Kolkata is a colorful megacity rich in culture, architecture and of course food, but the best part of traveling the “City of Joy” is the sheer unpredictability! You never know what you’ll stumble upon around on the next street corner of what used to be India''s capital.
Although this variety keeps locals and expats entertained, for travelers with only a short time in Kolkata it is important to make the most of it. Make your trip a little more offbeat and memorable by mixing a few of these unique Kolkata attractions into your itinerary:
Combine every single museum, planetarium, aquarium, garden, scientific exhibition and technological showcase that you’ve ever experienced into one grand event. This is Science City, one of the world’s largest establishments of its kind. Think of it like those old famous Worlds Fairs of the 1800s only never-ending.
Science City has a continually changing line-up of exhibits, events, activities, seminars and interesting attractions that both inspire and educate. Perfect for the entire family but be warned: you may end up getting sucked in and spending longer here than planned.
Famous for its overwhelming assortment of bookstores specializing in everything from new to old to rare, College Street is often referred to as the most intellectual neighborhood in the entire megacity of Kolkata. Avid readers will easily be able to occupy an entire day here, but even if books are not your thing, College Street is still an enjoyable experience.
Given this, it should be no surprise that one of the most popular literature gatherings in the entire world is the annual Kolkata Book Fair. Although it only began 40 years ago, now more than 2.5 million people attend every January.
Modern life can be a bit busy. Sometimes you just need to find a relaxing place to escape and be surrounded by nature. Thankfully right across the river just west of Fort William is Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden, home to one of the world’s largest trees (in terms of area, not height).
From a distance The Great Banyan looks more like a small forest than a single tree. Up close it is possible to get lost within the Banyan's vertical hanging roots. Before they put up the fence people used to wander into the tree and never return -- think of it like a hedge maze in the Bermuda Triangle.
Covering nearly 19,000m² and around 250 years old, The Great Banyan is only 200m² smaller than the world’s largest tree, Thimmamma Marrimanu -- coincidentally also located in India -- but believed to be less than half of its age. Years ago a road was built around the circumference of the tree, allowing visitors an easily accessible 360° view, but The Great Banyan continues to grow and expand beyond it.
As a long-term traveler, you get used to visiting a Chinatown in not just every country but every big city. Same same, but different -- like always. Except in India. Kolkata is home to the one and only Chinatown in this entire country, Tiretta Bazaar.
The unquestionable home of the most delicious and authentic Chinese food in not just Kolkata but all of India, every Tiretta Bazaar trip is primarily a culinary experience served with side dishes of sightseeing, shopping and Mahjong. This is no task to be taken lightly, though. If you wish to survive Tiretta Bazaar and be able to walk away i>n your own two legs, it is best to bring a few friends to help eat your way through everything that smells and/or looks delicious. (Warning: there will be a lot!)
Nowadays Tiretta Bazaar is only a fraction of its former size, but if anything that should only be a further encouragement to visit. Help support a minority population struggling to preserve their heritage.
No one ever said that navigating the streets of Kolkata was easy, not even a hundred years ago. The best solution is to stay at a proper hotel with both a convenient location and helpful transportation options, such as Park Hotel Kolkata.
Eden Gardens, Fort William, and St. Paul’s Cathedral are all part of Maidan, the largest urban park in West Bengal, and just a few hundred metres west of Park Hotel Kolkata.
Breathtaking natural beauty and enchanting sunsets. Iconic landscapes and rich Native American history. Welcome to New Mexico, also known as The Land of Enchantment. No state better captures the true essence of the American Southwest than New Mexico -- and the best way to experience this is to go off the beaten path in Ruidoso, New Mexico.
Certain Ruidoso spots are obligatory visitor destinations, such as Ruidoso Downs and the Lincoln National Forest. However make sure not to miss out on these unique and offbeat things to do in Ruidoso:
Ziplining gets exponentially more fun as the elevation increases, it's a scientific fact*
* may not be "scientific" or a "fact" but it is the truth
Like any good ski company, Ski Apache offers plenty of adrenaline-pumping outdoor summer activities as well. These include mountain biking, hiking, a 9-hole disc golf course, and of course the star of it all, their impressive ziplines.
