Unique travel destinations
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Bizarre and unusual destinations around the world

The Leshan Giant Buddha in Sichuan was carved out of a mountainside in the 8th century. At 233 feet high, it is one of the largest images of the Buddha in the world. (Ariel Steiner)

The Honghe Hani Rice Terraces, developed over 1,300 years by the Hani people, is a part of a farming system that incorporates livestock such as buffalo and fish in the cultivation of red rice, the region’s primary crop.

The rice terraces are among 19 sites inscribed in in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2013, including Mt. Fuji in Japan, the Medici Villas and Gardens in Italy and the town of Levuka in Fiji, the nation’s first listed site. More photos...

 (STR / AFP / Getty Images)
In Bolivia’s Andean high desert, Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat, stretches 7,440 square miles. More photos... (Margo Pfeiff )
Goblin Valley State Park in Utah, near the Arches and Canyonlands national parks, is home to sandstone formations that resemble goblins. More photos... (Dan Blackburn)
Panda lovers of the world now have another place to call home (for a few nights, at least). In 2013, the Panda Inn, a panda-themed hotel in China’s Sichuan province, opened its doors to guests. The 32-room hotel is decorated with panda art, panda furniture and panda-shaped stuffed animals. Even staff members dress in panda suits. More photos... (STR / AFP / Getty Images)

Las Pozas, which means “the pools” in Spanish, is a collection of surrealist structures created by English aristocrat Edward James. Born into wealth, James left his English mansion to create a fantasyland amid central Mexico’s jungle. Besides its multitude of pools, Las Pozas’ 20 acres include a staircase to nowhere and buildings with names such as “House With Three Stories That Might Be Five” and “House With a Roof Like a Whale.”

More info: www.xilitla.org/

 (World Monuments Fund)
Pancake Rocks, located on the western edge of Paparoa National Park on New Zealand’s South Island, began forming about 30 million years ago as layers of sandstone and limestone accumulated on the ocean floor. As the softer sandstone eroded, formations resembling stacks of pancakes formed. More photos... (Tim Connors)

Blue and green lakes as well as waterfalls dot Jiuzhai Valley National Park in southwestern China north of Chengdu.

The area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992, in part for the natural beauty and in part for its endangered plant and animal species, such as giant pandas and the Sichuan takin, a type of antelope. More photos...

 (Richard Janecki)
The Plain of Jars, located on the Xieng Khouang plateau in northern Laos about 100 miles northeast of Vientiane, is composed of thousands of stone jars arranged in clusters. The jars, ranging from a few feet in height to almost 10 feet, were carved about 2,000 years ago, and archaeological evidence suggests they were used in burial rituals. The site was bombed extensively during the Vietnam War, so only certain parts of the area are safe for sightseeing. More photos... (Damien Farrell)
The JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai, dubbed the world’s tallest hotel by Guinness World Records, made its grand debut in 2013. The twin-tower, 72-story hotel rises 1,165 feet. It’s nearly as tall as the Empire State Building but measures about 1,500 feet shorter than the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, located in Dubai a few blocks away. More photos... (JW Marriott Hotels & Resorts)

Aside from the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris, often called the City of Romance, is also home to the Musee des Egouts de Paris, or Paris Sewer Museum. Museum visitors can tour part of Paris’ extensive underground sewer system. This stretch, fortunately, is protected from raw sewage, so the smell isn’t too bad. The museum, located within walking distance of the Eiffel Tower, also includes displays about the past and present of Paris’ sewage system, which dates back to the 1200s.

More info: http://en.parismuseumpass.com/musee-musee-des-egouts-de-paris-23.htm

 (Chris Yunker)
Papakolea Beach on Hawaii’s Big Island get its green color from olivine minerals. Coral tints Pink Sands Beach in the Bahamas. At Red Beach in Panjin, a city about 300 miles northeast of Beijing, it’s seaweed. The wetland is home to a unique variety of alkali-tolerant seaweed that changes from green to red in the fall. More photos...  (AFP / Getty Images)
Up until a few years ago, quirky Mont St. Michel, a tidal island (tides vary as much as 50 feet) located off the coast of Normandy, France, was in danger of losing its maritime identity. In the 8th century, a bishop established a small chapel there. A Gothic abbey, used during the French Revolution as a prison, followed a few centuries later. Then in the 19th century a causeway connecting the island to the mainland was built, preventing the sea from washing away silt that collected around the island. A dam that rose in 1969 had a similar effect. Land slowly crept up on the island. Now Mont St. Michel, which receives almost two and a half million visitors a year, is undergoing a face-lift aimed at turning back the accumulated sands of time. More photos...  (Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP/Getty Images)
During the winter, you may be inclined to seek warmer weather on your travels. Not visitors to the Icehotel in Jukkasjarvi, Sweden. Not only is the hotel located about 124 miles above the Arctic Circle, it’s made of ice, even its beds. It features a church, main hall and an ice bar that serves drinks in glasses carved from ice. More photos...  (Francois Campredon / AFP / Getty Images)
There may be bigger and more impressive blue holes, but Dean’s Blue Hole on Long Island in the Bahamas is the world’s deepest at more than 600 feet deep.

