Places like the Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat and the Eiffel Tower are incredible in their own rights and are well worth a visit while on your travels, but they all have one thing in common; they’re very well known and are therefore, crawling with tourists. Attractions like these have been written about a thousand times in guidebooks and magazines and have more than likely popped up on your social media feeds several times, thanks to your selfie stick-wielding friends.
So for those of you who are looking for a travel destination that’s a little out of the ordinary,. from the lesser-known marvels of the natural world to the downright weird man-made creations, we’ve compiled a list of bizarre places to add to your bucket list.
25. Aoshima Island, AKA Cat Island – Southern Japan
On this tiny island just off the coast of mainland Japan, cats outnumber humans at a rate of 6:1. That’s enough information for a solid ‘nope’ from a dog guy like me, but for those of you who are into cats, you will be feline this destination (sorry.) The cats were originally introduced to help deal with a mouse infestation, but they stayed, grew in numbers and took over the place after the majority of the human population left to find work in the cities after World War II.
24. The Plain of Jars – Phonsavan – Laos
Scattered over hundreds of square kilometres in the mountains surrounding Phonsavan, Laos, are the country’s greatest mysteries; Thousands of enormous stone urns. Despite numerous theories as to what they were for or how they came to be peppered across the landscape, no one truly knows the answers. Given that Laos is far less of a tourist spot compared to neighbouring Thailand and Vietnam, exploring The Plain of Jars can be a peaceful and eery experience.
23. Haesindang Park – Sinnam – South Korea
This is by FAR the weirdest place I have ever been. In a small fishing village called Sinnam near Samcheok, there is a park absolutely full of penis sculptures. There are dozens of wooden totems intricately carved with phallic imagery, statues of fishermen grasping their dramatically oversized members and even a penis-themed take on the twelve animals of the Chinese Zodiac. Legend has it that the village started constructing the sculptures to appease the restless soul of a virgin who drowned in the area, and started having an adverse effect on the village’s catch. Whatever the origin is, this is an afternoon’s stroll you won’t forget in a hurry!
22. The Dead Sea – Israel
Ok, so this one is pretty well known, but it’s still rather bizarre. The Dead Sea is the lowest point on the face of our planet and due to an incredibly high salinity level (it’s over 10x saltier than the ocean), there is a super-high level of buoyancy in the water that allows people to float with little to no effort. Just don’t get the water in your eyes…
21. Holy Land Religious Theme Park – Buenos Aires – Argentina
Buenos Aires has the perfect solution for the people who prefer their theme parks to be religiously-oriented rather than adrenaline-fuelled. Holy Land is one of only two religious theme parks in the world and rewards it’s ‘thrill seekers’ with hourly reenactments of the crucifixion and resurrection with an 18-foot replica of Jesus Christ. If that’s not your bag, there is a snack stand…
20. Hang Nga Crazy House – Da Lat – Vietnam
Hang Nga Crazy House is an explosion of vibrant colours, warped architecture and playful design. It’s rather difficult to explain in words but imagine Alice in Wonderland meets LSD. The guesthouse, designed by owner Mrs. Dang Viet Nga, has several uniquely-themed rooms found at the end of warren-like corridors and mind-bending stairwells. The Crazy House is open to the public during the day, and walking around the ever-expanding grounds is a delightfully strange way to spend an afternoon.
19. Red Beach – Panjin – China
On the Shuangtaizi River estuary, just outside of Panjin City, lies a very special beach. During the spring and summer months there is nothing interesting about it, but come fall, the seablite plant that grows in the area turns a vivid reddy/purple, creating a spectacular landscape. In addition to the amazing views, The Red Beach is the biggest wetland and reed marsh in the world and is home to a huge array of wildlife.
18. Witch Market – La Paz – Bolivia
If your shopping list has a llama fetus and dried frogs on it alongside the traditional milk and bread, then get yourself to the Witch Market in La Paz. Dozens of vendors line the street, hawking their peculiar wares and ritual ingredients. After you’ve stocked up on ingredients and trinkets, get your fortune told by the wandering witch doctors. Now, where was that dried turtle stand?
17. Clink Hostel – London – England
Time to break up the list of bizarre places to visit with a bizarre place to stay while on your travels. The Clink 78 Hostel in London’s central King’s Cross is located in an old courthouse. So why did it make the list? Because they offer guests the chance to sleep in an old prison cell! The original police custody features are still in place and are even English-heritage listed. Not sure how a significant other would react if you sprung this romantic getaway on them though.
16. The Island of Dolls – Xochimilco – Mexico
How’s this for creepy? A small island in the waterways of Xochimilco, not far from Mexico City, is populated by hundreds of mutilated dolls hanging from trees. Myths and legends about the origins of The Island of Dolls vary, but the most popular version is that the macabre display was put together by a hermit who felt compelled to do so to commemorate the spirit of a young girl who drowned in the area. I’ve seen the movie Annabelle, so I’m going to avoid this place like the plague.
15. Loveland – Jeju Island – South Korea
South Korea makes its second appearance on the list, and, once again, genitals are involved. Located on the southern island of Jeju is Loveland, a theme park dedicated to all things sex. Hundreds of statues, created by art grad students, adorn the lawns of the park and depict pretty much anything and everything you can imagine to do with sex. It’s a bit like a Kamasutra that you can walk around. Good news for parents too, there’s a play area to drop off your kids before you head inside!
