When tourists set out on an adventure, they sometimes want to find that hidden gem. That one spot, that one natural wonder, that one amazing sight that none of their friends have seen before so they can snap a great picture, have a cool story to tell, and say they’ve been to a place no one else has gone. But sometimes, those places are really hard to find, especially if you don’t know where to look, as some in this list are located right in the open in national parks or are part of amazing structures, but it takes a keen eye to locate them.
And then there are those places that no one knows about and we had no idea even existed until of course, this list came out. For the traveller who doesn’t want to stick to the normal path and likes to take an adventure outside the lines, this list features many places to travel to that, for sure, other friends and family will have no idea about. Get that awesome photo, that cool story to tell and pack your bags for these destinations and stay away from the typical tourist traps as your trip will be something special and unique with these unknown places that really should be more talked about and explored.
30 Haiku Stairs in Hawaii
The Haiku Stairs are also known as the ‘Stairway to Heaven’ and is a steep hiking trail on the island of Oʻahu, Hawaii. According to untappedcities.com, there are 3,922 steps that span along the Oahu's Ko'olau mountain range. It was built by the United States Navy in 1942 who wanted to build a top-secret radio station to transmit signals throughout the Pacific. The station closed in 1987 but by 2003, the stairs were repaired at a cost of $875,000. It should be pointed out that climbing the stairs could result in a fine, but many people still take the risk and climb anyway.
29 The Darvaza Gas Chamber - Turkmenistan
The Darvaza Gas Chamber is nicknamed 'the Door to Hell' because it’s basically a big hole in the Earth that is constantly on fire. When an oil rig collapsed into a sinkhole, scientists decided to burn off the methane gas inside, thinking it would only take a few weeks. Well, they were very wrong by a couple of decades, as the fires still burn, having hit a natural pocket of methane. According to CTV News, 50,000 people have visited the site since 2009, so chances are, your friends haven’t been there just yet.
28 Crooked Forest
Part nature, part science-fiction is what you will find in Poland’s Crooked Forest. Trees grow, literally, in a crooked manner, as a group of 400 trees don’t have the straight trunks you might be used to. According to Atlas Obscura, there is no known reason why the trees grow this way, with some guessing it’s because of the weather or a snowstorm in the area when the trees were infants. Either way, it’s an unusual and unknown experience to have when in Poland, and even though they are bent, they are still fully matured and beautiful trees.
27 Svalbard - North Pole
The midway point between the North Pole and mainland Europe is Svalbard, a place that is cold due to the distance from the top of the globe, but a place that people say is untouched beauty, due to the fact that not many people live there. It has plenty of nature reserves and bird sanctuaries, while tourism is a huge factor into the small countries economy, as over $35 million USD is made in tourism, according to MSN Money. Unless you work for one of the companies on the island, or want to be a tourist and see a polar bear, it’s hard to find housing, as they are mostly owned by the industries there.
26 Turda Salt Mines - Romania
In the Turda Salt Mines, salt was obviously the mineral of choice that they would produce. But in 1932, mining stopped and the salt mine had to be used for something else. It did have some specific use as a shelter in WWII, and stored some cheese after that, but then someone decided to turn the underground mine into an amusement park, complete with a mini-golf course, bowling alley and a man-made lake to row in. According to the Business Insider, it’s a hidden gem and made their top 25 list for hidden gems around the world to see. Located in Romania, chances are, you would be the first to have a tale to tell from the Turda Salt Mines.
25 Psychedelic Salt Mines
Looking for a trippy experience while on your trip, well head to Russia and the Psychedelic Salt Mines, which according to the Daily Mail, are hundreds of feet below the surface of the Earth. On the walls of the mine are these amazing patterns that look straight out of the 70s, and a lot groovier than you would expect for Russia. The patterns on the walls are all naturally made and not touched by human hands. It is created by a mineral called carnallite which is known to create colorful swirl patterns.
24 Rotorua Hot Springs - New Zealand
To experience one of the best geothermal places in the world, head to the Rotorua Hot Springs in New Zealand, as plenty of tourists enjoy the geysers and hot springs and truly relax while on their vacation. There is a tough smell, as the area has plenty of sulphide emissions according to the New Zealand Herald. But that doesn’t stop people from coming, making it the area’s most popular tourist attraction. The hot springs can reach up to 42 degrees Celsius and include plenty of minerals for a perfect relaxing moment.
23 Kakslauttanen Hotel
On the road to the Arctic Sea, a short distance from the Urho Kekkonen National Park, the largest national park in Finland, is the Kakslauttanen Hotel, a family-run hotel that is just 250 kilometres North of the Arctic Circle. It’s where they have glass igloos, which gives travellers the chance to admire the Northern Lights from inside, as opposed to battling the cold. According to the Hotel website, the igloos fit two people, and include a bathroom and an option for a second bed and are available from August until April during the peak times for the Northern Lights.