Blue holes, named for their vibrant color as seen from above, are subsurface voids that contain fresh, marine or mixed waters that extend below sea level. They are open to the surface and may provide access to submerged caves. More photos... (Bahamas Ministry of Tourism)

Just south of the Arizona side of Lake Powell is Lower Antelope Canyon, a maze of abstract shapes carved from sandstone by wind and water.

From above, the slot canyon looks like any other stretch of Arizona desert. But descending into this canyon, you feel as if you’ve stepped into some elaborate art installation.

Some parts of Lower Antelope Canyon are so narrow that only one person can pass in either direction. More photos

 (Jason La / Los Angeles Times)

The stunning Petrified Forest National Park -- the only national park to protect and encompass parts of Route 66 -- includes Indian petroglyphs and the Agate House, built from petrified wood by native tribes.More info: http://www.nps.gov/pefo


Each year, thousands gather in Tarragona, a city in Spain’s Catalonia region about 50 miles southwest of Barcelona, for its annual castells competition, where teams made of up to hundreds of people collaborate to build human towers.

Building human towers, or castells, is an old Catalan tradition dating back over two hundred years. Each castell (a Catalan word for castle) is built by a team, called a colla, consisting of between 75 to 500 men and women. Young and light members form the top of a tower while heavier members form the base. Music plays as a team erects its tower, usually between six and ten levels high. More photos...

 (David Ramos / Getty Images)
Mammoth Cave National Park, located in southern Kentucky about 95 miles south of Louisville, lives up to its name. No, woolly mammoths never dwelled in its bowels, but the park’s namesake is the longest cave system in the world, with over 390 miles of passageways, more than double that of the runner-up. The park also includes more than 200 additional caves disconnected from the main system. Over 200 animal species live in the cave, including 42 that survive in complete darkness. More photos...  (Vickie Carson / National Park Service)
Alberobello, whose population is about 11,000, dates to at least the mid-14th century when it was colonized by the Count of Conversano. The town’s distinguishing feature is its trulli, cone-shaped dwellings made from limestone. In this prehistoric construction technique, structures are built from interlocking rocks without the use of mortar. This made buildings easy to dismantle and reassemble. Alberobello contains some of Europe’s best examples of this architecture style. The trulli of Alberobello were recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1996. More photos... (Adam Allegro)

Ithaa Undersea restaurant sits 16 feet below sea level at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island, a hotel resort in Hilton’s luxury brand that occupies two islands. Maldives is a country of almost 1,200 islands about 300 miles from the southernmost points of India and Sri Lanka.Diners eat beneath glass walls at the Ithaa Undersea restaurant. The cuisine is decribed as Maldivian-Western, and the restaurant seats about 12. The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner daily from 11 a.m. to midnight, according to the resort’s website. More photos...

 (Conrad Maldives Rangali Island)
Popular since ancient times, the Pamukkale hot springs are one of Turkey’s top attractions. The name itself means “Cotton Castle,” which describes the fluffy-looking mineral deposits. More photos... (Mustafa Ozer / AFP / Getty Images)
Madain Salih encompasses the largest preserved remains of the Nabateans, an ancient people who settled northern Arabia, south of Petra in Jordan. The site contains monumental tombs and wells carved into the sandstone dating from the 1st century BC. It owes its remarkable state of preservation to early abandonment, arid climate and lack of pillaging and reuse. More photos... (Chris Wright)
The Rock Islands Southern Lagoon, named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2012, encompasses coral reefs, caves, 445 limestone islands and 52 marine lakes. This varied landscape has given rise to abundant marine diversity that includes many endemic species.  (Jacki Claiborne)
In the Karakum Desert in northern Turkmenistan, a fiery pit has burned since at least the 1970s. The burning crater, called the “Gates of Hell” by some locals, was formed by accident. Engineers who were drilling for natural gas had stumbled upon a cavern with gas emanating from it. To contain the potentially harmful gas’ release, they set it ablaze, hoping it would burn out in a few days. More photos... (Chris Wright)

