Bizarre and unusual destinations around the world
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.(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)
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)
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.(Chris Yunker)
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. (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(NPS)
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.(David Ramos / Getty Images)
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)
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...(USGS)
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...
-- Hugo Martin(Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times)
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
-- Jason La(Frank Kovalchek)
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.(Adam Allegro)
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.
-- Michael Robinson(Kazuhiro Nogi / AFP/Getty Images)
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)
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(©Xdachez.com)
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)
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.(Elena Pleskevich)
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.
-- 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.
-- 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)
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(ganso.org)
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)
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
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)
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. (Grand Hills Hotel and Spa)