The world is a vast, varied place, and if you’re a seasoned traveller then you’ve probably seen most of its major landmarks – the Eiffel Tower, Macchu Picchu, the Tower of London, the Golden Gate Bridge and so on are all old hat as far as you’re concerned.
Here, then, are six things to see in countries from Italy to Mexico that will blow your mind just as much as the more famous places mentioned above. There are loads more, though, so have a look through some travel blogs for inspiration and remember that, no matter where you have to fly to, Easyvoyage compares flights for you so you can take advantage of the best available deals.
If you’re not easily upset and you find yourself in Palermo in Sicily, you might want to visit the Capuchin catacombs. It’s not unusual to be able to visit crypts that hold the bones of long-dead monks and priests, especially in Italy, but the Capuchin crypts take things a bit further, containing 8000 embalmed and mummified bodies that were brought down here between 1599 and 1920. Originally intended for the Capuchin monks to find eternal peace, interment in the crypts was opened up to well-paying locals. It’s undeniably creepy, but also fascinating – if you can stomach 8000 skulls in various states of decay grinning at you, the Capuchin catacombs are definitely worth a visit.
Maunsell sea forts
You can find the Maunsell sea forts in the Thames estuary, a bit closer to home. There are remnants of the measures implemented by the British government in the 1940s to repel any invading German forces all over the south of England if you know where to look, but unless you’ve got a boat, you probably won’t have seen or heard of the Maunsell sea forts. Reminiscent of the AT-AT walkers from Star Wars, the forts included anti-aircraft guns but were primarily intended as a means of reporting any attempts by enemy aircraft to lay mines in what remains an important shipping channel. For a time after the war they hosted pirate radio crews, but are now largely uninhabited (though one was seized and turned into the unrecognised Principality of Sealand) and in varying states of disrepair. Nevertheless, it’s perfectly possible to sail around them on small boats and imagine a time when they were a vital part of British naval defence.
One of France’s most recognisable landmarks and a key strategic point for centuries, Mont Saint-Michel attracts three million visitors fascinated by its history every year. The Mont is notable for being separated from the mainland by a causeway which becomes inaccessible at high tide, and which has helped defend the Mont from would-be attackers over the years. It features a tenth-century abbey built over a small town which is protected from invaders and the sea by a fortified wall, and whose population today numbers about 40-50. If you’re touring Normandy, you can’t miss this – alternatively, though, you could visit St Michael’s Mount, an almost perfect counterpoint to the French Mont.
Central Europe is well-known for its mountain ranges, and it makes perfect sense that someone would build an observatory on the top of one of them, until you actually see it. It’s not the highest observatory in the world at a mere 3571m above sea level (the highest sits at 5640m), but its spectacular views of the Eiger and Monch peaks are unparalleled. Visitors ascend to the viewing deck via an elevator that brings them up from the Jungfraujoch railway station (the highest station in Europe) and can also visit the Ice Palace, a series of caverns situated beneath a glacier.
San Alfonso Del Mar
The San Alfonso Del Mar resort in Chile has one claim to fame: it’s home to the largest swimming pool in the world. It’s so big, in fact, that you might forget that you’re not in the ocean (and you sort of are; the pool’s water is pumped in from the Pacific Ocean, though it’s filtered and treated first). At one kilometre in length, a morning swim before breakfast will likely take you until lunchtime, so think before you jump in! The resort paid somewhere between $1.5 and $2 billion for the pool’s construction and it costs around $4 million in maintenance every year, but its notoriety will probably make it a worthwhile investment eventually.
La Isla de Las Munecas
This isn’t somewhere you want to visit at night (or even in the day, if you’ve had nightmares about Chucky). The “Island of the Dolls” in Lake Xochimilco in Mexico is just that: an island home to thousands of old, discarded dolls that hang from trees and cover almost every surface. The practice was started by Julian Santana, who found the body of a young girl drowned in a canal near the island and began to hang dolls that had been thrown away by their owners from the trees in order to appease her spirit. He lived alone on the island with the dolls until he was found, also drowned, in 2001 – some believe the dolls killed him, others that he was driven mad and committed suicide. His family now run it as a tourist attraction. Fancy a visit?
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