Isolated from continental land masses for 18 million years, Yemen’s Socotra Island showcases an alien-like landscape with unusual plants and animals, such as the blood dragon tree, pictured, and desert rose. Its high degree of biodiversity has earned it the name the “Galapagos of the Indian Ocean."Socotra is the largest of four islands of the Socotra Archipelago. Its long geographic isolation has given rise to an abundance of flora and fauna found only on the island. Of Socotra’s 825 plant species, 37% are endemic. Ninety percent of its reptile and 95% of its land snail species are also unique to the island. Not surprisingly, Socotra is increasingly popular with eco-tourists. More photos...

 (Piotr Kot)

There are many blue holes off the coast of Belize, but the “great” Blue Hole on Lighthouse Reef Atoll is the one most visible in a flyover--and the most famous one for diving. The hole is about 1,000 feet in diameter and 412 feet deep. The Blue Hole sits on the Lighthouse Reef Atoll, about 50 miles east of Belize City.

The late Jacques Cousteau and a filming crew explored the underwater cave whose roof collapsed about 10,000 years ago. More photos...


The Giant’s Causeway, at the foot of basalt cliffs in Northern Ireland, is made up of 40,000 black basalt columns jutting out of the ocean. Volcanic activity 50 million to 60 million years ago created these step-like columns on the edge of the Antrim plateau.

The tops of the causeway columns form “stepping stones” that lead from the foot of the cliff and disappear under the sea. Legend has it that the mythical hunter-warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) built the causeway to aid in the fight against Benandonner, his Scottish counterpart. More photos...

-- Kelsey Ramos

 (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times)

Close your eyes and imagine yourself walking into a humongous vat of cinnamon taffy. That’s what went through my mind as we entered this weird, dreamlike world of swirling colors and psychedelic patterns. Maybe it was the desert heat, but it all looked like gooey taffy, stretched over huge mounds and 50-foot canyon walls. The surrounding buttes were heaps of melting rocky road ice cream.

The Wave is like an enormous Olympic-size swimming pool, with swooning, undulating walls lined with burnt sienna, pink, gray, turquoise and pale green. The bands mostly run horizontally, but at spots they zigzag and shimmy before falling back into their previous pattern. More photos...

Read more: Arizona’s Wave rock formation a stone-cold stunner

-- Hugo Martin

 (Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times)
Until recently, if you wanted to see a picturesque Austrian town, you had to travel to Europe. Not anymore, thanks to China’s Minmetals Land Limited. The real estate development company officially unveiled its Hallstatt project, a replica of an Austrian town of the same name, in early June. The look-alike, which offers high-end residential living, is found in Huizhou, a city in southeast China about 60 miles northeast of Hong Kong. More photos... (Vincent Yu / Associated Press)
Volcanoes aren’t unusual in Indonesia, one of the world’s most geologically active countries. Mt. Kelimutu, however, manages to stand out with its three crater lakes, each a different color. Adding to its kaleidoscopic appeal, chemical reactions spurred by volcanic activity cause the lakes to change color. What color and when remains unpredictable. The lakes are each about a thousand feet in diameter and are found at the eastern summit of Kelimutu. More photos... (Google Maps)
 (Ross Land / Getty Images)
Unlike most destinations, the Chocolate Hills are best viewed when they’re dried and brown. This is when the hills, located in Bohol Province, Philippines, start to earn their name. During the dry season, the normally green grass covering the cone-shaped mounds turns brown, creating fields of chocolate-colored hills. More photos... (Lionel Bonaventure / AFP/Getty Images)
The Burj Khalifa, which debuted in 2010, is the world’s tallest structure. It stands 2,717 feet high and has 163 floors. (Joel Saget / AFP/Getty Images)
Despite centuries of wear and even a fire, Europe’s oldest wooden bridge continues to charm tourists in Lucerne, Switzerland. The Chapel Bridge, which cuts diagonally across the Reuss River, was built in the early 14th century. About 300 years later, the bridge was adorned with a series of triangular paintings depicting events in the city’s history. In 1993, fire nearly destroyed the bridge. It was largely restored in 1994. More photos... (Jason La / Los Angeles Times)
Ireland’s earliest Christians built the monastic complex perched atop the pyramid-shaped island. It was occupied continuously until the 12th century, when weather conditions forced its monastic community to the mainland. Due to its isolation, which has kept visitors away until recently, the complex is very well-preserved. More photos... (Christine Schramm)
At this museum in central Mexico, you’ll find over 100 mummies exhumed from a Guanajuato cemetery between 1870 and 1958. In 1870, a local law required families to pay a tax to ensure that their deceased loved ones stayed buried. The penalty for not paying was disinterment. (Daniel Jayo / Associated Press)
Makepeace Island was developed in 2009 as a private getaway for owners Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, and Brett Godfrey. The island located on the Noosa River in Queensland, Australia became available for exclusive booking last July. It can accommodate up to 22 people and includes a swimming pool, spa, outdoor cinema and tennis court. (Makepeace Island)

