Every year, thousands of people travel the world, booking tours that offer thrilling and exciting experiences while often completely unaware of the dangers they may present. When we think of guided tours, we imagine a fun and informative experience. What most of us do not picture is a life-threatening situation. Of course, everything in life comes with some level of risk, but when we’re in the care of experienced individuals whose job is to create a safe and exciting environment in which we can learn and experience what the world has to offer, we trust that the excursions we’re spending our hard-earned money on won’t endanger our lives.
There are so many insane tour companies offering very unique experiences, from chasing tornadoes in the United States to mining with dynamite in a mountain that has claimed a countless number of lives throughout history. All the tours featured in this list are extremely dangerous. Fortunately, many of them haven’t had fatal accidents; however, the risk of such an incident is very real in every case. Here are ten insane tours that are extremely dangerous.
10 Chernobyl Exclusion Zone Tours
One of the largest and most iconic nuclear disasters happened at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, located in Northern Ukraine, on April 26, 1986. Today, the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone is a great place for tourists to get a taste of a post-apocalyptic world experience. However, the area has not been deemed safe, and it is unclear how long the Zone will continue to be dangerous. Over the years, levels of radiation have diminished enough for the Ukrainian government to allow guided tours. There are many prohibited activities, however, including smoking, eating, or drinking in the open air as well touching buildings, plants, and trees. Attire is restricted to clothing that covers as much skin as possible when touring.
The website of a business called Chernobyl Tours claims that the level of radiation tourists are exposed to is relatively small, less than we experience when flying. The guided tours avoid areas where radiation is in high concentration, and there is a low chance of tourists inhaling contaminated air in dangerous amounts, resulting in radiation sickness. Although the risk is low, it is not absent, and the possibility of coming into contact with a lethal amount of radiation is constantly present, especially when not following the safety precautions given by the tour guides.
9 Lightning Tours
Lightning is one of the most beautiful natural phenomena that Mother Nature has to offer. Every day, thousands of us marvel at the incredible light shows thunderstorms put on, captivated like a moth drawn to bright light. These light shows are nothing like what can be witnessed in Venezuela where the Catatumbo River meets Lake Maracaibo, a mysterious place known as the unofficial lightning capital of the world and home to the “everlasting storm.” Here, magnificent tours are available that take tourists on sightseeing trips to local villages, night safaris to see alligators, snakes, and birds, a chance to see some dolphins, and, of course, the main event—lightning! It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of witnessing something special and forget the dangers that accompany such an experience.
Lightning has been known to strike from miles away, and this tour takes you right into the heart of the all the action; the town of Maracaibo can receive more than 1,000 lightning strikes an hour. However, lightning is not the only weather phenomenon that Maracaibo residents are familiar with, as hurricanes and tornadoes are known to occur as well. Tornadoes are born from thunderstorms, and with 260 stormy days a year, the chance of one forming increases dramatically. The storms are volatile and can shift direction in less than a minute. This tour is certainly as dangerous as it is beautiful.
8 Tornado Tours
With growing popularity due to the Discovery Channel’s Storm Chasers, tornado tours have become a booming business. Every year, extreme weather enthusiasts flock to America’s Tornado Alley in hopes of pursuing their dreams of witnessing one of Mother Nature’s most destructive works of art. Tornado Alley is an area in the center of the United States, named for the frequency of tornadoes due to dry air from the Mexican Plateau colliding with moist air from the Gulf of Mexico to make favorable conditions for the development of supercell thunderstorms and tornadoes.
Tornado tours are designed to take paying passengers on the ride of a lifetime, but this doesn’t come without a severe risk to safety. Due to the growing demand for these kinds of tours, more than a dozen companies have emerged in the last 20 years, adding to the amount of vehicles on the road, increasing congestion and putting passengers and storm chasers in very dangerous situations that worry both safety experts and law enforcement.
The tour companies have a strong emphasis on safety, but even the most experienced professionals can find themselves in life-threatening situations, such as with the case of three chasers in Oklahoma during a storm in 2013 and three more in Texas during a 2017 storm. There is no safety when tornadoes can change direction without warning. Lightning and golf ball-sized hail are also a major safety concern during severe weather. As the saying goes: When thunder roars, go indoors.
7 Lava Boat Tours
Watching lava flow is a satisfying sight to see, and the ability to see it flowing into the sea up close would catch anyone’s attention. In Hawaii, there are lava boat tours that take you close enough to hear and feel the heat of the lava as it pours into the water and cools. This tour sounds absolutely fascinating but also comes with its own risks that not everyone may be aware of.
It’s obvious that lava is dangerous, and it’s silly to be within a close distance of the melting destruction it brings. Being aboard a boat when things go wrong is not the ideal scenario, and incidents have happened in the past. In July 2018, an explosion sent molten rock raining down on a boat, injuring 23 tourists as it melted its way through the roof of the vessel. Despite the disastrous turn of events, the tour company has continued their tours while sticking to the revised policy of the Coast Guard.
