8 Unusual Organized Tours for an Outstanding Vacation

Are your usual travel plans seeming a little flat? Do you want a travel experience that is truly conversation-worthy when you return home? Do you crave something out-of-the-box, but can’t quite put your finger on it? Read on below for some suggestions of amazing tours that are out of the ordinary- to varying degrees. Some will put a different perspective on familiar sites or cities. Others may have you saying- they have a tour for that?

1. Disney’s Keys to the Kingdom, Orlando

One of the first rules of being a magician is to never reveal the secrets behind your tricks. Well, the Magic Kingdom in Orlando turns that whole concept on its ear by providing a tour to its underground tunnel system (Utilidor) – which is where much of their magic happens. If you’ve been to the Magic Kingdom- think about it; have you ever seen anything the least bit utilitarian (i.e. supplies traveling) or un-magic? The complex Utilidor system is an intricate, minutely detailed system that is the conduit for Disney Cast Members (staff) to whisk from one location to another, supplies to be delivered and for garbage to be transported. It’s a whole other world underground at Disney World- complete with cafeterias, a hairdresser as well as a myriad of offices. The traveler who has a keen appreciation for well-executed logistics will enjoy this 7 hour tour, which includes lunch. It’s Disney from a whole new perspective.

Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com
Katherine Welles / Shutterstock.com

2. Chernobyl, Ukraine

While touring the site of a nuclear disaster may not top everyone’s travel wish list, those wishing to gain insight into the historic 1986 Chernobyl disaster will be pleased to know that there are a number of organized tours open to the public. There are one day and two day tours offered (some include transportation to and from Kiev). Depending on your tour company, expect to see the village of Chernobyl and to travel through various checkpoints. You’ll see the abandoned town of Pripyat. Groups are taken through the Exclusion Zone (which is closed to the general public, but open to tour groups) and then brought into the Chernobyl Power Plant itself to witness the site of the disaster.

Chernobyl

3. Helter Skelter Tour, Los Angeles

In Los Angeles you can go on a guided tour that takes you through the sites of some of the grisly Tate/LaBianca murders committed by the Manson family. The tour delves into the minds of the killers and victims themselves in the hours prior to the murders. These cases continue to fascinate the public to this day, and this tour explores some of the reasons why.

crime scene

4. Funky Chicken Coop Tour, Texas

This organized tour is a little different than other tours for a number of reasons. For one thing- it is a once-a-year event. For another, it was developed as a promotional tool of sorts. The annual tour was launched by not-for-profit Urban Poultry Association of Texas, Inc. in order to raise public awareness around urban farming. The tour has a home base with family-friendly activities, and proceeds to tour around several urban chicken coops in the Austin area, where the public can view urban poultry (and other) farming first hand.

Photo by: Austin Funky Chicken Coop Tour
Photo by: Austin Funky Chicken Coop Tour

5. Train with a Sumo Wrestler, Japan

Ever wonder what it would be like to be a Sumo Wrestler? In Japan, there are a number of tours intended to acquaint you with a morning in a typical day in the life of a Sumo Wrestler by immersing you in the experience. The art of Sumo Wrestling is steeped in centuries of tradition, deep history and regard for ritual. The tour begins in a traditional Sumo stable, where wrestlers live and train together. On this tour, your day starts with the traditional early morning Sumo Wrestling practice, where you’ll watch wrestlers have at it, and then have a go in the ring yourself. After your wrestling, you’ll eat the traditional Chanko meal (which is a mix of protein and veggies) which Sumo Wrestlers eat every day (these wrestlers reportedly eat about 10,000 calories in a single meal) to maintain their training regime. You’ll share the meal with the Oyakata (master) who will field any questions about what it is really like to be a Sumo Wrestler.

Sumo Training

6. Tragic History Tour, Los Angeles

Unfortunately, often with fame comes a lot of tragedy and promising young lives are cut all too short. So it is no surprise that star-studded Hollywood has been the scene for a number of star-related deaths and scandals. There are a few organized tours that let you be celebrity voyeurs, and get your fix of celebrity gossip, complete with guided commentary. The Dearly Departed, Tragic History Tour brings you to 75 different sites over the course of an afternoon. See where Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston and River Pheonix died. See the sites of the scandals that surrounded Hugh Grant, Rhianna and Chris Brown. With a nod of decidedly dark humor, this tour is delivered from a “tomb buggy” (a bus). It’s the perfect tour for the celeb-obsessed.