Ziplining at Ski Apache is an unforgettable experience. Located over 11,000 feet above sea level (3,500 metres), this three-part zipline tours covers nearly two miles in distance (over 2.7 kilometres), offers "the most spectacular view in Southern New Mexico" and hits speeds of up to 65 MPH! (105km/hr!) Now tell you me that you don't want to experience this ;)
I have an unhealthy fixation with strange, unique and one-of-a-kind museums. No museum is too small or too quirky. Few museums are worth a second visit but every museum is worth one.
The Museum Of The Horse in Ruidoso changed its name to Hubbard's Museum of the American West but the museum is no less interesting, especially to anyone fascinated by horses or the history of the American West.
"Free Spirits at Noisy Waters" by Dave McGary is a collection of eight giant horse scupltures located on the grounds of the Museum of the American West. Photo via pamwood707
The Hubbards were a racing family, which explains why the museum is located next to the race track, Ruidoso Downs. It focuses on a wide variety of regional history, from wild horses and horse racing to Native Americans, pioneers and frontier life.
Although small, a lot is packed into the museum. Scultpures, horse carriages, weapons, art and a plethora of antiques, all of which have detailed descriptions. There are also seasonal exhibits as well.
Entrance to the grounds is free, but the museum costs $7.
During summer there is horseback riding, disc golf, hiking, mountain biking, cycling tours (on the road), fishing, ziplining, horse racing, camping and more. Pick one (or more) of these that you have never done before and give it a go. What better way to create some unforgettable memories in Ruidoso?
Cold weather means skiing, snowboarding, winter ziplining, tubing, sledding, and all sorts of other snow-filled activities. Decide on one that you've never done and make sure put it on your Ruidoso to-do list.
Ruidoso has nearly a dozen lakes, parks and recreation areas -- one for every 700 residents -- so outdoor activities abound. However the hiking trails around Grindstone Lake are some of the most relaxing, beautiful and enjoyable of all these activities.
There are 18-miles of multiple use trails around Grindstone Lake and on into the neighboring Lincoln National Forest designed by the International Mountain Biking Association. In other words, sure they are suitable for hiking, but they were designed for mountain biking. ;)
screenshot from discoverruidoso.com
Grindstone Lake also offers fishing and has a 27-hole disc golf course.
Go karts, bumper boats and miniature golf, oh my! Pillow's Funtrackers is a unique theme park that is fun for kids of all ages -- including our inner kid. (When was the last time you released that guy?) ;)
Open all year round, Pillow's Funtrackers attracts thrill-seeking guests from all of New Mexico, not just visitors to Ruidoso.
All three go kart tracks, the bumper cars, miniature golf course and mountain maze are open year-round, however the bumper boats and gemstone panning are seasonal activities.
Prices are suprisingly affordable as well. For $100 you can get 20 tickets, each good for one admission on any of the 20 rides.
This article was sponsored in part by Discover Ruidoso, however it should go without saying that all experiences are my own opinion and were not influenced in any way.
Orlando may be the theme park capital of the world, but there is much more to do in the heart of Florida than just wander around a sprawling amusement park. There's art, food, nightlife, and culture. After all that, if you still have the time and energy to visit an amusement park, then I'll tip you off to the strangest offerings in Orlando that you've probably never heard of. So come with me, let's drop those bags at a hotel -- I recommend an IHG Hotel near Universal -- and then take a whirlwind weekend tour around town!
With over two dozen museums, there's something for everyone here in Orlando. Fan of sports cars? Visit the Exotic Car Gallery. Fascinated by the history of the Titanic? Visit Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition. Artwork more your thing? The Orlando Museum of Art is one of the top-rated in the city. Traveling with kids? Orlando Science Center is the place to go. Want to please the kids and the kid inside of you at the same time? Ripley's Believe It Or Not! Orlando is your answer.
Alternative: Don't like any of those? Then you'll absolutely love the Tupperware Confidence Center! Not only is it one of the most unusual museums in the entire United States, but it also wins my award for the most creative museum name ever. 100% refund if you don't leave here with more confidence in your Tupperware skills.
Ever visited an ice bar? They can be found in over 30 cities around the world and are absolutely amazing. After donning a jacket and gloves, guests are led into a frozen bar where everything is hand-carved from ice: walls, chairs, tables, glasses, decorations, and even the bar itself!
