As you might have picked up by now, I'm a fan of the weird, strange, ooky-spooky, out-of-the-box travel destinations. I must have googled "World's Strangest Tourist Attractions" about a thousand times before finally deciding to get to the root of the question.
I arrived in the central city of Hue, Vietnam with one thing on my mind: the giant abandoned waterpark that had evolved into the area’s main tourist attraction.
I went out of my way to reach this otherwise sleepy place because I knew, before I even set foot in Vietnam, that I wanted to visit the bones of this elusive park. It was one of the odder attractions on my bucket list when I started my solo backpacking journey in Asia.
I’m the type of traveler that can only handle so many popular tourist attractions before I feel weighed down by the crowds. I was starting to cross that threshold. I had been to the temples, the islands, the museums, and just about everything in between. Now, at the tail-end of my adventure, I was in the market for something different.
It got me wondering about what other strange, odd, or weird tourist attractions there are in the world and what makes them so different from everywhere else. I discovered that there are way more weird attractions than there are normal ones out there and they’re some of the most interesting places to visit on the planet.
1. Thuy Tien Lake Abandoned Waterpark (Hue, Vietnam)
I have to start off with the strange attraction that kicked off my interest in the subject: Thuy Thien Lake Waterpark. Whether you’re a bando fanatic, a photographer, or just a tourist looking for something unique to do on an afternoon in Vietnam, you will love this place. I happened to be all three and, somehow, this abandoned waterpark surpassed my expectations.
It’s that magic combination of eerily beautiful and accessible. After walking through the jungle for a while, you’ll walk right onto the waterpark’s grounds. For less than 1 USD, we could wander around every part of the park. From the waterslides, all the way up through the proverbial three-story dragon in the middle of the lake.
The creepiest part of visiting this strange attraction is that in the back of your mind, you’re always thinking about the crocodiles who allegedly call this place home.
The story goes that when the waterpark was in operation, they had an aquarium where they raised crocodiles. When the park closed, they simply left them behind to fend for themselves. Most people believe that this story is nothing more than a complete rumor and that the crocs were removed. Personally, I didn’t see any crocodiles during my visit.
As with visiting any abandoned place, there are risks. You should wear closed-toed shoes and keep your wits about you. Also, it goes without saying, but do not ride down the waterslides into the black, musty, long-uncleaned waters of the pool!
2. Island Of The Dolls (Xochimilco, Mexico)
If you’re looking for a proper scare while traveling, look no further than the Island of the Dolls in Xochimilco, Mexico. It’s exactly what it sounds like, an island where creepy little dolls hang from every tree and sit in every corner. The story behind how the island came to makes the island even more disturbing.
Rumor has it that a young girl was found washed up on the shores of this tiny island. The island’s caretaker, Don Julian Santana Barrera, was heartbroken when he couldn’t save her. He later found a doll floating in the water, figured it must be hers, and hung it up in a tree to pay tribute to the drowned child. The hobby kind of snowballed from there. He started hanging more and more dolls for the little girl. Soon, the entire island was covered in creepy lifeless toys.
Some people believe that the spirit of the drowned girl possesses the dolls of the island to make them move around and open their eyes to visitors. Whether the dolls are possessed or not, this still has to be one of the scariest tourist attractions in the world. Especially at night.
3. The Museum Of Broken Relationships (Zagreb, Croatia)
You get cheated on. Dumped. Left at the altar. Abandoned in a puddle of your own tears. After tending to the bruises on your heart, you’re left with one simple, and terrifying question — what do you do with the stuff? The love notes your partner wrote you or the mug you bought on your first weekend away together. Every time you look at it, it just evokes all those painful memories, so where do you put it?
Well, that’s the idea behind the Museum of Broken Relationships in Zagreb.
The brokenhearted donate the most intimate positions of their past relationship and tell the story of its background. This museum holds some of the strangest collections in the world. With things like
A 27-year-old scab
A sailor’s cap
A gingerbread cookie
And even a black dildo
If you’re getting bored of history lessons or art museums, this place provides a nice, odd break from it all.
4. Electric Ladyland (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
I’m sure you’ve been to an art museum or two in your lifetime, but have you ever encountered a museum that’s like stepping directly into an acid trip? It’s hardly surprising that this place exists in Amsterdam of all places.
It’s actually called the world’s first ‘Museum of Fluorescent Art’, but trust me, this is a trippy, wacky attraction that’s like drugs without the drugs.
5. The Hand Of The Desert (Atacama Desert, Chile)
By its very nature, deserts are supposed to be desolate, which is probably why Mario Irarrázabal’s ‘Hand Of The Desert’ sculpture seems so strangely out of place. It looks as if a giant buried person was reaching their way out of the ground. Not to mention that this sculpture is massive, standing at 36 feet tall. For reference, that’s even higher than an NFL goal post⁵.
This is one of those attractions that’s absolutely perfect for photographers looking to capture something otherworldly and strange on their trip.
6. The Gum Wall (Seattle, Washington)
Most people don’t want to get near the sticky, ooey-gooey remnants of chewed gum, but if you’re visiting Seattle, it might actually be on your itinerary. The multi-colored Gum Wall is hidden down a side street of Seattle’s Pike Place Market and it’s one of the most popular spots for tourists to snap a photo. In front of the city’s pre-chewed wallpaper. A little gross, but nonetheless, a staple of the city.
The Gum Wall has been in the works for almost 30 years now. When local performers would come to Seattle, they would stick their used gum on the wall before their performances⁶. Today, people always leave behind their own chewed wad to keep the tradition going. The Gum Wall is Seattle’s version of turning trash into a local treasure.
When you get down to brass tacks, there are actually way more weird tourist attractions out there existing in the world than normal ones. You just have to do a little digging.
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Isla de Las Muñecas. Accessed on January 17, 2023
Thuy Tien Lake: Explore The Abandoned Water Park In Hue. Accessed on January 17, 2023
Brokenships: Explore. Accessed on January 17, 2023
Electric Ladyland. Accessed on January 17, 2023
Why There’s a Giant Hand in Chile’s Atacama Desert. Accessed on January 17, 2023
The Gum Wall. Accessed on January 17, 2023