The Viper Room

7. Red Light District Tour, Amsterdam

There is nowhere quite like Amsterdam, the ultimate melting pot of all vices. Why not benefit from a little local commentary from an expert guide while taking in the “sights”. One tour company (named, plainly Amsterdam Red Light District Tours) has a tagline of ‘History, Hookers and Hashish: we have an awesome tour for you’. Delivered in English by local Dutch guides, guests of this tour will see the first condom shop in the world, peep shows, the infamous Amsterdam pot-smoking coffee shops, prostitutes (including the Museum of Prostitution) and appropriately, the Hangover Information Centre.

Red Light District Tour, Amsterdam

8. Crop Circle Tours, UK

Paranormal believers unite! You have likely heard of crop circles, but did you know that they have a high season? (which interestingly peaks in the middle of high traffic summer vacation season). There are a number of tours that take you out to tour recently formed circles. If you’d like to extend your extra-terrestrial tour time, then combine the crop circles with a “Magical Mystery tour” which hits all the local crop circles, but also takes you to see Stonehenge and Avebury, which borders the Warminster Triangle, where there has reportedly been strange sights, sounds, ghostly/unexplained apparitions- not to mention a very strong electro-magnetic field, which is requisite it would seem for UFO encounters.

Crop Circle

The Top Hostels to Stay (and Save) When in Europe

Despite what the movies may have shown you, hostels can be a great and affordable way to travel across Europe. They’re quick, efficient, and provide a no-thrills attempt at necessities. That’s not to say they’re rundown or dangerous, simply bare-bones, and only offering amenities at a fee. For instance, breakfast, towels, or a room that doesn’t share a bathroom. (Don’t worry, you still get your own bed and fresh clean sheets, as well as a place to lock up your belongings.)

By staying in hostels, many travelers have been able to afford longer vacations, while being able to see more sights. But aside from practical reasons, hostels serve as an interesting way to meet fellow travelers, to learn about the local scene, see what types of events might be taking place, and so on. In order to have your very own top-notch European experience, consider staying at any of these hostels:

6. Lavender Circus Hostel -Budapest, Hungary

Travelers can sleep in quirky vintage décor at this location. All while gaining access to some serious amenities on a budget. (Rooms average around 14 Euros per night, per person.) The well known stop hosts various common quarters, a kitchen (with free tea and coffee!), and doesn’t charge for towels. When traveling you can get a great night’s rest, get yourself clean, and even manage some relaxing time before heading back out to see the sights – which are located within walking distance of the Lavender Circus Hostel. Oh, and did we mention there’s free WiFi? Perfect for Skyping everyone back home and letting them know what a stellar time you’re having! Sounds like a win for anyone wanting to check out the beautiful Budapest sights.

Photo by: Lavender Circus Hostel
Photo by: Lavender Circus Hostel

5. The Babushka Grand Hostel -Odessa, Ukraine

Coming in with an even cheaper budget comes the Babushka Grand Hostel. (We’re giving them extra points for the name.) Guests can stay privately for 11 Euros, or share with others for only 7 Euros – a bargain in hostel terms, especially for such a clean and well-maintained facility. It also comes with air conditioning, board games, and a kitchen that’s fully equipped for cooking. A perfect combination for all your traveling needs – add in sightseeing to nearby stops, like the town’s main streets and a beautiful opera house. And there’s no curfew, so you won’t get locked out for losing track of time.

Photo by: Babushka Grand Hostel
Photo by: Babushka Grand Hostel

4. The Independente Hostel -Lisbon, Portugal

Known as a “luxury” hostel, The Independente offers up seemingly fancy décor, but without charging a fancy price. The service, stay, and experience is all said to be pretty fancy, too. The kind of combination budget travelers are constantly on the lookout for. Dorms can be rented for around 11 Euros per person, with suites coming in at 85 Euros per night. Visitors can tend to business at the fax and copy machine, or stick to touristy activities and hop on a nearby train. After all they’re only minutes away from sights like the Tagus river, downtown districts, castles, and more. It’s also set on the boarder between two popular living districts, giving visitors access to either without adding excessive travel time.

