25 secret marvels of the world



Slide 1 of 25: Some sights, such as the Grand Canyon, Eiffel Tower or Sydney Opera House, are widely recognized and admired, while others are overlooked and slowly fading into obscurity. Lonely Planet's Secret Marvels of the World is a new book that celebrates these off-the-radar places, from the most awe-inspiring to downright crazy. We take a peek at just a handful of the mysterious and wondrous places our world has to offer.
Slide 2 of 25: Built by Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune, the Mystery House has over 160 rooms, labyrinth-like hallways, staircases that lead nowhere and chimneys that don’t reach the roof. Sarah became obsessed about outwitting ghosts she blamed for the untimely deaths of her child and husband. Allegedly, she always slept in a different bedroom so the spirits, who have been killed by Winchester company guns, couldn’t find her. A visit to this house is sure to send a chill up your spine.
Slide 3 of 25: Not your average theme park, the journey through Chinese folklore and mythology features limbless rats, human crabs and the Ten Courts of Hell. With over 1,000 statues and 150 giant dioramas, it’s a bizarre experience that has left tourists speechless and troubled since 1937.
Slide 4 of 25: One of the most astonishing sights in Maui’s rainforest are the eucalyptus trees that reveal vivid shades of reds, purples and greens during different times of bark shedding. The process is ongoing so the arrangement of the colors is constantly changing and evolving. “A grove of living kaleidoscopes” says Lonely Planet.
Slide 5 of 25: When an earthquake triggered a landslide in 1911, it blocked the gorge, creating a natural dam that eventually filled with rainwater – the sunken forest of Lake Kaindy. Because of the cold water that doesn't exceed 6°C (43°F) even in summer, the submerged pines still remain on the trees more than a hundred years later. The water is surprisingly clear and you can see deep into the lake, which in winter freezes over and becomes a popular destination for ice fishing, and in summer is a hit among divers.
Slide 6 of 25: Just outside Cincinnati, tucked away behind trees and hidden among driftwood and long reeds, Sachem is rusting away in the Ohio River. First setting sail in 1902 under the name of Celt, the boat served as a luxury yacht, was used for Thomas Edison’s experiments, for naval soldier training, fought in two world wars and appeared in Madonna’s Papa Don’t Preach music video. It was then bought by a Cincinnati native, who more than 30 years ago sailed the ship inland to its final resting place.
Slide 7 of 25: Located 7.5 miles north from Lithuania’s fourth biggest city Šiauliai, the Hill of Crosses started as a protest against Soviet oppression. During occupation, in 1961, the site was bulldozed, the wooden crosses burned and metal ones melted. But even these KGB efforts to keep the people away didn’t help – the site continued to grow higher and wider with people coming here to put up crosses under the cover of night . After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the Hill became a symbol of victory as well as a memorial honoring those deported to Siberia. Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1993 solidified its status as a pilgrimage spot and there are now thought to be around 100,000 crosses and counting.
Slide 8 of 25: Want to surprise your friends with a postcard from Hell? Just head to the island of Grand Cayman where, in the middle of a tropical paradise, a group of black and barren ancient limestone rock formations carry the name of Hell. Head to the bright red post office and gift shop sporting the greeting “Welcome to Hell”, have a chat with the resident Satan and enjoy the spooky atmosphere.
Slide 9 of 25: The ancient monasteries of Meteora are hardly a secret – the World Heritage-listed site is one of the most popular destinations in Greece. However, the site itself, as well as the surrounding area, holds a lot of surprises often left unexplored. Visit one of the six active monasteries; don’t miss the basket and ropes that were used by monks to bring the building materials to the top of the rocks, and head to Monopatia and its caves, where monks used to live before the monasteries were built. If you’re feeling brave, don’t miss the knee-shaking experience of traversing narrow rock ledges – routes once taken by intrepid hermits.
Slide 10 of 25: Latvian immigrant Edward Leedskalnin dedicated almost three decades to creating this massive sculpture park. Carved as a monument to the woman who left him a day before their wedding, the park is shrouded in mystery. A small man at barely five feet and just over 110 pounds, Edward was able to carve more than 1,100 tons of coral with sculptures reaching almost 25 feet. Working alone at night so no one would be able to observe his engineering secrets, it’s still uncertain how Edward was able to complete such extensive building work alone.
Slide 11 of 25: The Namib Desert is a peculiar place with its singing dunes, Deadvlei and Spitzkoppe rock arch, but perhaps its greatest wonder are the fairy circles. Despite all the causes considered, from radioactive soil to termites, it’s still a mystery why countless vegetation-less circular patterns just randomly appear in the grass.
Slide 12 of 25: Located on the uninhabited island of Big Major Cay in the Bahamas, Pig Beach takes its name from the colony of feral pigs inhabiting the island. After a group of these animals died from eating too much sand earlier this year, there are now about 20 pigs and piglets that stroll on the beach and swim in the surrounding shallows. Several day-trips from Nassau offer the chance to meet the friendly pigs.
Slide 13 of 25: This peculiar 18th-century chapel has more than 3,000 skulls of victims of cholera, the Black Death and numerous wars adorning its walls, floor and ceiling, alongside 20,000 more bones beneath in the cellar. Built by a local parish priest, inspired by the Capuchin cemetery in Rome, he collected the bones, cleaned them and filled the chapel for 18 years until his death. His skull, and those of who built the chapel, are placed on the altar.
