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8 weird and wonderful spots to explore this year

 8 weird and wonderful spots to explore this year

Looking for an adventure that’s a little bit different this year? We’ve got you. From ancient underground burial chambers to ocean waves that glow in the dark and beaches with black volcanic sand, here are eight unusual travel ideas to add to your bucket list. 

1. Costa Rica’s otherworldly river

Nestled in the forests of Costa Rica’s Tenorio Volcano National Park, the Rio Celeste is no ordinary river. Formed where the rare volcanic mineral-rich waters of two streams meet, the water in the Rio Celeste scatters light in such a way that turns its own waters bright turquoise. The hour-long hike to reach the waterfall and these neon blue waters is well worth it. 

2. Cape Town’s starry skies

When planning a trip to Cape Town, few think of stargazing. The historic South African Astronomical Observatory was set up in 1892 to map the stars in the southern skies. This would help sailors navigate in the dangerous waters and prevent ships from wrecking around the Cape of Good Hope. A few evenings each month you can visit and stargaze with experts through their telescopes. Find it, funnily enough, in the Cape Town suburb of Observatory.

3. Hawaii’s black sand beaches

For a day at the beach with a difference, Punalu‘u is a stunning cove near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, where the sand is naturally black. The unusual dark grains are created when the island’s rock – formed by volcanic eruptions – breaks down into tiny pieces. Plus, this is a great spot to see sea turtles that come ashore to rest on the beach.

4. Malta’s ancient catacombs

Culture fans and history buffs, this one is for you. Visitors from all over the world will descend beneath the city of Paris and explore its underground crypts, but the beautiful island of Malta also has ancient catacombs. The St Paul’s Catacombs complex is the best-preserved, made up of underground chambers and tombs once used for burials and rituals by the Romans. Find them near Rabat, around a 20-minute drive from St Julian’s or Silema.

5. Seoul’s mountain in a city

Bulging granite mountains burst from lush green vegetation in Bukhansan National Park, still technically in the city of Seoul. After hiking past streams and through forests bursting with wildlife, you can literally look down on South Korea’s bustling capital from the top of a mountain. Historic highlights like temples and a fortress fill the park too – why not add some cultural immersion with a short stay at a Buddhist temple? The park’s entrances are just a subway ride and a bus or taxi journey away from central Seoul.

6. Finland’s brown bear hides

You don’t have to travel to North America to see wild grizzlies. In Europe, they’re called brown bears and for an unusual bear-spotting experience, Finland is the place go to. With a guide, head deep into the wild forests in the Finnish north or east and spend time in a wildlife hide. These huts sit in key bear-spotting areas and allow you to stay comfortable and camouflaged so that you don’t disturb the wild bears as they feed and prepare for their winter hibernation. The long Arctic summer days mean plenty of daylight hours to see them.

7. New Zealand’s glowing waves 

When the conditions are just right, a few beaches around the world experience something described as the marine northern lights – a bloom of bioluminescent plankton. Tindalls Bay and nearby Matakatia Bay in New Zealand are two such places, where the shallow waters are sometimes filled with ripples of a type of tiny sea creature that glows bright blue. Surreal, spectacular, and so very cool.

8. Canada’s striped caves

Twisting, turning, and heading deep into the ground, the Bonnechere Caves have been carved out of solid rock by acidic waters. The result is a spectacular series of subterranean caves and passageways. The different layers of the rock are visible, giving the cave walls beautiful stripes. You can also spot fossils of preserved sea creatures. For a totally unique experience, dine underground at the cozy and atmospheric family-run restaurant. Reach the caves by car from Ottowa, Montreal, or Toronto.

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