When planning a vacation, there are many things to consider, including where to stop along the way. If you’re looking for some truly unique side trips or one-day adventures, you must check out the following towns in the United States and abroad. One small American town has been burning from the inside out for over 50 years, and another in Mexico has hundreds of macabre dolls hanging from the trees. Other have incredible vistas and out-of-this-world historical significance. Which one will you add to your bucket list?
Underground Dwellings In Coober Pedy, Australia Help People Escape The Scorching Sun
Coober Pedy is known for its underground dwellings, often referred to as “dugouts.” People built various structures in order to escape the incredible heat. Located in South Australia, a large portion of the town’s inhabitants are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The name of the town is an Aboriginal term that translates into “boys’ waterhole.” Pictured above is the underground interior of the Serbian Orthodox Church of Saint Elijah the Prophet. The church was built in 1993. Crews dug into sandstone to make the structure, and the deepest section of the church is 55 feet underground.
Okunoshima Island In Japan Is Overrun By Rabbits & Was Once A Poison Gas Facility
The tiny island Okunoshima is positioned in the Inland Sea of Japan in Hiroshima Prefecture. It is also known as Usagi Jima or “Rabbit Island” due to its huge rabbit population. These mammals have overcome the island, and tourists are keen to visit in order to feed the bunnies. They can stay at a resort that has camping facilities and a tiny golf course.
The island was a poison gas facility from 1929 to 1945. The Japanese Army made five different types of poison gas on the island. For years its operation was secret. Locals were dissuaded from visiting, and the island was absent from maps. Ruins of chemical factories are still there.
Cairo’s “Garbage City” Takes Trash and Recycling To Another Level
Manshiyat Naser is a neighborhood in Cairo, Egypt, that’s located under the cliff of Mokattam. It’s better known as Garbage City. Most of the families are Zabbaleen garbage collectors and make their living amassing and recycling waste. They sort it by hand and sell it to factories or process the waste into other things.
There are various streets, shops, and homes in Garbage City; however, it doesn’t offer the necessities most towns give their residents. There is no running water, sewers, or electricity. Some of the inhabitants have done quite well for themselves financially, and it’s not uncommon for tourists to visit the slum.
Up next: an almost-ghost-town in the middle of Pennsylvania will pique any adventurer’s interest.
An Underground Fire Burns Perpetually In Centralia, Pennsylvania
In 1962, an underground coal mine fire changed the landscape of Centralia, Pennsylvania, forever. The fire has been burning underneath the town ever since. Pictured above is a large crack in a closed highway that was caused by the fire. In 1980 there were 1,000 residents. Ten years later, there were only 63 inhabitants. Now there is just a handful.
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania condemned the area in 1992 and claimed all the real estate through eminent domain. Seven residents made an agreement with officials to live out their lives in Centralia. Worshipers still visit the town’s Ukrainian Catholic church.
Roswell, New Mexico, Is Ground Zero For Alien Sightings
People commonly dress as aliens during Roswell, New Mexico’s, annual UFO Encounter event each summer. In 1947, an unidentified flying disc crashed into the northwest region of the town, and the Army initially claimed it was a UFO before backtracking. The government later explained it was as a balloon crash.
This event became known as the Roswell UFO Incident. Conspiracy theorists are convinced that the U.S. government is hiding the truth behind the event, even though there’s no evidence that an alien ship landed at the location. Tourists from around the world visit the city and its plethora of stores that hawk alien merchandising.
Bizarre Dolls Outnumber Living People 10-1 In Nagoro, Japan
Nagoro village in Miyoshi, Japan, is unusual for its sheer number of handmade dolls that occupy the landscape. Local resident Tsukimi Ayano started creating the dolls to make up for population loss. She’s created hundreds of life-size figures for the village, which is called Kakashi No Sato.
In the local school are dozens of dolls ready for their lessons. Dolls work in the field, sit on the side of the road, and appear to be fishing. They are made of straw and are dressed in clothing. The first doll Tsukimi made resembled her father. She then decided to make more dolls that looked like other family members and villagers.
