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Travel News 12 odd and abandoned places you should visit and the stories behind them

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12 odd and abandoned places you should visit and the stories behind them

Times are tough for travelers. But with the world preparing to reopen in 2021, we're here to keep you dreaming and planning for your next adventure - whether that's a staycation or flying off to parts unknown. Until then, we've got the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates to keep you up to date and ready to go.

What makes our planet really shine are the oddball curiosities of the man-made and natural worlds. These destinations are ready to be experienced first-hand by savvy travelers searching for thrills. From abandoned places with creepy vibes to natural phenomena not easily explained, every corner of the earth has wonders to see up close. Come take a journey to fall in love with the weird and wonderful while expanding your bucket list of unique places around the globe.

Here’s 12 amazing, strange or abandoned places to see around the world:

  1. Wild (and violent?) deer in Nara, Japan
  2. The Hair Museum in Avanos, Turkey
  3. The cliffside town of Ronda, Spain
  4. Waitomo Caves in New Zealand
  5. Blue Lagoon in Grindavík, Iceland
  6. Door to Hell in Turkmenistan
  7. Ghost tours and shootouts in Tombstone, Arizona
  8. Abundant Life Building in Tulsa, Oklahoma
  9. Neskowin Ghost Forest in Neskowin, Oregon
  10. Arikok National Park in Aruba
  11. Museum of Alchemists and Magicians in Prague, Czech Republic
  12. Alamere Falls in Bolinas, California

1. Wild (and violent?) deer in Nara, Japan

Wild deer in Nara, Japan

Take a train ride about an hour outside downtown Osaka to reach Japan’s original capital city of Nara. After you see the gorgeous Buddhist temples and stroll through the park, it’s time to snap selfies with Nara’s most famous residents. This area in Japan is home to hundreds of wild deer that have been protected as sacred animals for centuries. The parks feel almost like abandoned places of old with so many animals running free. Visitors can purchase special healthy deer crackers from street vendors to entice the animals to interact. Be careful though—the deer may lull you into submission. They bow cutely for crackers, but will headbutt you or snap if not fed fast enough!

2. The Hair Museum in Avanos, Turkey

Hair Museum in Turkey. Chez Galip snipping off locks from a woman.
Image by Eileen Cotter Wright via Pure Wander

If you meet Chez Galip at his popular ceramics studio in Cappadocia, you might not notice he has a hidden hobby. After picking up a handmade Turkish souvenir or two, head to the other side of town to visit his old studio, which has been converted into a museum of hair samples. Since the 1970’s, Chez Galip has collected hair specimens. There’s not much rhyme or reason to it, besides that they are all from women. Most of the estimated 16,000 tufts of hair have small info cards attached. Every year, he chooses a couple people from his collection to win a lottery for a free apprenticeship in Turkey.

3. The cliffside town of Ronda, Spain

Woman in colorful jumpsuit in front of Ronda, Spain

Not many towns can claim such a precarious perch as Ronda, which traces its roots back to the 6th century B.C. This small village in Andalusia is well known not just for its deep history, but also for its staggering cliffside location over a large gorge. The gorge itself is more than 300 feet deep and cuts through town, leaving homes, restaurants, hotels and other buildings along the edges. You can walk across Puente Nuevo bridge to bravely peer below to the river, and then also visit nearby Plaza de Toros, one of Spain’s oldest bullfighting ring.

4. Waitomo Caves in New Zealand

Once among abandoned places, Waitomo caves is a popular tourist destination and home to thousands of glowworms

Now lots of people really dig these caves in New Zealand for the views. You may have heard about its natural phenomenon of glowing worms that illuminate the interiors, which you can experience via spelunking or floating via inner tube along the underground river. But it’s really a destination for the most intrepid travelers. Because, if you really think about it, this cave is chock-full of creepy bugs dangling from the ceiling, and it’s also quite far under the earth, with has tight squeezes that would make anyone shiver.

5. Blue Lagoon in Grindavík, Iceland

Find the ultimate relaxing experience with a trip to Iceland’s famous geothermic pool, found super close to the Reykjavik airport. Said to have medicinal properties, this natural sanctuary welcomes visitors to lounge, soak and swim in its mineral-rich waters. Plus, the visit includes a pretty ambiance, complete with warm mist and a blue glass-like surface. If you’re lucky, you’ll also catch the northern lights (aurora borealis) while visiting Iceland, a natural dancing spectacle of eerie and beautiful beams lighting up across the night sky.

