There are places far from the usual sandy beaches or comfortable cafes where travelers can explore the extreme. These superlative destinations are not for the faint of heart but rather for those with an adventurous spirit. They are as over-the-top as they are awe-inspiring, and you will wonder why you seem to have the place to yourself. Going beyond the ordinary is often a good choice.
You may not find a Starbucks in these uncommon parts of the earth located across multiple continents and seas. But you might discover that getting out of your comfort zone is just what the doctor ordered. These surprisingly accessible and outrageous destinations will both thrill and inspire you.
The Coldest Inhabited Place in the World
In Russia, the Siberian village of Oymyakon may be the coldest inhabited town on Earth, but its community of 500 hardy souls likes it that way. It has no hotels despite an increase in tourism, so visitors are warmly welcomed to stay in local homes. The subarctic backdrop is scenic and other-worldly, yet it hosts a colorful culture with a vibe of its own.
How cold is it? Winter temperatures often hover around -45°F, though colder temperatures have been recorded. In the summer, visitors are often surprised by the mild climate, with temperatures in July reaching the 70s. The region is known to have one of the greatest annual temperature fluctuations in the world.
Why should I go? Visiting the snow-blanketed village of Oymyakon is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, providing a unique glimpse into the character of a forbidden land. You can go ice fishing with the locals, snowshoe in the wilderness, or hang out with a reindeer herd.
Is it easy to get there? You can easily catch a flight from Moscow to the nearby city of Yakutsk. From there, you simply hire someone to drive you over the infamous Road of Bones. It's a 44-mile picturesque journey, so be sure to bring your camera.
The Hottest Place in the World
Death Valley, California, conjures up images of a barren landscape peppered with the sun-bleached bones of careless sojourners. Indeed, it earned its moniker from days gone by when unlucky pioneers found themselves unprepared to traverse through what seemed like an alien land. Death Valley National Park is actually one of the most beautiful and least appreciated national parks in the world.
How hot is it? There is no doubt that Death Valley is a sizzling place with daytime temperatures sometimes as high as 120°F. It drops to a balmy 90°F at night. Its lack of trees also makes it the perfect location for stargazing. As a matter of fact, the International Dark Sky Association has recognized the park as a prime spot for such activities.
Why should I go? Despite its morbid name, Death Valley is teeming with life and indigenous plants. Wildlife including desert bighorn sheep, roadrunners, and jackrabbits flourish there. You will be surprised by the awe-inspiring beauty of the sand dunes as the sun rises or sets behind them. There are also a few more tourist-oriented areas and Hollywood-inspired pitstops along the way if you want to stop for a while.
Is it easy to get there? The park is only a few hours from Las Vegas and Los Angeles. There are no airports or bus tours within the park itself, so it is best explored by car. Your car radio can provide a narrated tour as you go.
The Wettest Place in the World
Umbrellas are big business in the small eastern Indian village of Mawsynram. The endless rain during its six-month-long monsoon season has earned it the designation as the wettest place on earth. Many of the older folks carry an indigenous rain shield called a "knup" to keep dry. It's an effective cover woven from bamboo with a cone-shaped head cover and an elongated base to protect the back from rain.
How wet is it? It is no surprise Mawsynram holds the record for the wettest place anywhere according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Moisture from the Bay of Bengal condenses over the Mawsynram region in the state of Meghalaya, producing plenty of heavy rainfall each year. The average annual rainfall amount is an astonishing 467 inches of rain. In comparison, Louisiana averages about 60 to 70 inches of rain every year.
Why should I go? The result of all the precipitation is a green, lush landscape bursting with waterfalls and striking flora. When the rain stops, the orchids bloom and exotic bird species come out to play. You can explore the thousands of limestone caves carved out by the rainwater and find treasures at the local marketplace.
Is it easy to get there? Mawsynram can be easily accessed by train or bus from the Indian city of Shillong. If you are in a hurry, the Umroi Airport of Shillong offers direct flights to Mawsynram.
The Most Electric Place in the World
Lake Catatumbo, in northwestern Venezuela, is the site of an atmospheric phenomenon you won't find anywhere else. It offers a spectacular light show in the form of thunderstorms. Scientists still are not sure exactly what causes these events even though the first mention of the lightning was made back in the late 16th century by poet Lope de Vega.
How electric is it? Known as Relámpago del Catatumbo, or "the everlasting storm," the lightning show occurs about 150 times every year, as it has for centuries. Once it starts, visitors are witness to as many as 300 lightning strikes per hour. The phenomenon sometimes continues for up to ten hours a day. The perfect spot for observation is where Lake Catatumbo meets Lake Maracaibo and the electrical extravaganza is the star of the show.
Why should I go? Hearing the low-growling thunder as it approaches at nightfall and watching the first gigantic bolt leap to earth is an experience you will be talking about for years to come. You will be mesmerized as nature's electrical show slowly builds until it lights up the sky.
Is it easy to get there? It is easy to witness the Catatumba Lightning when it is arranged through a specialized tour guide. The optimum time to visit is during the wet season, from May to November, when you are most likely to be treated to Mother Nature's magic.
The Most Active Volcano in the World
There are almost 1,500 active volcanoes in different parts of the world today. The Big Island of Hawaii is host to Mount Kilauea, the most active of them all. The shield-type volcano has been erupting on a continuous basis since 1983 with previous sporadic eruptions recorded since 1918. The name "Kilauea" in the Hawaiian language means "much spreading" which seems to be an appropriate translation.
How active is it? Kilauea is a separate volcano than the others in the region comprised of its own conduit and vent system. It rises to 4,190 feet above sea level, covering about 14 percent of the Big Island's land area. In May of 2018, Mount Kilauea dramatically erupted and spewed lava into populated areas following an earthquake on the island. Though no one was hurt, the volcano let its awesome power be known.
Why should I go? The Kilauea volcano is part of Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park, where travelers can spend a night or more camping and exploring. You can stay in the rustic Volcano Village situated just outside of the park where quaint rental cottages are nestled in a relaxing and tranquil rainforest.
Is it easy to get there? How close you can get to Mount Kilauea depends on how active the lava flow is at that time. You can take a guided hike or witness its glory from the ocean on a boat tour. You might want to see the volcano from a distance from Kalapana's public viewing area or arrange a bird's eye view from a helicopter tour of the Big Island.