World’s Most Unique Places To Visit
Some travelers are trading beach vacations for unforgettable experiences in faraway lands like these.
If the options for your next vacation come down to the usual beach relaxation period or volunteering at an elephant shelter in Thailand, which would you choose?
Should the pachyderms sound more appealing than sipping a Mai Tai in Ko Samui, you’re not alone. Exciting, interesting and a little bit strange are elements that travelers are currently seeking in their vacations, experts say.
Mansudae Monument in Pyongyang, North Korea
“It’s like Mars with people,” says William Altaffer of Expedition Photo Travel, who has visited Pyongyang four times. Tourists are told to keep a respectable distance and bow in front of the 20-meter-high bronze statue of previous dictator Kim Il Sung. Only after doing so are visitors allowed to take pictures–then these are checked to make sure the leader is portrayed in a positive light
The Dragon’s Blood Trees of Socotra
The otherworldly Dragon’s Blood Trees and other 700 rare species of flora and fauna have drawn people to Socotra, an island in the Indian Ocean, off the horn of the African continent. Giampiero Ambrosi of Virtual Tourist says, “The trend of eco-tourism is especially strong here.”
Takstang Monastery in the Kingdom of Bhutan
The Kingdom of Bhutan is the last remaining kingdom in Asia and is the only place in the world to measure Gross National Happiness. Takstang means “tiger’s lair” and hangs on a cliff high above the Paro valley. Visitors must climb the slope on foot or by mule.
Dogon Buildings in Mali
The Dogon is an ethnic group that lives in Mali, in western Africa; their villages are characterized by living structures of unusual architecture. The buildings with pointed straw roofs are for storage of grains, foods, clothes, jewelry and money. “Sometimes you go visit a place from looking at a photograph,” says William Altaffer of Expedition Photo Travel, “and this is one of them.”
Antarctica is one of the most unique destinations on Earth, one that’s growing in popularity among travelers. The coldest land mass in the world is also the least touched by human activity. The dramatic, white landscape, as well as the unique wildlife, make for an unforgettable journey.
Oceangoing Hippos in Gabon
The West African coast is the only place in the world where there are “surfing” hippos. Gabon is also known for its lush tropical rainforests and assortment of animal life, including gorillas, forest elephants and colorful mandrills.
The Naadam Festival in Mongolia
Go to this annual festival to see the traditional Mongolian wrestling tournament. It is a martial art that has been practiced for 2,000 years and was used by Ghengis Khan to train his troops. In the festival, players wearing colorful two-piece costumes wrestle in a grassy stadium. An added element of interest: There are no weight-class restrictions, which makes for some interesting competition.
The Salt Plains in the Salta, Argentina
Off the Beaten Path travel agency recommends the Northwestern Salta province of Argentina. The salt plains here are a pure white expanse, surrounded by high mountains. The Inca tribes that originally inhabited the area offer a unique cultural history.
Chernobyl Power Plant
Twenty-three years after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, Solo East Travel offers an ecological tour of the power plant. Visitors get to see a reactor, the “dead town” of Pripyat, and the “red forest” where pine trees turned reddish orange because of radiation.
Head-smashed-in Buffalo Jump
For 5,500 years, the Native Americans of the North American Great Plains killed bison by chasing them off this cliff located in what’s now Alberta, Canada. They would then carve up the bison carcasses in the camp below. This is one of the biggest and best preserved buffalo jumps in North America, according to Off the Beaten Path co-founder Pamela Bryan. It was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981.
Throat Singers in Tuva
The throat-singing Tuva people of southern Siberia create sounds and harmonies unique to foreigners’ ears. It is a style that simultaneously combines two or more pitches over a fundamental pitch to create sounds mimicking nature. The pastime is popular especially among the Tuvan male herders, because they are able to practice in the broad, open fields while they work.
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