These Unique Places are Baffling Scientists

We've all heard tales about phenomenon that are mysterious, the stuff of legend even. And there are certain places around the world that baffle even scientists. Whether it's a side trip or a full-on pilgrimage just for the hell of it, travel to these spots can be a lot of fun, requiring immersion in local lore to fully appreciate their strangeness. Many of these sites are also impossibly beautiful, making the journey well worth it to experience their special magic.


01 Stone Spheres, Costa Rica

Like the rest of Central and South America, Costa Rica has an extensive pre-Columbian history. But whether these polished stone spheres discovered in the Diquis Delta region in the 30s were fashioned by tribal people, or are a naturally occurring phenomenon, is unsure. Made from gabbro igneous rock, which makes up the Earth's crust, the spheres are various sizes, and up to 6 feet in diameter and weighing as much as 16 tons. Legends suggest the orbs came from Atlantis; others that they hide treasure, however, the science around their origins is inconclusive.

02 Patom Crater, Siberia

Dmitry Semenov / Wikipedia

Is it a weird geological formation or something a meteorite created by that slamming into the Earth? And what about recent scientific theories that suggest it is the result of an underground magma explosion? No one knows for sure, but the Patomskiy or Patom Crater near Irkutsk, Siberia is the stuff of legend. Those who live in this bleak region consider it a source of evil, so stay well away from the 131-foot high nest structure with its round egg-like centerpiece.


03 Nazca Lines, Peru

The Spaceman, part of the mysterious Nazca Lines in Peru. Jim Dyson / Getty Images

The famous Nazca Line geoglyphs, cut into the hillsides near Nazca, Peru are considered the work of sophisticated extraterrestrial artisans. Lately, they've been credited to the Nazca people living in the region around 500 BCE. Portraying figures, animals and geometric designs, the line drawings are huge. Early aviators used them as navigation aids. They are now believed to have been created by removing black surface rock to expose the white sand beneath.


04 Fairy Circles, Namibia

Looking like footprints made by giants, or intentionally circular art installations constructed from sand and plants, the Fairy Circles of the Namib Desert have baffled scientists for decades. But they may be the result of nature's complex chain of action and reaction. Ranging in size and sprawling across a hundred miles of barren desert, the circles the above-ground expression of underground termite activity.

05 Eternal Flame Falls, USA

Eternal Flame Falls near Orchard Park, New York. jimfeng / Getty Images

Seems like it could be a sentimental human construct, a memorial perhaps, but this flame and cascade combo is a natural phenomenon. Flames burning in close proximity to falls can be the product of a natural gas source, and that may be the case at this location in Shale Creek Preserve near Orchard Park, New York. But the legend that the flame was lit hundreds of years ago by Native Americans is much more romantic.


06 Plain of Jars, Laos

The mysterious Plain of Jars in a remote region of Laos. AL-Travelpicture / Getty Images

This enigmatic scattering of megalithic stone jars first came to the attention of scientists and archaeologists in the 1930s. Scientists have dated them back to 500 BCE, but are uncertain how the more than 3000 jars, some as tall as 10 feet, were transported and arranged in the current location in northern Laos. Local legend credits a race of giants who carved the jugs to store wine. Other theories suggest the jars form a burial site or a reservoir for catching rainwater.


07 Hessdalen Lights, Norway

For the past forty years, the remote Norwegian town of Hessdalen has enjoyed the same kind of scrutiny from UFO and paranormal enthusiasts as has Roswell, New Mexico. Here, the night skies are frequently illuminated by colored balls of light that move across the sky, sometimes hovering for hours at a time. Scientists are as baffled as UFO hunters because unlike the Northern Lights, the movement patterns of the Hessdalen Lights suggest intent. The area is now subject to intense scientific research with tracking equipment in place to study the phenomenon.

08 Great Serpent Mound, USA

The sinuous lines of the mysterious Great Serpent Mound in Adams County, Ohio. HikingPhotographer / Getty Images

The origins of Ohio's Great Serpent Mound remain shrouded in controversy. That may be because the site combines two phenomena, one natural, one man-made. The mound was built on top of a crater created when a meteorite struck the Earth around 300 million years ago. Archaeologists date the mound itself to about 300 years BCE. A quarter of a mile long and visibly shaped like a snake, it is thought to have served a spiritual purpose for native Americans in the area. No one can be sure though as no artifacts, from burials or any other ritual, have ever been recovered from the site.


09 Lake Hillier, Australia

This bubblegum pink lake in south-western Australia has been the source of intense speculation since it was first discovered in 1802 by explorers. Scientists have yet to identify the exact cause for the lake's strikingly bright hue. There is speculation that it is due to the growth of some kind of micro-organism within the lake's hyper salinated water. Hillier is located in a remote nature preserve, but adventurous tourists still visit to swim in its strange waters.

10 Crooked Forest, Poland

Angled tree trunks in The Crooked Forest near Gryfino in Poland. TeleMakro Fotografie (Ina Hensel) / Getty Images

This grove of bizarrely shaped pine trees grows near the town of Gryfino in Poland just at the border with Germany. Against the laws of nature, the trunks bend sharply just above the ground and then curve gently before resuming vertical growth. The trees were planted in the 30s and it's said in the region that human intervention of some kind is responsible for their improbable shape. Some say the trees were deformed to provide already curved plants for boat or furniture building, but no one can figure out how it was done.


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