A popular attraction in central Turkey, Cappadocia is known for the fairy-tale-like rock formations that bespeckle the region. Called fairy chimneys, or hoodoos, these formations have been carved by erosion over the millennia. Fairy chimneys can be found in other parts of the world such as Bryce Canyon in Utah or Badlands National Monument in South Dakota, but Cappadocia’s early inhabitants turned them into an extensive network of homes and churches.Christians fleeing Roman persecution took refuge in Cappadocia’s rocky terrain early in the first millennium. By the 4th century, a monastic community formed in central Cappadocia. More photos...

-- Jason La

 (Frank Kovalchek)
Galesnjak Island, located in the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Croatia, became famous when its unusual shape was highlighted on Google Earth in 2009. The privately owned island is available for engagements, weddings and tourism. For more information, visit http://www.ilovegalesnjak.com(Google Maps)
Built in 1410, the apparatus is the world’s oldest functioning astronomical clock. It adorns the facade of the Old Town Hall of Prague’s Old Town Square. The clock’s astronomical dial tracks the motion of the sun, moon and stars. Above the dial, statues of the 12 apostles appear at the hour every hour from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. More photos... (Filip Singer / EPA)
Known for its picturesque scenery, Castle Combe in Britain’s Wiltshire County about 20 miles east of Bristol was named the country’s prettiest village in 1962 in a national poll conducted by British Travel Assn., precursor to the British Tourist Authority. More photos... (Matt Cardy / Getty Images)
This past August, Adam Allegro traveled to the coastal city of Pozzuoli along the Tyrrhenian Sea in southern Italy about five miles west of Naples. During his trip, he visited the Pozzuoli amphitheater, built in the first and second centuries. Its exterior is not quite as grand as the Roman Colosseum, but its well-preserved basement, as seen in these photos taken by Allegro, provides a glimpse back in time to a world of gladiators and caged lions. More photos... (Adam Allegro)
Jeju Island lies about 50 miles south of the Korean peninsula. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the island comprises three noteworthy sites: Geomunoreum lava tubes, Seongsan Ilchulbong tuff cone and Mount Halla (pictured). UNESCO considers Geomunoreum the finest lava tube system in the world due to its multicolored and elaborate rock formations. The Seongsan Ilchulbong lava cone rises starkly from the ocean, making for an impressive sight. Mount Halla features waterfalls, rock formations and a lake-filled crater at its peak. (Jeju Provincial Government / EPA)
Sitting on 143,733 acres in southern New Mexico, White Sands encompasses the world’s largest deposit of gypsum sand. Though it may be hard to imagine now, the monument, whose geology is similar to that of Mars, was covered by a shallow inland sea millions of years ago. Popular activities here include stargazing and sledding. More photos... (National Park Serivce)

Ale’s Stones is a megalith monument in Sweden’s Scania province. The monument, which measures over 219 feet long and 62 feet wide, is composed of 59 stones arranged in the shape of a ship. Each stone weighs between 1,100 and 4,000 pounds.

The origin of Ale’s Stones is unknown, but archeologists believe it may have served as a calendar or a memorial to shipwreck victims. Researchers estimate that the monument is at least 1,400 years old. More photos...