Of course, if you're visiting Florida to escape the winter back home, this might not sound like an appealing idea. However, Icebar Orlando is the largest ice bar in the world and features over 70 tons of carved ice, making it the top dog in an already exclusive club. And for that reason alone, Icebar Orlando deserves a visit on a humid evening.
Alternative: Orlando Brewing has been creating "darn good beer" for over a decade now and offers free daily tours every day of the week (except Sunday). The bar features two dozen taps, so no matter what your poison, you can go straight to the source for the freshest brew.
Given its reputation as an international family vacation destination, cuisines from around the world can be found in downtown Orlando and the theme park district of the southwest. There is no one dish or cuisine that is distinctly Orlando. However, there are some restaurants that are distinctly Orlandian.
The Cowfish is proudly the first and only burger and sushi bar in the world. Step on in and try one of the signature creations: the Burgushi. Café Tu Tu Tango fuses global recipes with a Florida twist, using only local ingredients and serving meals in an art gallery showcasing local artists.
Alternative: Can't decide? Spend a few hours on an Orlando Food Tour to eat your way around town and have a couple drinks while doing it.
Screw Walt Disney World. Go somewhere unique this trip, like Gatorland–home to all your alligator amusement needs–or better yet, the Holyland Experience–where the Bible comes to life. Hint: it's even more entertaining and over the top than the good book itself. ;)
Alternative: If neither of those sounds right for you, check out these other one-of-a-kind Orlando amusement parks.
Sitting alongside Silom Road right in the heart of Bangkok lies the Bangkok Seashell Museum. Always a fan of unique and offbeat museums, I decided to stop on in the other day with a friend who was visiting town.
The small but modern Bangkok Seashell Museum is three stories and is packed full of thousands and thousands of seashells from hundreds of different species all painstakingly arranged by size and color into elaborate displays. Most have information on where/when they were found. Was quite surprised to see that the shells here come from countries around the world, not just Thailand and other Southeat Asian nations.
Signs in Thai and English scattered on the walls of each floor provided detailed information on the types of species we were looking at and where these specimen were found. The museum is definitely interesting, even if you do not know the slightest thing about seashells except that they tend to be found on beaches more than mountains. Tend to.
Entrance was 150 baht per person (around $4 USD) and despite being three stories, you only need 30-45 minutes to thoroughly examine and chat about everything. If nothing else, it is a great way to escape that horrendous Bangkok heat for a bit.
Tridacna gigas, otherwise known as the aptly named Giant Clam, live in offshore reefs 2-20 metres deep (6-65 feet) and can weigh up to 300kg. This giant clam only weighs 150kg (330lbs), despite one side of its shell being more than a metre across. (That's almost four feet. No one is stealing it anytime soon.)
So cool it even won an award for being a "very good" recreational activity. That's certainly no "outstanding" and not quite an "honorable mention" but hey at least you're getting closer. Keep up the good work.
Throughout the museum there are giant signs on the walls in both Thai and English further explaining about the seashells on display, the differences between species, even when and where they were found.
Situated in between Fort Worth and Dallas, Arlington, Texas, is home to tons of sights and activities. Best known as the home of the Dallas Cowboys football team and a couple of major amusement parks, Arlington is a fun, touristy city. Many visitors overlook the city's best attractions, though. The next time you find yourself passing through Arlington, check out some of these unique and offbeat destinations
When people think of Arlington, the first thing that invariably pops into their heads is the sprawling Six Flags Over Texas amusement park. Travel just down the road from the rollercoasters and rides, and you'll find the International Bowling Museum and Hall of Fame. Located right next to the highway, this place isn't exactly off the beaten path, but it's definitely unique.
photo via eagrick
Did you know that bowling was originally invented by the ancient Egyptians? Or how a bowling ball is made? You can learn lots of interesting things at the bowling museum, even if you're not a big fan of the sport. The museum is full of historical information, a bowlers' hall of fame, and interactive exhibits that offer a great way to kill an hour. There's even a miniature bowling alley at the end for you to get in a round or two before leaving.
If you're a bowler, then visiting this place is a must. The Bowling International Training & Research Center is also located on site, so you could run into a professional bowler during your visit.