6 War Zone Tours
War zone tours take thrill-seekers to a whole new battlefield of excitement with life-threatening sightseeing expeditions through destinations that are or were once war zones and extremely dangerous. Tourists are able to witness firsthand the effects of war, including live action and explosions in some places. With tours taking place in many different areas, including Iraq, Mexico, and Africa, there are many opportunities for extreme thrill-seekers to experience a dangerous adventure. A company appropriately called War Zone Tours (WZT) has conducted excursions in over 50 different countries since they were founded in 1993.
All the tours are developed and planned specifically for your desired experience and are led by high-risk environment guides who are highly trained security professionals, according to WZT’s website. However, this does little to help in the case of missiles, as with an incident in 2016 where eight tourists were nearly killed when their tour bus was hit by a rocket in Afghanistan. Most of these tours take place where travel is highly ill-advised.
5 Bungee Jumping Over Crocodile-Infested Waters
Bungee jumping is a very popular extreme sport, but it’s a whole different thing when you’re nose-diving 111 meters (364 ft) toward crocodile-infested waters with your feet bound tight. At the Victoria Falls Bridge between Zimbabwe and Zambia, this exact experience is offered, but not without taking a very dangerous risk. Accidents can happen at any time, even when safety precautions are in place. No one wants to pay for the leap of a lifetime, only to have the bungee cord snap on the way down.
This is exactly what happened to Erin Langworthy, an Australian woman on vacation during New Year’s Eve 2011. Fortunately, she survived with minor injuries, despite having to swim with her feet tied together and having to free the cord at one point when it became caught on some rocks. This thrilling jump is absolutely as terrifying as it is dangerous.
4 Volcano Boarding
Volcanoes are brilliant and scary, and the idea of boarding down the side of an active one is terrifying and dangerous in its own right. Now considered an extreme sport, volcano boarding was invented by an Australian thrill-seeker named Daryn Webb in 2004.
Nicaragua’s Cerro Negro, Central America’s youngest volcano, last erupted in 1999 and is the world’s hot spot for this bizarre sport. This exciting adventure takes endurance; the-hour long hike through 32-degree-Celsius (90 °F) temperatures up the ash-covered side of the volcano and past sulfur-spitting craters serves as a reminder that this volcano could erupt at any time. Once you reach the top and are equipped with a metal-reinforced wooden board with ropes to steer and an orange jumpsuit for protection, you’re all set for the ride of a lifetime.
This young volcano has more than 20 eruptions under its belt since its birth in April 1850 and is considered the region’s most active volcano, featuring occasional lava flows and powerful explosions. Recently, as of October 2018, increased earthquake activity has been noted, which may only put thrill-seeking tourists at an even higher risk.
3 Death Road Tours
Bolivia’s Yungas Road, dubbed “Death Road,” is regarded as the most dangerous road in the world and has claimed numerous lives over the years. It is no surprise that it has become a hot stop for thrill-seeking tourists from all around the world for a mountain biking adventure and a “I survived my ride on the world’s most dangerous road” T-shirt.
Although the road has become safer over the years, it still holds its risk factors and is to be respected as a dangerous tour to go on. The high-elevation trip down 64 kilometers (40 mi) of mostly narrow road lacking guardrails, with the ever-present danger of passing cars and steep drops, is no bike ride through the park. Nevertheless, Death Road still serves as the mountain biking adventure of a lifetime for more than 25,000 thrill-seekers annually.
It is very important to do research on the tour companies offering Death Road tours, as many are available, and they’re far from equal. It is also imperative that you are always comfortable with the bike you’re riding in such a dangerous place.
2 Kayaking With Hippos, Crocodiles, And Bull Sharks
Everybody wants to get close to wildlife, but kayaking with animals that can kill you is something many of us might not have on our bucket list. For the ultimate thrill-seekers, however, the opportunity to kayak with hippos, crocodiles, and even bull sharks exists in the St Lucia Estuary in South Africa and is described as a fantastic way to get up close and personal with nature. You are bound to encounter some breathtaking birds and man-eating predators.
This not a tour for those who are seeking a calming experience with nature and can hardly be considered safe. The tour is not conducted in a controlled environment, and the guides aren’t hesitant to withhold information regarding the dangers of the area, including deaths that have occurred due to animal attacks. It is important to be very careful while on the tour, staying alert at all times and keeping body parts out of the water, so it’s surprising that tourists of all skill levels are permitted to kayak the potentially deadly waters of this estuary. It is not an unknown occurrence to have a hippo surface right in front of one’s kayak.
1 Mining With Dynamite In Bolivia
This tour is one that is hard to believe exists and is the perfect opportunity to experience what life in the mines is actually like. It is as dangerous as it is unbelievable. Near Potosi, Bolivia, sits Cerro Rico (“Rich Mountain”). It has been dubbed “The Mountain that Eats Men” for good reason; Cerro Rico’s silver mine has claimed the lives of many people. With a shrine to the Devil located inside that the miners give offerings to for protection, this tour is definitely not for the faint of heart, or those who value safety in general.