Slide 14 of 25: Officially called Kamilo Beach, this stretch of coast on the southeastern tip of Hawaii’s Big Island has always been subject to powerful tides and trade winds. Ancient Hawaiians carved canoes out of the logs that floated from the Pacific Northwest, as well as gathering other valuables washed ashore. More recently, the ocean has been offering a different bounty – mountains of plastic rubbish from every side of the ocean, that serves as a poignant lesson on the wastefulness of mankind.
Slide 15 of 25: Sculpted by water over millions of years, these series of rock formations, caves, waterfalls, pools and crevices resemble a lunar-like landscape, hence its name Vale da Lua (Moon Valley). As the water, sand and wind continue to shape the rock face, it’s almost a constantly evolving sculpture. You can walk across the rock, bathe in the pools and even wade down one of the water courses, but pay special attention to the quartz crystals embedded in the rock – they are said to have healing powers.
Slide 16 of 25: Another artificially-made lake, Lago di Resia in South Tyrol has a noticeable quirk – there’s a church bell tower jutting from the water. It belongs to the 14th-century church that was forever submerged when the nearby dam was built. In winter, when the lake freezes over, it’s possible to walk over the ice and see the tower up close.
Slide 17 of 25: With only around a hundred locals on the small Japanese island of Tashirojima, cats outnumber humans by six to one. These felines are believed to bring good luck and fortune because of the island’s two historic industries that these cats used to protect – silk and fishing. During the Edo period, cats were used to chase the mice away from silk worms. Later, fishermen got used to the cats eating up the scraps of the day’s catch. Before long, cat behavior was used to predict weather and some more superstitious locals even believe cats to be the lucky charm that saved the island from more destruction during the 2011 tsunami.
Slide 18 of 25: Hidden below a train station in Lima, Peru’s capital, the witches market, or Mercado de Brujas, sells a lot of unusual ointments and remedies. Ingredients hanging around the market, such as frogs and dried animal foetuses, are used to make traditional folk medicine practised widely among the indigenous groups in the Peruvian society. If you’re looking to buy snake fat for arthritis, black candles for curses or ritual items like snake skin, this is the place to visit.
Slide 19 of 25: Located in what was once a vast inland sea, the Kubu Island is home to towering baobabs, mysterious ruins and boulders stained white with fossilised guano – a reminder of its aquatic past. Now the Makgadikgadi Pan in the Kalahari Desert is the world’s largest network of salt flats and the absence of water makes Kubu a very unusual place.
Slide 20 of 25: Almost a thousand feet below the Earth’s surface, a science-fiction-worthy cave is filled with gigantic selenite crystals, up to 13 feet thick, that are estimated to be around 500,000 years old. Visiting this cave is a task in itself – the cave temperature is around 50°C (122°F) and can safely be examined for no more than 20 minutes. The cave is now only open to scientists, after a mineworker snuck in and was roasted alive.
Slide 21 of 25: For years the moving boulders in California’s Death Valley puzzled everyone. Wild theories like aliens, supernatural phenomena and freakish weather were all named as the force able to move 600-pound stones across the flat dry lake. In 2013 scientists finally solved the mystery. In winter, a thin layer of ice occasionally covers the area and, as the air warms, the ice sheet cracks and wind slides the boulders across the wet, muddy terrain. After the temperature rises again, the ice evaporates completely and the ground dries out, leaving just the boulders and their paths behind them.
Slide 22 of 25: The Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s far east is one of the most remote places on Earth. Only fully explored in the 1970s, the almost four-mile long Valley of Geysers has the second largest concentration of geysers in the world, with over a hundred hot springs and the 250°C (402°F) heat of the stratovolcano Kikhpinych. Its most chilling sight is the Valley of Death. Less than a mile long, this creek accumulates volcanic gases in such high concentration that animals and birds who come too close die.
Slide 23 of 25: Officially recognized by Guinness World Records as the world’s largest maze, the Dole Pineapple Plantation maze covers almost three acres and takes an average of 45 minutes to complete. The hedges, grown entirely out of Hawaiian plants like hibiscus, panax and pineapple, are at their most beautiful when they’re full of color after a heavy rain.
Slide 24 of 25: Translating as “cotton castle”, the mineral-rich thermal pools are breathtaking sights. As you approach the enormous wall of snow-white limestone terraces of Pamukkale and the bright-blue water that glistens in the pools, it really is easy to believe the legend of the giants, who are said to have left cotton out to dry, leaving these formations behind. Having suffered heavy erosion and water pollution due to tourism, the terraces, apart from a small footpath running up the mountain face, are currently off limits.
Slide 25 of 25: One of the most stunning natural wonders in Europe, Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia is home to thick forests and 16 crystal clear lakes that tumble into each other via series of waterfalls and cascades. Walkways and hiking trails winding around and across the water take about six hours to walk. However, if your time is limited, head to the upper section of the lakes that can be explored in two hours. And don't forget to keep your eyes open for the clouds of butterflies that sometimes flutter past the trails.

