In this day and age it’s hard to travel to places that are unusual. Once upon a time going to Eastern Europe or Thailand was exotic, but now destinations like this are clearly marked on the tourist trail. For those of you with an adventurous spirit and a wish to see places that very few tourists have ever visited, we’ve compiled our top 8 most unusual and least visited travel destinations.
8. Tripoli World Fair Site – Lebanon
Starting our list off is the World Fair Site in Tripoli, Lebanon. Most travel advice sites recommend you avoid this part of Lebanon, however for those brave enough to travel to the north of the country you’re in for a treat.
If you can imagine Modernist Brutalist architecture, combined with urban exploration, in a unique part of the world, then you’ve probably imagined this.
The famous architect Oscar Niemeyer designed thiz amazing architectural mecca, but unfortunately due to the civil war in Lebanon, his dream never came to fruition. Instead what was constructed has been abandoned and is a great place to go exploring.
7. Khoja Obi Garm Health Sanitorium – Tajikistan
We love nothing more than a Soviet health retreat. There is something about the odd medical practices, incredible architecture, and unique experiences that we find incredibly appealing. While you can find these types of places all over the former Soviet Union, Khoja Obi Garm takes the cake. From the windy mountain road, to the sinister evil villain’s lair feel that this complex espouses, it really makes for an epic visit.
Khoja Obi Garm is north of the capital Dushanbe and is a must see for anyone travelling to Takjikistan. You can choose to stay here and get treatments such as mud baths, massages, electro baths, radon baths, acupuncture just to name a few.
6. Atash Kooh Fire Mountain – Iran
Since the beginning of time, we have loved fire. Whether it’s for religious rituals, keeping warm, or simply gazing at during a cloudless night, we all love fire. Atash Kooh is literally fire coming out of the side of a mountain. Natural gas seeps out cracks in the side of the mountain and the sheer heat of the area means that it just catches on fire.
Although this place has a lot of potential as a tourist destination, the simple fact is it’s quite out of the way. Unless you’ve got your own transport it’s impossible to get to and even if you do it’s a very long way to drive just to see fire. However, we think the trip is worth it because chances are you’ll have the entire place to yourself, and you’ll get to see nature in all it’s raw beauty.
Atash Kooh is located in Western Iran near the Iraq border, and the moonscape like drive there is almost worth the trip itself. (Plus we’ve found some other cool stuff nearby to justify the trip even more so!)
5. Aral Sea – Uzbekistan
Fancy a swim? It takes a pretty brave person to take a dip in the Aral Sea. For anyone who doesn’t know, the Aral Sea is arguably the world’s worst environmental disaster. Because of irrigation and Soviet mismanagement, the worlds previously 4 th biggest lake has been reduced to almost nothing. Worse than that the water is now toxic, with most marine life unable to survive. The water is now extremely salty meaning you can also float in it, if you’re willing to put up with the weird oily slimy feel all over your body.
The Aral Sea is located in Karakalpakstan in far western Uzbekistan and takes a full day to drive to from Nukus, which itself is no easy task to get to.
4. Palmyra – Syria
Palmyra is a strange entry as 15-20 years ago the world had started travelling here. In 2010, 8.5 million foreign visitors went to Syria, of which most surely visited one of the world’s most famous sites – Palmyra. However, after more than a decade of war, Palmyra is a very unusual destination. Since this amazing historical site was liberated from ISIS, the number of travellers who have visited this incredible site are in the thousands. We were the first to take a group tour there after the war, and we think it’s pretty amazing.
While a lot of Palmyra was destroyed, now more than ever it is worth coming to see this incredible part of human history. What really puts this on the list is the fact that you need to be escorted by the military to visit as it is still close to ISIS strongholds. That’s right, ISIS is still around despite the news.
3. Polygon Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site – Kazakhstan
Most people have heard of Chernobyl, but very few have heard of this place. With radiation levels more than 20 times higher, the Polygon makes Chernobyl feel like a bustling tropical beach resort. The Polygon takes dark tourism to the next level and really leaves you feeling like you’ve witnessed the end of the world.
456 nuclear tests were carried out in this corner of North Eastern Kazakhstan and although testing stopped in 1989, the effects are still being felt today.
You need to get a permit to visit the sites, such as the famous Atomic Lake, Metro Station, Ground Zero and abandoned nuclear reactors.
2. Bamiyan – Afghanistan
The funny thing about Bamiyan is that it has become more famous since its destruction than it was before. In 2001 the Taliban blew up the largest Buddha statues in the world. So, while you won’t be able to see the largest Buddha statues anymore, you will get the see where they used to be. Some parts of the bodies still remain, and the large cavities that the statues were carved into are a phenomenal site themselves.
Located in Central Afghanistan, Bamiyan is possibly one of the most picturesque places in the world, but make sure you pack your warm clothes as it gets pretty chilly up there.
1. Gates of Hell – Turkmenistan
You can’t have a list like this without the Gates of Hell being number 1. Known as Darvaza by locals, the Gates of Hell in Turkmenistan is another fiery beauty. The sheer raw power of this fiery crater is enough to impress anyone. Until very recently it wasn’t marked on maps and very few tourists had ever heard of it. In the last few years, it has started to receive a cult following and increased amounts of interest.
This burning phenomenon has been burning since 1971 and is located in the middle of the Karakum desert so you need to have off-road vehicles to get to it.
In early 2022, the President of Turkmenistan suggested putting the flame out, so you better visit soon!