Strangest Towns & Communities in the World
From a Spanish ‘Smurf town’, to an American village where residents talk to the dead: there are some truly strange places in the world that make for interesting alternatives to well-trodden tourist destinations.
The town of Hallstatt in Western Austria is like something out of a fairytale: a UNESCO World heritage site, dotted with winding, cobbled alleyways, charming 16th-century houses, and surrounded by stunning mountain ranges, beautiful evergreen forests, and a large, picturesque lake.
In recent years constructing large-scale imitations of iconic Western landmarks has been a growing trend in China: most famously the 354 ft Eiffel Tower in the city of Tianducheng, and, n 2012, a Chinese mining company in Guangdong Province, decided to build their own version of Hallstatt, constructing replicas of the quaint, alpine houses and even their own version of their striking, central church!
Setenil de las Bodegas, Spain
Setenil de las Bodegas
Built on the site of a former Arab fortress (of which just one turret remains) this beautiful Southern Spanish town was built into a network of caves and cliffs in order to protect against invading forces, and it remains largely unchanged from its original state, with its winding streets, and charming whitewashed homes and cafes, shaded from the sun by large, overhanging rocks.
This small town in New Mexico has become a mecca for alien enthusiasts since the summer of 1947 when it is alleged that a UFO crashed into a nearby ranch. It is now home to The International UFO Museum and Research Center, and myriad UFO-themed shops and cafes, (including a UFO-shaped Mcdonalds), as well as the annual, UFO Summer Festival, which is the largest event of its kind in the world, attracting close to 40,000 visitors.
This pretty yet unassuming village in Southern Spain was transformed in 2011 when the entirety of its buildings were painted bright blue by Sony’s Spanish wing, as a publicity stunt to promote their upcoming ‘Smurfs’ movie. It was originally due to be returned back to its original whitewashed state shortly after, but instead, the village held a referendum in which the majority of residents voted to keep it blue: a decision somewhat vindicated by the fact that their annual visitor numbers have since risen from around 9,000 to nearly 100,000.
Lily Dale, USA
Lily Dale, USA
This tiny village of 300 residents in upstate New York is home to the world's largest concentration of mediums (those who claim to be able to communicate with the dead). The town gained infamy following the 2010, HBO documentary No One Dies In Lily Dale, and it has since become somewhat of a cult, tourist destination, with visitors able to make appointments with mediums, or visit one of the several temples located there.
Thames Town, China
Thames Town in China
Another bizarre western architectural imitation in China is Thames Town: a replica of a British Market town situated in a Shanghai suburb. Featuring London-style red phone boxes, faux Tudor architecture and even a pub and fish & chip shop, the town, though empty of residents, is popular both with tourists and also with wedding parties who use its quaint features as backdrops for their photos.
Maharishi Vedic City, USA
Maharishi Vedic City
A philosophy rooted in ancient Indian teachings: Vedic design promotes the use of natural materials, renewable energy, and architecture which maximises natural light and fresh air in order to promote the well-being of residents.
It is a philosophy popularised by Indian guru, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and in 1991, he partnered with a group of real-estate developers to purchase a large amount of Iowa farmland, and began the construction of America’s first ‘Verdic City’.
It was officially incorporated as Iowa’s newest city a decade later, and since then has grown considerably, now home to over 200 buildings including The Raj, a traditional, Ayurvedic spa and health centre; The Maharishi University of Management which is made up of several golden, domed-roof structures, and The Maharishi Vedic Observatory, an open-air observatory encompassing numerous masonry sundials.
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London based writer and editor with a passion for travel. Loves the excitement of exploring fast-paced, urban destinations with great food, drink and nightlife!