After everyone suits up in the provided safety equipment consisting of a hardhat, boots, and overalls, the multiple-hour tour begins with a trip to a miner’s market, where tourists are encouraged to purchase tobacco, alcohol, live dynamite, and other gifts to offer the workers they will encounter in the mine. At the entrance into the mine, the guide will list off a quick rundown of safety precautions, like not falling into holes, watching out for passing mine carts, and not lighting your dynamite, pretty self-explanatory stuff. Then the tourists venture down into the tight, winding, dark tunnels.
Conditions inside are less than favorable, dark, hot, and dusty, the very same unbearable conditions that African slaves and indigenous people were forced to withstand for weeks on end, with few lucky enough to return to the surface. Once the gift of dynamite is offered to the workers inside the mine, they will detonate it for the terrifying experience of watching the walls trembling and debris falling from the ceilings all around.
In recent years, the condition of the silver mine has become increasingly unstable as the site continues to degrade due to uncontrolled mining operations conducted in the past. While the risk of a collapse is lowered as long as miners conduct their work above the 4,400-meter (14,400 ft) mark in the labyrinth of tunnels, and with some safety measures put in place, the summit persistently sinks by a few centimeters each year, making the mine’s tours among the most dangerous available.
10 Strange Cemeteries You’ll Be Dying To Visit
Most people do not like to think too much about cemeteries. We tend to visit them only as often as we need to and then leave as quickly as is decently possible. This is a shame, because there are some cemeteries that are well worth closer inspection.
Though in modern times, we tend to be somewhat squeamish about the process of death and mortal decay, it has often been celebrated in ways that are endearing, interesting, or, sometimes, downright strange. Here, we look at a few of them.
10 Merry Cemetery
The Church of the Assumption in Sapanta, Northern Romania, serves a small town of only around 3,000 people. Life there is often hard, and the townspeople are mostly poor. Though they may not have much wealth in life, they are guaranteed a lavish and rather unique final resting place.
Since 1935, the buried dead have been interred in Merry Cemetery. Each grave is given a hand-carved headstone, colorfully decorated in, shall we say, a naive style and adorned with a bespoke poem that celebrates their life.
If your Romanian is good, you can wander around the cemetery reading the inscriptions, written in the first person from the dead person to you. Some poems are funny, such as Ioan Toaderu’s, which reads:
One more thing I loved very much,
To sit at a table in a bar
Next to someone else’s wife
And some are sad or even angry, like this one from a three-year-old girl, which is directed at the taxi driver who ran her over:
Burn in hell, you damn taxi
That came from Sibiu.
As large as Romania is
You couldn’t find another place to stop,
Only in front of my house to kill me?
If your Romanian is not so good, you might just enjoy looking at the colorful carvings which sometimes depict the manner of their subject’s dying in a disturbingly comic fashion.
9 The Hanging Cemetery
For centuries, the people of the mountainous region of Sagada in the Philippines have chosen not so much to bury their dead as to hang them out to dry. The period from death to interment is a relatively long one. The deceased is first placed in a “death chair” inside their home, and the chair is positioned facing the front door so that they can “welcome” visitors. The corpse is covered with rattan leaves and smoked, which serves to preserve the body and also to help rid the home of that just-dead smell.
The corpse remains in the chair for several days before it begins the next stage of its final journey. Traditionally, it is placed in the fetal position, with legs tucked under the chin. Limbs will be broken to accomplish this if necessary, though in more recent times, fewer families are willing to do so. The body is then wrapped in fresh rattan leaves and a blanket and carried by mourners to the cemetery. There is often a large number of people willing to act as pallbearers, since it is considered lucky if any of the bodily fluids leak through the leaves and drip on the mourners.
Once at the cliffside cemetery, the body is fitted inside a coffin, usually only 1 meter (3.3 ft) wide. The coffin is then nailed to the side of the cliff. The higher the coffin is placed, the greater the person’s position in the tribe was in life. It is believed that the elevated coffins will bring them closer to their ancestral spirits.
The privilege of a hanging coffin is not open to everyone. It is reserved mostly for tribe elders, as it is believed that the corpses of those who died young are considered bad luck.
8 The Underwater Cemetery
An interment at the Neptune Memorial Reef gives a whole new meaning to the saying, “He sleeps with the fishes.”
Found about 5 kilometers (3 mi) off the coast of Florida, the Neptune Memorial Reef has been artificially created in around 12 meters (40 ft) of water. It has several classical-style statues to give it an Atlantis feel and would be a paradise for scuba divers. However, not only has the reef been built to encourage marine life, but it has also been specifically made to hold the cremated remains of those who want to be buried at sea.
It is hoped that the remains will help to feed the coral and expand the reef. Although the burial of uncremated remains would be more nutrient-rich, they are currently not permitted.
7 Cross Bones
The Southwark area of London, where Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre once stood, was always a rather seedy place. There were a large number of taverns and a large amount of prostitution. During the 12th century, the bishop of Winchester had the right to license and tax prostitutes, who were known as the “Winchester Geese” because of their habit of exposing their white breasts to passersby. The phrase “bitten by a Winchester Goose” meant “contracted a sexually transmitted disease.”
