Do you like to experience something new every time you travel? Indeed, most travellers do, and worldwide, there are only a few places that are unique, be it an area where there are absolutely no flora or fauna, a place where there are spectacular formative mountain structures, or man-made features that are simply out of this world, such as hotels shaved from ice. You definitely cannot find each and every attraction in another location.
Rare Plant and Animal Species in Madagascar
The Republic of Madagascar is an island country in the Indian Ocean off the south eastern coast of Africa. It is so isolated that it has always been seen as unique and mysterious.
Due to the island’s prolonged isolation from other continents, Madagascar is home to a vast array of plants and animals, many found nowhere else on Earth. About 80% of them are endemic, including the lemur, the carnivorous fossa and three avian families.
More than 10,000 plant species are native to the country, and 90% of that are found nowhere else in the world. For instance, seven plant families are only found here, the highest number of any biodiversity hotspot in the world, and three-fourths of Madagascar’s 960 orchid species are only found there. Many native plant species are used as effective herbal remedies for a variety of afflictions.
The Salt Plains in the Salta, Argentina
The second largest country in South America by land area, Argentina’s Northwestern Salta province is one area worth visiting.
The Salt flats, or Salinas Grandes, a salt desert in the Córdoba and Santiago del Estero provinces in Argentina, covers an area of about 8,290 square kilometres. The salt flats are hexagonal, crystallized crust of salts over a large expanse of water, and this area is of industrial importance for its sodium and potassium mines.
Surrounded by high mountains, the Inca tribes were thought to originally inhabit the area, which offer a unique cultural history as well.
Mosquito Bay in Puerto Rico
The bioluminescent Mosquito Bay in Vieques, Puerto Rico is one of the world’s few remaining bioluminescent bays, and it has been officially declared as the brightest recorded one in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records 2008. At night, organisms named Pyrodinium bahamense, or dinoflagellates, which are responsible for this amazing natural phenomenon, glow blue-green when agitated, like fireflies in the ocean, and you can row out to the middle of the bay and take a swim in a starfield – an experience you will never want to miss.
Being small and shallow, the Mosquito Bay is the perfect environment for the dinoflagellates, as they can be trapped and protected in the bay, making it very bright, and the mangroves surrounding the bay provide the perfect nutrition for them.
Ice Sculptures in Harbin, China
Harbin, the capital and largest city of Heilongjiang, Province in northeast China, is the tenth largest city in China. Well known for its bitterly cold winters with average temperature of 21.2 degree Celsius, or -16.8 degrees Celsius in winter, this place is famous for its beautiful ice sculptures in winter.
The Harbin International Ice Festival, which has been held since 1985, is one of the world’s fourth largest international ice festivals, along with Japan’s Sapporo Snow Festival, Canada’s Quebec Winter Carnival, and Norway’s Ski Festival.
The Harbin Ice Festival features illuminated full-size buildings made from blocks of 2-3 feet thick crystal clear ice directly taken from Songhua River which passes through the city. Winter activities in the festival include Yabuli Alpine skiing, winter-swimming in Songhua River, and the ice-lantern exhibition in Zhaolin Garden.
Volcanoes, Geysers and Ice Hotels in Iceland
Iceland, a European island country in the north Atlantic Ocean on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, is highly geologically active with many volcanoes. It is also home to many geysers, including Geysir, from which the English word is derived, and the famous Stokkur, which erupts every 5-10 minutes.
Also, there is a growing business in the country’s tourism industry – the art of housing people for a night in rooms made of sculpted ice. They were rebuilt every winter, as they cater to customers who are on the lookout for a unique accommodation experience. Nothing beats spending a night in an icy cold, sculpted ice hotel, the oldest and most famous of those are at Jukkasjärvi, Sweden.
Dragon’s Blood Trees in Socotra
Socotra, a small archipelago in the Indian Ocean, lies 240km east of the Horn of Africa. Being isolated, and with its fierce heat and drought, the island has a unique and spectacular endemic flora, and a third of its plant life is also found nowhere else on the planet. About 307 out of 825 plant species on Socotra cannot be found nowhere else on Earth.