Anyone who lived in the United States in the late 1990s remembers the commercials for the singing fish mounted on a plaque, the Big Mouth Billy Bass. The commercial had one of those annoying jingles that gets stuck in your head. Between the jingle and the sheer ridiculousness of a singing fish hanging on the wall, these things actually proved to be a brief hit before they found their permanent home tucked away in a closet.
The Billy Bass Adoption Center is located within a popular Arlington restaurant known as the Flying Fish. This places serves excellent seafood with a Cajun twist, and it's worth visiting just for the food. The massive collection of novelty singing bass is an added bonus, though. Have one somewhere around your house? Bring it with you and make a donation!
As the name implies, "Sky Mirror" is a 6-meter-wide stainless-steel dish that serves as a giant mirror. It's angled so that one side reflects down on the people standing in front of it, while the other side reflects up toward the sky. Anish Kapoor, the same artist who created Chicago's famous "Cloud Gate" reflective sculpture, also designed "Sky Mirror."
photo via vincehuang
Originally unveiled in 2001 in Nottingham, England, "Sky Mirror" quickly became a popular sculpture. It's moved several times over the years and even spawned a couple of imitations. Since 2013, it has resided outside Arlington's AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys.
The very mention of Monaco evokes images of glamorous ladies in evening wear escorted by dashing gentlemen to the tables at one of the many casinos in this small country. Monaco is also known for its Formula One Grand Prix, besides being a popular tax haven for the rich and famous, as well as the rich and not so famous. Glitz, glamour, and the spectacular landscape are all reasons to add the country to your itinerary planner. Here are some not-to-be-missed destinations in this tiny nation that is part of the French Riviera.
Monte Carlo Casino, Monaco by Paul Wilkinson
A venue for special gala dinners, the Casino and Opera House also houses a marble paved atrium. What catches the eye, though, are the magnificent onyx columns that surround the atrium. With a 130-year-old history under its belt, this building was also the venue of two royal gala dinners. The casino is unique given its stained glass windows, allegorical paintings, bronze lamps, and spectacular decorations. The Casino has also been featured in quite a few notable Hollywood movies including the James Bond series and Ocean's Twelve.
Oceanographic Museum, Monaco by wami82
Perched on the Rock of Monaco, this museum of marine sciences is a stunning example of Baroque Revival architecture which by itself is sufficient to ensure it a place on your Monaco travel planner. The museum which towers over the cliff face makes for a picturesque setting. It took 11 years to construct this building which is now home to various several thousand sea creatures including sharks and turtles. The Oceanographic Institute devoted to the study of oceans and their inhabitants are also housed here.
Palais du Prince, Monaco by healinglight
The building of the Palace dates back to the 13th century and has its origins as a fortress, but has since been turned into a luxurious palace. There is a gallery with 15th-century frescoes that will leave you awe-struck. The gilded décor of the ‘Blue Room’, the 17th century Palatine Chapel, and the Main Courtyard with its spectacular Carrara marble double staircase make it a ‘must-see’ addition to your Monaco trip planner. Don’t forget to check out the Changing of the Guards ceremony that takes place at about noon each day.
Jardin exotique de Monaco by Sylvain Leprovost
Situated on a steep cliff overlooking the Mediterranean Ocean, this garden is home to varied species of plants from Africa, Arabia, and Latin America. There are at least 7,000 types of succulents which thrive in the great climate the region enjoys. Stalagmites and stalactites are found in the Observatory cave situated on the premises. You can further enrich your knowledge of the pre-historic era and early civilisation with a visit to the Anthropology Museum situated within the property.
Catamaran rides, Monaco by Dennis Jarvis
The harbour at this princely state is always filled with moored luxury yachts from across the world. It is a great place for a stroll and you can find plenty of places to grab a bite to eat as you watch the spectacular yachts pull out or weigh anchor. Catamaran rides are available for a closer look at the coastline. If you are lucky you might be able to catch a glimpse of the rich and famous arriving to attend one of the many galas or races that take place in Monaco Harbour.
The small size of the country makes it easy to get around and see it all without having to travel too much. Don’t forget to take a close look at the narrow city streets where Formula One drivers race down in May each year!