The brothels, known as “stews,” thrived despite periodic attempts to close them down, so they were brought under the control of the Church, and regulations were drawn up requiring that prostitutes be registered, did not work on religious holidays, and did not sleep with anyone for free (presumably so that no one would feel hard done by).
Although the bishop was content to tax the working girls, he was not prepared to bury them in holy soil. A plot of unconsecrated land, officially called the Single Woman’s Churchyard but unofficially known as the Cross Bones Cemetery, was set aside for their remains.
In the 17th century, Cross Bones became a graveyard for paupers and those without the means to pay for their burial. As a final indignity, their corpses were often stolen by body snatchers.
In 1992, the Museum of London carried out an excavation at Cross Bones. They found bodies crammed in on top of each other and, most surprisingly, discovered that over half of the bodies were from those aged under five years old at the time of their deaths.
6 Napoleon’s Cemetery
The island of San Michele stands in the Venetian Lagoon, and its cemetery is hidden by high walls, although it is open to visitors. The island was inhabited by monks from the 15th century until comparatively recently. Their monastery boasts a domed roof and a magnificent statue of an angel over the entrance.
When Napoleon invaded Venice, he decreed that, because of Venice’s tendency toward flooding, it was unhygienic to bury the dead on the main island. (You can see his point.) San Michele was designated as the official Venetian cemetery, and it is still in use today. The island offers fabulous views in a prestigious location, sitting as it does between Venice and Murano.
The dead may have expected to be able to rest in peace there, but since 1995, overcrowding at San Michele has meant that “inhabitants” can only be granted a ten- or 20-year lease, after which their remains are evicted to make way for new tenants.
5 The Cemetery Of 200,000 (And 1)
Okunoin Cemetery in Japan contains almost a quarter of a million graves but is the focus of only one. It is the final resting place of Kobo Daishi, the founder of Shingon Buddhism and one of the most important people in Japanese religious history. He is said to be resting in eternal meditation while he awaits the coming of the Buddha of the Future.
While he waits, Kobo Daishi is said to provide help to those pilgrims who ask for it. Visitors must bow before crossing a bridge into the cemetery, which contains 200,000 tombstones, all of which are set out to line the way to his mausoleum. Many prominent people and religious monks chose to be buried here in the hope that being close to his remains will bring them closer to salvation when the Buddha of the Future arrives.
In front of the mausoleum itself is the Hall of Lamps, which contains 10,000 lanterns, which are always lit, and 50,000 tiny statues, all of the great man. Visitors are able to leave Kobo Daishi offerings in the aptly named Offering Hall, though, word to the wise, he is probably okay for a while when it comes lamps and statues.
4 Dracula’s Cemetery
St Mary’s Church at Whitby was built in 1110, and its churchyard dates from around the same time.
The graveyard must have always held a certain amount of Gothic fascination, because it was the inspiration for a scene in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In the novel, the vampire lands at Whitby and leaps from his ship (whose crew is mysteriously dead) and hides himself in an abandoned crypt in a church that very much resembles St Mary’s. Stoker stayed in the town while writing his novel, and he was said to have been very much taken with the atmospheric surroundings.
Current visitors may find more gore than they were hoping for, however. The pounding of the sea has caused erosion along the cliffs, and subsequent landslides have exposed a number of corpses, though none so far have been sporting elongated teeth and a theatrical dress sense. Work is ongoing to try to prevent the churchyard, and its contents, from slipping into the sea.
3 The Cemetery Of Shame
The Oise-Aisne American Cemetery in France is a military burial ground dedicated to those killed in action during World War I. There are 6,012 soldiers whose graves are proudly marked in four plots, marked A to D.
However, there is another plot at the cemetery, separate from the others. Plot E can only be accessed through the office of the superintendent. This plot contains 96 unmarked graves belonging to American soldiers who were dishonorably discharged and executed for crimes committed during World War II. None of these graves are mentioned by the American Battle Monuments Commission’s website for Oise-Aisne.
Between them, these men are alleged to have murdered 26 American soldiers. They are also alleged to have raped and/or murdered 71 civilians of other nationalities. The plot was designated as a place of burial for the “dishonorable dead.” The graves are identified only by number, and the dead are set with their backs to the rest of the fallen. The American flag is not permitted to fly over Plot E.
The only inhabitant of the plot not convicted of rape or murder was Private Eddie Slovik, who was executed for desertion on January 31, 1945, the only man to be executed for this crime since the Civil War. His remains were removed in 1987, and he was reburied next to his wife after his family petitioned President Reagan for a pardon.
2 The Cemetery Of A Million Mummies
In an Egyptian cemetery whose name means, for reasons unknown, “The Way of the Water Buffalo,” archaeologists have discovered a million mummies. Literally.
The burial ground dates from the first to the seventh centuries, and most of its dead were buried without coffins or grave goods of any kind, so those hoping for a Tutankhamen-style treasure trove are likely to be disappointed. The cemetery was used by poor, low-status citizens of Egypt while it was controlled by the Roman Empire.