Picturesque Setenil De Las Bodegas Has Cafes and Homes Under a Cave Rock Overhang
The town of Setenil de las Bodegas is located in the province of Cadiz, Spain. It’s well known for the homes and restaurants that are built into rock overhangs and natural caves above the Río Guadalporcun. Approximately 3,000 people live in the small town, which sits on a river gorge.
In addition to visiting the area for its unique structures and gorgeous vistas, tourists are also drawn to the town’s tasty meat products, including chorizo sausage and pork. Setenil de las Bodegas also produces delicious pastries and has some of the most popular restaurants in the region.
Residents Of Slab City, California, Live Off The Grid
Slab City, California, is located in the Sonoran Desert over 150 miles from San Diego at the site of the deserted World War II Marine barracks of Camp Dunlap. The town’s name is derived from the concrete slabs that were once part of the barracks. There is no electricity, running water, sewers or garbage pickup.
In the winter, campers, RV owners and those seeking to live off the grid are drawn to the area. Approximately 150 people live there year round. The photo above is of Salvation Mountain by artist Leonard Knight. There’s also an open-air nightclub run by one of the residents, who are known as “Slabbers.”
Would you visit the Mexican Island that’s next on our list?
Mexico’s Island Of The Dolls Pays Tribute To a Drowned Girl
Isla de las Muñecas in Xochimilco, Mexico City, is known for the creepy dolls that are scattered all over the woods. Don Julian Santana Barrera learned of a young girl’s drowning death and saw a doll floating near a canal. He started hanging dolls all over the island to keep her troubled spirit away.
The legend is that the girl possesses the dolls. Some witnesses claim to have seen the dolls move their heads and limbs and open their eyes. It’s unclear if a young girl actually drowned there, but the dolls on the island are creepy, and some tourists bring their own dolls to leave them there.
Visitors To Pripyat, Ukraine, Aren’t Exposed To High Radiation Despite The Chernobyl Disaster
Pripyat is an abandoned town in northern Ukraine near the Belarus border. The city was built by the Soviet Union in 1970 for power plant workers and scientists at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Nearly 50,000 inhabitants were evacuated on April 27, 1986, following the Chernobyl meltdown.
The city, which currently has relatively low radiation, has turned into a popular tourist destination, and several companies offer guided tours of the area. One of the most famous photos from the city features a deserted Ferris wheel from the Pripyat amusement park. Visitors also enjoy checking out the Azure Swimming Pool and Avanhard Stadium.
Resolute, Canada, Is One Of The Coldest Inhabited Places On Earth
Resolute, Nunavut, is located in the Northwest Passage of Canada in the Qikiqtaaluk Region. The town’s Inuit name is Qausuittuq, which means “the place with no dawn.” It’s one of the country’s northernmost towns and one of the coldest inhabited regions in the world. The average temperature is −15.7 degrees Celsius (3.7 degrees Fahrenheit). Less than 200 people live there year round.
Between May and August, the town experiences the midnight sun. Between November and February, it experiences polar night. Resolute may be small but it has three hotels and several lodges. It also contains the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Detachment and a school for children of all ages.
Elista, a Chess City in Russia, Was Built By a Fanatical Game Enthusiast
Elista is the capital city of the Republic of Kalmykia, Russia. The town is special because it features a chess theme. Locally, it’s known as “City-Chess.” Millionaire chess enthusiast Kirsan Ilyumzhinov was president of the International Chess Federation and decided to transform the city in 1998 for the Elista 33rd Chess Olympiad. This turned it into a tourist destination.
Elista includes a City Chess Hall, chess museum, giant open-air chess board, and a statue of Ostap Bender, a fictional character obsessed with the game. Following the Olympiad, Chess City lost its allure, despite hosting smaller, subsequent chess tournaments.
