Come travel with me to the truly fantastical places of the earth.
Often it can seem that this world of ours is depressingly and incorrigibly mundane - that all wonder and magic retreated, against the steam-powered onslaught of the Industrial Revolution and later against the threat of nuclear and biological catastrophe - into pages, pixels, daubs and reels of film: into the recesses of human consciousness, never to emerge. As worldwide travel becomes more commonplace - we think we know all there is on Earth - and to dreamers like myself it can be saddening to think that the fantastical realms we long for are unreachable save by proxy... I sigh and imagine a cold, Romanceless world -
- and then I am proven wrong - delightfully wrong.
The following images were discovered on Quora and I highly recommend you spend time looking through ALL the pictures on the site in this category as they will truly feed your organ of Wonder and transport you to far distant lands (admittedly still by proxy, but if you are able to travel you may have the capability to visit these places in reality).
Climb astride your steed of choice - horse, camel, dragon or pegasus - or if you prefer a vehicle - air balloon, motorbike or unicycle and join me in the journey.
Our first place of note is Bagan Myanmar. These ancient pagodas and temples number in their thousands and are the magnificent remnants of "The Kingdom of Pagan" in Burma. Although these temples no longer sound with the prayers of the devoted - the wonder and mystery of the site persists.
Next on our travel agenda are the Italian Dolomites. This scene seems like an Arcadian paradise - straight from "The Pastoral Symphony" in Fantasia - we expect to see the gods of Ancient Rome - Jupiter and his family - to emerge from the clouds, triumphantly proceeding to glorious accolade, into the valley. The scenery is truly god-worthy.
Let us turn now and follow the track of the stars, drifting in calm waters wherever the currents and breezes lead... Wait - trail your hand in this body of water and a line of light will trail from each of your fingers. How is such a thing possible? This phenomenon is caused by bioluminescence - the waters of Mosquito Bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico teem with millions of microscopic organisms that shine brilliantly when disturbed.
In the jungle of Cambodia there exists the ultimate place of glorious decay - where the grand edifices of a vanished civilisation stand crumbling in the grip and tangle of strangler figs. Marvel at the force of nature, and the beauty that is Ankor Wat.
Are those towers on the horizon? If they are - no mortal hand has shaped them. This is a fantasy city carved by wind and rain - the pillars of Cappadocia, Turkey - turret-like caps of hard stone on soft, easily eroded pedestals. Some of the rock formations here have been further carved and catacombed by humans to form habitations - but the locals name them "fairy chimneys".
Welcome to Narnia-on-Earth. This is a truly magical place of infinite wonder - containing crystal-pure and aquamarine pools fringed with icicles and white-feathery pines in winter; verdant forests and cascades of paradisaical hues in summer. Here is ample magic for the searching, at Plitvice National Park, Croatia.
Do you wish to travel out of this world completely? The Socotra Island in Yemen is the closest you will get to alien life while still earthbound, containing bizarre and fantastical lifeforms that evolved for aeons in isolation...
Our next destination could be the "lagoon" from Neverland - the one that forms in brilliant colours behind your eyelids when you squeeze your eyes tight as possible... but this place is the "Liquid Rainbow" or Cano Cristales in Columbia.
"The Wave" in Arizona is one of the most eye-watering and surreal natural formations- a place of vivid colours that change with every caprice of the weather and position of the sun. This desert has its cousin in the perilously beautiful "Desert of Colours" from the Neverending Story - imagine running over these striped undulations on the back of a flaming lion...
Halt here for a moment at the rim of the pit of the Inferno and gaze into Hell's depths. Dante himself would quail. Or do we look into Sauruman's foundry - where the Uruk-Hai are born from fiery mud and tortured elves? We are at Darvaza, Turkmenistan - and only a fool would dare to get any closer...
From the pit of Hell, to Eden's ease - let us rest a while by the pristine, natural pool at the Sua Trench, Samoa.
High as the surrounding hills, the Tiantan Buddha meditates in the verdant valley of Lantau Island, Hong Kong, dispensing benevolence and wisdom with every breeze that rushes between the mountains and rustles the treetops.
"But rose-red as if the blush of dawn,that first beheld them were not yet withdrawn;The hues of youth upon a brow of woe,which Man deemed old two thousand years ago,match me such marvel save in Eastern clime,a rose-red city half as old as time." - John Burgon
We pass through a warm-hued fissure in a desert cliff and come upon the magnificent facade of a city, carved into the very cliffs. This is a precious, palatial mausoleum - the memorial of the ancient civilisation of the Edomites. The "rose-red" city of Petra in Jordan well merits a place on our journey.
This delicate seeming sanctuary in the Columbian canyon of the Guáitara River owes its creation to the miraculous healing of a deaf-mute girl. Although it was built fairly recently (in 1949) - its appearance is straight from fairytale and its miraculous origins add wonder to the already beautiful Santuario de las Lajas.
This monument seems straight out of "Ozymandias" - we expect to see "nearby, on the ground/Half sunk, a shattered visage"... But this is no monument to an ancient king's hubris. El Mano del Desierto in Chile was created in 1992 by sculptor Mario Irarrázabal to express human vulnerability in the presence of nature. Its very size is poignant - expressive of the same futility so well conveyed in Shelley's poem.
Now we come to a city in the clouds - the Incan "estate" of Macchu Pichu in Peru. Although it has fallen from its state of sacred city - its stones still hold commune with the winds and stars, and proudly the weathered ruins overlook the valley Urubamba.
If you, like me, thrilled to the glowing wonderland of Pandora in Avatar - try visiting the Waitomo Caves, New Zealand, the haunt of millions of glow worms that star the stalactites of the caves...
This looks like a fantasy fountain - painted in beautiful hues by the ores and pigments of the earth and sun - Fly Geyser, Nevada is worthy of any otherworldly domain. It looks as though it ought to have mythologies written to its huddled forms - a petrified first-family spraying hot life over the world.
I dare you to find a more imposing and terrible tower in a fantasy book to rival the Hassan Tower, Morrocco. This tower was intended to be the base of the tallest minaret in the world - to the peak of which a horseman should have been able to ride on long ramps - but construction stopped halfway (like the tower of Babel) when the Sultan Yacoub al-Masour died in 1199BC.
This pearly bridge and impossibly aqua river in Bosnia-Herzegovia is the perfect place for us to conclude our traveller's log, for now. Here we can find sweet and tranquil rest in a fairytale town of Mostrar. But the journey never ends - and soon we will shoulder our packs and ride together, following the river to parts unknown...
Who can tell what wonders we will find? The world is wide and strange, still.