Although they couldn’t afford the lavish funeral rituals of the pharaohs, great care was taken by mourners in the burying of the dead. Scientists have yet to discover the reason for the incredibly large number of bodies, since it is unlikely that they were all local inhabitants.
The archaeological dig has uncovered some surprising specimens, including one mummy that was over 213 centimeters (7′) tall and had to be bent in half to fit inside the grave as well as a number of blond and redheaded mummies. It may be that the cemetery authority buried people according to hair color, as clusters of redheaded and blond mummies have been discovered throughout the site. Then again, of course, they may have just buried families together.
1 The Plague Cemetery
In 1665, a tailor in the small parish of Eyam ordered a bale of cloth from London. When it arrived, the cloth seemed somewhat damp, so he put it in front of the fire to dry. Unfortunately for the inhabitants of Eyam, the cloth contained a number of fleas. And even more unfortunately, the fleas were carrying bubonic plague.
Within two months, the tailor was dead, along with 42 other souls. The church rector, believing that he had a duty to prevent the disease from spreading to neighboring villages, decided that the entire village should quarantine itself. He told his parishioners that if they agreed to stay, he would remain with them and do everything in his power to relieve their suffering.
Knowing that he may well have been signing all their death warrants, he set up a “cordon sanitaire” around the village. Almost no one tried to escape, even as the death toll mounted. Some people lost almost their entire families to the disease. A woman named Elizabeth Hancock buried her husband and six children in only eight days. She had to dig the graves herself, since none of the villagers wanted to go near her.
The task of burying the dead was a dangerous one. Marshall Howe, who had been infected early on but survived, volunteered for the task, believing that he was now immune. He often helped himself to the deceased’s possessions by way of payment, and it is believed that his wife and two-year-old son probably caught the disease from the stolen items. They were not as lucky as Mr. Howe, and he soon had the job of interring them, too.
The graves of the plague victims can still be seen in Eyam Parish Churchyard. Marshall Howe survived the plague, as did the church rector, though the rector’s wife succumbed after prolonged contact due to nursing the dying. By November 1666, with half the village dead, the plague was eradicated, and the neighboring villages were saved.
Ward Hazell is a writer who travels, and an occasional travel writer.
10 Strange But Wonderful Monuments From Around The World
Almost every town has monuments of some sort—war memorials, statues of people long dead, or pieces of art commissioned to celebrate a momentous national occasion, for example. Sometimes we recognize the names on them. Often we do not.
Most of these monuments have become part of the scenery; we walk past them and barely even notice them. However, there are some monuments that can never fade into the background, either because they are too big, too striking, or because they are just plain weird. Here, we take a look at just a few of them.
10 The Child-Eater Fountain At Bern
In 1545, the town council in the Swiss city of Bern commissioned Hans Gieng to create a statue to replace a 100-year-old one that had fallen into disrepair. What was there previously is not known. What Gieng created was enough to give the citizens of Bern sleepless nights ever since. The statue depicts a giant man eating a baby. He is holding another terrified infant as well as a sack also filled with babies.
It is unclear what the meaning behind the statue was intended to be, except, perhaps, don’t bring your children to Bern if they cry. The giant appears to be relishing his meal greatly as he swallows the head of a child.
The Kindlifresserbrunnen (which means “Ogre Fountain” or “Child-Eater Fountain”) is said to be cursed. According to local tradition, the fountain flows with wine on Christmas night, but if it is drank, the imbiber becomes possessed by the Devil. And perhaps develops an insatiable appetite for cherubs?
9 St. Wenceslas Riding A Dead Horse Upside Down
Wenceslas Square in Prague contains a statue of St. Wenceslas, the Good King of the popular “Good King Wenceslas” Christmas carol. The statue looks very traditional, though a little military for a saint, with Wenceslas proudly riding his horse, wearing a military uniform and helmet, and carrying a lance. It might be any statue anywhere in the world.
King Wenceslas is an important historical figure in Prague, ruling the nation in the early 10th century. He was said to be a fair king, unlike his brother Boleslaus the Cruel, who eventually murdered him. (Though with a name like that, it is little wonder he turned out to be a wrong ‘un.)
Tucked away in a corner of Wenceslas Square is another statue. Inside Lucerna Pasaz, you will find St. Wenceslas looking equally splendid, riding a horse which is not only dead but hanging upside down and suspended from the ceiling.
The artist, David Cerny, was believed to have created the piece as an attack, not on a beloved Czech icon so much as on the Czech president, Vaclav Klaus. What exactly he was trying to say is anyone’s guess.
8 Leshan Giant Buddha
There are giant Buddhas, and then there are giant Buddhas. The Buddha at Leshan is an immense 71 meters (233 ft) tall. Carved out of the sandstone cliffs in Sichuan province, China, the Buddha is said to be the largest pre-modern statue and the biggest stone Buddha in the world.
