Characterized by dramatic hoodoos, mesas, gullies, buttes and ravines, badlands present some of the most spectacular scenery on Earth. From the Mars-like Atacama Desert to the dusty Death Valley in California, the world has an impressive variety of extreme terrains and eroded geological formations. If you want to see some of Mother Nature’s harshest yet unusually beautiful landscapes, check out these 10 badass badlands around the world.
1. Las Médulas, Spain
Las Médulas is a historic region of Castile and León in Spain, inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1997. Formerly an important gold-mining region during Roman times, these badlands sport a unique landscape with colorful red cliffs, lush forests and plenty of ancient ruins. The tunnels, corridors and galleries were shaped by mining activity plus the ravages of time and elements. Combining beautiful nature and ancient history, Las Médulas is ideal for hiking and exploring.
2. Valle de la Luna, Argentina
An extension of the Atacama Desert, the driest place on Earth, Argentina’s Valley of the Moon is a hauntingly beautiful yet inhospitable place of unique clay formations, sedimentary layers and enormous cliffs. A region of splendid natural history, Valle de la Luna is also the site of some of the oldest known dinosaur remains in the world. Since 2000, it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
3. Drumheller, Alberta
Often known as Dinosaur Valley due to its rich fossil deposits, the town of Drumheller is located some 70 miles from Calgary. It is home to the Drumheller Badlands with their eroded, mushroom-like hoodoos, nature-carved sandstone pillars and coulee valley landscapes. They are is also home to Canada’s most famous dinosaur museum, the Royal Tyrrell Museum. Outdoor recreational pursuits in these rugged Alberta badlands provide some amazing otherworldly views.
4. Chinle Badlands, Arizona
Crossing the border between Arizona and Utah, the Chinle Badlands are home to the famous Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. With a high plateau and spectacular rock formations dating back to the Triassic period, it is one of the most dramatic landscapes in the US. In fact, the harsh, dry region looks not unlike the surface of Mars. The flat-topped mesas and carved buttes are truly spectacular.
5. Toadstool Geological Park, Nebraska
Commonly known as the Badlands of Nebraska, the Toadstool Geological Park takes its name from the many eroded rock formations that look rather like giant toadstools. Like many badlands regions, the park is home to many fossils, some of which you can see along the mile-long trail which takes you around the park. There is also a campground nearby, open throughout the year.
6. Death Valley, California
One of the best badlands around the world, California’s Death Valley is aptly named due to its dry and inhospitable climate. Featuring sand dunes, creeks, canyons, ravines, hoodoos and salt flats, the region is also one of the hottest in the world, once reaching a scorching 134 degrees F! Zabriskie Point, located east of the valley proper, is millions of years older and features a striking badlands landscape.
7. Deadvlei, Namibia
Deadvlei is a clay pan in the Namib-Naukluft Park of Namibia. With its truly otherworldly scenes, this barren place is actually a long-dead marshland. Here you’ll see a sunbaked ground scattered with the skeletons of ancient acacia trees, which died long ago when the waters dried up. The bone-dry landscape is surrounded by the dunes of the vast Namib Desert.
8. Cheltenham Badlands, Ontario
This small but unique badlands formation in Canada was only exposed in the 1930s due to land degradation caused by bad farming practices. Once occupied by a river, the region is now dry and red due to the high iron oxide content of the rocks. The Cheltenham Badlands are a part of the UNESCO-protected Niagara Escarpment. This sensitive landscape is no longer accessible via the Bruce Trail, but you can view it from a lookout above.
9. Bisti Badlands, New Mexico
The desolate eroded scenes of the Bisti Badlands in New Mexico are something you’ll never forget. A geologically ancient area, it is characterized by its many strange rock formations and sandstone mounds, including one that looks rather like the Sphinx. The Bisti Badlands is also home to many petrified trees and logs, left behind long ago after the region’s water dried up.
10. Badlands, South Dakota
Badlands National Park in South Dakota is a vast area comprising almost 400 square miles of natural pinnacles and spires, sculpted by Mother Nature and Father Time. The area is most famous for the Mount Rushmore National Memorial, featuring the heads of four US presidents carved into the granite (human artists had a hand in that, of course). The Badlands are also an important historic region for the Lakota and Arikara Native American tribes. Drive the 30 mile loop through for a series of spectacular photo-ops at the many scenic lookouts.