Deep in the caverns of Waitomo, New Zealand, is a grotto that looks a lot more like a planetarium than a subterranean stream. If you didn't know any better, you'd say you had fallen down the rabbit hole and ventured into another universe entirely. It's no wonder it's been such a popular tourist attraction for over 100 years—blanketed by glowing blue stars, the ceiling disappears almost entirely against the stone back drop. Be sure to pay a visit during your international locum tenens assignment in the Land of the Long White Cloud.
The cave uncovered
The Glowworm Caves were first explored by Maori Chief Tane Tirou and a visiting English surveyor in the 19th century. The locals had always known the caves existed, but the duo was the first to float down the underground river so extensively.
Though they initially had no idea what to make of the galaxy along the cavern walls, they knew they had found something pretty spectacular. Another dozen trips yielded the discovery of several new entrances, and just a few years later, the chief began offering tours to eager visitors.
A constellation of glowworms
The glowworms may look like stars from down below but up close they resemble strings of glowing blue beads, almost like a neon necklace. Called Arachnocampa luminosa, they're a type of luminescent worm found only in New Zealand.
Many of the people employed at the caves today are descendants of Chief Tane Tirou and are experts on local culture and history. Before reaching the Glowworm Grotto, you'll pass through the Cathedral, a room famous for its impeccable acoustics, as well as the Tomo, a limestone shaft that was once filled with an ancient waterfall.
Let's be honest—floating down a river is great and everything but floating down an underground river surrounded by glowing, blue stars, that simply can't be beat. It's an opportunity out of this world—no pun intended.