Work began on carving the statue, which overlooks the confluence of three rivers, in the eighth century. The statue remains relatively inaccessible due to the terrain, and this has helped to preserve the Buddha.
The construction was started by a monk named Haitong, who hoped that it would calm the turbulent waters where the three rivers met. When the construction was threatened by local officials, Haitong is said to have gouged out his own eyes to demonstrate his piety and sincerity. He was soon granted permission to continue, possibly because they were worried about what else he would cut off if they refused.
Unfortunately, Haitong did not live to see the completion of the statue, but he would have been pleased to know that the construction of the Buddha caused a buildup of debris in the river, which altered its course and did indeed calm the waters at the point where the Buddha’s eyes gaze.
Of course, even if he had lived to see it, he wouldn’t have been able to actually see it, so perhaps it was just as well.
7 The Alton Barnes White Horse
In 1812, a farmer named Robert Pile paid the grand sum of £20 to a man named Jack the Painter (who was, fortunately, a painter) to design and cut a horse into the hillside in Wiltshire, England. This was one of nine horses that were cut into the hills in this area during this time. No one seems to know why.
The design was carved out of the hill, with tons of soil scraped out and carted away. It was then packed with chalk so that it stood out in stark white against the green hills and could be seen from a great distance.
Jack the Painter, however, was something of a con man and subcontracted the work to another man who abandoned the job halfway through, after Jack had made off with all the money. Despite its inauspicious start, the Alton Barnes White Horse was finally completed after Robert Pile paid again for it to be constructed.
The horse measures roughly 55 meters (180 ft) high and 49 meters (160 ft) long. It has been relined with chalk a number of times since it was created and can still be seen galloping across the Wiltshire Downs looking for its companions today.
6 A Giant Thumb
Cesar Baldaccini was a French sculptor and part of the Nouveau Realisme (New Realism) movement. This French art movement created pieces using unusual materials. Baldaccini crafted a number of startling statues from compacted cars and other pieces of junk. One of his most famous works, somewhat undramatically, is a thumb.
Standing six meters (20 ft) high, the cast-bronze statue of the artist’s own thumb is the second one he produced. Baldaccini famously did not discuss the meaning of his work. However, it seems clear that the meaning of this artwork is, well, thumbs up.
5 The Georgia Guidestones
The Georgia Guidestones were erected in 1980. Commissioned by a man calling himself R.C. Christian, the stones were constructed with fairly elaborate secrecy, and the real identity of R.C. Christian will, in all likelihood, never be known.
However, the stones themselves are a legacy of sorts. Constructed from six huge pieces of granite, the stones have instructions for the survival of the human race carved in eight modern languages. Among the commandments is the edict that population should be controlled, that reproduction should be “guided” to maintain the survival of the fittest, and that disputes between nations should be settled in a world court.
The stones include a few basic astronomical features, such as a hole in the rock through which the North Star can be viewed. The capstone can act as a kind of calendar, should you you need one. The reasons for these features are unspecified. However, perhaps more information is yet to come. The stones are rumored to have a time capsule hidden somewhere at their base, to be opened when Armageddon finally arrives.
So, watch these slabs.
4 Hand Of The Desert
The Atacama desert is one of the driest and most remote places on Earth. Some parts of the desert have not seen rainfall in decades. It is not the sort of place that would attract a lot of visitors. It was a strange choice of venue, therefore, for sculptor Mario Irarrazabal when choosing where to put his latest artwork—a giant hand measuring 11 meters (36 ft) high poking out of the desert.
The hand is said to represent all the victims of torture and injustice who suffered during the military regime in Chile and symbolize their indomitable spirit and the power of love to triumph over evil. Unfortunately, not everyone sees it that way. Despite its out-of-the-way location, the piece is a regular target for vandals and graffiti artists, which, we might think, also says something about the indomitable spirit of taggers.
3 The Hanging Man
If you walk down a street in the Old Town district of Prague, you might be startled to see a man suspended one-handed from a flagpole. Emergency services have received several calls from concerned bystanders who believed that they were witnessing a suicide attempt or a man in desperate trouble.
Fortunately, they were not. What they were actually looking at was a statue of Sigmund Freud created by David Cerny (who also made the previously mentioned upside down horse). The piece is said to represent Freud’s pathological fear of death. The man who spent his life interpreting the fears of others had a morbid dread of death.
Cerny is no stranger to controversy. He was the artist responsible for painting a Soviet tank pink. The tank was part of a memorial installed to celebrate the liberation of Prague after World War II. Cerny was arrested and briefly incarcerated for vandalism.
2 The Dunmore Pineapple
In 1761, the earl of Dunmore decided to build himself a summerhouse. He liked summerhouses. And he also liked fruit. So it seemed natural, to him at least, to build himself a summerhouse in the shape of a fruit.
At the time, the pineapple was the most exotic fruit ever seen in Scotland. The summerhouse’s pineapple stands 11.2 meters (37 ft) high. The structure has four “vases” at the base of the pineapple, which are, in fact, concealed chimneys used for the heating system that was put in for the hothouse below. The hothouse propagated a number of exotic fruits and vegetables, including, of course, pineapples.
