Watch a Fascinating 25-Minute Video Documenting a State Tour of North Korea

“I just went on a state tour of North Korea, one of the first since Kim Jong Un ascended to power, and I made a film about it.” So begins a fascinating Reddit AMA with questions ranging from “Was there anything that you really wanted to see, but that they wouldn’t let you check out?” (answer: “the poor rural areas of the country, but good luck with that”) to “Does [Kim Jong Un] like looking at things just as much as his father did?” (“ohhhhh yes”). But the truly remarkable stuff is in the video, In the Land of Paradise, which finds the travelers bringing flowers to statues of Kim Jong Il and Kim Il Sung, captures an eerily militaristic musical performance by schoolchildren, and — perhaps most interesting of all — records tour guides’ speeches and propaganda films that give North Korea’s official, misinformation-filled perspective on history. Watch the 25-minute travelogue after the jump. … Read More

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10 of The Most Bizarre Vacation Destinations

“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. … Read More

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Extraordinary Eco Retreats and the Books To Read While You’re There

Not that we need another excuse to daydream our digital day away, but thanks to travel writer Francisca Mattéoli’s new book Escape Hotel Stories: Retreat and Refuge in Nature, we have one that’s valid. Combining two of our favorite escapist pleasures — travel and really good books — the stunning tome available this month from the great curator of culture, Assouline, explores environmentally sensitive retreats around the world through the lens of literature and art.

After previewing the stunning travel book, we thought we’d share some of the goodness with you, dear readers, by paying a virtual visit to a few of the author’s top destinations. From a village of fifteen tents on land that shares an ancient history with Bruce Chatwin’s poetic account of the Australian outback’s aboriginal Dreamtime mythology in The Songlines to a converted limestone refinery on the Swedish island of Gotland and The Magic Lantern, the autobiography of its most famous neighbor, Ingmar Bergman, to a luxurious hideaway in Big Sur, California and longtime resident, Henry Miller’s masterpiece, Tropic of Cancer, click through to check out our favorite pairings from Escape Hotel Stories. For more wonderful pairings and an in-depth look at each retreat, head over to Assouline’s online book boutique and order your copy today. Tell us about your favorite holiday reading material in the comments below! … Read More

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A Cross Country Tour of Mind-Blowing Tourist Caves

One of the most stunning — albeit weird — examples of design in nature, tourist caves are a fascinating hybrid of kitschy roadside Americana and wondrous natural splendor. These unconventional attractions combine things like stalagtite ballrooms and underground wedding chapels with faux-Tudor architecture, patriotic son-et-lumière shows and awesome retro View-Masters for stereoscopic sightseeing that beat anything James Cameron could ever do.

We first discovered this subgenre of odd tourist destinations in the The Center for Land Use Interpretation’s comprehensive online database. A self-proclaimed “research and education organization interested in understanding the nature and extent of human interaction with the earth’s surface,” or, in layman’s terms, an offbeat cultural CIA tracking the many wacky things we humans put on this earth, CLUI is our newest learned obsession.

Starting with Howe Caverns, New York’s second-most-visited natural attraction, complete with a guided boat tour on an underground lake, and ending with a cave in New Mexico that’s famous for its bat amphitheater, we invite you to take a minute out of your day and join us on a virtual trip across our great nation to check out some of the most original natural design inspiration we’ve ever seen. Then (because we’re dying to know more), tell us about any real-world cave experiences you’ve had in the comments below! … Read More

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Meet the Famous Residents of Paris' Père Lachaise Cemetery

Editor’s note: This post by Benjamin Waldman was originally featured on Untapped Cities, a Flavorwire partner site. Read more from his ongoing series on the cemeteries of Paris here.

