The fortunate among us have opportunities to travel internationally and partake of the wonderful sites, scenes, and customs this grand planet offers. But all of us, no matter our economic standing, should sample these great, greater, and greatest locales whenever possible. It would be a cardinal sin to spend life stuck in your local village without using your treasure and time expanding personal horizons by staying at some of the most unusual places in the world. Imagine standing at Heaven’s Pearly Gates knowing you didn’t take time to visit the Great Wall of China or do some scuba diving around the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Saint Peter might allow you enter but he would greet you with a smirk.
While Thrive After 50 outlines a wide range of best places for seniors to visit, this article highlights a few of the most unusual places to stay. Few websites can match our selection of interesting, enjoyable, and inspiring places to visit, but we’d like to showcase some great interesting locations that are off the beaten path. Make sure you absorb the true nature of the location, learn what really makes it unusual, and cherish the wonderful people who actually provide the real cultural gems that you’ll cherish for a lifetime.
Some Great Tips
This hit parade of great trips requires a bit more planning and precautions than a weekend jaunt to London. Since you’ll spend more time traveling to these unusual places, make sure to take care of the home front first. Ask a trusted neighbor to collect your mail during the trip. You can also advise the Post Office to hold the mail. Empty the frig/freezer and turn off all similar electrical appliances. Check with your gardener/landscaper about turning off the water for the house and lawn. Make sure to bring enough medications to last the whole trip and ensure your passport doesn’t expire for at least one year.
And don’t inform the world about the trip by posting your schedule on social media. This huge mistake provides all the ne’er-do-wells trolling the web with excellent opportunities to pilfer your house whilst you’re away. The worst ways to expose yourself to such calamities are the telephone, telegraph, and tell a friend on Facebook. Take lots of pictures and tell people about the excellent adventure AFTER you return.
Decide where to go, create a budget, pack your bags, and enjoy yourself. You serve it.
Great Unusual Spots in the World
The Devil’s Bridge, Gablenze, Germany
Die Rakotzbrück Bridge, constructed circa 1860, is famed for its unusual construction. The stone bridge and its reflection on the water appear as a perfect circle when viewed from any angle. That’s why the locals back in the day swore only the devil himself could have designed and built such an oddity. Both ends of the bridge span have rock spires that look like the natural basalt columns commonly found in Germany. The park and surrounding flora are natural photo ops that will surely impress friends and make the trip worthwhile. That’s especially true in the Fall when the leaves compete to display their brilliant hues against the rugged and drab stones.
The most efficient way to visit Kromlauer Park is to take the Weisswasser train from Berlin and take the bus to the park. You can walk to the bridge from the station and enjoy the beautiful people and scenery. There are numerous small hotels, hostels, and B&Bs in the area so take your pick.
The Silfra Rift, Iceland
This beguiling water wonderland is located in the Pingvellir National Park in Iceland. The rift separates the North American and Eurasian tectonic plates and is one of the most unique and unusual places on Earth. Snorkeling and scuba diving is the Silfra Rift’s claim to fame. It is one of Iceland’s more interesting experiences because this shallow underwater gap (rift) in the earth’s crust allows you to swim easily from one continent to another.
Green Lake, Austria
Since you’re in this part of the globe anyway, you may as well travel a bit South to the Hochschwab Mountains around Styria, Austria. Dubbed the “Green Heart of Austria”, this spectacular area has one of the most unusual lakes in the world because it transforms itself from a beautiful park in the Winter into a magnificent underwater meadow when the snow melts in Spring. The water is so clear and clean, however, that you can still view the trees, bridges, paths, and benches in the park despite them being 30 feet under water. Time your visit for June-August when the lake is the most pleasing and wonderful phenomenon you’ll ever witness.
Of course, you will be pleased to note that Styria and Graz boast of some wonderful local fare and classic Austrian accommodations. Whether you like hiking, biking, dining, day spas or leisurely walks down old Bavarian streets, this area is the place for you. Make sure to visit Murinsel, a man-made island constructed of glass, steel, and contemporary plastic designs. You will also be duly impressed with Kunsthaus, the local contemporary art museum that will certainly etch eternal memories in your heart.
The most satisfying way to travel to this enchanted land is driving two hours South from Vienna. There is not a more beautiful car trek in the world as it presents bucolic mountains, emerald forests, and small villages. It’s like you got magically transported into a great Tyrolean postcard that came to life.
Greater Unusual Spots in the World
Lake Taj Palace, Lake Pichola, India
Taking just one look at the Lake Taj Palace and you’ll understand why many travel guides describe this resort as “India’s marvel in marble.” This genuinely unusual palace was constructed in 1743 as a great place for local rajas to frolic and play away from the maddening crowds in the local towns. This 3-acre Garden of Eden is a self-contained five-star hotel that is sure to please anyone looking for a luxurious way to relax right in the middle of Lake Pichola. You’ll need more than a simple Uber app to get you to this beautiful hotel, however, since it’s surrounded by a mile of water in all directions.
The Taj Palace has 83 extravagant and spacious suites that reflect its royal history. Every detail, service, and comfort are painstakingly built into this unusual, gorgeous island edifice to ensure all guests enjoy only the best in creature comforts. Having a sumptuous candlelight dinner in one of their gilded alcoves during a summer evening will make you feel like a king; you’ll regret ever having to leave this fantastical island.
