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(CNN) -- Formed by volcanoes and steeped in a rich history of Polynesian culture, Hawaii sounds more like a place in a fantasy novel rather than an American travel oasis.
Made up of a chain of volcanic mountains that form eight major islands, Hawaii stretches about 1,500 miles. The state's vast expanse provides a diverse terrain for visitors to explore -- tropical rain forests, cool alpine regions, arid deserts and sunny beaches -- all within miles of one another.
The region's beauty, history and landscape have enthralled novice and seasoned travelers alike. American travel writer Paul Theroux once said, "Hawaii is not a state of mind, but a state of grace."
The Aloha State on Thursday marks a milestone as it celebrates 55 years since becoming a U.S. state. To honor the occasion, we're sharing a breathtaking collection of photos that CNN iReport contributors have captured on the islands.