Photo by: The Independente Hostel
Photo by: The Independente Hostel

3. YHA St. Briavels Castle -Gloucestershire, England

This stop brings together the perfect mixture of old classics with new trends. Not only is it an affordable hostel, it’s an 800-year-old castle. And it’s even prettier than you imagined. Each room holds its own set of charm, some even with rumors of being haunted. Check out their free library, rent a bike and head to the nearby park, or order a meal at their on-site restaurant. Staying in a castle doesn’t come quite as cheap, however, stays start at 24 Euros, while private rooms come in at 74 Euros and above. However, it’s a rate that still comes in much cheaper than most castle visits.

Photo by: YHA St. Briavels Castle
Photo by: YHA St. Briavels Castle

2. Kadir’s Tree Houses -Olympos, Turkey

Yes this place is as cool as it sounds. With essentially cabin-like dwellings, guests can enjoy an adventure – and a comfy bed – all in one stop. Bonus: it comes with an awesome forest view, a perfect contrast to all that city walking, and is only a short trip away from Mt. Olympos, along with beaches and plenty of water. Kadir’s Tree House comes in at 12 Euros a night (or 22 for a private room) and accepts credit cards – a welcome amenity in the world of hostels. Guests can park without worry, lock their items away in safe storage, or cool down at the bar. And even though its views might suggest otherwise, it’s still close to the town’s shopping center.

Photo by: Hotels.com
Photo by: Hotels.com

1. Kex Hostel -Reykjavik, Iceland

This stop is the perfect hostel for anyone looking to get away from Europe’s traditional classic feel. Rather than its seasoned counterparts, the Kex Hostel comes with a modern twist, even offering up eco tactics, such as using recycled furniture. (Not that it looks it!) Its designer searched high and low (furniture came in from anywhere from Pittsburgh, to all across Europe) in order to create this incredible eclectic and modern mix. And it’s been a hit. Folks are traveling from all over in order to stay at the hostel (at 21 Euros per night), have a drink at the bar, work out in the on-site gym, or even have their hair trimmed at the barbershop. Yep, it’s on site too – which is a perfect way to catch up on your personal maintenance while on vacation.

Photo by: Kex Hostel
Photo by: Kex Hostel

10 Countries Travelers Should Avoid

Travelers talk a lot about their must-see places; top-ten lists abound, often listing the same destinations over and over. Almost everyone has a bucket list. Less talked about, however, are the countries that travelers would do better to avoid—especially for the time being. Whether it’s political unrest, economic turmoil or concerns about disease outbreaks, you might want to take these 10 countries off your 2016 travel itinerary—and they should probably stay off your bucket list until further notice.

10. Sierra Leone

The countries of Africa’s west coast, including Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, were the epicenter of the 2014 Ebola epidemic. While Guinea and Liberia have been removed from some lists of travel advisories, Sierra Leone remains on the U.S. Department of State’s watch list. Although the agency has issued a general warning for parts of West Africa, which include Sierra Leone, the coastal country is the only one to have a separate travel warning of its own. A new cluster of Ebola cases broke out in August 2015 and, although authorities have been working to contain the outbreak, the continued presence of the virus makes travel to Sierra Leone dangerous. Ebola is highly contagious, so the U.S. advises against all non-essential travel to the country, as new infections may occur. Many medical services are either unavailable, temporarily suspended or provided at ill-equipped hospitals and clinics. Ambulances are generally unavailable.

Sierra Leone

9. Bangladesh

In early November 2015, a funeral in Bangladesh was bombed by a terrorist faction. The bombing occurred during a stretch of four days when violence seemed to uptick around the globe: Beirut and Paris were also under attack. While the U.S. Department of State’s current travel warning expires early in 2016, it seems unlikely that concerns about extremist violence in Bangladesh will dissipate any time soon. Since 2014, a string of attacks have seen both Bangladeshi nationals and foreign visitors killed by terrorist violence. Throughout 2015, writers, publishers and journalists were also threatened, and at least one American blogger was murdered in Bangladesh. The threat of violence against visitors appears to remain credible. Since the controversial 2014 elections, there has been ongoing political turmoil as well, with protests and violence occurring in the spring of 2015.

Dmitry Chulov / Shutterstock.com
Dmitry Chulov / Shutterstock.com

8. Kenya

On April 2, 2015, 147 people were killed when gunmen opened fire on a college in Nairobi. The terrorist group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility, and the attacks are part of a larger narrative of extremist violence that have plagued Kenya since 2011, with attacks becoming more prevalent from 2013 on. Kenya faces threats from insurgent groups originating in Somalia, the country’s next-door-neighbor, among others. Although many people visit Kenya without incident every year, there does seem to be growing violence, with many attacks directed against locations that tourists frequent, such as airports and resorts. Even nightclubs and shopping areas may be targeted, as well as public transportation and religious institutions, all of which may be used or visited by travelers. Kenyan security has managed to detect or stop other plots, but heightened security may cause disruptions for travelers, especially those of Somali descent.

