A big part of travel is that feeling you get when experiencing something completely new, something you haven’t seen or done before. Many travel destinations offer an amenity or two that other places don’t–but there are only a few locations in the world that offer a truly unique experience.
Some of these places are wonders of nature–a spot where the flora or fauna can’t be found elsewhere, or where the mountains stretch the landscape to impressive formations. Other destinations are unique because of man-made features–entire islands created out of sand, underwater museums designed to decay, or hotels shaved from ice.
Hot or cold, undeveloped or overly elaborate, these locations offer something you can’t get anywhere else, which is as good a reason as any to plan a trip.
Explore the dramatic natural beauty and bounty of crater lakes in this collection of nine volcanic islands in the middle of the North Atlantic. Portuguese by language, it has a culture and cuisine all its own. Feast on the geothermally heated hotpots called cozido das furnas, which consist of mixtures of meats and stews and are a feature of the area near Sao Miguel.
High up in the Himalayan Mountains sits the world’s newest democracy, whose 30-year-old king has been instrumental in developing the country’s parliament, and injecting a democratic voice into Bhutanese affairs. The term “gross national happiness” was coined by the country’s former king, who began the Buddhist country’s path to modernization. It now straddles both the old world and the new, and has earned the nickname, “the last Shangri-La.”
Grindavik, Iceland – The Blue Lagoon
Anne Banas, executive editor of SmarterTravel.com, recommends the stark beauty of the Blue Lagoon in Iceland. “They call it ‘The Land of Fire and Ice’ for a reason,” says Banas. “It’s one of those things that you have to do in a lifetime. You’re swimming in these silica mud waters, but then it’s snowing outside.” Stay at the Blue Lagoon Spa, where you can take a geothermal steam bath, or have drinks while you soak in the lagoon.
Cancun Underwater Museum – Cancun, Mexico
The brainchild of the artist Jason de Caires Taylor, the world’s largest underwater museum features 400 statues by the artist, in a dizzying array of poses and features. The just-opened sculpture park sits in shallow waters in Cancun, allowing snorkellers, swimmers, and scuba divers alike to witness the sculptures grow seaweed and barnacles, and begin to form a supplementary reef for area fish.
Madagascar, sitting approximately 225 miles off the eastern coast of Africa, in the Indian Ocean, is so remote, it’s been host to many one-of-a-kind evolutionary developments. Ninety percent of its native plant life is found nowhere else in the world. “It still feels like a lost wonderland, with unique and diverse plant and animal life,” says Tom Hall, a U.K.-based writer for Lonely Planet.