Père Lachaise was established in 1804 and is located at 16, rue du Repos. It was named after Père François de la Chaise, the confessor to Louis XIV, who lived on the site. Unfortunately, the cemetery was not an immediate success. Parisians were wary of being buried in a new cemetery, especially one not consecrated by the church. In order to remedy this situation, the cemetery managed to secure the remains of La Fontaine and Molière and transferred them to the cemetery in 1804. Another public relations move occurred in 1817, when the remains of Pierre Abélard and Héloïse were also transferred to the cemetery. They were interred under a canopy made from fragments of the Abbey of Nogent-sur-Seine. Also of note are the Holocaust memorials, the Mur des Fédérés (Communards’ Wall), the lipstick stained tomb of Oscar Wilde, and Jim Morrison’s grave. … Read More

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The Casualties of War: The Hotel Belvedere in Dubrovnik, Croatia

In the lobby of our hostel within the walls of old Dubronik, we sat with new friends over wine. One backpacker whispered of an abandoned hotel where a traveler he met had found an intact wine cellar and undetonated grenades. It was decided that the next day, a few intrepid would go search for it. Nobody knew where it was — all we knew was that outside the city walls, we needed to follow the main road along the harbor.

About halfway there, we could see the ruins across the bay. The Hotel Belvedere was a 5-star luxury hotel destroyed in 1991 during an attack by Serbian forces on the city of Dubrovnik during the Croatian War of Independence. The hotel was only six years old – the cornerstone we found had the year 1985 etched in. During the course of the multi-month siege, significant damage was done to the old city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The old city, which was cut off from electricity and water, was host to 55,000 Croatian refugees while dozens had taken shelter inside the Hotel Belvedere. The siege of Dubrovnik is regarded as the turning point of international opinion against Serbia. … Read More

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A Dream Vacation for ‘Star Wars’ Fans: Travel to Tatooine

It’s less than four short months until summer, and what better way to pass the last couple weeks of winter than by planning your dream vacation to Tatooine! While the Outer Rim is only a figment of the Bearded One’s imagination, Tatooine is actually much closer than you think – an adventure playground of sun-scorched mesas, eroded seas, barren canyons, sculptural standing stones, and extinguished geysers. Podrace down Beggar’s Canyon, hit the markets at Mos Espa (and haggle with the Jawa shop-owners), discover Mos Eisley’s nightlife, tour Jabba’s palace, ride the rugged terrain by Bantha, and explore the ruins at Anchorhead. Accommodations can be made at the Lars homestead, where you’ll enjoy the cozy ambiance, home-cooked meals (with fresh blue milk), and a complementary droid cleaning. Dig in and watch the twin suns dip down past the horizon. … Read More

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Exploring the Thermal Baths of Budapest

It was cold outside in Budapest on the day I visited Széchenyi Bath (or fürdő in Hungarian), a Neo-baroque-style bathhouse built in 1913. Snow flurries were intermittent and wondrous, the chill broken by pockets of bright sunshine streaming between the cloud cover. It was about 34 degrees Fahrenheit and I wore only a swimsuit, my skin goose-pimpled as I crossed the outside courtyard toward the pool. Steam wafted from the surface of the thermal water, purported to be healing. I stepped in and sunk down, wading slowly through the vapor, the air smelling faintly of minerals, icy flakes melting on my shoulders. … Read More

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Take a Street Art Tour of La Boca, Buenos Aires

With bookshops on every corner, a unique mix of architecture and coffee shops as far as the eye can see, Buenos Aires is like a sweet marriage of New York and Paris, with lots of Latin influence. For art fans who want to see an authentic piece of the city, don’t skip out on visiting La Boca. This little corner of Argentina is in flux: enterprising entrepreneurs set up kiosks every day, peddling kitschy souvenirs next to artists lofts, while the artists themselves keep studio doors open to attract patrons. The real enjoyment, though, comes from walking the winding streets of this neighborhood and looking for the tiny details, like a pint-sized painting at the foot of a building, a neon yellow fountain in a fenced yard, or a political declaration sprayed on a curb. … Read More

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Ace Hotel Offers Polaroid Instant Cameras and Film at the Mini-Bar

It didn’t seem possible that Ace Hotels in Portland and New York could top their “virtual concierge,” which included a Google Chromebook for guests to use during their stay. Their latest offering, however, is both unusually cool and a throwback to an era before people could shoot photos with their phones.… Read More

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