Thames Town, China, Looks Exactly Like a British Hamlet
Chinese citizens don’t have to travel abroad to immerse themselves in English culture. Thames town is located about 20 miles from Shanghai and was built to resemble a British town. It’s named after the River Thames in London. A boom in construction and the move from farms to cities and suburbs has resulted in the construction of towns like this.
Thames town includes cobbled streets, Victorian terraces, and other British-like features. In fact, some buildings are exact copies of actual places, including the church, which resembles Christ Church in Bristol and a fish and chip restaurant. Many visit Thames to have their wedding photographed in the town.
Hell, Michigan, Has a Special Wedding Chapel And Other Devilish Delights
Hell, Michigan is popular solely for its unique name, the origin of which is unclear. It may be due to its “hell-like” climate (which includes mosquitoes) or because founder George Reeves said, “You can name it Hell for all I care.” A German is also credited with visiting in the 1830s and remarking, “So schön hell!” (which translates to: “So beautifully bright!”).
The city is quite popular with tourists. Anyone who wants to tie the knot can do so at Hell’s Chapel of Love. Feeling hungry? Check out the Hell Hole Diner or the Hell Saloon. You can also purchase one square inch of Hell.
The Abandoned Battleship Island In Japan Was Once a Bustling Coal Mine Town
Hashima Island is better known as Battleship Island. The abandoned land mass is located about nine miles south of Nagasaki. It features deserted concrete buildings and a large seawall that have remained largely intact except for where nature has taken over.
The island was used for coal mining during Japan’s industrialization. In 1959, over 5,000 people resided there. Once the coal mines were depleted in the early ’70s, people vacated the island. It became a bit of a tourist attraction in the 2000s after people became interested in its historic ruins. Some of it has been restored, and it was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2015.
Socotra Island In The Arabian Sea Is Fabled To Be The Original Garden Of Eden
Socotra Island in Yemen is located between the Guardafui Channel and the Arabian Sea. Described as “the most alien-looking place on Earth,” the isolated island’s sovereignty has been disputed by both Yemen and Somalia. The landscape features dragon’s blood trees that resemble flying saucers on top of trunks.
According to legend, the island is thought to be the original Garden of Eden. Ancient Sumerian tales describe a paradise named Dilumn, which may reference Socotra. The island contains nearly no roads, but there are lots of caves there, and many ships have wrecked in the area. Many of the plants on the island aren’t found anywhere else.
Panjin, China, Has a Mesmerizing Red Beach Formed By Seaweed
Panjin city is located in the Liaoning province in the People’s Republic of China. It’s well known for the Red beach scenic area, which doesn’t actually have any sand. The red coloring is due to seaweed known as Sueda that grows in saline-alkali soil between April and May. It’s green in the summer and turns red in autumn.
The Red Beach has more than 260 kinds of birds and nearly 400 different wild animals, including Crown Cranes. The beach is part of the world’s biggest wetland and reed marsh. The area is off-limits to tourists, but there is one viewing area that is open to the public.
Those Who Die In Longyearbyen, Norway, Must Be Buried Somewhere Else
Longyearbyen, Norway, is known for serving the famous Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Around 2,000 people live in the town, but they’re not allowed to be buried there. It’s been over a century since a corpse has been put to rest in the town’s cemetery because it’s difficult for bodies to decompose in such cold temperatures.
The town has a significant polar bear population, and it’s not uncommon for a local to shoot one in self-defense. Like people, the bears are transported elsewhere for burial. The town was founded in 1906 and in recent years has turned into a tourist destination.
Kowloon Walled City Was Once The Most Densely Populated Place On Earth
Kowloon Walled City is located in Hong Kong. It was a Chinese military fort that grew into 300 interconnected buildings. At one point, over 33,000 people resided in a single city block on houses that were stacked one on top of another. The area was full of gang activity, gambling, drug abuse, and prostitution from the 1950s to the 1970s.