All things considered, it is probably a good thing that bananas were not widely available in Britain until the end of the 19th century.
1 The Sinking Library
Outside the State Library of Victoria, you might be surprised to see what looks like a remnant of an ancient library sinking back into the ground. Constructed from Port Fairy Bluestone, the structure is 7 meters (23 ft) wide.
Created by Petrus Spronk, the piece, named Architectural Fragment, is one of several sunken pieces the artist has installed around the world and is meant to symbolize the fragile and transient nature of all that is human, which is pretty disturbing.
However, the piece is like one of those “glass is half-full” moments. You can see the sinking of the library as the destruction of civilization and the disappearance of knowledge. Or maybe it is a new civilization breaking through the barriers surrounding the old, bringing forward new vistas of learning and hope.
So, you know, you pays yer money, and you takes yer choice.
Ward Hazell is a writer who travels, and an occasional travel writer.
10 Unconventional Types Of Tourism
When we think of a tourist, we generally envision people wearing large hats and moving around in open-top buses with cameras hanging off their necks. Or they could just be sunbathing on the beaches in their bikinis and shorts. But there’s more to travel than just that.
As we are about to find out, there are a bunch of different types of tourism, many of which do not conform to the basic stereotype of a tourist. These forms of tourism can be controversial and even dangerous. And even if they’re not likely to cause uproar or get someone killed, there are some bona fide weird ways to travel out there.
10 Jihad Tourism
When the Syrian war was in full gear and the Islamic State (aka ISIS) controlled considerable chunks of Iraq and Syria, several Western nations faced a surge in citizens leaving to fight for Islamist groups like ISIS. These people are called jihad tourists: Muslim citizens who leave their nation to get involved in a war that is none of their business.
Interestingly, not all jihad tourists fight. Like regular travelers, most are just there for sightseeing. They serve no particular purpose other than to swell the ranks of the terrorist group and maybe brag of being terrorists. Osama bin Laden himself was a jihad tourist. He left Saudi Arabia to fight for the mujahideen during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The ranks of the mujahideen were filled with jihad tourists.
Most countries remain skeptical of the long-term consequences of having their citizens travel to other countries for jihad. There is the fear that some of these terrorist-tourists will return home when the war is over or when they can no longer cope with its rigors, only to carry out domestic terrorist attacks.
9 Slum Tourism
Slum, adventure, reality, or poverty tourism refers to a form of tourism by people who only want to satisfy their curiosity. Slum tourists will visit the congested, poverty-ridden slums of a country just to see what they look like. Popular destinations include Manila in the Philippines, Rio de Janerio in Brazil, and Mumbai in India.
Tour operators in the affected countries have noticed an upsurge in slum tourists and have created special tour packages to cater to these people. Nevertheless, slum tourism remains controversial. While supporters say it is a way to raise awareness of poverty, the people on the other side insist it is only an excuse to stare at the poor.
Interestingly, slum tourism used to be popular in the US. During the 19th century, rich and curious Londoners would travel to see the prostitution- and drug-ridden slums of New York and San Francisco. An entire industry sprang up around slum tourism at the time, with tour operators hiring actors to pose as drug users and gang members. Some actors took their act further by engaging in staged shoot-outs right on the streets, just to satisfy the ignorant tourists.
8 Suicide Tourism
Assisted suicide, the act of helping someone commit suicide, is illegal in some countries. But not in Switzerland. Today, Switzerland is seeing a new kind of vistor: suicide tourists. Suicide tourists are people who travel from their countries to access assisted suicide services in Switzerland.
Suicide tourism is as controversial as assisted suicide and regular suicide, if not more so. Supporters of suicide tourism will often point to the fact that the majority of the tourists are suffering and wish to die. Why else would they travel from a faraway country to Switzerland, where they have no family or relatives, just to be helped to die? Supporters also say suicide tourism can only be prevented if the tourists are allowed to commit suicide in their own countries.
7 Experimental Tourism
“Experimental tourism” is a catchall phrase for the act of trying something new. There is no hard and fast rule on what qualifies as experimental tourism, as any unusual form of excursion counts. You do not need to leave your hometown to become an experimental tourist. A trip to your city’s airport can qualify as experimental tourism.
If you do decide to leave your city, a trip to the government offices in the nearby city qualifies as experimental tourism. If you want something more unconventional, you could just get a map of a city, draw a line through its streets, and follow that line in the real world. Or you could visit a new city blindfolded and be guided throughout your trip by your friend. You leave blindfolded, too, so you do not get to see the city at all.
6 Disaster Tourism
Disaster tourists are people who travel to areas that have been destroyed by natural or man-made disasters. This form of tourism is alternatively called dark tourism. The tourists are only interested in satisfying their curiosity and seeing firsthand the effects of the disaster.
Popular disaster tourist attractions in the US include Pearl Harbor, which was bombed by the Japanese during World War II, and Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Gettysburg was the deadliest battlefield of the US Civil War, amounting to over 50,000 casualties in just three days. Other disaster tourist attractions include the places where Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King were assassinated.
