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From underground fairs to bike-eating trees, here are some strange gems you should see

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IF you get giddy at the thought of a bus trip to the next town perhaps you should think about broadening your horizons.

And a new book could prove just the ticket to a world of wonder.

Atlas Obscura, by Joshua Foer, Dylan Thuras and Ella Morton, is a stunning guide to scores of incredible sights and little-known treasures from around the globe.

From the self-mummifying monks of Japan, to the temple for the souls of insects that have died for science, there are countless jaw-dropping and eye-popping gems to discover.

Here are 10 of the most unusual and wondrous offerings.


1 Root Bridges of Cherrapunji, Meghalaya, India

These centuries-old bridges look like something a Star Wars Ewok might build. The local Khasi tribe trains the roots of rubber trees across rivers, then adds handrails. It can take around 20 years before they can be used, but once built they continue to grow for up to 500 years. Thankfully the new Forth Bridge doesn’t use the same technique.


2 Hanging Coffins, Sagada, Philipines

Famous hanging coffins (Deddeda)
Famous hanging coffins (Deddeda)

The people of Igorot Sagada clearly don’t place convenience high on their list of “Things To Bear In Mind When Someone Dies”. For 2,000 years they’ve been laying their loved ones to rest in coffins on brackets halfway up a cliff. Now rows of caskets, some hundreds of years old hang from the rock, making it possibly the strangest cemetery on earth.


3 Turda Salt Mine, Cluj, Romania

Turda salt mine
Turda salt mine

What else would you do with a disused, water-filled salt mine but transform it into a subterranean fairground and spa? The 260 x 130-foot space at the base of a vast shaft includes a lake with boats, a ferris wheel and a mini-golf course. Probably the most fun you’ll ever have in a salt mine.


4 Jellyfish Lake, Eil Malk, Palau

For most folk the idea of going for a swim with a million jellyfish would be as appealing as . . . well, going for a swim with a million
jellyfish. But the creatures in a saltwater lake on the Pacific island archipelago of Palau are less painful than your average jellyfish, with a sting that is too soft to bother humans.


5 The Bike Tree, Vashon, USA

The Bike Tree
The Bike Tree

The story of a tree that ate child’s bike sounds like something from a horror film. The story goes that a boy was given it by locals after his house burned down, killing his father. He left it against a tree in the woods. And it’s still there today – albeit 12 feet off the ground.


6 Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Waikato, New Zealand

Glowworm caves
Glowworm caves

If there’s one thing bound to fill your heart with romance it’s a bioluminescent fungus gnat. When the glowing beasties light up a water-filled cave system with magical, glittering blue “stars” it really is something special. Visitors can tour the cave in a boat, slipping silently beneath thousands of beautiful flickering lights.


7 Fly Geyser, Nevada, USA

Fly Geyser
Fly Geyser

These multi-coloured “nobbles” look like something a crazed artist came up with, but they’re the result of a mining company’s mistake. In 1964 it capped a well, but the cap didn’t hold and water began spewing out, over the years calcium carbonate settled on the surface and grew into the incredible geyser.


8 Watson Lake Sign Post Forest, Yukon, Canada

Watson Lake
Watson Lake Sign Post

There’s something strangely beautiful about an forest of signs. It was started by an injured American soldier in 1942, who was tasked with building signs in the area. Pining for home, he sneakily put up a sign that read “Danville, Illinois: 2835 miles”. The idea caught on with others and now there are a whopping 72,000 signs!


9 Cathedral of Junk, Austin, USA

Cathedral of junk
Cathedral of junk

What started a bunch of hubcaps and a fence in 1988 is now a vast multi-storey structure with endless nooks and crannies. The man behind it is Vince Hannemann, who has added everything from bike frames and type writers to phones and rubber ducks to his cathedral. Visitors bring junk to donate to the ever-growing project. One man’s trash really is another man’s treasure.


Atlas Obscura, £25, Workman, available from September 20.


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