Nick Fox / Shutterstock.com
Nick Fox / Shutterstock.com

7. Somalia

Somalia is a “failed” state and entered into a state of near-lawlessness in the 1990s. Although the country does have a democratic government, it is weak and not recognized as legitimate by many. As such, the Somali state is often ineffectual. Large areas are controlled by extremist groups such as Al-Shabaab, an al-Qaeda affiliate, which has planned and carried out many attacks, including a December 25, 2014, operation at Mogadishu International Airport. Many countries do not maintain embassies and so cannot help their citizens should they decide to visit Somalia. Due to the country’s weak government, many Somalis are suffering, particularly during an ongoing famine in 2015, which heightens risks of violence. Somali waters have become notorious as a refuge for pirates, who have been known to attack in international waters out to 1,000 nautical miles. Somalia remains incredibly dangerous today.

Free Wind 2014 / Shutterstock.com
Free Wind 2014 / Shutterstock.com

6. Venezuela

Tensions between supporters of the policies of Hugo Chavez and his successor, Nicolas Maduro, and opposition parties continue to cause civil unrest in Caracas and other areas of Venezuela. Chavista policies have led to chronic shortages of basic goods and high inflation rates. Both have contributed to violent crime in Venezuela; the country is the homicide capital of the world and “express kidnappings,” where victims are held for only a few hours while their loved ones gather funds to free them, are common. Demonstrations and riots continue as people protest the problematic policies that have caused living conditions to deteriorate and crime to soar. Armed robberies and other forms of street crime also occur frequently. Upscale neighborhoods and tourist areas are frequently targets for crime, so while many continue to visit and conduct business in Venezuela with little issue, visitors must be aware of the risks to their safety.

Caracas, Venezuela

5. Turkey

Although tourism to Istanbul, Turkey’s capital, has been increasing over recent years and interest in visiting Turkey in general has been rising, so too has the risk of violence been increasing over the past few months. While Turkey has yet to encounter the level of violence witnessed in many Middle Eastern and African countries, the country has been a target for terrorist organizations, especially due to its proximity to Iraq and war-torn Syria. An influx of refugees fleeing violence in these countries also has the potential to create unrest in the region. Turkey has initiated military operations in some of its bases near Adana, in the south of the country. Turkey has also experienced internal political unrest in recent years. Demonstrations are common and can turn violent; border areas are best avoided.

Istanbul turkey

4. Ukraine

While some of the Ukraine may be safe to travel to, including western regions and the capital city of Kiev, ongoing tensions in Crimea and the Donetsk region have made traveling through Ukraine’s eastern reaches much more dangerous. In late 2013, civil unrest broke out, affecting the capital and other areas. While the government responded, rebels in Crimea allegedly broke with the state and requested Russian support. Crimea was occupied and annexed by Russia in early 2014. Fighting continued in the rebel-controlled Donetsk region throughout 2014. A ceasefire agreement between the Ukrainian government and the rebels created a dividing line between territories controlled by either group, but clashes continue in Donetsk and Luhansk. Airspace has been restricted since mid-2014, when a Malaysian Air flight was downed over the region, killing everyone on board. Ukraine remains in a state of unrest.

MagSpace / Shutterstock.com
MagSpace / Shutterstock.com

3. Yemen

Located on the Arab Peninsula, the country of Yemen has been teetering on the edge of civil war for years. The country experienced an Arab Spring revolution in 2011. Unrest and violence continued through 2014, and the government resigned en masse in January 2015. The country has been in a state of civil war since March 2015 as two governments attempt to claim supreme power. The U.S. Department of State closed their embassy and have warned Americans living in Yemen to depart as soon as they can. Airports have been closed, limiting travel to and from the country. Yemen, like much of the Arab Peninsula, has been plagued by terrorist operations that threaten the safety of civilians and travelers alike. Piracy in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean pose additional threats, with many pirate operations taking shelter in Somali waters.

