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Alternate Universe

Rio Tinto, Spain

Jump on a rickety railway for the best view of this blood-red river

This ghost town is the birthplace of the Bronze and Copper ages: a blood-red river, where the water is more like Mars than Earth.

An hour from Seville in southwestern Spain is a land of chemical collisions, where the Rio Tinto runs a deep red. Winding through a site mined since 3000BC for copper, silver and gold, iron has transformed the river into an acidic deathtrap, poisonous to all life but bacteria.

With sizzling sulfur pools and a rickety rail track winding through the derelict valley, the landscape of this ghostly mining community is so extreme you’d be forgiven for thinking that you’ve landed on Mars.

The fiery sun adds to the otherworldly atmosphere, but your Ray-Ban Chromance lenses will reduce glare so you can stare straight into the valley as you meander upstream with the river. Rounding the final corner you’re faced with the largest open-pit mine in Europe, sitting almost a kilometer beneath you like a giant coliseum.

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Credit: Aleph/Getty