Tyler Vendetti
January 16, 2014 9:00 am

On January 14th, I abandoned my revolutionary hometown to study abroad in the United Kingdom, despite my fear of planes and my disdain for traditional tea. Why? Because I believe with all my heart that traveling changes who you are for the better, even if it’s just to the next town over. It forces you to step outside of your cultural comfort zone and see your world from a different perspective. There are so many places in this world that are worth seeing, even if it costs you an arm and a leg to get there (why would God give us four of them if he didn’t expect us to lose some?). For example:

1) The Dark Hedges, Northern Ireland

Any Lord of the Rings fan would appreciate the mythical nature of these tree archways in Ireland. Planted during the 18th century, the “Dark Hedges” are the perfect subject for your next Instagram snapshot or wedding portrait. Just hope the “Grey Lady” that haunts the forest doesn’t try to photobomb.

2) Sea of Stars, Vaadhoo Island (The Maldives)

Rumor has it that Jesus’s return will be marked by fallen stars and shaken heavens but if that’s the case, we should all keep our eyes peeled for wise, bearded men because this beach on Vaadhoo Island has fulfilled the prophecy. Filled with miniscule phytoplankton, which light up when they’re touched, the water in this Maldives location looks like something out of a science-fiction movie. If swimming with microorganisms weirds you out, think on the bright side: at least you’ll be able to spot approaching sharks more easily.

3) Glass Igloo Village Hotels, Finland

When I was little, I used to spend hours filling tiny, plastic toy bricks with snow, trying to construct my own little igloo to protect myself from the cold. Though most of my attempts resulted in really tall snow wells (I could never figure out how to form a roof), my childhood dream of living in an igloo never died. Therefore, it only seems fair that I include this Finnish resort, which allows its guests to camp out under the stars in artificial igloo houses and dine in snow restaurants. I imagine the menu consists of snow cones, snowballs, and snowmen for all of you with cannibalistic tendencies.

4) Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Often hailed as “the world’s largest mirror,” this salt flat in Bolivia turns into one giant reflective surface during the wet season, sending photographers and egomaniacs into a frenzy. If the mirrors at IKEA weren’t big enough for your liking, Salar de Uyuni is here to help. (I’m looking at you, Jenna Maroney.)

5) Lake Hillier, Australia

I like my lakes like I like my Easter peeps: pink and funny-looking. While Australia is known for its grand natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef, the pretty (but deadly) island also holds some quirky treasures.

6) Zhangye Danxia Landform, China

See the rainbow, climb the rainbow, put a flag on the top of the rainbow and claim it as your own. Made of red sandstone and sediment, the Danxia landform in China boasts a colorful pattern that resembles the .

7) Kjeragbolten, Norway

For an introvert that prefers books and cafes to skydiving and bungee jumping, I’ve been on a few adventures in my life and taken some risks but even I wouldn’t dare to mount the Kjeragbolten rock formation in Norway. Wedged between two clifs, this dangling boulder makes for a good tourist photo, as long as you’re willing to crawl onto a dangling rock hundreds of feet high.

8) Four Seasons (The Golden Triangle), Thailand

Some hotels give you chocolates on your pillow. Some fold your dinner napkins into eloquent swans. Some allow elephants to roam the resort, interacting with guests and peeking into restaurants. That last one in particular describes the Four Seasons Resort in Thailand where, upon arrival, guests will be greeted by wild elephants and be privy to exotic views and amenities.

9) Fafe, Portugal

If you’ve ever watched The Flinstones and wondered what Barney’s charming house would be like in real life, you’re in for a treat. In the rural borders of Fafe, Portugal, visitors can find houses fit for a Flinstone. Carved out of large boulders, these houses are daba daba cool.

10) Coober Pedy, Australia

I promised myself I wouldn’t feature Australia twice on this list, because that’s not fair to the other two-hundred plus countries, but after reading about Coober Pedy’s unusual annual tradition, I simply couldn’t resist. During Australia’s dry season, during which temperatures can reach over one-hundred and twenty degrees, the citizens of Coober Pedy relocate to a cooler location. That is, they move underground. Reminiscent of an Armageddon day survivalist bunker, Coober Pedy’s hidden underground city comes complete with hotel rooms, shops, and even restaurants.

Honorable Mention: Grand Canyon, Nevada

In an effort to appear less cliché, I tried to avoid the typical tourist hot spots, but I saw the Grand Canyon for the first time last summer and it’s definitely worth a mention. Though you must pay a hefty fee to visit the main canyon areas, the “grand” landscape is certainly worth the money.

Now that I’ve covered a fraction of the world’s hidden wonders, what’s on your travel bucket list? Pretend you have all the money in the world, no responsibilities, and the ability to teleport for those of you who share my plane anxiety.

Image via Shutterstock.com.

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