By 1990, more than 50,000 people were living within the 6.4-acre area. The Walled City was demolished between 1993 and 1994 and replaced with the Kowloon Walled City Park. Some buildings from the original city remain, including the yamen building and part of the South Gate.
Denizli, Turkey, Has Jaw-Dropping Thermal Springs
Visitors to Denizli, Turkey, must visit the hot spring thermal pools and terraces at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pamukkale. The area is known as Pamukkale (Cotton Castle) or ancient Hierapolis (Holy City) and is renowned for its white limestone and calcium hydro carbonate-rich water, which flows into terraces and into milk-like pools.
Tourists have been visiting this area for thousands of years. Before it was turned into a world heritage site, hotels surrounded the area, and motorcyclists were allowed to travel on the slopes. After intense erosion, visitors are now only allowed to walk on a footpath and cannot disturb the natural springs.
The White Temple in Chiang Rai, Thailand
Famous Thai artist Chalermchai Kositpipat watched as the Wat Rong Khun temple in his home Province of Chiang Rai, Thailand aged and began to fall apart. Without any funds available to repair the temple, he decided to take the project on himself. However, just like his other visual art pieces, he wanted the temple to stand-out from others in Thailand.
Now known as the White Temple, the structure features the bridge of “the cycle of rebirth” with half-human, half-bird creatures. Once crossed, visitors reached the Gate of Heaven, and finally the Ubosot building which is all-white and adorned with pieces of mirrored glass. Inside the temple, Kositpipat playfully included modern cartoons and other pop culture in addition to tradition-style Buddhist murals. Visitors can find Michael Jackson, Freddy Krueger, Pokemon and Harry Potter in the art.
Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California
The haunted Winchester mansion began construction in 1884 and didn’t stop until the owner’s death in 1922. The story goes, Sarah Winchester’s husband, firearm magnate William Wirt Winchester, died of tuberculosis in 1881. He left his widow with more than $20.5 million from his rifle business. After their infant daughter passed away, Sarah visited a Medium.
While supposedly channeling her late husband, she was told to leave their home in New Haven and move to the West Coast. That’s where she must build a house, and never stop adding on to it, as she needed to make room for all of the ghosts of people who were killed by the rifles her late husband made. The construction crew worked around the clock. The house was built seven stories high (three were destroyed in an earthquake) with 161 rooms, 47 fireplaces, and 17 chimneys. There was only one working toilet, the rest were decoys to fool the spirits.
Maui’s Black Sand Beach
On the island of Maui, Wai’anapanapa State Park is a must-see for beach lovers. Off the famous Hana Highway at mile marker 32, you can find a beautiful and unique black sand beach. The sand is made up of smooth lava pebbles that have been worn down by the ocean waves over time. Sharp lava rock still exists further out into the water.
The beach also has incredible caves and arches, as well as freshwater streams and pools. It’s an amazing geological location, created by a volcano that formed and erupted sometime in the 1700s.
Watson Lake Signpost Forest
Why would there be 77,000 signs in the middle of a lake forest? It first began in 1942 when a U.S. soldier named Carl K. Lindley was tasked with repairing and erecting directional signposts around Watson Lake. After finishing the job, he added a sign to honor his hometown, noting the direction and mileage to Danville, Illinois. Once people saw Lindley’s sign, they decided to make one of their own.
Today there are tens of thousands of signs in the forest and people are still adding to it. Many of them come from across the world. A time capsule was also placed at the site, which won’t be opened until 2042!
Abandoned Cinema in Sinai Desert
Ok, this is truly bizarre. You actually need to see it in person in order to believe that there’s actually an abandoned movie theatre sitting in the middle of the desert, but it’s true. Located in the Sinai Desert on a peninsula in Egypt, it’s said that a Frenchman by the name of Dynn Eadel was hanging in the desert with his friends when he decided it was missing a movie theatre.
He built the outdoor theatre in the early 2000s, sourcing the wooden seats, furnishings, and projection equipment from Cairo. However, after all the money raised and work put into it, a movie was never screened there.