22 Salar de Uyuni
One of the most remarkable things on Earth is the Salar de Uyuni salt flats, located in Bolivia. According to National Geographic, they stretch over 4,050 square miles and are the world’s largest salt flats, which come from lakes that evaporated years ago. You have probably seen photos of people posing on them getting crushed by a foot and using the vast salt flats to play with distance in photos, but not many people think of Bolivia for a tourist spot, so you would have a unique experience to share heading down to South America.
21 Hitachi Seaside Park
Located northeast of Tokyo is Hitachi Seaside Park, a place for the flower enthusiast as vast hectares are covered with a variety of flowers in every color. In fact, according to allthatsinteresting.com, the park changes color every month, as new flowers bloom over the 190 hectares of space. It draws millions of tourists a year, but we suspect you didn’t know about it as flowers may not be up your alley. Visitors can see every kind of flower from roses to daffodils to zinnias and poppies, and a train route and cycling path make it easy to get around to see everything.
20 Cappadocia, Turkey
Cappadocia is a historical region in Turkey and includes four cities in the area. One of the more interesting sites is in Goreme, where hot air ballooning is very popular and it’s not uncommon for plenty of balloons to go off at the same time. According to Travel + Leisure, the site is now a World Heritage Site and it’s pretty easy to find a hot air balloon company to take you for an amazing view of the landscape that was formed by volcanoes.
19 Reed Flute Caves
It’s hard to imagine something 180 million years old would be unknown, but when visiting China, tourists don’t know about the Reed Flute Caves, also known as the Place of Natural Arts. According to Business Insider, there are over 800 feet of stalactites, stone pillars, and rock formations that take on a breathtaking look when illuminated with colored lighting. It’s the last place anyone would think to see a light show, but it’s turned into a tourist attraction that the locals know well about and tourists do not.
18 Chefchaouen, Morocco
Morocco is a beautiful country on the coastline, so there is plenty of blue water to swim in. But if you look inland in Chefchaouen, you will notice plenty of blue, as the buildings are all different shades of blue. According to Business Insider, it got its shade of blue in 1492, when Jewish people moved to the city and they brought with them the tradition of painting buildings blue. Many centuries later, the Old City part of the town still keeps up with the tradition to this day.
17 Huacachina, Peru
Huacachina is an oasis in Peru and something you would only think is in movies. That’s because this little town is an island of sorts, but not with water around it, but with sand. It is surrounded by sand dunes and according to the Discovery Channel, has a population of about 100 people. Water is pumped into the oasis to keep the lake there looking good for tourists who visit, as the small natural lake in the desert does get used up from wells that were drilled. It’s a hidden little gem in the middle of a ton of sand.
16 Jiuzhaigou National Park
For the bluest of blue water, any traveller would ever find, head to Jiuzhaigou National Park and check out the 1375-metre-long crystal turquoise lake. UNESCO called it a World Heritage Site in 1992, and today there are still upwards of 1,000 people who live nearby, though farming has been disallowed in order to preserve the space. According to Travel China Guide, an earthquake hurt the area in 2017, but the scenic areas have reopened and now only tourists groups can enter the site, so get in the group and see this hidden and very beautiful gem.
15 Phnom Suntuk
Get ready to climb some stairs to get to this unknown place, as Phnom Suntuk is a hill and cultural site in the Cambodian province of Kampong Thom, and has 807 steps to get to it, which is a pagoda on top of the mountains. According to Tourism Cambodia, the pathway up has many Buddha statues carved into it as you make your way to the peak. It’s like a walkway of Buddhas. At the top is a temple with white-walls and many shrines and deities.
14 Hinatuan River
Hinatuan River is perhaps better known by its fairy-tale name, the Enchanted River, and is located on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. It earned the nickname the Enchanted River from diplomat Modesto Farolan, who according to the Inquirer, described the river in his poem entitled "Rio Encantado". It’s tucked away behind rocky mountains, so it isn’t widely known, and once you're there you are able to dive into the river and explore the many caves in its depths while also enjoying the pure blue waters.
13 Apostle Islands in Wisconsin, USA
With 60-foot-high natural sandstone walls, the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin are amazingly beautiful to look at, and very much unknown to many travellers, even those in the United States. Not many people are putting Wisconsin on the top of their travel bucket-list, but the Apostle Islands are definitely something to check out. There are many ways to check the caves on the 20 islands that make up the Apostle Islands, such as kayaking tours, and if you go during the winter when the lake freezes, chances are you can see some massive icicles formed on the walls.
12 Aquarium in Rangiroa, French Polynesia
The Aquarium in Rangiroa is a naturally-made aquarium in the French Polynesia that actually allows people to dive in and be part of the sea life and not just look at them through the glass. According to Snorkeling Report, you can only snorkel there and you have to enter the water by boat. You can see a lot of coral reef along the western edge and see schools of hundreds of fish. It’s the world’s most immense aquarium, but not something that is known to tourists.