Claudiovidri / Shutterstock.com
Claudiovidri / Shutterstock.com

2. Syria

Most people are more than well aware of the situation in Syria right now; the outflow of people from the country has been headline news for months. If so many citizens are trying to escape the conditions of their country, it’s probably not a place you want to be traveling to. The situation in Syria has deteriorated since the outbreak of the civil war and the ongoing conflict has made living in the region dangerous. While some people may want to travel here to offer humanitarian aid or to connect with relatives and ensure they are safe, most will be better served by finding other ways to help, rather than traveling into an active conflict zone. The U.S. Department of State advises that communication is difficult and kidnappings, as well as security check-points operated by extremist groups, pose serious threats for travel.

Aleppo, Syria

1. Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Democratic Republic of the Congo has a turbulent and troubled history, stretching back decades. Although the DRC is currently in a period of relative peace, instability has long plagued the country and its grasp on security is indeed tenuous. In 2015, major protests demanded the resignation of President Joseph Kabila. Elections are scheduled for 2016, which could bring more civil unrest. The country was ravaged by the Congolese Civil Wars, which began in 1996 and are ongoing today. Armed groups continue to roam the countryside, committing violent crimes against civilians and foreign nationals. Travelers are often stopped at both official and unofficial roadblocks. Bribes are common and if a traveler refuses to pay a bribe, they may be attacked or even killed. Infrastructure in the DRC is minimal, with few highways or railways. Boat transport is common, but often unsafe. Diseases, including Ebola, malaria and yellow fever are common.

LMspencer / Shutterstock.com
LMspencer / Shutterstock.com

12 Modern Day Ruins of the World

Aristotle once said “Time crumbles things”, he wasn’t wrong.
People travel halfway around the world to see the Colosseum, the pyramids in Egypt or the Great Wall of China. We ponder what people were like, what parallels connect them to us, what changes and remains the same. Like time travelers we can visit a more recent, almost familiar past, full of echoes from not too distant generations that have walked away, leaving their ghosts behind. The great team at EscapeHere has assembled a list of provoking modern-day ruins, I hope they capture your imagination like they did mine.

12. The Ryugyong Hotel

If feels almost too easy to list this as a modern day ruin, but this North Korean hotel has been one of the biggest examples of architectural failure in the last century (and probably this one too). Developed as some sort of state pants-envy indicator for power and progress for the peninsula dictatorship, the Ryugyong Hotel was unable to finish the initial construction schedule when the government simply ran out of money (while their people starved).

Work started on the hotel in 1987 and stopped in 1992, the vulgar pyramid spire sat dormant and dominant on the Pyongyang skyline for sixteen years. Although the structure was “topped out” no windows or fixtures have graced the structure until just recently as construction briefly resumed in 2008. North Korea pledged that the hotel would be finished by 2012 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the “Eternal President”, Kim Il-sung. However, the celebration took place without a shiny new hotel as the work stopped because of political instability.

Viktoria Gaman / Shutterstock.com
Viktoria Gaman / Shutterstock.com

11. The Book Tower

The Book Tower was at one point the tallest building in Detroit, and at 38 stories (not including two basement levels) remains one of the largest skyscrapers in the United States that has avoided demolition and renovation. The Book Tower is unique among the Detroit skyline with its awkward external fire escape, naked sculptures and the storybook crown, the Renaissance style somehow seems out of place in the town that Ford built.

J. Burgess Book Jr. and his brothers were on a mission to turn Detroit’s Washington Avenue into a destination that rivaled New York’s Fifth Avenue, with upscale culture and shopping. Their opening salvo in this endeavor was the Book Tower in 1917. The building was the center of downtown activity until the 1960s when it began its decline with the rest of the city. On January 5, 2009, the last remaining holdout tenant, Bookies Tavern, moved on to a newer location downtown.

Book Tower Detroit

10. Forbidden Discovery Island

Feel adventurous enough to brave waters rumored to be inhabited by alligators and potentially deadly nervous system-attacking bacteria? That’s probably the only way to see this next modern ruin first hand. If you were to make a clandestine trip deep into the interior of the Florida Walt Disney World property and swim, dingy, or scuba to the ominous island in the middle of Bay Lake, you will find the remains of Discovery Island; The Magic Kingdom’s former wildlife sanctuary that went wrong.

Walt Disney purchased the island in 1965 and opened (what was then called) Treasure Island here in 1974. The wildlife sanctuary hosted the largest colony of Scarlet Ibises in the U.S., as well as five Galapagos tortoises, flamingos, lemurs, swans, and brown pelicans. In 1999, the attraction was closed for unspecified reasons (but speculation abounds), and the abandoned attractions can still be seen from Disney’s Contemporary Resort and the Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground.

