People who love to travel say part of the intrigue of exploring the world is coming across unexpected and unusual destinations. Historical, cultural, and architectural landmarks may be big draws, but there are also tourist attractions that are beyond strange. Some are natural wonders that seem to defy science and logic. Humans may have created the others, but they fall far outside the realm of the normal tourist attractions you’d expect to encounter on a getaway.
The oldest visitor attraction in England is also one of the strangest. Mother Shipton’s Cave in Knaresborough opened in 1630, and millions of visitors from around the world have explored this mystical place. Sitting amongst centuries-old beech trees and geological formations, the cave features cascading water that turns objects into stone. The legend began with Mother Shipton, a famous prophetess who was born in the cave in 1488. She foresaw the fates of rulers of the time, along with future events, including the great 1666 fire in London.
Thailand’s Wang Saen Suk Hell Garden is a chilling reminder that it’s never too late to try and make amends for bad deeds of the past. Statues depicting Buddhist Hell fill the site, portraying the punishments for those who committed sins while living on Earth. Hell Garden is not a family-friendly site, but it is one of the most bizarre, mind-blowing, and gruesome experiences you’ll encounter. Located in Bang Saen City, there is no admission, but you’ll find a statue of Buddha on the perimeter, where you can leave a donation.
When it comes to unbelievable vistas, none compare to the surrealistic, prehistoric salt flats in Bolivia, Salar de Uyuni, located about eight hours south of La Paz. This is the world’s largest salt flat, creating more than 4,000 miles of pure white landscape with nothing else but the blue sky above. Geometric patterns surge through the thick, top layer of salt. During certain times of the year, water covers the salt flat creating a magnificent mirror effect.
In the South Pacific, there's a magical island republic in the state of Koror, perfect for travelers who are seeking a secluded, private getaway. Palau is a beautiful tropical paradise with waterfalls, monoliths, and plenty of culinary opportunities to explore. However, it’s a land-locked lake on the island that offers the most unusual underwater exploration. Dive into its deep turquoise waters, and you’ll immediately see millions of golden, transparent, non-stinging jellyfish floating around you. This body of water is the only place where this unique subspecies lives. It’s a bizarre yet fascinating experience.
The Maldives is famous for its breathtaking beaches and landscapes. But the most jaw-dropping attraction here is the Sea of Stars, an electric-blue glow that ripples along the shoreline, visible only at night. A type of phytoplankton that lives in the Indian Ocean, Lingulodinium polyedrum, creates the magnificent bioluminescent phenomenon when stressed by the movement in the waves.
Imagine stepping into a cave that exists in a 12-mile-long glacier, where blue light envelopes you, water flows beneath your feet, and everything above you is solid ice. The Mendenhall Glacier formed about 3000 years ago, and thousands of people flock here to see this amazing natural anomaly. Although the eight-mile trail to the glacier seems long, it is well worth the effort. Scientists say it is melting and could disappear from view within the next 25 years.
In China’s Liaoning province, you’ll discover the bizarre-yet-miraculous Red Beach in Panjin. The wetlands, one of the largest in the world, turn a brilliant crimson in the fall. Experts say the color comes from the seepweed species that grow there. The plant can absorb massive amounts of saline. As it soaks up the saltwater from the sea around it, it turns red. Once spring arrives, the seepweed turns green, changing colors through the summer and into the fall.
Methane bubbles and bacteria may not sound intriguing, but put them together, and you have a visually stunning phenomenon. Lake Abraham in western Alberta, Canada, is a large man-made reservoir. Dead organic matter lands in the water, sinks to the bottom and becomes a meal for hungry bacteria. They release methane gas bubbles that rise and freeze in the ice, creating unique and intricate patterns.
For travelers who seek a bit of the macabre, the Bone Church in Sedlec, a suburb of Kutna Hora, may be the perfect destination. Don’t let the church’s outside appearance fool you. Bones belonging to 40,000 plague victims from the 14th century decorate the interior of this medieval gothic church. A chandelier of bones hangs in the center. It’s one of the Czech Republic’s 12 World Heritage Sites.
This small island, just south of Mexico City, was never meant to be a tourist destination. Hundreds of decapitated dolls with severed limbs hang from the island’s trees. Legend has it that the caretaker of the island found a young girl drowned and was unable to save her. One day he found a doll floating in the nearby canal and hung it from a tree in her honor. He continued to collect and hang dolls for the next 50 years and claimed the spirits of dead girls possessed them.