, Utah, USA
Goblin Valley State Park, Utah, USA

Goblin Valley State Park, Utah, USA

Imagine a landscape inhabited by thousands of hoodoos, referred to locally as goblins, which are formations of mushroom-shaped rock pinnacles, some as tall as several yards (metres). Spotted Lake is a saline endorheic alkali lake located northwest of Osoyoos in the eastern Similkameen Valley of British Columbia, Canada, accessed via Highway 3. No, this is not Mars but an uninhabited valley 216 miles southeast of Salt Lake City in Utah. Soft sandstone has, for many years, been eroded by wind and water to form strange pinnacles or hoodoos that some think resemble goblins. The eerie landscape is well worth exploring for its marked trails and bizarre formations.

Roopkund Lake, Uttarakhand

Closer home, if rock-strewn glaciers and snow-clad mountains are your calling, Roopkund Lake in Uttarakhand promises not just that but also a dash of mystery and skeletons too. Known as the Mystery Lake, it is a sight for sore eyes for those who like a taste of adventure. Elevated on the laps of the Mt Trishul, at an estimated altitude of 16,499 ft, what adds to the mystery of this place are the numerous human skeletons discovered lying at the bottom of the lake, which makes for a distinct natural spectacle when the snow melts. Feast your eyes on the chilling surroundings, gurgling brooks, and fresh air along this amazing trek as you wonder about the skeletons.

Majuli Island, Assam

Majuli, a river island in Assam, is a region often overlooked by tourists. This island, encircled by the gushing waters of river Brahmaputra, has been isolated for years. This place is so cut off from the rest of the country that the only way to reach there would be by a ferry, that too during the day. This island is said to be disappearing, as all good things do. This is a place that is too good to be true. Visit while you still can!

Athirappilly Falls

Athirappilly houses the largest waterfall in Kerala and is located 78 km from Kochi, at the entrance to the Shoryar Ranges. The waterfall, about 80 ft high and located in the forest area, presents onlookers with a sight to behold. Also known as the Niagara Falls of India, it is a must-visit place for nature lovers. The majestic Athirappilly Falls in Kerala are 330-feet wide and the picturesque Vazhachal waterfall, a part of the Chalakuddy River, is about 5 km away. 

Chopta, Uttarakhand 

At an altitude of 2,900 mts, Chopta Valley in Uttarakhand is undoubtedly the prettiest spot of all the offbeat places in India. Enjoy the spellbinding beauty of the Himalayas, snow-capped mountains, and thick forest trails at this mini Switzerland of India. The sleepy town will enchant you with its mystical meadows, towering trees and snowy backdrops. Chopta is the base for various trekking destinations like Tungnath, Chandrashila and more.

Gokarna, Uttara Kannada
Gokarna, Uttara Kannada

Gokarna,Uttara Kannada

Gokarna in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka is famous for its immaculate and untouched beaches. This unexplored place is rapidly gaining fame as a desired beach resort among youngsters. Although this is a temple town with lots of temples, the place enjoys a relaxed and slow atmosphere, which makes this place one of the best weekend getaways for beach lovers.