Photo by: imgkid.com
Photo by: imgkid.com

9. Six Flags Jazzland

Just off Interstate 10, on the eastern side of New Orleans sits the home of the now silent but still-standing Cajun attractions like the Zydeco Scream and the Muskrat Scrambler. Jazzland opened its doors as a small amusement park featuring the standard rickety wooden roller coaster, log flume, and other soak-you-with-carnival-water attractions in 2000, two years later the awesome Six Flags corporation bought the joint, upgraded it with various fun and safety additions and marketed it with Mr. Six (the dancing old guy). They had great plans on a water park to be included in 2005, which would have been included in the park admission.

Those plans however were thwarted when Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and flooded the park removing all amusement here since. Most of New Orleans has been rebuilt, which is a testament to the vibrant community that lives there, but Jazzland remains, untouched since the storm. As of today you can still see the remnants of the park in its former glory, and some people trespass to capture this unique surreal landscape. If you want to see what remains, head to the Big Easy soon as talks are in place to turn this former fun-town into an outdoor mall.

Photo by: Frank Aymami
Photo by: Frank Aymami

8. The Second-Largest Man-Made Hole in the History of the World (and ghost town)

Deep in Siberia, there exists an open-pit diamond mine reaching 1,722 feet deep and 3,900 feet wide that sits beside the town of Mirny; a town that sits just below the Arctic Circle (bring extra socks). Founded in 1955, there exists today a town that could hold 3500 mine workers and their families (not to mention the people working in other industries needed to make a town run) which sits almost entirely perfectly preserved and empty today.

The people that lived here had to endure some of the harshest winters imaginable, which would typically last up to 7 months at a time, punctuated by short “summers” that turned the ground to slush. It was so cold that even oil froze, rubber automotive tires would shatter, and workers had to routinely use jet engines to thaw the permafrost so they could dig. That being said, the town is generally off limits to outsiders without a special permit but visiting this perfectly preserved modern ruin is not unheard of as universities host modern archaeology tours.

Mirny Town

7. Kolmanskop

If you ever find yourself in Namibia, just outside of the port town of Lüderitz, take some time to visit the ghost town that diamonds built. Kolmanskop is Afrikkans for Coleman’s hill, and the place got this name simply because a transport driver named Johnny Coleman abandoned his ox wagon here, continuing the tradition of “naming places where your rig stops” that has taken place the world over (looking at you, Eyebrow, Saskatchewan). In 1908, when laying some train tracks, some poor schmo found a diamond and showed it to his German Boss, who in turn told some German government official, who in turn named the area Sperrgebiet, or loosely translated “wow this place is worth a lot of money so nobody can come here but us!”.

Like every boomtown, the initial residents were filthy-rich and built themselves a tiny paradise full of super opulent stuff, including infrastructure like ballrooms, a hospital, power station, school, sports hall, casino, ice factory (for their fancy drinks) and the first x-ray station in the Southern Hemisphere. The town declined after the diamonds ran out and today, all that’s left are the incredibly well engineered houses that are slowly being swallowed up by the desert sands once again. To travel to this town you will need to get permission from the Namibian government through their special permit program.

Kolmanskop Namibia

6. Fordlândia

Deep in the Amazon rainforest there sits an abandoned, prefabricated industrial town that was established in 1928 by the industrialist Henry Ford. Ford controlled almost all of the raw materials that went into his automobiles, save for the rubber in the tires, which at that time was monopolized by the British Malay Peninsula. He negotiated a deal with the Brazilian government for a parcel of land the size of a small state, and created a plantation settlement there in exchange for 9% of the profits gained. The project was ultimately a total failure and Henry Ford never actually visited his now abandoned town.

The structures of Fordlândia have been left empty for the decades following the towns’ demise. The only way to reach the site is by boats, which leave the nearby town Santarém from the Praça Tiradentes port Monday to Saturday at 4PM and on Sunday at 2PM. The overnight trip takes 12 hours and costs about $45, arriving early the next morning. You can hang your hammock on the dock until it is light enough to explore the remains of this historical fiasco.

