Now, we’re all travel enthusiasts. That’s why we’re here, after all. It’s great to have that connection, something that unites us in this often-divided and mixed up world of ours.
Speaking of which, if you’re a truly seasoned traveller, you’ll know exactly how mixed up the world can be. Some of us prefer to journey only to the most popular resorts, braving the tourist throngs at some of the busiest landmarks on the globe. It’s certainly great to see Rome, Paris and such from a comfortable coach or the deck of a luxury cruise ship, but what about the adventurers among us?
Maybe you’ve already ticked the Eiffel Tower, the Colosseum, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the likes off of your bucket list. Maybe they’re just too mainstream for you. That’s all totally fine. The important thing about travel is to see the world your way.
To really see all that this magnificent planet has to offer, you’ve got to think outside the box. Maybe you don’t want to be another member of yet another tour group admiring Westminster Abbey or the like. If that’s the case, how about the super-mysterious Bermuda Triangle instead? Or India’s impossible Magnetic Hull? Or even Australia’s remote, wonderful and blindingly pink Lake Hillier?
Buckle up, friends, as we dive into some of the planet’s most peculiar places. Some will be familiar, some sure as heckola won’t, but one thing’s for sure: they’re all fascinating.
21 But Where Did The Giant Go? (Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland)
For our first stop, we’re jetting over to Northern Ireland. Millions of years ago, a volcano erupted by what is now the north coast of County Antrim. The abundance of basalt that resulted hardened as it cooled, leaving behind a stunning natural phenomenon dubbed the Giant’s Causeway.
The site is made up of around 40,000 largely hexagonal columns, the tallest of which are just shy of 40ft high. It’s the geometry of the site that makes it such a wonder; it looks more like a pretentious art installation at a five-star hotel than something naturally occurring.
It’s so named for its size and the fact that, as Rough Guides reports, it’s “so geometrically perfect that local legend has it they were created by a giant.”
20 What Does Thor Do When He Isn’t Avenging? (Thor's Well, Oregon, USA)
The MCU has been so phenomenally popular of late, you can’t hear the name Thor without thinking of Chris Hemsworth’s chiselled face and/or pectorals (not chiselled pectorals, you understand, that isn’t a thing at all).
Which is a shame, really, because Thor’s Well really does deserve a little more appreciation. This intriguing wonder is found in Oregon, US. More specifically, Cape Perpetua, on the coast of Lincoln County. The site is home to some truly impressive saltwater fountains, fuelled by the tides, which are both spectacular and super dangerous when conditions are right. Or wrong, depending on how soggy you’re looking to get.
19 Rock On, Man, Rock On (Uluru, Australia)
Now, the cynics among you may have your doubting faces on right about now. What’s so interesting about a rock, you might ask, or heck, I had a pet rock in high school, and the darn thing never learned a single trick in eight years.
You’d better stop with that sort of talk, naysayers, because the monolith of Uluru totally earns its place in this rundown. Formerly known as Ayer’s Rock, this one has been puzzling visitors, tourists and general fans of the weirdly-weird for centuries. Considered sacred by the Aboriginal people, this is the largest rock in the world, standing 348 metres tall and boasting a circumference of almost six miles! As with Harry Potter’s Rubeus Hagrid, it just looks too big to be allowed, which only adds to its air of spiritual mystique.
18 Fancy A Dip? (Lake Natron, Tanzania)
Adventure-seeking swimmers around the world just will not and cannot be stopped. They’ll continue hopping into stretches of water they definitely shouldn’t, covering distances they also shouldn’t, just because. The Dead Sea is a popular place for this, despite the dangers of the saltwater there (as explained by Haaretz).
Lake Natron, in the north of Tanzania, is a place even the boldest fear to swim. It is inhospitable to all but some hardy fish, birds, invertebrates and algae. An incredibly caustic soda and salt lake, this is one of the most unsettling tourist attractions on the planet. Unless you like the idea of being calcified, that is.
17 Dude, Where’s My Car (/Boat/Plane)? (the Bermuda Triangle)
When it comes to mysterious locations on Earth, the Bermuda Triangle is always going to be part of the conversation. This notorious area is in the North Atlantic, a vaguely-defined triangular area between Bermuda, Florida and Puerto Rico.
As IOL reports, it’s one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world, abound with cruise ships off to the Caribbean and other vessels. Airplanes often fly through the region too. There’s a bit of an urban legend that ships and planes have vanished from the area over the years, as a result of supernatural or alien influences.
A lack of any sort of corroborating evidence hasn’t done anything to dampen the Bermuda Triangle’s reputation, though.
16 A Mystery Thousands Of Years Old (The Great Pyramid, Egypt)
As I say, this rundown isn’t really going to focus on the more iconic and popular tourist destinations. We’re heading off the beaten track a little, here. Even so, though, there’s another world-famous tourist destination I just can’t help but mention: the magnificent Pyramids of Giza.