6. Door to Hell in Turkmenistan

A hole full of fire called Door to Hell in Turkmenistan, once one of the country's abandoned places is now popular among tourists

The Darvaza crater is a man-made wonder leftover from natural gas. After it leaked into a cave in the 1970s, people tried to quell the leak by lighting the gas on fire. Sounds slightly dangerous, but they figured the flames would be out in a few weeks. Decades later, they rage on like a bad metal band, but it’s left a massive, fiery hole in the wake that people from all over the world come to see. The crevice is as big as a football field and well worth experiencing in person.

7. Ghost tours and shootouts in Tombstone, Arizona

Tombstone, Arizona, with an "Old Tombstone Western Town" sign
Photo by Xiang Gao on Unsplash

This is a bit of a one-two punch when it comes to odd places. The town of Tombstone is said to be one of the original Western towns in the U.S. that’s been preserved over time. It hasn’t fallen into the realm of abandoned places like many other ghost towns. Attractions here are a little kitschy, but the deep history of America’s Wild West still rings true through its dusty streets. For instance, you can go underground to learn about the grueling job of mining in the 1800s. Or, walk through town to hear about the past opium dens, dueling disasters and situations where cowboys met their ultimate demise. Tombstone is a haven for those who revel in the macabre and mystery of the American southwest.

8. Abundant Life Building in Tulsa, Oklahoma

Tulsa, Oklahoma is home to the abandoned Abundant Life building

Abandoned places and buildings are often found in many prominent U.S. cities, especially in the outskirts. But this one in Oklahoma is a little extra odd, as it has no exterior windows among the façade’s notable diamond pattern. Built in the late 1950’s, there were grand plans for a chic and modern office space to take the downtown area by storm. Instead, it was abandoned by the 1980’s and cannot be restored due to asbestos. The interior is quite derelict after decades of neglect. Current owners threaten to remove it soon, so catch a glimpse of this strange architectural wonder before it’s too late.

9. Neskowin Ghost Forest in Neskowin, Oregon

The Neskowin coastline in Oregon
Photo by Kayaker Bill

Make sure you don’t stub your toes on the dozens of decaying tree trunks found buried in the sand of Oregon’s Tillamook coast. Especially at dusk, this strange-looking beach pays homage to a millennia-old forest that used to touch the shoreline. Only the black stumps of the trees remain, seen best at low tide.

10. Arikok National Park in Aruba

An iguana lies inland on the island of Aruba surrounded by dirt and green foliage like an abandoned place

With the shores of Aruba being packed with tourists, the inland areas often feel deserted. Not to mention, much of the landscape is barren, like a desert. It can feel like a completely different atmosphere from the resorts. But it’s well worth a visit, especially Arikok National Park. Inside are the Quadirikiri, Fontein and Huliba caves, bathed in beams of light scorching through small holes connected to the earth’s surface. What makes this creepy, though, is the large colonies of bats that call these caves home. They often flit to and fro inside the caves while you stroll around. There’s less activity during the day, but the really brave will go at night when the flying bats are most active!

11. The Museum of Alchemists and Magicians in Prague, Czech Republic

The shadow of a person on a broomstick framed by a blue and cloud-filled sky

The Ouija board you messed around with in high school doesn’t exactly count for a full-fledged obsession with magic. But if you have interest in the occult and other-worldly powers, this museum in Prague can help tickle your curiosities. See some exhibits that highlight the old history of this city through the eyes of the misunderstood, abandoned and forgotten places and the people who previously perished. Learn from past magicians, dark art practitioners, witches and plain old oddballs.

12. Alamere Falls in Bolinas, California

Alamere Falls in California is one of the top abandoned places to visit
Photo by Matthew Bennett on Unsplash

Most waterfalls end in a large pool or lake—but have you seen one flow directly into the ocean? Alamere Falls is a “tidefall,” which is a coastal waterfall that cascades over a cliff into the sea. You’ll travel north of San Francisco and have to hike 13 miles round-trip to reach your destination. But, you’ll be handsomely rewarded with spectacular views from the top of the cliff and the beach.

Add a strange destination or two to your travel repertoire with this list of the world’s most interesting abandoned places and curious locales. While many may not even feel real, you’ll have to verify for yourself by planning a trip to check it out!

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