Photo by: Latin America Bureau
Photo by: Latin America Bureau

5. Ellis Island

More than 40% of all US citizens can trace at least one of their ancestors to Ellis Island, being the primary immigration gateway from 1892 to 1954. Located in the Upper New York Bay, east of Liberty State Park and north of Liberty Island, Ellis Island is now a huge decaying complex, featuring what used to be a state of the art hospital center with laboratories, psychopathic ward, power station, laundry building and dormitories. Most of the island is closed to the general public and has been uninhabited for almost 70 years only guarded by patrols of the United States Park Police.

Travel to Ellis Island is limited to the Ellis Island Immigration Museum, restored in the 1980s, this main immigration processing building reopened as a facility to chronicle Ellis Island’s role in American immigration history. Due to the recent destruction from Hurricane Sandy, a few parts of the historic main building and museum are closed, but are due to reopen soon.

Ellis Island

4. A.M.A.R.C.

Close to Tucson, Arizona is AMARC; the Aerospace Maintenance And Regeneration Center. This is the place where the U.S. Air Force stores all of its old planes until needed again, scrapped for parts, or sold to foreign and civilian interests. It’s part of the Air Force’s sales pitch that for whatever aircraft they sell, they will always have spare parts. If you are a military history geek like me, you would have probably had your interest piqued when this location was showcased in movies like Transformers; Revenge of the Fallen, and Harley Davidson and the Marlboro man.

Today there are about 4,000 planes in storage, with the lion’s share of them from the Vietnam War; this location is a testament to man’s ingenuity and creativity. This airplane graveyard speaks to my inner ten year old, full of excitement and mystery. Regular civilians are disallowed from wandering around the aircraft, but you can partake in a bus tour around the facility hosted by the Pima Air Museum, learn more at the official AMARC homepage.

AMARC Tucson
Photo By: U.S. Navy /Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Shannon R. Smith. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

3. Hashima Island

Hashima Island, also known as BattleShip Island is an abandoned island 15 kilometers off the coast of Japan. The Island is known for its abandoned apartment buildings and community infrastructure surrounded by a substantial sea wall (it was even featured in the recent James Bond movie, Skyfall). The abandoned island-city was known for its undersea coal mines and at its peak housed over 5000 residents when it closed in 1974, most of the people left the city with only the clothes on their back and suitcases they could carry shortly afterward.

After the turn of the Millennium, the island has become a favorite destination for ruin enthusiasts, and travel was officially been reopened for limited tourism in 2009. Increased popularity and media exposure to the island has caused the Japanese Government to declare the island a site of industrial heritage, and to petition that Hashima be included as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Hashima Island

2. El Caminito del Rey

This site is also known as “The King’s Little Path” and “The Walk of Death” and is located in the Gaitanes Gorge in the western portion of the Baetic Mountains of Spain with walls reaching as high as 700 meters and narrowing to 10 meters. The Gorge itself is fascinating with its sandstone formations, fossilized whale remains and eroded natural caves. All this natural beauty is nothing but an added bonus to the jaw-dropping adrenaline junkie pathway that has the dangerous name attached to it.

The Caminito del Rey is a pathway that was built to transport workers and building materials between two hydroelectric plants situated at either end of the Gaitanes Gorge. The path was built in 1905 out of sand and cement, held in place by metal brackets and festooned with a simple iron rail for “safety”. The pathway gained its regal name when King Alfonso walked along the Caminito and was so impressed that a plaque was erected in recognition of the path’s designer and the momentous day of his journey. During the last century, the pathway has fallen into disrepair and has undergone a full restoration, but it is still listed as one of the most dangerous hikes in the world.

El Caminito del Rey

1. Pripyat Ukraine

Pripyat is the site of one of the most notorious “ruins” of the last 100 years, and is generally what is referred to when the Chernobyl disaster is referenced. “Chernobyl” is how we reference one of the biggest man-made disasters ever recorded but Pripyat is the remaining symbol of this event. Founded on February 4, 1970, Pripyat was designated officially as an atomograd (‘the town of the atomic scientists and workers’), the 9th settlement of its kind in the former USSR. Although this was a former “hot zone”, radiation levels have dropped due to the decay of the short-lived isotopes released during the accident and tours are regularly scheduled.

Ukraine would be a tough sell for a travel agent these days, but if you are determined to see this historic site, you will begin your journey in Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, a fantastic city with a fantastic nightlife. After staging there you will travel north to the Chernobyl site after booking a tour in advance, you will need government clearance and the tour company is well equipped to ease you over any bureaucratic bumps. The most reviewed company hosting these tours is Chernobyl Tours, cost is variable depending on the size of your group and it includes transportation.

Pripyat Ukraine