By Randee Dawn
The Great Wall of China. Rome’s Colosseum. The Great Barrier Reef. The Grand Canyon. Millions of visitors trek thousands of miles every year to hit the great hot spots around the world, and once there they often encounter millions of other visitors. Yikes! Suffice it to say that while all of those great wonders of the world are well worth the visit, there are dozens of extraordinary other spots that are nearly as wonderful (even if they don’t make it on any official lists).
Here’s a list of 6 awe-inspiring, unique stopovers you might want to add into your next list of “don’t miss” locales:
Sky Tree (Tokyo, Japan)
The steel and concrete landmark is currently the world’s tallest freestanding tower at nearly seven football fields high (think the Eiffel Tower in Paris, twice over) and stands out among the generally skyscraper-free horizon. Originally opened in 2012, the radio and TV broadcasting beacon features two observation desks, including Tembo Galleria’s glassed-in balcony (1,476 feet high) with breathtaking views. Be prepared for lines, however, to get to the top, and don’t miss the 10,000 sea creatures available at nearby Sumida Aquarium.
Corvin Castle (Hunedoara, Romania)
If you go for the places where Dracula reportedly entertained guests, you may find yourself doing some running around: There’s Transylvania’s Bran Castle, Poenari Castle and Hunyad Castle, just to name a few. But Hunyad, which also goes by the name Corvin Castle, was the structure that imprisoned Vlad III Wallachia (aka Vlad the Impaler) – and on top of that is one of the seven wonders of Romania. Built beginning in 1446, the Renaissance-Gothic structure is as imposing as it is historic, with all sorts of legends attached. It’s also the site of frequent filming by ghost-hunter TV shows, features a 30-foot well, a bear pit and a dungeon. Who needs Game of Thrones?
Dongchuan Red Land (near Kunming, China)
Best observed at a distance, the patchwork swathes of land that extend for over 30 miles have been called “God’s palette.” The red fields look most vibrant following recent plowing and before crops take root, but in the summer potato flowers and wheat turns the land even more exciting colors. Recommended times to visit are between May and June and September to November. Many visitors also visit the “Hit Horse Hole” in Damakan to see the sunrise, or the Tiled House Bridge in Wafang Liangzi for the sunset.
Glass Beach (Fort Bragg, California, USA)
The beach, located in Mackerricher State Park, isn’t made up of sand, precisely – it’s made up of jeweled, rounded lumps of sea glass. The area started out as an official water dump site back in the early 1900s, and in 1967 it was closed off and a cleanup was undertaken. What’s left since then are glass and pottery shards that have been worn smooth by the tides. Though there is more than one “glass beach,” the ideal one is called Site 3 and is adjacent to the park. Tourists routinely (and illegally) walk away with glass pieces, which means this beach may not be around forever, as a replenishment movement was declined by the city council in 2012.
The Catacombs (Paris, France)
Approximately 6 million people have been buried under Paris over the centuries in their underground ossuaries, and touring the mind-boggling number of artfully-arrange skulls and bones is quite the popular destination. Currently the Catacombs are part of the city’s collection of museums, and have been transformed from a fairly chaotic collection of human remains into a mausoleum that’s a lot less morbid than you might imagine. Arrive early, however; lines can stretch for hours as only a small number of visitors are allowed to enter at a time.
Brooklyn Bridge Park Pool (Brooklyn, New York, USA)
There are so many overcrowded, over-photographed locations in New York City that it’s worth a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge into a part of town far less visited by tourists. Head over the East River to the Brooklyn Bridge Park, 85 acres on the waterfront that feature grassy plazas, a 30×50-foot pool, public art, a refurbished 1920s carousel and ice cream vendors. Nearby are the neighborhoods of Dumbo (“Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass”) and Cobble Hill, which are full of great shopping opportunities. Time your visit right and you’ll be able to view the sunset near the Statue of Liberty and Manhattan as it turns on the lights.
Photo Credit: Randee Dawn