Sure, you’re used to seeing endless travel ‘grams of the Eiffel Tower and the Blue Lagoon. But what you probably haven’t seen is a rainbow colored national park, a beach with swimming pigs, or a house perched precariously on a rock in the middle of a European river. The world is a big place, full of hidden gems and weird wonders. If you’re looking for something off the beaten path — way off the beaten path — here are 19 unexpected and extraordinary places around the globe to add to the top of your travel bucket list. For more inspo, check out Lonely Planet’s new book Secret Marvels of the World.
Deception Island, South Shetland Islands, Antarctica: The island is horseshoe shaped with a sheltered harbor in the caldera of a restless volcano. In addition to its unique landscape of black sand beaches, volcanic slopes, and ash-covered snow and ice, the island is home to a large colony of chinstrap penguins (an estimated 100,000 pairs). (Photo via Michael Baynes Photography/Getty)
Pig Beach, The Exuma Cays, Bahamas: When you think of typical animals you can swim with, marine life probably comes first to mind — dolphins, rays, turtles, etc. But on the southernmost beach of Big Major Cay in the Bahamas, you can chill in the sun with some unusual beach bums: the island's wild pigs, about 20 pigs and piglets in total, who enjoy a good ocean swim and have been known paddle out to greet passing boats. (Photo via Shalamov/Getty)
Drina River House, Bajina Basta, Bosnia and Herzegovina: In the 1960s, a group of locals decided this rock in the middle of Drina River was an ideal place to build a small shelter. Due to flooding, the tiny house has been rebuilt at least a few times, but it still remains a symbol of tranquil, isolated sanctuary. (Photo via Alberto Loyo/Shutterstock)
Kubu Island, Makgadikgadi Pan, Botswana: This granite rock island sits on the Makgadikgadi Pan, the largest salt flat complex in the world, in a desert of northern Botswana. The salt pans cover the bed of the ancient Lake Makgadikgadi, which began evaporating millions of years ago. For most of the year, the dry stark landscape, uninhabited by humans, is marked by fossil beaches and large, spectacular baobab trees. (Photo via Hannes Thirion/Getty)
Vale Da Lua, Alto Paraíso de Goiás, Brazil: Vale Da Lua, or Moon Valley, is located on a private property near Chapada dos Veadeiros National Park. The unique series of rock formations, waterfalls, caves, and crevices has been created by water flowing over the area for millennia. Adding to the natural water park's otherworldly feel are the quartz crystals that are embedded within the rocks. (Photo via Vitor Marigo/Getty)
Zhangye Danxia National Geopark, Zhangye, China: The park spans over 300 square miles of tall, rock formations, a result of sandstone and other mineral deposits that occurred over 20 million years. Time and weather created colorful layers, cliffs, and columns. (Photo via Sino Images/Getty)
Catedral de Sal, Zipaquirá, Colombia: Travel 590 feet underground and you'll find this cathedral built in the tunnels of a salt mine. Construction began in 1950, and there are 14 small chapels, a dome, and three naves, one of which holds a huge, illuminated cross. (Photo via Fotos593/Shutterstock)
El Peñón de Guatapé, Antioquia, Colombia: Taking the stairs has gone next-level. The 650-foot tall rock was first climbed in 1954 by a group of friends who, over five days, wedged boards into the rock's large crack. Now visitors can scale the rock via 649 zigzagging stone steps and then be rewarded with a breathtaking view from the summit. (Photo via Fotos593/Shutterstock)
Jigokudani Hot Springs, Jigokudani, Japan: Also called Hell Valley because of its steep cliffs and steaming temperatures, the natural hot springs in Jigokudani are frequented by Japanese macaques (snow monkeys), who bath in the warm pools, especially in the winter months when the valley is buried in snow. (Photo via Vichie81/Getty)
Lake Kaindy, Tian Shan Mountains, Kazakhstan: A large earthquake in 1911 triggered a landslide that formed a natural dam and created this lake. The sunken spruce tree forest now partially emerges through crystal clear waters in front of a mountainous backdrop. (Photo via Humancode/Getty)
Moray, Cusco, Peru: These Incan ruins sit 11,500 feet high in the hills of Peru and form circular grass-covered rings whose purpose is still unknown by archaeologists. The design and position of the rings to the sun and wind result in various microclimates and a 27 degree Fahrenheit temperature difference between the top and bottom terraces, which along with the built-in irrigation system, hint that the site may have been used for Incan agricultural research. (Photo via Claire McAdams/Getty)
Tanks of Flamenco Beach, Culebra, Puerto Rico: Puerto Rico's Flamenco Beach is a small paradise with white sand and turquoise waters. However, the US Navy used the beach for bombing practice and military exercises from the 1930s until 1971, when Cubera local protests succeeded in getting the Navy to leave the island. A few tanks were left behind on the sandy shore and have since been decorated with local graffiti. (Photo via Christian Wheatley/Getty)
Valley of Geysers, Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia: Due to its remote location in the basin of the Kronotsky Nature Reserve, the Valley of Geysers is accessible only by helicopter and doesn't host many visitors. The three-mile long valley in far east Russia has over 100 hot springs and geysers fed from the stratovolcano Kikhpinych, which can reach temperatures of 480 degrees Fahrenheit. (Photo via Markus Renner/Getty)
Salvation Mountain, Niland, CA, US: This colorful monument in the middle of a Southern Californian desert was the lifelong work of Leonard Knight, a drifter turned religious man. Prayers and biblical quotes cover the surrounding natural landscape, creating a literal spiritual mountain. (Photo via FP/Getty)
Wave Organ, San Francisco, CA, US: There's no better place to see and hear the sounds of crashing waves than this acoustic sculpture located on a jetty in the San Francisco Bay. There are 25 pipes made of PVC and concrete that play "music" as the tide ebbs and flows through. (Photo via PIUS99/Getty)
Coral Castle, Miami, FL, US: The sculptures in this garden are made from 1,100 tons of coral and are a monument to heartbreak and incredible engineering. The man who built them was a slight Latvian immigrant, Ed Leedskalnin, who created this tribute to a woman who left him a day before their wedding day and hand-crafted most everything in secret during the night. (Photo via Bors Vetshev/Shutterstock)
Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees, Hana Highway, Maui, HI, US: Driving the windy road to Hana is scenic for many reasons. Around mile marker 7, you can catch a grove of rainbow eucalyptus trees. The natural multi-colored bark of the trees is caused by patches of outer bark that are shed annually at different times, revealing a bright green bark underneath. The bark matures and darkens into streaks of red, blue, green, orange, and purple that constantly change as the tree continues to grow. (Photo via Mark Skerbinek/Getty)
Carhenge, Alliance, NE, US: American artist Jim Reinders, after "a lot of work, sweat, and beers," built this replica of Stonehenge on his farm in Nebraska as a tribute to his father. Rather than stone, Carhenge is made of 39 Vintage American cars painted stone grey. (Photo via Naaman Abreu/Shutterstock)
Nine Mile Canyon, UT, US: Nine Mile Canyon is named for the Nine Mile Creek that originally helped form it, but the canyon is actually 45 miles long. At this outdoor museum, you'll find some amazing rock art (think thousands of images) carved by the native Fremont and Ute tribes between 600-1300 AD. (Photo via Jnerad/Getty)
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Reproduced with permission from Secret Marvels of the World, © 2017 Lonely Planet.
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