11 Magma Chamber of Thrihnukagigur Volcano
Generally, you can’t visit a magma chamber in a volcano because it is full of hot magma, but in the Thrihnukagigur Volcano, which last erupted 4,000 years ago, according to InsideTheVolcano.com, it’s possible for people to go down into the magma chamber and see what the inside of a volcano actually looks like. It is the only volcano in the world you can actually go down into and see, which started in 2012, as visitors can take an elevator and safely go into the chamber where it used to hold liquid hot magma.
10 Pingvallavatn Lake
You have seen North America and Europe, but have you seen where they meet? I’m talking about their tectonic plates, as in Iceland in Pingvallavatn Lake, the two plates meet, and you can swim through the cracks in them and touch both continents at the same time, which makes it a very popular snorkelling place, but not something many people know about outside of Iceland. According to Cosmo Magazine, the pressure between the rocks causes an earthquake every 10 years, which results in deeper cracks and fissures.
9 Coober Pedy, Australia
What do you do when you’re in a desert and it gets so hot during the summer? Build underground of course, which is exactly what happened in Coober Pedy, making it an unknown place, as many buildings in the city are underground to avoid the heat. According to CNN, the mining town on the edge of the Great Victoria Desert can reach temperatures as high as 125 Degrees Fahrenheit, so places like the Desert Cave Hotel are under the ground in order to stay cooler.
8 Las Lajas Sanctuary
The Las Lajas Sanctuary was built inside the canyon of the Guáitara River and is a basilica church located in the southern Colombian Department of Nariño. According to Atlas Obscura, the church rises 330 feet high from the bottom of the canyon and even has its own bridge that stretches over the water and canyon below. The bridge is 150 feet tall on its own, and it’s an impressive looking site altogether, as the out of the way sanctuary is definitely something unknown to many who go to Columbia for a trip.
7 The Inverted Tower
Normally when anyone thinks of a tower, they are thinking of looking their head up towards the sky. But the Inverted Tower in Quinta de Regaleira, Portugal is the other one that will have tourists looking down. No wonder it’s an unknown place! It’s actually a deep well, but it has been named the Inverted Tower because of how it looks, as you can walk down on dug out ledges. It was named a World Heritage Site, as part of the entire estate, which also includes the Quinta of Regaleira, which means the orchard or farm.
6 Wieliczka Salt Mine
People don’t generally think of visiting salt mines on their trips, making them easily considered to be unknown places in the world. The Wieliczka Salt Mine is one of the most famous, as it has earned itself some pretty significant titles, including being a World Heritage Site, a National Historic Monument in Poland, and also it was one of the world’s oldest salt mines as according to CNN, it functioned from the 13th century to 2007. Today, 1.2 million people visit each year to look at some amazing brickwork, carpentry and the fabulous dining rooms, as well as the four chapels carved out of rock salt.
5 Monastery of Santa Maria dell’Isola
Italy has plenty of historic buildings, but one that is perhaps unknown is the Monastery of Santa Maria dell’Isola. And it’s easily one of the most beautiful, as it sits high on a cliff overlooking the Tyrrhenian Sea. According to Atlas Obscura, the church is home to a 12th-century Byzantine portrait of the Virgin Mary, so it means a lot to the locals. The great part is, once you have toured the church, look beside it and find some of the best beaches in Italy with the bluest water.
4 Mount Sanqing
Mount Sanqing is a sacred mountain to many people, especially those who practice Taoism. Sanqing means ‘Three Pure Ones’ in Chinese, which reflects the three summits Yujing, Yushui, and Yuhua, representing the Taoist Trinity. According to the Global Geoparks Network, Mount Sanqing is a national park in China that contains more than 2,300 plants, and 400 species of vertebrates over an area that is 299 kilometres. It became a World Heritage Site in 2008 and was named a National Geopark in 2005.
3 Pangong Tso Lake
Pangong Tso Lake rests between China and India, with 60 percent of the lake being in China. It covers an area of 604 kilometres squared, and during the winter it freezes completely over, making it a great skating lake. What it is most known for is being the lake with the most saltwater in the world, as according to India.com, it doesn’t have any other lakes to drain out too, so all the salt stays within the lake. So either during the summer or winter, there is something to do at this amazing lake.
2 Ithaa Undersea Restaurant
You might not know this place exists because it’s located 16 feet below the surface below sea level. The Ithaa Undersea Restaurant lives up to its name and is the first undersea restaurant in the world. Sit and dine while fish and other marine life swim over you. Make sure to make reservations, however, as according to the restaurant’s website, it only seats 14 people total. European cuisine is served, and it is located at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island in Alif Dhaal Atoll in the Republic of Maldives.
1 Red Beach, China
When any traveller thinks of a beach, they are thinking of colors like white for the sand and blue for the water. But in Panjin, Liaoning, China, beachgoers would be seeing red, as the Red Beach landscape features the red plant Suaeda salsa, which has taken over the beach and made it a field of red. According to the Daily Mail, it is the largest wetland and reed marsh in the world and is under a natural protection order to preserve the ecosystem. More than 260 birds and 399 kinds of wildlife live in it, so it’s important to keep safe.
Sources: travel+leisure; businessinsider; untappedcities