Exploring the fjords and glaciers. Embracing the midnight sun. Breathtaking scenery and one of the homes of the Northern Lights. A vibrant sauna culture. Yes, Norway is known for a lot of things. However the country is not known for its one-of-a-kind museums, eccentric artists and lust for liquor. But maybe it should be. The next time you find yourself in Oslo, make sure to check out at least one of the unique and offbeat destinations:
When you think of a glass bottle collection, do you think or of ships and other miniatures inside of bottles? Regardless of which answer you picked, this is the place for you! Welcome to The Mini Bottle Gallery, the only museum of its kind in the world. It is home to over 50,000 bottles of all shapes, sizes and designs.
The owner is a fourth generation descendent of the Ringnes brewery founders and one of Norway's most affluent businessmen. His love of bottles started as a kid upon receiving a half bottle of gin as a gift and has grown over the years into a massive collection.
In spring of 2000, Ringnes purchased a building in the heart of Oslo, and three years later the museum opened. Most bottles are full of alcohol but others have fruits, berries, even animals. Public hours are limited to between noon and 4pm on Saturdays and Sundays only, however private visits for large groups can be scheduled in advance for alternative days.
All those beer and liquor bottles have you craving a drink? Head on over to Torggata, specifically the blocks in between Youngs Gate and Hausmanns Gate. 6-7 years ago this was a seedy street full of trash, graffiti and drug dealers. Now it is full of trendy new restaurants and bars, and street art has replaced graffiti. Yes, Torggata has quickly become one of the hippest parts of Oslo.
Cobblestone streets. Pedestrian and bicycle traffic. Outdoor diners enjoying the day. And a strong emerging nightlife. This is Torggata, where McDonald's struggles and exotic foreign cuisine florishes. Jaime Pesaque, the renowned Peruvian chef with restaurants in Lima, Dubai and Milano (just to name a few), now has one in Torggata as well: Piscoteket
The entire area is full of restaurants serving different cuisines from around the world, and most of these also serve alcohol as well. However there are plenty of dedicated bars to. Just go for a stroll and stop in whatever place catches your eye. Guarantee you'll have fun!
Traditional museums have a tendancy to be boring, it's okay, we can all agree here. That's why it is our duty as travelers to support all those strange, quirky and one-of-a-kind museums scattered around the world. My rule is this: if the museum name makes you think "WTF" then you're obligated to go inside.
Over the last two decades more and more professional magicians are worrying that their trade is dying. Some magicians are revealing the secrets behind popular tricks, to inspire a new younger generation to follow in their footsteps. Others are devising newer and more elaborate stunts with the help of modern technology. Meanwhile in Norway a group of magicians began collecting magician memorabilia to tell their story.
By 2001 this collection of posters, props, photographs and gear had grown so large it needed to be moved to its own apartment (exterior pictured above). Thus Norsk Tryllemuseum, the Norway Museum of Magic, was officially born.
Note: The museum is only open on Sundays from 1pm-4pm with a magic show at 2pm. Ideally, you are supposed to go for the show and enjoy the museum as a "free bonus".
Gustav Vigeland was one of Norway's most esteemed sculptors and nowadays is known throughout the world. His easily recognizeable work are thos iconic statues of human beings doing, well, human things. Vigeland was also the designer of the Nobel Peace Prize medal.
In a deal with the Oslo government, Vigeland agreed to donate all his future works to the city. By the time he passed away in 1943 this was over 200 sculptures. Together they cover a sprawling 80 acres and comprise the largest sculpture park in the world created by a single artist. The pinnacle of all this artwork is a 14-metre tall monstrosity known as The Monolith. Carved entirely out of granite, 121 writhing bodies for a human totem pole obelisk.
The park is open 24 hours a day and entrance is free, however it is quite popular with both locals and tourists, so try to avoid visiting at peak hours.
That's right, Gustav Vigeland had several brothers, one of which became a famous artist: Emanuel Vigeland. Although he never attained the same level of fame as his older brother, he was nonetheless an accomplished sculptor, painter and stained glass artist.
The mausoleum itself is an intriguing homage to life, death and sex, all rolled into one. It was originally intended to be a museum but halfway through Emanuel changed his mind and decided to combine mausoleum and museum into one. Shaped like a small church with bricked up windows, the acoustics of the building are so powerful that speaking loudly is simply not possible.