 (Adam Allegro)
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is an alien-like landscape in northern New Mexico. Kasha-Katuwe lies 40 miles west of Santa Fe on the Pajarito Plateau. The monument features historical sites, hiking trails and wildlife. More photos... (Rosemary McClure)
The Spire of Dublin is a stainless-steel monument that stands over 393 feet high. Composed of steel tubes of varying thickness, it weighs over 126 tons. The spire rose in 2002 in an effort to revitalize the O’Connell Street area of Dublin. The revitalization project also included a new plaza and renovated storefronts. More photos... (Dublin Regional Tourism Authority)
This 29-acre island resort known for its surfing is located west of Viti Levu, Fiji’s main island. It features 16 bures, a spa, restaurant and tennis court. Guests also have access to aquatic sports equipment. (Scott Winer)
Visitors approaching Gullfoss, whose name translates as “Golden Falls” in English, might think it empties into an abyss given its unusual drop. The glacier-fed falls, about 70 miles east of Reykjavik, plunge abruptly into a wide and narrow canyon at a perpendicular angle, creating a striking scene. More photos... (Joel Saget / AFP / Getty Images )
The next time you are in the Philippines, take a pump boat trip from Sabang Beach down the clear waters of an underground river that flows through caves filled with interesting formations of stalactites and stalagmites. More photos... (Romeo Gacado / AFP / Getty Images)
In the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest near Bishop, Calif., stand some of the world’s oldest trees. When the most senior of these were sprouting up, the great Pyramids of Giza were being built. Among the gnarled bunch is the Methuselah Tree, said to be the world’s oldest. Named after the aged biblical figure, it is believed to be nearly 5,000 years old. More photos... (Gabriel Bouys / AFP / Getty Images)
The six monasteries of Metéora are perched on rock pinnacles (in Greek, “Metéora” means “suspended in the air”), some built as high as 1,800 feet. The monasteries date as far back as the 14th century, when monastic living was embraced by the surrounding region. Though six remain, 24 were originally built. More photos... (Milos Bicanski / Getty Images)
The bay is a picturesque body of water with impressive rock formations, marine diversity and fossil deposits. But what makes it unique are its remarkably high tides: More than 100 billion tons of water rush in and out every day. The tides measure 53 feet, the highest in the world, according to Terri McCulloch, executive director of the Bay of Fundy Tourism Partnership. More photos... (Department of Tourism & Parks, New Brunswick, Canada)
Komodo National Park is the only place in the world where you’ll find Komodo dragons, the world’s largest extant lizard species. They’re about as close as you’ll get to living dinosaurs. More photos... (Romeo Gacad / AFP / Getty Images)
On June 25, Croatia celebrates the 20th anniversary of its independence from Yugoslavia. You could commemorate this occasion by visiting Plitvice Lakes National Park, the country’s first national park and one of its most breathtaking. The UNESCO World Heritage site is known for its waterfalls, uniquely colored lakes (grey, blue and green) and caves. More photos... (Alison Shore)
Check out the multicolored rolling dunes known as colored earths in Chamarel on the western side of Mauritius, an island nation off the southeastern coast of Africa. The blue, brown, green, orange, purple, red and yellow patterns were formed when volcanic rocks cooled at different temperatures. Rain eventually carved the patterns into an undulating landscape. This strange bit of nature is best seen in the early morning or evening for the best contrasts in the hills and the vegetation in the background. Nearby, the Chamarel Falls can be seen plunging hundreds of feet. More photos... (llee_wu)

When I lived in Chicago, a hot shower always made me feel better about winter, even if I wasn’t sure why I lived in a place where I couldn’t feel my toes after a short trek through the snow.

So I understand the joy Japanese macaques must feel when they get a chance to step out of the cold and hop into the hot springs at Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano, about 150 miles northwest of Tokyo. More photos...

-- Michael Robinson

 (Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP/Getty Images)
What do you do with your gum when it has lost its flavor? Do you stick it under the table (does anybody older than 7 really do that?) or spit it on the ground for an unsuspecting pedestrian to get stuck in the creases of his or her Nikes? For those who have no interest in throwing their Bubble Yum in the trash when it’s run its course, here’s another option: Add it to the ever-growing Gum Wall, a tourist attraction in Seattle. More photos... (Alex Trautwig / Getty Images)
The beach is known to locals as Red Sandy Beach and can be found on the northeastern side of the island. Besides the extraterrestrial-like orange-reddish sand, Ramla Bay is known for the Roman ruins buried beneath its surface. Calypso Cave, overlooking the bay, has also been associated with the mythical lair of Calypso in Homer’s “Odyssey.” More photos... (Mauro Ventura)

The Angola Prison Rodeo is a chance to see serious felons testing their mettle against serious livestock. It’s a glimpse into an infamous lockup, bordered on three sides by the Mississippi River, where blues musician Leadbelly once did time. It’s an introduction, amid plenty of homegrown food and music, to the peculiarly tangled history of public incarceration and private enterprise in the Tunica Hills of rural Louisiana.

The Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola, once labeled the bloodiest prison in America, holds about 5,200 inmates and sprawls across 18,000 acres in West Feliciana Parish, 137 miles northwest of New Orleans and about 20 miles northwest of St. Francisville, La.

 (Sean Gardner / For The Times)

Never mind Stonehenge. Avebury, about 20 miles north, is one of the best — and eeriest — Neolithic monuments in Europe, made of multiple concentric stone circles set in and around a medieval village that grew up later. The surrounding Wiltshire downs are fine too, especially from up top on the old Ridgeway Path.

Info: 011-44-1672-539250, http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/avebury/.

 (Matt Cardy / Getty Images)
One of Can Tho’s most popular attractions is its floating markets, where vendors sell fruit and vegetables on boats. The produce is mostly for wholesale, but a few sellers have retail selections. Cai Rang market, pictured, is the Mekong Delta’s largest market. It’s on the Can Tho River about an hour southwest of Can Tho by boat. Business begins at dawn and trails off around 9 a.m., so come early if you want to see the market in full swing. This boat is piled high with dragon fruit. More photos...  (Jason La / Los Angeles Times)
Pfeiffer Beach in Los Padres National Forest along California’s Central Coast features impressive scenery, but the beach’s purple sand is its main draw. More photos... (Pamela Ocampo)
Volcanic rock pillars line up like rows of terra-cotta warriors in this under-visited parkland in the southeastern corner of the Grand Canyon state. Take a seven-mile hike along forested canyons to the Heart of Rocks Trail and come face to face with odd-shaped boulders named Punch and Judy, Kissing Rocks and the massively impressive Balanced Rock. Info: (520) 824-3560, Ext. 302; http://www.nps.gov/chir (Tom Politeo)
This hotel is known for the promenade of ducks between the lobby fountain and the elevator (at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily), but even when the ducks are in their upstairs penthouse, the Peabody lobby feels like the center of Southern civilization. The Italian Renaissance building went up in 1925, and rates for the 464 rooms start about $260 a night. It’s a short walk to the live music of Beale Street, a short drive to Graceland and the widely admired National Civil Rights Museum. Info: (901) 529-4000, http://www.peabodymemphis.com(Ann-Margaret Hedges)

Skip trying to build an igloo yourself. Canada’s Hôtel de Glace, built exclusively of ice and snow, does it for you.At the beginning of December each year, workers build the entire hotel’s rooms and columns, furniture and sculptures out of ice and snow. For the opening this January, when the hotel celebrates its 10th anniversary, workers used 15,000 tons of snow and 500 tons of ice.

Hôtel de Glace opened Jan. 4 and will remain open until April 4 for overnight stays, public tours, corporate events, weddings, art exhibitions and film and TV productions.

The hotel is in Sainte-Catherine-de-la-Jacques-Cartier, 23 miles from Quebec City and 149 miles from Montreal. Quebec’s winter temperatures can range from minus-13 degrees Fahrenheit in February to 41 degrees in March. More photos...

-- Kelsey Ramos


During the summer, peculiar white, green and yellow spots appear on this salty lake in British Columbia.The explanation: When the lake water evaporates during the summer, natural walkways form on the lake from crystallized mineral deposits. The spots, made up mostly of magnesium sulfate, vary from white to green based on the mineral composition. The Okanagan Indians considered the lake sacred for its therapeutic qualities.

The Okanagan nation owns the lake, which is closed to visitors, but the spots can easily be viewed and photographed from Highway 3, which runs next to it.

-- Kelsey Ramos

 (Chris Boyle)
Death Valley sounds like an unlikely place for waterfalls, but near Panamint Springs at the western edge of the national park, Darwin Falls flows year-round. The spring-fed falls consist of two main drops, an upper and a lower falls. In between is a grotto with a few small waterfalls. More photos... (Yathin Krishnappa)

Built as an actual tree house, Kadir’s offers treehouse rooms, dormitories and private bungalows for two or three people. Breakfast and dinner are included, and Kadir’s has two bars that open at lunch and close after the last guest leaves.

Guests can play volleyball, ping-pong or enjoy a picnic outdoors at Kadir’s. The hostel is close to the beach and ancient ruins.

There are 300 beds plus camping grounds.

Rates start at $14.44 per person for Jan. 1.