One of the most striking of Socotra’s plants is the dragon’s blood tree, a strange-looking, umbrella-shaped tree, with red sap that was thought to be the dragon’s blood of the ancients. It has been sought after as a medicine and a dye, and today, it is mainly being used as paint and varnish.
Other endemic plants in Socotra include the giant succulent tree Dorstenia gigas, Moraceae, the cucumber tree, and the rare Socotran pomegranate. If you like eco-tourism, there is no better place on earth than Socotra.
Takstang Monastery in the Kingdom of Bhutan
Bhutan, officially called the Kingdom of Bhutan and it is the last remaining kingdom in Asia, is located at the eastern end of the Himalayas and surrounded by India and China. In 2006, Business Week magazine rated Bhutan the happiest country in Asia, and the eighth-happiest in the world, based on a global survey.
One of its most famous attractions and one of the most venerated places of pilgrimage in the Himalayas is the Taktsang (which means “tiger’s lair”) Monastery, most notably known as Tiger Nest Monastery. Hanging on a high cliff, visitors must climb the slope on foot or by mule to reach it.
The monastery was built in 1692 by Gyalse Tenzin Rabgye, who is believed to be the reincarnation of Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche), whom is said to fly here from Tibet on the back of a tigress. He then meditated for three months in the cave at Taktshang, before being subjugated to the Eight Categories of evil spirits and converted the valley to Buddhism.
Guru Rinpoche then returned to Tibet and transmitted his teaching to his disciples. One of his disciples Pelkyi returned to Taktshang to meditate, and he named the cave where he meditated as Pelkyi’s Cave.
Pelkyi is believed to have gone to Nepal where he later died. His body miraculously return to Taktshang Monastery under the grace of deity Dorje Legpa and is now sealed inside the chortle standing in the room on the left at the top of the entrance way.
Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Alberta, Canada
Located about 18km north and west of Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada, is one of the world’s oldest, largest and best preserved buffalo jumps known to exist – the Head-Smashed-In. For 5,500 years, the native Americans killed bison by chasing them off this cliff and then carve up the bison carcasses in the camp below.
Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981 and home of a museum of Blackfoot culture, the Head-Smashed-In buffalo jump is a remarkable testimony of prehistoric life. The interpretive centre contains five distinct levels depicting the ecology, mythology, lifestyle and technology of Blackfoot peoples within the context of available archaeological evidence, presented from the viewpoints of both aboriginal peoples and European archaeological science.
The Ancient City of Ephesus in Turkey
Ephesus, an ancient Greek city and later a major Roman city, is located in the present-day Selcuk, Izmir Province of Turkey. It was one of the twelve cities of the Ionian League during the Classical Greek era, and in the Roman period, it was for many years the second largest city of the Roman Empire.
Ephesus was famous for the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the Ancient World, which is represented by one inconspicuous column. Ephesus was also one of the seven churches of Asia that are cited in the Book of Revelation, and the Gospel of John may have been written here.
Also, the Library of Celsus, which once held nearly 12,000 scrolls, was originally built in 125 AD in memory of Tiberius Julius Celsus Polemaeanus, an ancient Greek who served a governor of Roman Asia in the Roman Empire. He paid for the construction with his own money, and is buried in a sarcophagus beneath it.
Today, the ruins of Ephesus are a favorite international and local tourist attraction, partly owing to their easy access from Adnan Menderes Airport and via the port of Kusadasi.
Throat Singers of Tuva, Siberia
A rich throat singing tradition survives in Tuva, southern Siberia. Throat singing, also called “chömei” (“ö” is pronounced like “o” and “e” simultaneously), means that a singer elicits a fundamental tone that allows overtones to be extracted. It is a style that simultaneously combines two or more pitches over a fundamental pitch to create sounds mimicking nature. A singer can simultaneously sing with two, and sometimes even with four voices.
Throat singing is very popular among the Siberian male herdsmen because they have little variation in their daily activities, and they are able to practice in the broad, open fields while they work, hence amusing themselves and their families.
Although Siberian groups today make use of stringed instruments, drums, and voices in ensembles, the ancient tradition of single vocalists still survives.