With the prospect of the end of the world looming over us in 2012, travelers should do well to make the most of this year. All jokes aside, 2012 might as well be the year of wacky travel, and even if your travel destinations are usually vanilla, you should definitely slip in some weirdness too. Some places in the world are simply so outlandish that they are worth visiting based on that fact alone. If you want to see or do something unusual, you might consider taking a trip to some of the weirdest travel destinations for 2012.
Door to Hell, Derweze, Turkmenistan
The tiny village of Derweze in the Kara Kum desert wouldn’t be the sort of place most travelers would be interested in. However, the area is very rich in natural gas, and in 1971 geologists stumbled upon a gas-filled cavern which promptly collapsed, leaving behind a gaping hole in the desert. In order to avoid a poisonous discharge, the hole was lit, but contrary to expectations the gas didn’t burn off in a few days – it is still burning today, and the deep, fire-belching hole is a magnificent (and rather creepy) sight to see.
Ale’s Stones, Scania, Sweden
Prehistoric megaliths are always surrounded by an aura of mystery, but Ale’s Stones in southern Sweden takes the cake in the weirdness department. The 59 boulders are arranged in the shape of a 60 meter-long ship, and they are thought to mark the burial site of legendary king Ale. The stones date back to the Iron Age, and some theories claim that it was a memorial to shipwreck victims.
Mount Roraima, Venezuela/Brazil/Guyana
Mount Roraima, located at the triple border of Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana, is one of South America’s famous tepui, the houses of gods, peculiar table top mountains that were supposedly the inspiration for Sir Conan Doyle’s novel The Lost World. Tepuis are completely isolate from the surrounding area, so the flora and fauna that thrives on them is often unique. Mount Roraima is the highest tepui in the Pakaraima chain.
The northwestern edge of the Plain of Thessaly is home to a surreal landscape of huge stone pillars rising from a valley, surrounded by clouds. The stone pillars would be an interesting enough sight as they are, but the fact that they have 14th centuries monasteries perched at the top makes them downright fascinating. Only six monasteries remain out of 24, all of them built in the early Middle Ages when the monastic lifestyle was far more widespread and dangerous than now (access to the monasteries was possible only through ropes that hauled up goods and people, and they would be replaced only if the ‘Lord let them break’).
Goblin Valley State Park, Utah, USA
The ominously named Goblin Valley State Park is home to one of the strangest landscapes in the world. The park is known for its hoodoos, tall, thin and weirdly shaped spires of stones rising in a desert-like area. The mushroom-shaped rocks and grotesque spires will make you feel like you’re on another planet, and you can bring a tent and get up to some extraterrestrial camping.