Info: www.olympostreehouses.com/kadirstreehouses/index.htm

 (Elena Pleskevich)
Angel Falls, the world’s highest waterfall plunges 3,212 feet from the top of Auyan-Tepui (Devil’s Mountain) to the Churun River in eastern Venezuela. The waterfall, located in Canaima National Park, is named after James Angel, an American aviator who flew over the falls in 1933. More photos... (Thomas Coex / AFP / Getty Images)

Up until 1991 Hostel Celica was a military prison. Now, 20 renovated prison cells serve as hostel cells, each with a different design. For travelers not looking to sleep in a former jail cell, there are eight rooms with ensuite bathrooms.

The hostel has several themed get-togethers throughout the week, ranging from barbecues to jam sessions. On the ground floor of the former prison is an art gallery, Srecisce, that plays host to some international art exhibitions.

Rooms start at $28.87 for Feb. 1.

Info: www.souhostel.com

 (Greta Hughson)

This cave is known for the thousands of bioluminescent worms, Arachnocampa luminosa, that live inside its depths. These worms, found only in New Zealand, emit a slight glow from their rear ends to attract food. They also hang silk threads to trap prey that add to their glow. In large groups, the worms create a glow noticeable even from afar.

The cave is on New Zealand’s North Island. Visitors can access the cave through a 45-minute guided tour.

More info: http://www.waitomo.com/waitomo-glowworm-caves.aspx

-- Jason La

 (d3n3v3r via Flickr)

Taktsang Monastery, also known as the Tiger’s Nest, clings to the slide of a cliff about 10,000 feet above ground in Bhutan’s Paro district. The monastery was built in the 17th century and damaged in a fire in 1998.

Visitors can reach the monastery by mule ride or by foot. Walking takes about two hours from the base of the trail. The monastery is still used, and entry is restricted.

More info: http://www.tourism.gov.bt/destinations/brief-description-5.html

-- Jason La

 (Scott Bonhard)

This Nevada desert’s picturesque mountains and sparkling geysers are well-known backgrounds for the annual radical arts Burning Man festival.

Fly Geyser (pictured), which is on a private ranch, is one of the strangest and most beautiful parts of the desert, spouting groundwater from a vivid orange and green calcium carbonate deposit base. The “geyser” is actually a man-made accident that began when a geothermal power company drilled a test well and improperly plugged the hole.

Despite its alluring mystic appeal, the desert is still unforgiving. Visitors are advised to stay away from geysers (which can reach deathly hot temperatures) and to carry enough supplies to ensure survival if they get lost.

-- Kelsey Ramos

 (Ken Lund)
Lombard Street is known for its one-block stretch that features Candyland-like twists and turns. Between Hyde and Leavenworth streets in San Francisco‘s Russian Hill neighborhood, Lombard winds down a steep hill in eight tight switchbacks. Motorists are free to drive down Lombard’s one-way curves. Pedestrians can navigate the street using two sets of stairs that run along both sides of the road.  (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

The waters of the Rio Tinto, Spanish for “painted river,” are an eerie and beautiful reddish brown, but the real story behind the rich colors is not so pretty.

Since ancient times, the river area has been a site of mining activity for its valuable copper, iron, silver and gold; metal runoff from the mines has long contaminated the river, and dissolved iron gives the waters its red color.

-- Kelsey Ramos


Inside, the Dog Bark Park Inn is your typical B&B. There’s a bed, breakfast table and small refrigerator among other amenities. From the outside, it looks like a gigantic beagle.

The Dog Bark Park Inn is housed inside a dog-shaped structure. Guests enter by ascending a flight of stairs that takes them to the B&B’s second-story entrance. The B&B sleeps four, two on a queen bed and two on side-by-side twin futons perched inside the beagle’s head. More photos...

More info: http://dogbarkparkinn.com

 (Dog Bark Park Inn)

The unusual rectangles forming grid-like tiles -- or tessellations -- on the rocks at Eaglehawk Neck on the Tasman Peninsula are not man-made.

Rare natural processes formed the rectangular “pans” (concave depressions) and corresponding “loafs” (raised rock) at Eaglehawk. During low tide, the surface of the pans dries out and erodes the surface with water and sand more quickly than at the joints, which results in a concave pan. Because the “loafs” are closer to the seashore and are immersed in water longer, the joints erode faster than the rest of the pavement, allowing loaf-like structures to protrude.

