Helensburgh Glow Worm Tunnel – An Otherworldly Tourist Attraction

The small Australian town of Helensburgh is home to one of the most amazing places on the planet – an abandoned railway tunnel that glows an eerie blue at night.

The Helensburgh Glow Worm Tunnel is an abandoned rail tunnel in Helensburgh, New South Wales which has become famous both for the ghost stories surrounding it and the glow worm colony that give it its iconic bioluminescent blue glow. Originally known as the Metropolitan tunnel, the 624-meter-long underground passage was inaugurated at the end of the 19th century and used to transport coal from the local mine to the suburbs. However, it closed down a couple of decades later and remained abandoned until the mid-90s, enough time for a colony of glow worms to claim it for themselves…

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The World’s Largest Monastic Library Is Also One of the Most Beautiful

Admont Abbey, a Baroque monastery in Austria, hosts the world’s largest monastic library, which also happens to be a stunning work of art.

Dating back to the year 1074 when the Benedictine monks of Salzburg decided to found their own abbey in the town of Admont, Admont Abbey is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the region of Styria. And while the entire monastic complex is impressive, the 70-meter-long library is undoubtedly the abbey’s main attraction. Featuring flamboyant ceiling frescoes, wooden sculptures, gold busts, gilded bookshelves, and no less than seven frescoes-decorated cupolas, this is definitely one of the world’s most beautiful libraries.

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This Leaning Temple Is Taiwan’s Version of the Tower of Pisa

Taiwan’s Chiayi County is home to a temple so slanted that it has been dubbed Taiwan’s version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.

In August of 2009, Taiwan was ravaged by Typhoon Morakot, the deadliest typhoon to hit the island in its recorded history. It produced copious amounts of rainfall that resulted in enormous mudflows and severe flooding throughout Taiwan. The typhoon caused enormous damage and hundreds of human fatalities, but it also produced one of Taiwan’s most unusual tourist attractions – The Taihe Zhenxing Palace (振興宮舊址), a place of worship tilted at about 45 degrees.

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The Anti-Pirate Houses of Ikaria Island

The Greek Island of Ikaria in the Aegean Sea is home to numerous camouflaged houses built under giant rocks to make them harder to spot by pirates.

Nowadays, Ikaria is a popular tourist destination famous for its sandy beaches, picturesque villages and pristine natural landscape. But it wasn’t always the slice of paradise it is today. Hundreds of years ago, Ikaria was a prime target for the pirates who called the Aegean their home, so to protect themselves from their raids, the locals started building ‘anti-pirate’ homes deep into the mountains, to make their island look uninhabited from the sea. At one point, the entire population of Ikaria concealed itself in rock houses that didn’t attract attention unless you literally walked past them.

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Pheasant Island – A Small Patch of Land That Changes Country Every Six Months

Pheasant Island is a tiny island on the border between Spain and France that alternates ownership status between the two countries every six months.

Located on the Bidasoa River, the natural border between Spain and France, Pheasant Island is a deserted patch of land with a rather fascinating history and political status. It might not look like much today, but hundreds of years ago it was where the Thirty Years’ War between Spain and France finally ended. The two countries sent a couple of their most important dignitaries to the island to negotiate, with their respective armies gathered on both sides of the Bidasoa, in case things went wrong. 11 years and 24 summits later, a deal was struck, and Pheasant Island became the world’s smallest condominium, under the joint sovereignty of the two nations.

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Lerik – Azerbaijan’s Land of Longevity

Lerik, a mountainous region in southern Azerbaijan, is famous for being home to an unusually high concentration of centenarians.

Regions where people tend to live longer than average are known as “blue zones”, and we’ve actually covered a couple of them in the past – Japan’s Okinawa island and Ikaria, Greece’s island of longevity. However, there are places famous for the longevity of the local population that are not officially categorized as blue zones. One such place is Lerik, a region in the Talysh Mountains of southern Azerbaijan, famous for its high number of centenarians and even the world’s only Longevity Museum.

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Khunzakh – Literally Living on the Edge in Dagestan

The ancient village of Khunzakh, in Dagestan, is literally perched on the edge of a deep canyon, making it one of the most awe-inspiring human settlements in the world.

Before Khabib Nurmagomedov took the MMA world by storm and became the undisputed champion of the UFC Lightweight Division, most people hadn’t even heard of Dagestan. Today, it’s almost associated with the legendary mixed martial arts master, but the Russian autonomous republic is actually home to a number of wonders that the world has yet to discover. Today, we’re featuring Khunzakh, a very old village with a very unique location – right on the edge of a 100-meter-deep canyon.

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Chichibugahama – Japan’s Instafamous Mirror Beach

Chichibugahama Beach is a popular tourist destination in Mitoyo City, Japan which rose to fame thanks to photo-sharing social media platforms like Instagram.

If you ever find ourself doubting the power of social media, just remember the story of Chichibugahama Beach. A once obscure seaside destination in Japan’s Kagawa Prefecture, this place turned into a magnet for Instagram influencers virtually overnight. It all started in 2016 when authorities in Mitoyo City organized a photo competition to boost local tourism. One of the most eye-catching entries featured two children reflected in the shallow waters of Chichibugahama, and the visual effect was so stunning that the idea of using this mirror effect as a tourist draw turned into a marketing success story.