Glowing Termite Mounds of Emas National Park
Who would ever want to visit grounds infested with termites? It’s a reasonable question to ask yourself. But you’ll be amazed by the termite mounds of Brazil. Located in Emas National Park, these huge mounds are home to hundreds of glowing Pyrophorus beetle larvae. At night, they light up the mounds in a way that might make you think aliens are among us.
The bugs’ lights are so bright, you could even use one to read with. The national park also features waterfalls, mountains, and savannah. It’s best to visit during the summer.
Diquis Valley Spheres of Costa Rica
If you didn’t know any better, you’d think a famous modern-day landscaper created these peculiar round stones. But these stones are actually mysterious artifacts that are centuries old. They were first discovered when workers from the United Fruit Company began clearing the land of the Diquis Valley in the 1930s. One by one they unearthed these mysterious round stones.
The largest weighs over 16 tons. Many of them have been taken from their original resting place and used as prized lawn ornaments for a few lucky Costa Ricans, but there are still some in the valley.
Sahara El Beyda in Egypt
What used to be the bottom of the sea is now a surreal desert in Farafra, Egypt. The unique landscape is like nothing you’ve ever seen, showing how rocks and sand form and change over millions of years.
Although it once used to be the deepest depth of the sea, surrounded by species and vegetation, it’s now one of the hottest places on earth. It’s an incredible place to view and reflect on how our planet seeks to balance itself, just don’t get lost!
Wild Horses in Outer Banks, North Carolina
While the population of wild horses in the United States is sadly dwindling, there are still some places you can view the horses in their element. One such place is North Carolina’s Outer Banks. At one time, thousands of wild horses populated the area but tourism has since decreased their numbers.
The horses that roam this area are believed to be descendants of horses brought to the states by Spanish explorers in the 16th and 17th centuries and were left behind when the Spaniards returned to Europe. People trying to protect the horses are hoping they can introduce and breed two different groups, to decrease inbreeding and give them a better chance at survival.
Canada Has A Magical Spotted Lake
If ever there was a solution for all the ailments in the world, it might be found at Canada’s Spotted Lake. Spotted Lake is located in the Similkameen Valley of British Colombia.
For most of the year, it’s just like any other lake, but as the weather gets warmer in spring and summer, much of the lake evaporates and leaves behind briny pools of colorful mineral deposits. The high concentration of minerals includes magnesium sulfate, calcium, and sodium sulfate. The indigenous peoples to that region revered the lake as a sacred spot, believing the deposits to have healing and medicinal properties.
Port Gregory Pink Lake, Australia
On the western coast of Australia, just a few hours north of Perth is Port Gregory Pink Lake. If you love the color pink, this place definitely has to be on your bucket list. Have you ever seen something like this before?? The pink hue is caused by the lake’s algae and salt concentration.
Depending on the cloud coverage of the day, the lake can appear anywhere from a lilac purple to a bubble-gum pink color. When the sun rises and sets, this place is absolutely amazing, and is the location of many photoshoots.
Trunyan Necropolis in Bali, Indonesia
In western culture, the bodies of the deceased are buried in a cemetary or cremated. But that’s not the case in Trunyanese culture. In Hindu Bali, the Truyanese people wash the bodies of the deceased, cleansing them in rain water. The body is then placed in a bamboo cage under the taru menyan tree (which translates to ‘nice smelling tree’ where they wait for the body to dissolve, leaving only the skeleton.
Then, the skull is placed on a wall of stones, which visitors can see. It’s a pretty eerie setting, considering all the skulls and dead that have been taken there. But because of the nice smelling trees, at least it doesn’t reek of the dead.
Pamukkale Water Terraces of Turkey
Ancient Rome left behind incredible white travertine terraces formed by ancient hot springs. The water cascades down the mountains above and falls into natural terraces for an other-worldly experience. The Pamukkale Water Terraces have been recognized as a natural wonder since second century BC.