Angkor what?

Some sights, such as the Grand Canyon, Eiffel Tower or Sydney Opera House, are widely recognized and admired, while others are overlooked and slowly fading into obscurity. These off-the-radar places range from the most awe-inspiring to downright crazy. We take a peek at just a handful of the mysterious and wondrous places our world has to offer.

Winchester Mystery House, California, USA

Built by Sarah Winchester, heiress to the Winchester rifle fortune, the Mystery House has over 160 rooms, labyrinth-like hallways, staircases that lead nowhere and chimneys that don’t reach the roof. Sarah became obsessed about outwitting ghosts she blamed for the untimely deaths of her child and husband. Allegedly, she always slept in a different bedroom so the spirits, who have been killed by Winchester company guns, couldn’t find her. A visit to this house is sure to send a chill up your spine.

Haw Par Villa, Singapore

Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees, Hawaii, USA

One of the most astonishing sights in Maui’s rainforest are the eucalyptus trees that reveal vivid shades of reds, purples and greens during different times of bark shedding. The process is ongoing so the arrangement of the colors is constantly changing and evolving. “A grove of living kaleidoscopes” says Lonely Planet.

Lake Kaindy, Kazakhstan

When an earthquake triggered a landslide in 1911, it blocked the gorge, creating a natural dam that eventually filled with rainwater – the sunken forest of Lake Kaindy. Because of the cold water that doesn’t exceed 43°F even in summer, the submerged pines still remain on the trees more than a hundred years later. The water is surprisingly clear and you can see deep into the lake, which in winter freezes over and becomes a popular destination for ice fishing, and in summer is a hit among divers.

Abandoned Ghost Ship, Kentucky, USA

Just outside Cincinnati, tucked away behind trees and hidden among driftwood and long reeds, Sachem is rusting away in the Ohio River. First setting sail in 1902 under the name of Celt, the boat served as a luxury yacht, was used for Thomas Edison’s experiments, for naval soldier training, fought in two world wars and appeared in Madonna’s Papa Don’t Preach music video. It was then bought by a Cincinnati native, who more than 30 years ago sailed the ship inland to its final resting place.