-- Kelsey Ramos

 (Cain Doherty)
The Grand Canyon is Arizona’s most apparent gem, but America’s 48th state, which celebrates its centennial next year, has a lifetime’s worth of natural wonders, including Grand Falls about 40 miles northeast of Flagstaff. The falls has a vertical relief of about 190 feet, making its drop greater than that of Niagara Falls. More photos... (Nicholas Allen)

A lake filled with millions of jellyfish? This might usually be considered a beautiful yet terrifying sight. At Jellyfish Lake in Palau in the western Pacific, visitors can witness the beauty upclose without experiencing the terror. The jellyfish here are essentially harmless to humans.

The lake, which locals call as Ongeim’l Tketau, is on Mercherchar Island on the southern end of Palau. More photos... From the movie “The Living Sea.”

 (MacGillivray Freeman Films)

Laos’ Tam Ting caves, which to locals means “caves of a thousand Buddhas,” embody centuries of religion and craftsmanship. These caves, made up of a lower and an upper cave, contain 4,000 wooden Buddhas carved between the 18th and 20th centuries. The caves are about 15 miles from Luang Prabang along the Mekong River.

More info: http://www.wmf.org/project/tam-ting

-- Jason La

 (World Monuments Fund)

The Historic Center of Craco was first developed between the 10th and 9th centuries B.C., and the tall watchtower that hovers above this rocky village was built in 1000 A.D. The town has been abandoned since 1991, when a landslide forced out its remaining residents. Because this hilltop town was built on an unstable slope, it will be hard to protect this ancient piece of Italian history.

-- Deborah Netburn

More info: thecracosociety.org/index.htm

 (World Monuments Fund)

This is one of California‘s largest caves and drops visitors 272 feet below the earth’s surface. No matter the temperature outside, the cave’s interior remains 61 degrees. Plus, the cave walls drip with moisture. In fact, the dripping creates the moaning sound that gives the cave its name.

Read more: Exploring Moaning Cavern

-- Hugo Martin

 (Stephen Osman / Los Angeles Times)

Thinking about swimming a few laps before breakfast?

Check out this man-made “lagoon” — dubbed the world’s largest outdoor swimming pool — at the San Alfonso del Mar vacation property resort at Algarrobo, Chile.

The coast-hugging pool is all man-made with a bit of patented technology that uses water from the nearby Pacific Ocean to fill it.

According to the Guinness World Records, which deemed it the world’s largest pool in 2007, the lagoon measures 3,324 feet long. The pool was completed in December 2006. More photos...

 (Crystal Lagoons)

“Spiral Jetty” earthwork: Thirty miles west of Brigham City, on the Great Salt Lake’s northern arm, is the “Spiral Jetty” sculpture, created from basalt and earth by artist Robert Smithson in 1970. It forms a 1,500-foot-long coil stretching into the lake. Constructed during a long drought, “Spiral Jetty” became submerged a few years later when lake levels rose again. In 1999, it resurfaced. For directions, see climb-utah.com/wm/spiraljetty.htm.

 (Tom Smart / For The Times)

Glass beach is in Fort Bragg, the scruffier northern neighbor of Mendocino, at the west end of Elm Street, of Old Haul Road. At first glance it looks like a standard-issue beach.

But look at that twinkly stuff underfoot: silvery, green, blue, orange and occasionally red bits of ground glass, twinkling in the sun and tumbling in the tide along with tons of standard sand, bits of metal, a little kelp.

 (Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)
At the entrance to the Stockholm-Arlanda Airport is a strange sight: a Boeing 747-200 jumbo jet that isn’t going anywhere. The airplane, which belonged to Transjet until the carrier went under in 2002, was built for Singapore Airlines and later flew under legacy carrier Pan Am. But then founder Oscar Dios had an idea to convert the plane into Jumbo Hostel, which is listed prominently at the airport’s website for those seeking a room for the night. Info: www.jumbohostel.com. More photos... (Jumbo Hostel)
The world’s biggest hotel suite is part of the Grand Hills Hotel and Spa in the mountain village of Broumana between the ocean and downtown Beirut (about a half-hour away) in Lebanon. The hotel has 115 rooms in a resort setting shared with furnished apartments, restaurants, bars and nightclubs.

The Royal Residence has six floors and private swimming pools. Guiness World Records declared it -- at just under 44,500 square feet -- the largest hotel suite in the world. It was finished last year. More photos... (Grand Hills Hotel and Spa)
The beach, which derives its light pink hue from coral, is on Harbour Island. It’s considered one of the Bahamas’ best beaches. Popular activities here include swimming and snorkeling, because a reef off the beach keeps its waters calm. More photos... (Tyler Karaszewski )