14. The Tunnel of Love – Klevan – Ukraine
Just outside the Ukrainian city of Klevan, you can find the picturesque tunnel of love. A two-mile stretch of private railway is enclosed by the surrounding trees, creating an absolutely beautiful natural tunnel. It’s best visited in the spring and summer months when the foliage is at its lushest, and rumour has it that couples who visit will be granted a wish.
13. Lake Natron – Tanzania
Tanzania’s Lake Natron is both beautiful and haunting. Due to the minerals that flow into the lake from the surrounding hills, the water, which is just 50cm deep, has a pH level of up to 10.5. The huge deposits of sodium carbonate possess a macabre power; Birds and other wildlife that die in the lake are preserved perfectly, forever held in their moment of death.
12. Spotted Lake – British Columbia – Canada
Spotted Lake, northwest of Osoyoos in British Columbia, looks like many other lakes for most of the year. But during the hot summer months, the water in the lake begins to evaporate, leaving behind hundreds of mineral pools and creating the spotted effect that gives the lake its name. Note: visitors are asked not to trespass on the tribal land surrounding the lake.
11. Pamukkale Thermal Pools – Pamukkale -Turkey
The thermal pools at Pamukkale are a photo opportunity not to be missed. Warm water cascades down the snow-white, terraced cliff side, creating dozens of natural pools. If that wasn’t enough, the views out across the UNESCO world heritage listed site are simply amazing. This is serious new display picture stuff, people.
10. The Nasca Lines – Peru
Etched into the dusty landscape near the Peruvian town of Nasca lie the Nasca Lines. Hundreds of ancient geoglyphs depicting animals and geometric shapes that were only discovered by the modern world after the invention of flight. Some of the lines are 30 miles in length, but there is still no concrete theory as to what they were for. The Nasca Lines actually made the news in February 2018 when a truck drove over a section of them causing damage.
9. The Gates to Hell – Karakum Desert – Turkmenistan
It might look like something out of The Lord of the Rings, but this huge, burning pit in the Karakum Desert was actually created by a Soviet drilling rig team. By accident of course. While the rig was drilling back in 1971, it accidentally punched its way into a giant underground gas cavern. The ground around the rig collapsed and dangerous gases began to escape from the hole. The team decided it would be safer to light the gases and burn them off, and they’ve been burning ever since. Does this remind anyone else of an enormous Olympic torch?
8. The Hanoi Street Train – Hanoi – Vietnam
Most of the time, train tracks are extensively marked and strategically placed to avoid dangerous situations… Then there is the Hanoi street train. Yes, it’s a train track that literally passes through a narrow, residential street! The track, located in the city’s Old Quarter, passes through the tightly packed houses and shops twice a day and gets so close that pedestrians have to squeeze themselves against the walls to avoid being hit. Be careful when taking photos!
7. Caño Cristales – Colombia
The 100km Caño Cristales river in central Colombia has quite a beautiful display that can be seen nowhere else on Earth. During certain months of the year, the river runs with spectacular shades of red, blue, yellow, orange and green. The natural phenomenon occurs because of an aquatic plant called macarenia clavigera that grows along the river bed. It’s no wonder that the river is nicknamed the Liquid Rainbow!
6. Christ of the Abyss – San Fruttuoso – Italy
You’re going to need scuba gear to see this one. Unless you can hold your breath for a really long time, I guess. The Christ of the Abyss is a bronzed statue of Jesus Christ, placed at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea in 1954 in honour of Dario Gonzatt, who was the first Italian to use scuba diving equipment. Lifehack tip: If you can’t afford a trip to Italy, place a miniature statue at the bottom of your fish tank and get creative with the perspective of your photos.
5. The Sea of Stars – Vaadhoo Island – Maldives
I’m not sure that it gets more romantic than this. Under the starry sky on Vaadhoo Island, a neon display of electric blue waves lap gently onto the shore like a fairytale come to life. It’s hard to believe that this magical occurrence isn’t due to some kind of radioactive waste, but in fact, is due to a bioluminescent reaction caused by a type of plankton known to live in the nearby waters! Now you know.
4. The Rainbow Mountain – Peru
It’s pretty obvious to see how the Ausangate Mountain in the Peruvian Andes inherited its nickname. It’s splashed from top to bottom in an outstanding array of beautiful colours. Those that want to see the mountain for themselves will have to work hard, however. It takes several days of trekking to reach the peak, some 100km from the nearest major city of Cusco. The pictures will be worth it though, right?
3. The Crooked Forest – Gryfino – Poland
Poland’s Crooked Forest is a group of 400 trees that all have mysterious, dramatically curved trunks. Starting just inches from the base, the trunks take a sharp bend and arch upwards, forming a J shape. If they weren’t strange enough to look at, there is no concrete theory as to why the trees grew the way they did. Weird.
2. Temple of Valadier – Genga – Italy
This Italian temple looks like it is straight out of Game of Thrones. Nestled inside the mouth of a rugged cliffside cave, you wouldn’t be surprised to see The High Sparrow emerging from the temple. Also known as the Refuge of Sinners, the temple represented a refuge for those seeking forgiveness.
1. Royston Cave – Royston – England
Situated beneath the streets of Royston, is a most peculiar little cave. No records of its age or purpose exist, yet it is covered in medieval wall carvings. The drawings have been likened to the Knight’s of the Templar (anyone who has played Assassin’s Creed will be familiar with that group) but no hard evidence has ever been found. I’m not sure why you’d ever find yourself in Royston, Hertfordshire, but if you do, then the Royston Cave is well worth a visit.