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11 Real Places That Look Like Optical Illusions

You'll need to take a second, or third, look at these natural landmarks that appear to be something they're not.

In the pink fog there is a halo of rainbow of the fantastic natural phenomena Brocken spectre. Lawn with the blooming rhododendrons and rocks. Tourist scenery. Location Carpathians, Ukraine, Europe.vik898/Getty Images

Optical illusions in real life

The world is filled with a lot of wonders, some of them man-made and some in nature. From the right angle, some real places look slightly different—and almost unreal—than they would in real life. Take a look at these optical illusions in the world that aren’t as they might seem. Famous landmarks also aren’t always as they appear in popular pictures. Here’s what famous landmarks look like zoomed out.

Sun light at empty bridge of norwegian Atlantic Road, one of the most scenic roads of the world. Norway.Nikiforov Alexander/Shutterstock

Atlantic Road

This scenic road in Norway looks like it just drops off into the sky. The bridge really just curves down, but when captured from the right angle it looks like a potentially dangerous optical illusion. To mess with your eyes even more, check out these optical illusions that will make your brain hurt.

Girl in red on Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia covered with water with cloudy sky reflectionsOlga Kot Photo/Shutterstock

Salt flats

When these salt flats in Bolivia are covered in a thin layer of water, the surface becomes reflective and makes it appear as though any person or thing on them is simply floating.

Russia, Kamchatka, a view of the volcanoes Flat Tolbachik and Ostry,lenticular cloudMichael Dorogovich/Shutterstock

Flat Tolbachik and Ostry volcanoes

No, that’s not Photoshop. These strange-looking clouds are actually real and they’re called lenticular clouds. These UFO-looking clouds form when moist air flows over a mountain creating standing waves on the mountains downwind side. If the temperature at the crest of the waves drops to the dew point, the moisture in the air condenses and forms lenticular clouds. You’ve probably never heard about these 15 natural wonders around the world.

Magnetic Hill is a gravity hill located near Leh in Ladakh, IndiaTappasan Phurisamrit/Shutterstock

Magnetic Hill

This optical illusion is a little hard to understand in a picture. Magnetic Hill is a gravity hill near Leh in Ladakh, India. Because of its surroundings, it appears to slope upward, but it actually slopes downward. There is also another theory that there is a strong magnetic force emanating from the hill that pulls vehicles towards it when they drive on the road. Thus, even though they are driving “uphill” they don’t need to use the gas. 

Aerial view of Mauritius island panorama and famous Le Morne Brabant mountain, beautiful blue lagoon and underwater waterfallMyroslava Bozhko/Shutterstock

Mauritius Island

It looks as though there is a waterfall underneath the Indian ocean off of this island, but that’s not the case. This optical illusion is actually just sand being pushed off of an underwater shelf called Mascarene Plateau. These are the most colorful natural wonders on Earth.

Impressive sunset in Azalea and Rhododendron Park Kromlau, Germany, Europe. Picturesque autumn view of Rakotz Bridge (Rakotzbrucke, Devil's Bridge). Traveling concept background.Andrew Mayovskyy/Shutterstock

Rakotzbrücke Devil’s Bridge

This bridge was built in Germany in 1860. It was built in a perfect half-circle so that when the light hits it in just the right place, the bridge appears to be a never-ending circle. 

Dead Camelthorn Trees and red dunes in Deadvlei, Sossusvlei, Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibiajavarman/Shutterstock

Namib-Naukluft National Park

This natural optical illusion looks like a painting. These dead camelthorn trees remain standing due to the dry climate. When you capture the contrast between the claypan’s white floor, the dark trees, and the sun reflecting off of the sand dunes in the back it almost doesn’t look like a part of nature. Did you know about these secret features hidden in America’s landmarks

The Wave, Arizona, Canyon Rock Formation. Vermillion Cliffs, Paria Canyon State Park in the United StatesKatrina Brown/Shutterstock

Paria Canyon State Park

This natural optical illusion in Arizona is known as The Wave. The stripe patterns on the rock really throw off your depth perception, making it hard to determine the shape of the rocks. 

Traelanipa cliff is seen rising over the ocean next to lake Sorvagsvatn in the Faroe IslandsSky Cinema/Shutterstock

Lake Sørvágsvatn

 This lake on the Faroe Islands in between Iceland and Norway appears as though it sits hundreds of feet above the ocean. In reality, the lake only sits about 90 feet above the sea and has a waterfall at the end that goes into the ocean but when capture from the right angle it looks magnificent. These are the most overlooked landmarks in America.

young woman at the Pedra do Telegrafo, Barra de Guaratiba, Rio de Janeiro / BrazilRegiane_Ferraz/Shutterstock

Pedra do Telegrafo

This rock formation in Brazil is the perfect spot to trick your friends into thinking you had a vacation filled with death-defying excursions. What you can’t see is that another flat rock is only about three feet below. 

Horsetail Falls Yosemite NPGregory B Cuvelier/Shutterstock

Horsetail Falls

If you time it just right, you can see this beautiful optical illusion in the waterfall that cascades down El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Towards the end of February at sunset, Horsetail Falls reflects the setting sun making it appear as though it’s on fire. Now take a look at these stunning deep-sea sights that can also mess with your eyes.

Morgan Cutolo
Morgan is an Associate Editor at Reader’s Digest. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016 where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. She writes for, helps lead the editorial relationship with our partners, manages our year-round interns, and keeps the hundreds of pieces of content our team produces every month organized. In her free time, she likes exploring the seacoast of Maine where she lives and works remotely full time and snuggling up on the couch with her corgi, Eggo, to watch HGTV or The Office.