Outside the US, there are Hiroshima, Pompeii, and concentration camps operated by the Nazis. Disaster tourists are not all about history and will readily flock to areas recently affected by disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, and, maybe, wars. Lots of people visited New Orleans to see the aftereffects of the devastating Hurricane Katrina.
In 2015, a tour agency in Russia offered to take disaster tourists to Syria so that they could see the ongoing war firsthand. While most of the tour was to be focused on the rear, the agency said it planned to take people to the front lines if it got the chance. The Syrian government itself wants tourists to come into the country despite the war and continues promoting the nation as a tourist attraction.
5 Sex Tourism
As should already be obvious from its name, sex tourists are those who travel to another country for sex. Most of the time, the tourist will be traveling from a developed nation to a less developed one. It used to be the exclusive province of Western tourists, but more sex tourists are now coming from China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan.
Popular sex destinations include Cambodia, Thailand, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Jamaica, and the Dominican Republic. Sex tourism is so important to the economy of countries like Thailand that it already contributes around 12 percent of its gross domestic product. The tourists themselves want to explore sex in total freedom without having to worry about what would have happened if they were in their home country.
Sex tourism is not without controversies. It is basically prostitution, which is the leading cause of human trafficking. Prostitution and sex trafficking rings are often run by criminals. The prostitutes themselves are generally unable to speak out, since prostitution is usually still technically illegal in the destination countries.
4 Gun Tourism
Unlike the United States, not every country allows its citizens own assault and sniper rifles. In some nations, getting a pistol is almost impossible. Some citizens of Australia and countries in Asia and Europe who wish to lay their itchy fingers on firearms will travel to the US to scratch their itch.
Not every gun tourist comes to the US as a gun tourist. Some are regular travelers who become gun tourists the moment they decide to satisfy their curiosity at shooting ranges. Others are Americans who cannot afford to buy guns or are curious about shooting a particular type of gun. Hawaii and Las Vegas are popular gun tourist destinations.
Hawaii is the more popular destination. Shooting ranges will hire boys to stand by the roadside and share fliers with tourists advertising their services. Interested tourists, many of whom have never fired a gun before, are taken to the indoor shooting ranges, where they can fire up to four different weapons, depending on the package they select.
3 Atomic Tourism
As you probably guessed from the name, atomic tourism is centered around nuclear weapons. Atomic tourists will often visit nuclear museums, areas crucial to the development of nuclear weapons, or areas that have been destroyed by nuclear weapons or nuclear reactor meltdowns.
Popular destinations in the US include the Titan Missile Museum in Tucson, Arizona, where nuclear missiles used to be stored. Here, curious tourists can even enter a missile silo. There is also the Trinity test site in New Mexico, where the first atomic bomb was detonated on July 16, 1945. Tourists are only allowed in on selected dates twice a year and can even visit the exact spot where the bomb was detonated.
There are also the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, where the first nuclear reactor was built and plutonium was produced for the first atomic bomb, and the American Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where it was enriched. Another is the National Museum of Nuclear Science History in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where curious tourists can learn about nuclear reactors.
Outside the US, there are the Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Museum and the Hiroshima Peace Site, where tourists can learn about the bombs dropped by the US during World War II. In Ukraine, tourists can visit the areas around Chernobyl, which suffered a nuclear meltdown in 1986. The tour includes a visit to the deserted town of Pripyat, which was abandoned after the meltdown.
2 Drug Tourism
Drug tourism, the act of leaving your country for another with the sole intention of doing drugs, is increasingly becoming a niche industry in drug-producing nations like Colombia. Western and Australian tourists will often travel to Colombia just to buy and use cocaine.
The niche is growing because cocaine is dirt cheap in Colombia, at least by Western standards. In Australia, a gram of cocaine is sold for $300. In Colombia, it goes for between $7 and $15. It is also easy to buy cocaine in Colombia, where it is sold on the streets.
Sellers will often hang around the areas foreigners visit. Or they could just stand by the roadside hawking sweets and chewing gum but with their hidden stash of cocaine ready for buyers who know what’s up. Police rarely disturb drug sellers, provided they are bribed. Sometimes, the police set foreign tourists up with drugs just to receive bribes as low as $1.
1 Tombstone Tourism
Tombstone tourists are travelers who love visiting cemeteries. While this usually involves cemeteries containing the remains of famous people or national heroes, absolutely any cemetery with an interesting history can be a destination. Popular cemeteries visited by tombstone tourists include Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, DC, and Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
Pere Lachaise Cemetery is the resting place of singer Jim Morrison. Tourists will often leave half-smoked cigarettes on his grave. Another famous resident of Pere Lachaise is writer Oscar Wilde. He obviously has a lot of female fans because they will always leave him notes and napkins stained with lipstick.
Tombstone tourism is not a new thing. It has been around since Victorian England. The Victorian Brits had a thing for cemeteries and built a good chunk of Britain’s cemeteries. However, people started staying away from cemeteries after the calamities of the World Wars I and II.
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