The world is full of destinations that look like they’re straight out of a book. The USA particularly is well-loved for its rugged red rocks, dynamic cities, and world-famous national parks. But were you aware that many mysterious attractions on earth are right in your backyard? From Dutch towns to lavender fields, read on to discover 10 places you won’t believe exist in the US.
- Alvord Desert, Oregon: No, this isn’t the Atacama Desert in Chile. The cracked earth, fringed by mountains and natural springs, is situated in southeastern Oregon, spreading out over 10 miles one way and five miles the other in the USA’s notoriously green Pacific Northwest region.
- Helen, Georgia: Even though you’re not in Germany’s Bavaria, this little town can be found hidden away in the state’s Blue Ridge Mountains. The town’s timbered buildings, dinky shops, and mountains add to the feeling that you’re overseas, and beer is very much the drink of choice. Helen’s spirited Oktoberfest has been the main event for more than four decades.
- Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado: Built by the Ancestral Puebloans between 1190 and 1260 AD, this magnificent 150 room site is one of the most beautifully preserved ruins in the US. There are guided tours, but get ready for an hour-long walk that involves a 100ft vertical climb, stone stairs, and ladders.
- Sequim-Dungeness Valley, Washington: If you can’t get away to France’s Provence region, head to the Sequim-Dungeness Valley, north of Olympic National Park. This town is known as the Lavender Capital of North America, and neat rows of purple identify the surrounding valley’s many lavender farms.
- Ca d’Zan, Sarasota, Florida: Inspired by the palazzos of Venice and built in the Venetian-Gothic style during the Roaring Twenties, this was the home of famous circus master John Ringling and his family, who lived here right up until he died in 1936.
- Holland, Michigan: Yes, the town. Not the country. It’s obvious why this lovely town makes you feel like you’re in Holland. Hundreds of Dutch immigrants settled here in hopes of making their fortune in the 1800s, and this heritage makes itself known immediately. Expect Dutch-style architecture, windmills, striped tulip fields, and a traditional clog factory where you can see shoemakers at work.
- Papakolea Green Sand Beach, Hawaii: While this state needs no introduction, you may not know about the green sands of Papakolea. This is the only beach of its kind in the States, and one of only four on the entire planet has a green hue resulting from the mineral olivine, deposited by volcanic eruptions over millennia.
- Thor’s Well, Oregon: While there’s no hammer-wielding god here, Thor’s Well is an apt name for this watery display off the coast of Oregon. The Cape Perpetua Scenic Area sinkhole plunges to around 20ft and is often dubbed the “drainpipe of the Pacific.” It’s believed that it was once a sea cave before the roof collapsed and the bubbling well was formed.
- Starved Rock State Park, Illinois: This park’s winning feature is its dramatic rock formations. The State Park is home to 18 canyons, with waterfalls forming mainly during springtime. Its web of paths reaches across 13 miles and takes hikers past wildflower meadows, rocky gorges, and, in the winter, ice sculptures that are formed from frozen cascades.
- Eternal Flame Falls, New York: These flaming falls are located in Chestnut Ridge Park, where an immortal flame flashes beneath the plunging water. The fire supposedly had been lit thousands of years ago by Native Americans, and a little grotto below the waterfall releases natural gases that keep the flame alight.
So the next time you want to explore new and exciting places, keep in mind that you don’t have to travel overseas. Pack your bags and head for any of these destinations to see the spectacular diversity of the US landscape. While they might look like film sets, we promise they’re 100 percent real!