When Emanuel passed away 1948 he was creamted and ashes placed within a low-hanging niche above the entry. The end result is that every guest of the mausoleum has to bow down to Emanuel on their way out.
Of course this is only the tip of the glacier of things to do in Oslo. For more advice and information for what to do and where, check out this Norway travel guide....and have fun!
There is nothing like a good quirky, offbeat, or just plain strange museum to add a twist to your travels. If you plan on visiting Central Europe, be sure to check out these gems!
Given the rich history of Hungary's capital city, it should be no surprise that Budapest has plenty of quirky and offbeat sights and activities. The Pinball Museum is a great way to feel like a kid again, and the Zwack Unicum Museum is a great way for adults to learn about the unofficial national drink of Hungary. Other intriguing museums include the Hospital in the Rock, Terror Háza, and The Golden Eagle Pharmacy Museum. There is even an underground church inside a cave in Gellert Hill.
A moulage is a casting or wax molding of an injury or disease that is used to train medical professionals and emergency responders. Why do you need to know this? Because Zurich is home to the world's second largest collection of moulages -- the aptly-named Moulagenmuseum. Sticking with this medical theme, why not make a day of it and also visit the Medizinhistorisches Museum? One look at the questionable history of medical devices, and you'll be glad you live in the 21st century. For even more offbeat fun, 30 minutes from Zürich is the Pegasus Small World Toy Museum in Aeugst am Albis, and one hour away in Sissach is the Henkermuseum, a large collection of authentic medieval torture devices.
Given for its renown for the fashion and art scene, it was a bit of a surprise to discover that Düsseldorf does not have any truly offbeat museums. However, the Classic Remise Düsseldorf is very interesting for automobile enthusiasts, and if you are traveling with kids, the Neanderthal Museum is a must. You can also find a few cool, quirky museums located just outside the city. For example, learn more about voodoo by visiting the out-of-place but extremely interesting Soul of Africa Museum just 30 minutes away in Essen.
Tucked away on the west side of Cologne lies the Kölner Karnevalsmuseum -- the Cologne Carnival Museum. This is a fascinating glimpse into carnival life, both past and present. To learn more about perfume, take a trip to the Farina Fragrance Museum. Inside you'll learn all about the history and production of perfume. The building itself, which was built is 1709, is the oldest fragrance factory in the world.
Slovakia's capital and largest city is Bratislava, which has no shortage of museums. However, only a couple of them are interesting enough to be included here. Gun and weapon enthusiasts will be fascinated by the Museum of Arms, which covers not only weapons and their production but also the history of the town and its fortifications. The Museum of Clocks houses a collection of antique clocks spanning three centuries and is an ode to Bratislava clockmakers. There is also the Water Museum, where you can learn more about the history and technology behind the city's waterworks.
Want more museums? Now Museum, Now You Don't: Strange USA Museums
On the Austrian border of Italy, high in the mountains, sit six distinct museums. Together, the museums comprise the Messner Mountain Museum (MMM) experience—an homage to mountains and mountain culture situated at six remarkable sites located throughout South Tyrol and Belluno. For those daring enough to make the trek, each museum can be accessed by (appropriately) climbing the mountain on which it resides. We think you’ll agree that seeing these museums in person is worth the effort it takes to get to them.
The MMM is the brainchild of world renowned mountain climber Reinhold Messner. Now in his 70s, the climber has spent more than a decade developing the six museums, each of which embraces a different theme pertaining to mountains and/or mountain climbing.
The first museum opened in 1995, while the most recent museum opened to tourists in July 2015. Each of the museums features interdisciplinary exhibits that blend art and natural science while celebrating the surrounding scenery. Oh, and in case you were worried? They’re all accessible by car as well as by foot.
Here’s what you can expect from each locale:
A visit to any or all of these museums will entertain mountain lovers and curious tourists alike. Visitors can purchase tickets to each museum individually or buy a tour ticket that includes entry to all six museums. If traveling by car, you’ll be able to visit all six of the museums over the course of three or four days.
