There’s nothing more fun, particularly for kids, than marveling at the earthly unknown, where the existence of certain structures or phenomenon—Stonehenge, the Integratron, Roswell—defy simple explanation. The trips below offer the prospects of alien interventions, unknown ancient civilizations, conspiracy theories, and cover-ups, making them mystical, summer trip gold.
Though most archaeologists now agree that Stonehenge was constructed by Stone Age societies around 2,500 BCE (about the same time period that pyramids were being constructed in Giza), there’s something about the sheer scale of it that seems beyond human imagination. The rocks themselves weigh up to forty-five tons, and they were each dragged a great distance and manipulated into the correct shape before being heaved upright—a huge amount of effort. It’s estimated that thousands of people worked together to build Stonehenge. (Far-out theories suggest ancient aliens lent technology to speed things along, though scientists maintain that the tools existed to erect the site.)
There’s definitely an otherworldly sanctity to Stonehenge that makes it worthy of a visit (in fact, many new age theories identify it as an energy contact point, or one of Mother Earth’s key chakras). As an added bonus, it’s a reasonable day trip from London, and an easy 45-minute drive from two of our favorite spots in the countryside town of Hampshire.
Located in the desert region at the southern border of Peru, the Nasca lines are one of the great archaeological mysteries on earth. Created by the Nasca people, who lived in this region starting around 200 BCE, the enormous geoglyphs (the largest are as long as four football fields laid side-by-side) were built by digging away the rust-colored top layer of rock and dirt to reveal a lighter colored layer of soil. When viewed from the sky, it’s possible to see that the long lines create geometric shapes and figures, including, famously, a hummingbird, a spider, a monkey, and a whale. Archaeologists have puzzled over the purpose of the lines for generations, theorizing that they could have been used during prayer ceremonies, as an offering to the gods, or to help locate water, among other ideas. A 1960’s theory that the lines were used as landing pads for alien cultures has captivated imaginations enough to stick.
Nasca is a bit isolated, but seaside Paracas, a resort town a few hours’ drive away with some geoglyphs of its own, has a luxury hotel and can serve as a perfectly nice home base. The lines are, of course, best experienced from the air, so book a flight tour a few weeks in advance.
Marfa, Texas bridges the ranching world of West Texas with a cosmopolitan art scene—so in some ways it’s no surprise that it’s also a bridge to the otherworldly. Visible from outside town (there’s an official viewing area on Highway 90), you can see unexplained lights in the distance on clear nights, often blinking and sometimes zooming back and forth. They’re often dismissed as car lights, visible at great distances because of the clear desert air, but since they’re part of Apache legend and cowboy campfire stories from as early as the 1880’s, locals will tell you that can’t be the whole story.
There’s no shortage of things to do in Marfa, from Donald Judd’s properties to Ballroom Marfa, the town’s contemporary art museum, to drinks at El Cosmico, the local hangout. Oh, and the town’s first luxury hotel, St. George, just opened.
If you believe that a flying saucer crashed in Roswell in 1947, then the theory follows that the craft was next transported to this secret US Air Force military installation (which does indeed exist, although the US government denied it for years) for examination and storage. In the nearby town of Rachel, Nevada—just over two hours outside of Vegas—you can plug in to a community eager to tell you all about this stuff; there are tour guides who can take you to lookout points where you can get an aerial glimpse inside the base, watch parties that try to stake out new UFO sightings, and plenty of less-than-glamorous thematic outposts (think: an alien-themed bar).
Sedona locals are clear that the town’s sacred land is home to four energy vortexes, where spiraling energy connects us with Mother Earth and brings us into harmony with others—they (and seekers from all over the world) visit the vortexes when they need support, healing, and guidance. Skeptics will be intrigued that each can be identified by swirled, twisted juniper branches, and measured with a magnetometer.
The cool thing about visiting Sedona’s vortexes is that each is in a place you’d likely already go, starting with the airport (there’s a trail just off airport road where you can hike up into the saddle). Two others are located along famous hikes in the region (Red Rock Crossing and Bell Rock), and the last is nestled in Boynton Canyon, where you can also visit one of our favorite spas on the planet: Mii Amo.
It sounds a tad New Age-y to the uninitiated, but it’s worth the 45-minute drive from Palm Springs to Yucca Valley for a sound bath (some refer to them as sonic healing sessions) inside the Integratron chamber. The hour-long experience consists of listening to a combination of live crystal bowl playing and pre-recorded music, which, when combined with the chamber’s extra-strong energy levels, results in intense levels of relaxation. According to Integratron’s creator, George Van Tassel, the all-wood structure was built on a geomagnetic vortex with guidance from Nikola Tesla’s writings and, umm, extraterrestrials. Whether or not it sounds entirely unlikely, there’s something magical about the place. Call ahead to reserve.