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Ancient Wonder – The 1,600-Year-Old Iron Pillar That Refuses to Rust

The Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque complex in New Delhi is home to an ancient wonder of metal work – a 1,600-year-old iron pillar that is exceptionally resistant to rust.

The Iron Pillar of Qutub Minar, as this ancient monument is sometimes referred to, measures 7.21-meters-tall, has a diameter of 41 centimeters and weighs about 6 tons. It’s also more than a millennium and a half old, believed to have been erected during the reign of Chandragupta II, one of the most powerful emperors of the Gupta Empire. And even though it has spent all that time outdoors, the Pillar of Qutub Minar shows almost no sign of rust damage. For decades, scientists and metal workers from all over the world speculated about the properties of this unusual marvel, and it wasn’t until 2003 that the mystery was finally cracked.

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Mexican Mountain Road Requires Drivers to Drive on the Wrong Side of the Road

Tackling tight curves on winding mountain roads is complicated enough as it is, but having to randomly drive on the opposite side of the road makes it confusing as well.

Mexico’s Cumbres de Acultzingo or Acultzingo Heights is a mountainous area in the country’s Veracruz State traversed by a winding road that truck drivers found notoriously hard to traverse due to its tight curves. Because large vehicles couldn’t descend through some of these curves without going on the inside lane and causing frequent accidents, someone came up with the idea of switching up the lanes in these tricky sections. These days, driving on the Serra de Acultzingo, as the road is known, you constantly have to pay attention to the road markings and drive on the wrong side when asked to.

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The Indian Town Where Human and Leopard Allegedly Live in Harmony

Bera, a small town in the Indian state of Rajasthan is famous for being the only place on Earth where humans and leopards live in perfect harmony.

India is one of the most densely-populated countries on Earth, and as humanity continues to encroach on the still-uninhabited woodlands and mountains, conflicts between leopards and humans are inevitable. In fact, with human expansion at peak levels and the number of leopards higher than they’ve been in decades, tensions between the two species are growing. But there’s one place where humans and leopards have allegedly been living in peace and harmony for at least a century. Known as “leopard country”, the town of Bera is said to contain the highest concentration of leopards on the planet.

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Panama’s El Valle de Anton – The Valley of Square Trees

A few miles north of the Panama Canal Zone lies the Valley of Square Trees, a unique tourist attraction where trees of the cottonwood family have rectangular trunks.

Unique in the entire world, this group of square-shaped cottonwood trees grows in a valley created from the ashes of a giant volcano – El Valle de Anton. Featuring hard-right angles, the trunks of the square trees have baffled tourists and scientists alike for several years. Experts from the University of Florida took saplings of the mysterious trees to see if they retain the same characteristics in a different environment, and concluded that their square shape must have something to do with conditions unique to the valley in which they grow. Evidence that the cause of this bizarre phenomenon is deep-seated is indicated by the fact that their tree rings, which represent its growth, are also square.

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Vozrozhdeniya – Probably the Deadliest Former Island on Earth

Vozrozhdeniya was once an isolated island in the Aral Sea. Today, it’s a wasteland infused with tonnes of anthrax, as well as other exotic and deadly diseases.

The Aral Sea was once the fourth-largest sea on planet Earth, but after the rivers that fed it were diverted by the Soviets to irrigate cotton fields, its waters receded and today it is nothing but a salty-sand wasteland where temperatures frequently reach 60 degrees Celsius and signs of life are scarce to non-existent. But you know what’s worse than a salt-covered wasteland – a salt-covered wasteland infused with anthrax and a plethora of other exotic diseases that the Soviet Union experimented with for years. That’s what makes Vozrozhdeniya one of the deadliest places in the world.

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This Portuguese Library Relies on Bats to Preserve Old Books and Manuscripts

The Joanina Library of the University of Coimbra Alta and Sofia is one of two Portuguese libraries to house colonies of bats as natural deterrents for bugs that would otherwise feed on old books and manuscripts.

As unusual as having a colony of Common pipistrelle bats living behind the bookshelves of one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, the curators of this historical marvel swear that the flying rodents provide an indispensable service – they feast on bugs that would otherwise damage or feed on old books. And with some of these ancient manuscripts being virtually priceless, it’s no wonder that the bats are regarded as helpful guardians.

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Areia Prata – Brazil’s Radioactive Beach

The Areia Preta beach in the Brazilian city of Guarapari is famous for its black sand which has external radiation levels of almost 400 times the normal background radiation recorded in the US.

Brazil has hundreds of miles of beaches, but none are quite like “Praia Da Areia Preta”, in Guarapari. The sand in this region, particularly the black sand, contains moderate quantities of monazite, a phosphate mineral rich in several rare-earth elements, including uranium and thorium. Research has shown that background radiation on Areia Preta can reach 175 mSv per year, or 20 μSv/h, while some spots, particularly those with lost of black sand, have radiation levels of up to 55 μSv/h. To put that into perspective, the average radiation exposure level across the United States is about 0.34 μSv/h, while an X-ray gives people a one-time exposure to about 100 μSv.

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