13 Incredibly Unusual Summer Vacation Destinations

The problem with summer is that everyone wants to go on vacation. So all the resorts and popular destinations get overcrowded with whining children, obnoxious groups, and tourists getting unapologetically ripped off.

Yes, the pool looks good in the brochure. But that was before a thousand other drunken wrecks savaged the serenity.

Rather than play it simple, the 2015 summer is about choosing somewhere unusual, somewhere without overinflated summer prices or buses of tourists wearing identical red caps. Try these out for a more unusual summer vacation destination.

1. Unusual Jungle Destination – Las Pozas, Xilitla – Mexico

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The surrealist architecture of Las Pozas is the brainchild of English aristocrat Edward James. He left his life of privilege to create this strange fantasyland in the Mexican jungle, filling 20 acres with stuff like a staircase to nowhere, and a “house with a roof like a whale.” Now it’s open to the public and combines Mexico’s untamed jungle with seriously strange monuments.

2. Weird Religious Pilgrimage – Leshan Buddha, China

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leshan buddha

Religious pilgrimages are always a good laugh. It’s like a road trip, except you get some form of enlightened at the end, rather than a hangover. You’ve got an epic journey, a few mates, and the ultimate chance of salvation. So this summer, mission all the way over to China and the world’s tallest Buddha. The Leshan Buddha is 233ft tall and his smallest toenail is big enough seat for two people.

3. Insane Sunbathing Sessions – Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Hexagons, Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

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Forget white sand this summer. The new hip thing is white salt. Yep, put on your swimmers, slap on the sunscreen, and lounge on the world’s largest salt flat. It’s blindingly white, the sun reflecting off the salt and giving you a nice rounded tan. Or a nice even burn, dependent on how long you spend on this 4,086 sq mile salt landscape in Bolivia.

4. Bizarre Archaeology Tour – Plain of Jars, Laos

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Archaeologists reckon that these weird and wonderful jars were sculpted over 2,000 years ago and used in indigenous burial rituals. Unfortunately, the area was decimated with bombs and land mines during the Vietnam War, so they’ve been mostly out of bounds to tourists. But recent efforts have cleared the wreckage and opened up the majority of the area to visitors.

5. Surreal Creatures – Goblin Valley State Park, Utah – USA

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Most people start seeing things when they hike through the US desert. That feeling is elevated at Goblin Valley, where the strange sandstone formations look a little like some creepy fictional characters from medieval times. When you’ve walked past the goblins you find mushrooms, although we don’t think you can eat this variety.

6. An Unusual Museum – Musee des Egouts de Paris, France

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Paris is the city of romance but the Musee des Egouts doesn’t quite fit the theme. It’s the city’s sewage museum, allowing visitors to descend into the archaic sewage system and photo the occasional wandering rat. It’s dark, a little smelly, and gets seriously claustrophobic. But, France is the most visited country in the world, so the Sewage Museum makes a nice escape from the crowds.

7. Unusual Country – Georgia

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No, not Georgia as in Atlanta, Georgia, and a load of theme parks packed with overweight families. We’re talking Georgia the tiny ex-Soviet state with mountains that are far more impressive than the Alps. While the Swiss and Italian Alps are packed with so many hikers you can hardly pitch a tent, Georgia’s mountains offer some sublime hiking trails without the crowds, the adventure elevated by sleeping in village homestays and getting friendly with the local grape schnapps.

8. A Very Unusual Local Festival – A Catalonian Human Tower Competition, Spain

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The Spanish love their bizarre festivals. Bulls chase after people in Pamplona and the world’s biggest food fight takes place in Bunol. Tens of thousands gather on the town square of Catalonian towns, each in teams of colored t-shirts. As music fills the square, each team must build a castell, a human tower that can be seven or eight stories high. A very drunken crowd roars them on, and laughs without inhibition whenever the tower falls.

9. Strange City Break – Alberobello, Italy

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Alberobello’s strange conical buildings were built in the 14th century. They’re constructed entirely from limestone – no mortar required – with interlocking rocks keeping everything in place. So if you’re looking for a surreal escape in Europe then this city takes you straight back to a medieval era. Let’s just hope it stays this way. The buildings can be completely dismantled and rebuilt somewhere else.

10. Unusual Dinner for Two – Ithaa Undersea Restaurant, the Maldives

Ithaa Undersea Restaurant

Ithaa Undersea restaurant

16 feet below the water surface, this hotel restaurant offers the complete panorama of the Indian Ocean’s marine life. You’re completely surrounded by glass walls, gazing upon fish, mantas, and even sharks. The cuisine is Maldivian-Western, whatever that’s supposed to mean. But it doesn’t even have to be good when you’ve got this view.

11. Weird Desert Break -Madain Saleh, Saudi Arabia

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Thousands of years before Columbus set sail, the Middle East had highly sophisticated cities that were carved into the desert rock. The largest example is at Petra, in Jordon. But that’s packed with tourists. Head to Saudi Arabia and you’ll be the only one exploring Madain Saleh, a staggering collection of tombs and buildings that have been hand-sculpted in the sandstone.

12. Journey into Prehistoric Times – Socotra Island, Yemen

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Socotra Island

Nobody knows why Socotra is so weird. Just off the shore of Yemen, the island is home to some of the rarest and most unusual flora. The island has no roads, one tiny village, and miles of untrammeled wilderness to explore. Just take a tent and camp beneath these insane trees, then spend a day in towering red valleys or deserted white sand beaches. Despite the war going on in Yemen, Socotra is safe to visit.

13. Unusual Romantic Break – The Panda Inn, China

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China doesn’t have much wildlife left. But it’s found an ingenious solution. Rather than step up the panda conservation, they’ve created the Panda Inn, essentially a Chinese hotel decorated with everything panda. There’s even some great big cuddly bears to greet you on the bed or in your hotel room chair. Except they’re not actually real. Let’s be honest, everyone knows a couple who would secretly adore this unusual hotel room.