So many of us seasoned travellers have been there. We’ve taken the selfies, blistered slightly in the harsh heat, all of that sort of thing. While there, though, we often don’t take the time to contemplate what a mystical and spiritual place we’re in.
The Great Pyramid was the tallest building in the world for 3,800 years (until being eclipsed by Lincoln Cathedral in England)! To this day, it’s a complete mystery how the Ancient Egyptians constructed these towering monuments.
15 So Famous, They Named A Monster After It (Loch Ness, Scotland)
So, yes. In order to really celebrate the range of peculiar locations on this fine planet of ours, we’re going to have to go a little conventional at times. From the Ancient Egyptian pyramids to another iconic landmark: Loch Ness.
Scotland is a country known for its natural beauty, including vast mountains and lochs (lakes). The most famous of these, of course, is Loch Ness. Its famous resident, the Loch Ness Monster, has long captivated the world, and is a major draw for tourism. Of course, no definitive evidence of its existence has ever been found, but it remains one of the most famous cryptozoological creatures in history.
14 You Get A Gas Mask And You Get A Gas Mask; Everyone Gets A Gas Mask! (Mijake-jima, Japan)
For the next stop on our world tour, we’re crossing over to Asia. It’s time for part one of my series Japanese Islands That Give Me The Heebie-Jeebies.
Mijake-jima is a volcanic island southeast of Honshu. Mount Oyama is an active volcano, which erupts quite regularly. It spews dangerous quantities of sulfur dioxide gas, which has (as we saw in our rundown of 20 Strange and Unsettling Things About Miyake-Jima, Japan) led to a law requiring residents and visitors to carry gas masks at all times. There’s something incredibly foreboding about the island, which contrasts with its beauty (it’s a popular place to scuba dive).
13 Well, I’ve Never Seen A Magnetic Hill Before (Ladakh, India)
The proud country of India is home to all manner of attractions. The artistic Amer Fort, the world-renowned wonder that is the Taj Mahal, the ostentatious Golden Temple… visitors aren’t going to be short on cultural highlights and other things to see, that’s for darn sure.
If all of that’s a little too extra for your taste, though, how about checking out a completely different sort of wonder?
‘Magnetic hill’ is the term for a hill that forms a curious optical illusion, where the lay of the land gives the impression that the downhill slope is actually uphill. The magnetic hill of India is found in Ladakh, near Leh. You can imagine the effects the place has on drivers’ perception.
12 Don’t Lose Your Head (Easter Island)
And so we arrive at another famous landmark. Many of you have surely visited Easter Island, and most of you probably know what it’s famous for: those mysterious heads.
The island is found in the south east Pacific, considered part of Chile. It’s super remote and sparsely inhabited, but it’s most famous residents are those Moai statues. They are actually full-body statues, but are usually referred to as heads because… well, the head is disproportionately enormous, as per the Polynesian style.
These mysterious monuments were carved by the Rapa Nui people, over a span between 1250 and 1500. Mysterious relics, their true significance and purpose are still debated.
11 The Brightest Bay You Ever Saw (Vieques, Puerto Rico)
When Mother Nature wants to get extra, she does not mess around. She goes all the way, friends, and you’ve got to appreciate that.
On Vieques, a small island off the coast of Puerto Rico, you’ll find the world’s brightest bioluminescent bay. People come to Porto Mosquito --as it’s come to be known—from miles around to wonder at this natural phenomenon. You just wouldn’t think that these sorts of colours could exist in nature, but here we are.
The bioluminescence is produced by the dinoflagellate Pyrodinium bahamense, which releases that characteristic light whenever the water is disturbed. It’s just fascinating.
10 Mmm… Chocolate Hills (bohol, the Philippines)
Ah, yes. Now we’re talking. I’m having a Homer Simpson-style daydream about the land of chocolate just thinking about this next entry. Chocolate Hills, you say? Count me all the way in.
So, what are we dealing with here? The Chocolate Hills are located in the Philippines, in Carmen, Bohol. It’s a series of over one thousand grassy hills, spread liberally across an area of around 50 square kilometres (20 square miles). The landscape is breathtaking and a little otherworldly to behold all year round, but in the dry season, the grass turns a distinctive chocolatey colour that gives the hills their delicious name.
9 Well, That’s A Little Odd (Island of the Dolls, Mexico)
Now, I’m a bit of a horror movie buff, and I dig the classics in particular. As such, I’m familiar with the old living doll trope. I’ve seen the Child’s Play movies countless times, and Chucky is firmly ingrained in my memory as a result.
The Island of the Dolls (Isla de las Muñecas), then, is not somewhere I’d like to take a vacation. It’s in Xochimilco, Mexico, and it’s certainly not the most welcoming-looking place. Its weird décor is partly the work of its former owner, as The Daily Mail reports, though today visitors bring their own doll to add to the island’s 'charm'.
8 My, Grandma, What Big Stones You Have (stonehenge, england)
Here we have another super famous landmark. We’re crossing back over to Britain now, for a look at the enigmatic and impressive Stonehenge.