Natural phenomenons like this are extremely rare, and this one somehow survived major earthquakes that devastated ancient Rome, which surrounds it. How often do you get the opportunity to visit the health spa of ancient Rome?
Colombia’s Liquid Rainbow
Colombia has a contender for the most beautiful river in the world. Located in the province of Meta, Caño Cristales flows from the Guayabero River. English for “Crystal Channel,” Caño Cristales is often called the “River of Five Colors” or the “Liquid Rainbow.” But where does the river’s coloring come from?
The river gets its coloring from the plants that grow in the riverbed, particularly the Marcarenia clavigera, which is a river weed that makes the water appear bright red. The water itself is actually crystal clear due to the lack of nutrients and particles running through it. June through November is the best time of year to catch this phenomenon.
Cardrona Bra Fence in New Zealand
It’s not a coincidence that the same town that’s home to New Zealand’s biggest music festival is also where the world’s longest bra fence is located. Oh, you didn’t know there was such a thing as a bra fence? Well now you do. Just a short drive from Queenstown and Wanaka is the Cardrona bra fence. Ladies starting placing their bras on the fence around 1998, and now there are hundreds of them!
There’s been some disagreement over the bra fence, and they were all taken down once, when there were around 60 bras. But, the ladies came back with vengeance, and soon there were 200 new bras hanging on the rural country fence. As of 2006, there were an estimated 800.
Swim With Jellyfish In Palau
No one wants to get caught swimming near a jellyfish for fear of getting stung. But if you’ve ever been intrigued by these creatures, there’s a place you could possibly go to see one up close without getting hurt.
On Eil Malk Island of Palau, tourists were once able to swim among these harmless creatures in the Jellyfish Lake. Millions of years ago, these jellyfish got separated from the ocean and lost their stinging capabilities. In recent years, however, tour operators have been taking people out there less due to the golden jellyfish’s dwindling numbers.
Cat Island in Aoshima Island, Japan
If you love cats, Aoshima Island needs to be on your bucket list. There’s not just one, but twelve islands in Japan that are densely populated with felines. More than one hundred cats populate this particular island, which consists of a partially abandoned fishing town. These cats are pretty smart to be hanging around a fishing town, and they seem to be doing just fine!
In fact, cats here outnumber people six to one. The small population of people who do live on the island are constantly shooing them away from their doors, but honestly, they’re everywhere.
Peru’s Rainbow Mountains
Vinicunca, or Rainbow Mountain, looks like something straight out of a Dr. Seuss book. Located in the Peruvian Andes, this mountain can only be accessed by foot or horse. The difficulties of trying to locate this mountain, however, have saved it from becoming a tourist trap.
Only the most hellbent tourists embarked on six-day hiking treks to see this natural wonder in the past, but the recent development of a road has whittled travel time to Rainbow Mountain down to a few hours. Colorful sediments embedded into the landscape are what give this mountain its namesake.
Cabbages and Condoms Restaurants in Thailand
What seems like a very, very strange concept (ok, it is) is also a good-intentioned idea. Cabbages and Condoms is a restaurant chain across the country of Thailand that was founded by Mechai Viravaidya, a public official who wanted to do whatever he could to encourage safe sex to lower rates of AIDS and help Thai people with family planning.
The restaurant’s concept aims to rid of the taboo of condoms and promote sexual education. They offer free condoms to visitors and operate with the motto, “our food is guaranteed not to cause pregnancy.”
The Giant’s Causeway In Ireland
The Giant’s Causeway is the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland and it’s easy to see why. The rock formation is made up of near-perfect hexagonal columns that seem to have been placed on the water intentionally.
However, this formation happened as a result of a volcanic eruption 60 million years ago! As legend has it, an Irish giant named Fionn was challeged to a fight by the Scottish giant Benandonner. Fionn built the causeway as a meeting point with Benendonner. Across the sea ont he Scottish isle, there is an identical formation as a result of the same eruption.