“One of the things that makes the location so unique and so amazing is that you can be there in broad daylight, out in the open, and still feel very vulnerable,” Paranormal Activity director Oren Peli told Vulture about the location of his new film Chernobyl Diaries.
He produced the supernatural tale that takes place in Prypiat — an abandoned Ukrainian city near the location of the deadly Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant disaster that devastated residents in 1986. Peli described how the threat of radiation and the location’s eerie, remote atmosphere made it the perfect place to set his new found footage horror film. In the movie, a group of tourists venture to the city on an extreme vacation, but soon discover they’re not alone.
These bizarre vacation destinations aren’t just hot spots in cinema. People travel to Pripyat in real life for adventurous and surreal experiences. We discovered other unusual vacation getaways for your perusal past the break. Feel free to mention your favorite strange destination below.
Head to Ittoqqortoormiit, Greenland where you can live with the Inuit and incredible wildlife that surrounds Igloo Village. Dog sledding, traveling to frozen fjords, visiting deserted villages, and sleeping in an icy cave are just a few of the things you can do at this cold weather destination. Hopefully the local bears won’t realize you’re a tourist and eat you out of spite.
Karni Mata Temple
In India’s state of Rajasthan, in the town of Deshnoke, the Karni Mata Temple receives thousands of visitors who wish to pay homage to a deceased 14th century mystic they believe is the incarnation of the goddess Durga. The temple is also home to an estimated 20,000 rats that locals believe are sacred and should not be harmed. The shrine attracts many tourists throughout the year who are curious about the rats that drink from bowls of milk and nibble on sugar when not crawling through specially made tunnels. This is definitely not a place for New Yorkers.
Seagaia Ocean Dome
The world’s only indoor beach was located Miyazaki, Miyazaki, Japan. It shut down in 2007, but during its 14-year run the Ocean Dome saw up to 1.25 million visitors per year — and we had to include it on our list. The Dome featured a fake volcano, fake sand, fake fish and fauna, a steady 86 degrees Fahrenheit, and water park rides. The vast man-made beach measured around 984 feet long and had a retractable roof that sported a permanent blue sky. Are there more of these in our future?
Billing itself as a “breathtaking paradise and gnome biome nestled in the rolling hills of Amish farmland in southern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania,” Gnome Countryside was founded by Rich Humphreys — who doesn’t look much different than the legendary, dwarfish creatures honored at his unusual oasis. Visitors can go camping, hiking, and learn more about the folkloric, bearded little people.
Central Idaho is home to a strange, apocalyptic-looking national monument and preserve. Visitors are drawn to the rugged landscape, which is roughly the size of Rhode Island. Some of the crusted lava is now thousands of years old, and “lava tubes” have created a series of underground caves that can be explored. For the extra adventurous, backcountry hikes are also a draw, where people can visit seldom reached areas while hoping they don’t dehydrate. No natural water source can be found anywhere across Craters of the Moon.
Carrying a gas mask with you at all times is mandatory (yes, it’s really a law) on Japan’s Izu Islands where the land rests right on top of an active volcanic chain that has erupted multiple times, most recently in the last 10 years. The release of harmful gases that regularly leak through the ground aren’t pleasant in the least, but the island is also known for its lush landscape making it a destination for brave tourists with strong noses the world over.
Island of the Dolls
Not far from Mexico City is an island that has become one of the southwestern country’s biggest and weirdest tourist attractions. Island of the Dolls (Isla de las Munecas) wasn’t originally intended for curious crowds, but the story of a drowned child and the man who found her and felt haunted by her death has drawn visitors in droves. The story goes that after a child died in a canal, Don Julian Santana saw a doll floating by and hung it from a tree as a way to honor her spirit. He also wanted to protect the island from further tragedy. Eventually it became an obsession, and he adorned the island with broken, creepy dolls. There are many urban legends surrounding his bizarre behavior, but one thing remains truly terrifying. In 2001, Santana apparently drowned in the same canal as the little girl. His family now runs the island as a tourist hot spot, but many are fearful of its haunted past.
Great Pacific Garbage Patch
Some people are skipping their cruise to the Caribbean and opting to sail to a Texas-sized patch of floating trash in the Pacific Ocean instead. For about $10,000 per person, you can head to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — famous for it’s high concentrations of plastic waste, chemical sludge, and debris trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre (a swirling pattern of oceanic currents). Vacationers help operate a trawl that collects microscopic plastic particles that threaten local wildlife and haul bigger heaps of junk offshore.
The Duchess of Northumberland founded the Alnwick Poison Garden, which is modeled after the Botanical Gardens in Padua, Italy.
“I wondered why so many gardens around the world focused on the healing power of plants rather than their ability to kill… I felt that most children I knew would be more interested in hearing how a plant killed, how long it would take you to die if you ate it and how gruesome and painful the death might be,” the Duchess once shared.
Signs on the garden gate read, “These Plants Can Kill You,” and visitors are advised to not even smell them. Alnwick is home to about 100 killer plants like Atropa belladonna (deadly nightshade), Strychnos nux-vomica (strychnine), and Conium maculatum (hemlock). The garden also has a license to grow things like cannabis, which is kept behind bars in a giant cage — obviously. Another reason Alnwick is such a popular tourist destination? The castle on the same grounds was a stand-in for Hogwarts in several of the Harry Potter films.
It took George Van Tassel — a former aeronautical engineer and test pilot who worked with people like Howard Hughes, and a leader in the UFO movement — 18 years to build the Integratron. Later, Tassel would claim he made actual contact with extra-terrestrials at the site and considered it a kind of time machine, even. Today, the massive dome building offers sonic healing sessions to vacationers who believe the structure is a mecca for physical and spiritual healing.