It’s situated in Wiltshire, south west England, a prehistoric ring of standing stones estimated to date back to around 2400 BC. As with the Easter Island statues, their true function and significance aren’t quite understood today. According to The Independent, though, the site may have originally served as a burial ground for the elite of the Stone Age. Later in the monument’s long history, all sorts of uses for it, and theories about its construction arose.
It was once said to have been built by the wizard Merlin!
7 They’re Trees, Jim, But Not As We Know Them (Crooked Forest, Poland)
Oftentimes, something that looks impossible and otherworldly at first glance has a rational explanation. This isn’t Buffy the Vampire Slayer, where there are supernatural goings-on everywhere you dang well look. The real world just isn’t that interesting, sadly. Science does love to explain things away, sucking out all of the fun as it goes.
Nevertheless, there are still many unexplained and super-curious mysteries for travellers to enjoy. Near the town of Gryfino, Poland, you can visit the Crooked Forest, where the trees grow in a most peculiar manner. Several theories have been brought forward to explain this, such as the trees being damaged early in their growth (as The New York Times reports), but the truth is, nobody knows for sure.
6 A True Work Of Art (Nazca Lines, Peru)
Now, maybe I’m just uncultured, but I often find myself unable to appreciate art. Some people are there at the gallery, oohing and ahhing like Frasier and Niles Crane, getting something from the whole experience that I’m completely missing out on. Some of the things that win super-fancy prizes in the art world these days go completely over my head.
These, though? These, I like. You’re looking at the Naza lines, created around the year 500 BC by the Nazca people. They’re found in coastal Peru, according to Live Science, and depict various animals, plants and figures. They’re quite something when seen from the air, but again, their original function remains a mystery.
5 Hopping Straight Into The Mouth Of Hell (Darvaza gas crater, Turkmenistan)
Fans of The Simpsons will be familiar with the Springfield Tire Yard, and the fire that has become more famous than the yard itself. It’s now a popular Springfield landmark in its own right, burning perpetually. It can be smelled in 46 states, according to the wiki, and has been the subject of a good few jokes throughout the series.
Back here in the real world, the Darvaza gas crater is no laughing matter. It’s a natural gas field in Derweze, Turkmenistan, which was set aflame to try to keep the escaping methane in check. It’s a heck of a sight, and is nicknamed the ‘Mouth of Hell’ because it’s part of a collapsed cavern. A darn big one, too, as National Geographic reports, at 98 feet deep and 226 feet in diameter.
4 A Pink Paradise (Lake Hillier, Australia)
Australia, as we all know, is world-renowned as a home of all things weird and wonderful. The wildlife is as beautiful as it is dangerous and fang-y, the beaches are just magnificent, the natural vistas unrivalled, and the lakes… well, bright pink in some cases.
Lake Hillier is, by most standards, completely unremarkable. It’s small, at less than 2,000 feet long. It’s in a very remote spot (even by Australia’s standards). It wouldn’t really be worth the trip, if not for the fact that its waters are bright pink.
As Ranker reports, it’s believed that its distinctive colour comes from the resident algae, but scientists have been unable to prove this.
3 You Won’t Find Any Snowmen Here (Travertine Pools, Turkey)
You know that feeling you get sometimes, that the weather has trolled you? It looks super bright out, you step outside in a t-shirt, and it’s actually pretty darn cold right here? Maybe it’s just me, living in England and all, but I find that happens far too often.
The Travertine Pools in Turkey are real weather-trolls. Just look at this scene. It’s like an idyllic holiday card, isn’t it? Interestingly, though, the water is actually warm here. Calcium deposits are the cause of this series of small pools, with a spring leading below the ground. It’s beautiful, though, so let’s not be picky.
2 One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure (Glass Beach, California, USA)
Now, we all know that humans can be an untidy bunch. The amount of damage we’re doing to our planet in terms of pollution, deforestation and such is well-documented, and it makes for grim reading. We’ve had an indelible effect on this planet of ours, that’s for certain.
Over in California, you’ll find an unusual monument to our wasteful ways. Glass Beach, as it’s become known, is the result of decades of trash in the ocean. Over time, according to Rough Guides, the waves reduced it all to colourful glass pebbles. It’s just beautifully tragic, and it speaks volumes when you stop and think about it.
1 Now That’s A Lot Of Cats (Cat island, Japan)
For the final entry, I’m going to bring you the second in my series of Japanese Islands That Give Me The Heebie-Jeebies. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate cats as much as the next person, but I think we’ve gone a little too far here. How many cats are too many cats? I think we’re getting perilously close here.
Tashirojima is a small island off the Oshika Peninsula. Its humble population of around 100 people is outnumbered by the stray cat population. Originally, the cats were encouraged as they prey on silkworms, vital for an island that produced silk. Couple that with the fact that feeding a stray cat is believed to bring good fortune, and you can see why the feline population is booming. The place has a completely unique feeling and charm as a result.
Resources: Rough Guides, Live Science, Ranker, The Independent, National Geographic.