Don’t try to manage your trip to this place on your own. Forget Travelocity for this adventure. Consult an experienced travel agent who really knows the intricate travel demands for this part of India. Such agents will save you lots of time, money, and misery.
Royal Mansour Hotel in Marrakesh, Morocco
This five-star extravaganza is a splendid oasis of absolute luxury surrounded by classical Arab and Moorish culture and architecture. Each suite exudes that old North African charm and respect for guests that everyone appreciates. It will be difficult, however, for you to break the luxurious grasp of this amazing hotel complex to wander the ancient streets, bazaars, coffee and hookah shops, and the historic Kasbah section of the city. But unusual sights and alluring aromas await to make your exploration worth it, for sure.
The Greatest Unusual Spots in the World
This historic city hugs the West coast of Portugal and offers visitors an excellent combination of great weather, grand venues, and exceptional dining experiences. No visit to the Silver Coast would be complete without taking the 80-mile drive north from Lisbon to this wonderful and sparkling slice of heaven.
Nazare is where you can see the most awe-inspiring ocean waves you’ve ever witnessed. The best (and bravest) surfers in the world converge here to negotiate the world’s biggest waves. Some exceeding 70 feet. It’s a breathtaking sight to behold and must not be missed. The deep, heavy sounds of those majestic waves crashing hard against rocky shores are like mini earthquakes that literally rock your body and soul. The massive swells make the humans trying to surf them look like mere ants riding seven-story elephants. Time your visit for November-December when the waves are even more gargantuan.
There are plenty of historic and delightful places to see in the area and you’ll have a choice of 3- or 4-star hotels that can accommodate any budget. As with most towns in historic Portugal, you will never run out of exceptional places to eat.
Ski Dubai, United Arab Emirates
If you think skiing on snow-covered hills in 110°F heat is unusual, you’d be right. Normally. But Ski Dubai is beyond normal in every respect and a most unusual vacation destination, to say the least.
This huge indoor ski and snowboard resort provides more than 22,000 square yards of artificial snow and ice covering five slopes that descend from a 25-story man-made mountain. And you can play with penguins when you finish a run. That’s right, real penguins. Imagine skiing in 30° F conditions while it’s scorching outside. If that ain’t unusual, nothing is.
The ski resort is part of the Mall of the Emirates, one of the largest malls on the planet. Opened in 2005, the mall has almost everything you could imagine: more than 700 shops and high-end stores; 22 restaurants and eateries; a few movie theaters; and five world-class hotels. And penguins. What else could you want?
Fanjingshan, Guizhou Province, China
Nestled high in the Wuling Mountains in Southwest China, geographically isolated Fanjingshan boasts of having some of the most amazing and diverse flora and fauna on earth. This island of ancient metamorphic rock created about 60 million years ago allows you to walk among prehistoric plants, alien-looking fir trees, snub-nosed monkeys, rare pheasant species, and unusual giant salamanders. These animals and plants are not something you’ll find at the Bronx Zoo.
This area was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and is considered nothing short of sacred by local Buddhists. The exotic rock formations, supplemented by steep cliffs draped by rare and unusual plants, allow the amazing list of creatures to make a living unlike they could in any other part of the world. Make sure you take a few selfies in front of Mushroom Rock, the most miraculous element of this astonishing landscape.
Tianzi Mountain, China
You have not climbed any mountain until you’ve scaled Tianzi Mountain. Located in the Wulingyuan Scenic Area of Hunan Province, this majestic and surreal place evokes visions of alien worlds and extra-terrestrial life. The sharp, isolated pillars of giant stalagmite-like formations are something most people can only imagine in dreams and movies. As a matter of fact, this area of China is so unusual, the blockbuster movie “Avatar” used these formations as backdrops.
The amazing spirals and peaks were formed by sedimentary Neptunic rocks sculpted by the Pacific Ocean about 300 million years ago. If you can summon enough courage, riding the local cable car will take you across breathtaking canyons so fetching you might forget to deploy your camera to snap pictures.
Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
Finn MacCool, Northern Ireland’s heroic legendary gentle giant, created Giant’s Causeway about two thousand years ago during his day off. Today, it is one of the most unusual natural wonders you will ever witness. These volcanic eruptions form a lattice of honeycomb of 50,000 hexagonal basalt columns that look like a huge honeybee erected them to protect Finn’s honey stash from the angry North Atlantic Sea.
The tourist center provides excellent interactive audio/visual tools that explain the unusual history of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Causeway is also a remarkable place to photograph rare flora and fauna. If patient, you might even catch a glimpse of Mr. MacCool having a bit of fun riding his long-time pet, the Loch Ness Monster, along the craggy Irish coastline during sunset.
Michael Hervey is a freelance writer who lives in Los Gatos, California.
He graduated from Penn State University with a B.A. in Political Science and worked in a Wall Street bank before setting off on a life of discovery and adventure. He joined the United States Marines, attained the rank of Captain, was a fixed-wing/helicopter pilot, and a Squadron Legal Officer. He also held senior sales positions in the semiconductor, software, and wireless industries
Harold has written seven (7) eBooks on travel, food, and business plus numerous articles and blogs about lifestyles, current events, and politics.