If you want to hike to each of the museums, you’ll need to plan a longer trip. None of the hikes are shorter than two hours, while climbing to MMM Corones will take upwards of 6.5 hours and hiking up to MMM Ortles will take around 12.5 hours over the course of two days. The energy and time you devote to the climbs will be rewarded in the form of some of the most beautiful scenery around. Just don't forget to bring a good durable compass watch with you to ensure no one veers of course and starts hiking the wrong direction. Check out The Gear Hunt for more.
If you’re already in Italy, it’s also worth driving the three hours to the cities of Bologna or Milano, both which offer a whole different kind of cultural experience (think fashion, food, and gorgeous architecture everywhere you look). As its combination of striking natural beauty and urban culture proves, Italy should be on every traveler’s bucket list.
Iceland is a country like no other. Rich history. Intriguing culture. And just far enough removed from its neighbors to make others curious about this island nation.
Regular readers of The HoliDaze already know that taking a road trip around Iceland is high up on my travel bucket list. And while I still haven't had the time to do that yet, I have already been researching where to visit. Plus since this site focuses heavily on offbeat and quirky things to do around the world, it seems like a fitting time to share with you all the off the beaten path sights and activities I've found in Iceland.
It's no secret that many Icelanders believe in elves and hidden people -- people who look just like us but are invisible to most "normal" people. In fact stories abound about elf "consultants" being hired for construction projects or to help with the planning of bridges and highways. And while the numbers vary depending upon which survey you trust, it's safe to say that between 1/4 and 1/2 of the population believe in these fascinating creatures.
Since opening in 1991, the Icelandic Elf School has been the go-to source for all things historic and educational about elves (apparently there are 13 different types), as well as hidden people. Their weekly classes are held every Friday and are attended by both locals and foreigners alike -- although the founder, Magnús Skarphéðinsson, admits that the majority of his students over the last two and a half decades have been foreigners interested in learning more about Iceland's culture.
Þingvellir National Park
When people think of Iceland, their pristine glaciers and legendary hot springs are what always come to mind first. But have you ever thought about scuba diving in the Arctic Circle? Diving here is like nowhere else on earth! Why? Because of the Silfra Rift!
A rift is where two or more tectonic plates meet. Most often this occur underwater and a few are located on land, however the Silfra Rift is the only rift in the world located inside of a lake -- the Þingvallavatn Lake.
Each year these plates drift another two centimeters apart, which results in an earthquake roughly once a decade. However scuba diving in Þingvellir Lake to witness the geologic beauty of planet Earth is safe and a once-in-a-lifetime experience unlike any other. Oh and did I mention that the glacier water here is so clear that underwater visibility is some of the best in the world -- often 250 feet or more!
Scattered around the country
I've long been a fan of strange, quirky and unique museums around the world and Iceland is home to several of these. Of course all their museums dedicated to sorcery, sea monsters, fish and water seem perfectly normal when compared to the Icelandic Phallological Museum -- otherwise known as the penis museum, for those of you who have forgotten the medical term for the male reproductive organ.
The Icelandic Phallological Museum contains a pant-swelling collection of nearly 300 mammal penises and penile parts from around 100 different species. In addition to the (educationally) stimulating exhibits, the museum also strives to shine a light on how this particular organ has influenced the history of human art and literature. Oh...and there may or may not be a couple examples of the Homo Sapien penis on display -- but you'll just have to visit for yourself to find out.
Don't tire yourself out too much at the Phallological Museum, though. Skrímslasetrið, otherwise known as the Icelandic Sea Monster Museum, covers the entire history of Arctic sea monsters and sightings. They have even begun to classify these monsters as one of four basic types based on their characteristics. For all the curious souls out there, they are: "the fjörulalli (Shore Laddie), the hafmaður (Sea Man), the skeljaskrímsli (Shell Monster) and the faxaskrímsli (Combined Monster/Sea Horse).
Other notable museums include Randulf's Sea House in Eskifjorður (dedicated to fishing and fisherman, this museum is also part time capsule and part restaurant), Vatnasafn (the Museum of Water) and of course the Museum of Icelandic Sorcery & Witchcraft, which should be fairly self-explanitory.
This is far from all the offbeat, obscure, strange and unique things to do in Iceland. Want more? Check out all the Unique Types of Alcohol Only Found In Iceland. And remember to keep traveling off the beaten path!