Research balloon or flying saucer? The site of the most famous (alleged) UFO sighting to date, the city of Roswell has become a stalwart of the conspiracy community, following more than half a century of public rumination and investigation of the incident that ignited it all. In 1947, a flying object landed on a Roswell ranch. (That part is not disputed.) The object was first reported in the local paper as a “flying saucer,” but corrected in print a few days later to announce it was merely a rogue weather balloon. In the 90’s, the US government elaborated a bit, revising their initial statement and revealing that the object was actually a nuclear test surveillance balloon. Of course, to many, it’s not a closed case at all: a few years ago, a thirty-five-year CIA veteran Chase Brandon, told the Huffington Post: “It was not a damn weather balloon—it was what it was billed when people first reported it. It was a craft that clearly did not come from this planet, it crashed and I don’t doubt for a second that the use of the word ‘remains’ and ‘cadavers’ was exactly what people were talking about.” The town itself is a bizarre, surreal place that capitalizes on the intrigue enough to keep out-of-town enthusiasts entertained, if you’re in to that sort of thing. (For more on evidence of UFO’s, read about Leslie Kean’s research here).
Once known by colonizers as Easter Island, Rapa Nui is most famous for huge statues called moai that were carved from volcanic rock and erected all over the island by its native people (also called the Rapa Nui). After widespread deforestation caused a collapse of their population, the community was small when Europeans arrived a century later. The Rapa Nui only had an oral tradition, so critical pieces of their history—notably why the moai were constructed and how they were moved—has been lost and remains a total mystery to archaeologists. Theories abound, and many scientists have tried to re-enact moving the 14-ton statues; there are several ancient-alien theories, which gain strength from the moai’s graphic, oblong shapes.
Though it’s a trek to get to—five hours from Santiago by plane—Rapa Nui has plenty of attractions beyond its archaeology, including great snorkeling, fishing, hiking, and wildlife (plus, it’s totally stunning). The Chilean hotelier Explora has a great property on the island, complete with a concierge that can organize activities, and Te Moana, which serves native food, is one of the best restaurants on the island. The best way to see the island, and all its historical and natural interest points, is to hire a private guide—there are several who do tours in English.
It’s now been forty years since a series of UFO sightings in Broad Haven, Wales, but the town is still famous as an under-the-radar pilgrimage for UFO enthusiasts. The story: In 1977, a group of schoolchildren all reported seeing a cigar-shaped UFO near their playground. In the aftermath, officials asked the children to draw illustrations of their sighting, and the remarkable similarities between the drawings caught the imaginations of locals (and inspired a fictional novel). Townspeople are usually eager to swap stories and conspiracy theories, so it’s a fun stopover on a trip down the Welsh coast.
At this remote spot in Australia’s Northern Territory, you’re considered unlucky if you go out there for a few days and don’t see a single UFO. Reported sightings here go back for at least a century, making it a bona fide flying saucer hotbed. The move here is to camp and simply observe—if you don’t see a UFO, you will catch amazing sunrises and sunsets across the sky, where nightfall brings a light-pollution-free view of the stars. And, there’s a small motel with a restaurant and cafe for sustenance.
Bonnybridge got its reputation as a UFO town in the early ‘90s, when several locals reported sightings of flying saucers. In banner years, more than 300 sightings have been reported. The little commuter town, for its part, has embraced its otherworldly fame, hosting watch parties in the evenings when enthusiasts gather with binoculars to search the sky. While sightings have decreased in recent years, Bonnybridge is also notable for is convenient location. Visit when you’re making your way through Glasgow or Edinburgh—it’s an easy hour’s train ride from either city.
The Egyptian pyramids are a straight-up marvel, and most of the conspiracy theories that swirl around them are born of the feeling that the structures are too precise and too magnificent to be the work of human beings circa 2,500 BCE. Built just outside Giza on the west bank of the Nile River, the three massive pyramids are named after the kings they were built for: Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure. The oldest and largest (the Great Pyramid) was erected for Khofu, and the length of each side of the base measures about 756 feet; each block of stone, approximately 2.3 million in total, were cut and put in place to create the 5.75-million-ton structure. If all that weren’t impressive enough, the whole thing is aligned precisely north, and exactly how they pulled that off is still a matter of debate…which, you guessed it, leaves room for conspiracy theorists to wonder if extraterrestrials helped out. (Robert M. Schoch, Ph.D., on the other hand, posits that civilizations even before 2,500 BCE were sophisticated enough to accomplish these feats of engineering; read about it here.)
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