Hill of Crosses, Lithuania

Located 7.5 miles north from Lithuania’s fourth biggest city Šiauliai, the Hill of Crosses started as a protest against Soviet oppression. During occupation, in 1961, the site was bulldozed, the wooden crosses burned and metal ones melted. But even these KGB efforts to keep the people away didn’t help – the site continued to grow higher and wider with people coming here to put up crosses under the cover of night . After the fall of the Iron Curtain, the Hill became a symbol of victory as well as a memorial honoring those deported to Siberia. Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1993 solidified its status as a pilgrimage spot and there are now thought to be around 100,000 crosses and counting.

Hell, Cayman Islands

Meteora, Greece

The ancient monasteries of Meteora are hardly a secret – the World Heritage-listed site is one of the most popular destinations in Greece. However, the site itself, as well as the surrounding area, holds a lot of surprises often left unexplored. Visit one of the six active monasteries; don’t miss the basket and ropes that were used by monks to bring the building materials to the top of the rocks, and head to Monopatia and its caves, where monks used to live before the monasteries were built. If you’re feeling brave, don’t miss the knee-shaking experience of traversing narrow rock ledges – routes once taken by intrepid hermits.

Coral Castle, Florida

Latvian immigrant Edward Leedskalnin dedicated almost three decades to creating this massive sculpture park. Carved as a monument to the woman who left him a day before their wedding, the park is shrouded in mystery. A small man at barely five feet and just over 110 pounds, Edward was able to carve more than 1,100 tons of coral with sculptures reaching almost 25 feet. Working alone at night so no one would be able to observe his engineering secrets, it’s still uncertain how Edward was able to complete such extensive building work alone.

Fairy Circles, Namibia

Pig Beach, Bahamas

Kaplica Czaszek, Poland

Plastic Beach, Hawaii, USA

Vale da Lua, Brazil

Campanile di Curon, Italy

Cat Island, Japan

With only around a hundred locals on the small Japanese island of Tashirojima, cats outnumber humans by six to one. These felines are believed to bring good luck and fortune because of the island’s two historic industries that these cats used to protect – silk and fishing. During the Edo period, cats were used to chase the mice away from silk worms. Later, fishermen got used to the cats eating up the scraps of the day’s catch. Before long, cat behavior was used to predict weather and some more superstitious locals even believe cats to be the lucky charm that saved the island from more destruction during the 2011 tsunami.

Lima witches market, Peru

Kubu Island, Botswana

Cave of the Crystals, Mexico

Racetrack Playa, California, USA

For years the moving boulders in California’s Death Valley puzzled everyone. Wild theories like aliens, supernatural phenomena and freakish weather were all named as the force able to move 600-pound stones across the flat dry lake. In 2013 scientists finally solved the mystery. In winter, a thin layer of ice occasionally covers the area and, as the air warms, the ice sheet cracks and wind slides the boulders across the wet, muddy terrain. After the temperature rises again, the ice evaporates completely and the ground dries out, leaving just the boulders and their paths behind them.

Valley of Geysers, Russia

The Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia’s far east is one of the most remote places on Earth. Only fully explored in the 1970s, the almost four-mile long Valley of Geysers has the second largest concentration of geysers in the world, with over a hundred hot springs and the 250°C (402°F) heat of the stratovolcano Kikhpinych. Its most chilling sight is the Valley of Death. Less than a mile long, this creek accumulates volcanic gases in such high concentration that animals and birds who come too close die.

Pineapple Garden Maze, Hawaii, USA

Pamukkale, Turkey

Translating as “cotton castle”, the mineral-rich thermal pools are breathtaking sights. As you approach the enormous wall of snow-white limestone terraces of Pamukkale and the bright-blue water that glistens in the pools, it really is easy to believe the legend of the giants, who are said to have left cotton out to dry, leaving these formations behind. Having suffered heavy erosion and water pollution due to tourism, the terraces, apart from a small footpath running up the mountain face, are currently off limits.

Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

One of the most stunning natural wonders in Europe, Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia is home to thick forests and 16 crystal clear lakes that tumble into each other via series of waterfalls and cascades. Walkways and hiking trails winding around and across the water take about six hours to walk. However, if your time is limited, head to the upper section of the lakes that can be explored in two hours. And don’t forget to keep your eyes open for the clouds of butterflies that sometimes flutter past the trails.

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