The 7 Most Unusual Towns in the World

By: Guest Author  | 
Coober Pedy Landscape

While every place on this planet is unique, few among them are truly unusual.

Some places are more wonderfully weird than others — there are even towns that hold Guinness world records for their bizarre traits! Places with more animals than people, underground towns, and villages in which all the citizens live under one roof.

Today, MapQuest is sharing some of the most delightfully wacky towns across the globe:


1. Coober Pedy, Australia

coober pedy, austalia
The Underground Gallery in Coober Pedy, Australia
John W Banagan / Getty Images

The opal capital of the world is named after its primary quality: opal gemstones. This tiny Aussie town has approximately 3,500 inhabitants — half of whom live underground. Since its founding 100 years ago after a teenager discovered opal gemstones there, the town has been ground zero for opal mining. An estimated 70 percent of the world’s opal production can be linked here, earning it the title of Opal Capital of the World. One of the latest finds was a set of opalized pearls dating back more than 65 million years.

Before you think of mining your fortune in Coober Pedy, know that it is hot — hellishly hot. Temperatures can rise to over 110 Fahrenheit, in the shade. That’s the reason why so many of its citizens live underground, where it’s much cooler. Today, roughly 1,600 out of the total residents like suchlike saving a huge on AC bills in summer and heating bills in winter because of insulation of the cave walls! The Outback Bar & Grill was a little petrol station, that has now been converted to a restaurant. There are even underground hotels, churches, restaurants, and bars here.


2. Nagoro, Japan

This town is home to only 35 humans — but 350 human-sized dolls. An artist, 64-year-old Ayano Tsukimi, came up with the idea of creating these dolls when the population of the village started shrinking, to alleviate the loneliness of being one of only a very few people left in the nearly deserted town. The lifelike, human-sized dolls accurately represent real individuals, such as the profession that they were once engaged in.

You can even check out a recent documentary, called The Valley Of Dolls, that explores Tsukimi’s world, highlighting the time and artistry that goes into making the figures, and explaining her motivations.


3. Hallstatt, China

hallstatt, china
A village replicated at Hallstatt, China
Walter Geiersperger / Getty Images

China is a master at replicating things that it loves from around the entire globe, from Disney World to Las Vegas. Hallstatt is an Austrian village, replicated in China down to the smallest detail to become the world’s first cloned town. Construction started back in the year 2012 by a Chinese mining company, with a church being the first structure built. Hallstatt, China is an exact copy of the town in Austria, though with more expensive real estate. It attracts tourists from all over the world by virtue of its incredible imitation.


4. The Federation of Damanhur, Italy

This town, with a population of only 600, is known as “The Laboratory for the future of mankind.” It was founded in 1975 by Oberto Airaudi as a sort of commune for him and his friends. Known simply as Damanhur, it’s an ecovillage and spiritual community in the Piedmont region of northern Italy. The town has many underground “Temples of Humankind,” built at depths reaching up to 100 feet beneath ground level.

In Damanhur people live in community houses of 10-30 people. Living in a community and sharing life with other people is an important part of the damanhurian philosophy, however, they recognize that having your own private space is also fundamental. The federation even has its own currency, called Credito. It might sound crazy, but this town (and its stunning setting) is a must-visit place.


5. Matmata, South Tunisia

matmata south tunisia
A typical Troglogyte in the village of Matmata in southern Tunisia
Ron Watts / Getty Images

Primitive humans used to live in cave habitats — and in the small Berber village of Matmata, in Southern Tunisia, they still do. Here, the residents reside underground in the traditional way of our fore-fore-fore-forefathers and make their homes out of caves. The entire town has cave houses, and people still manage to live there comfortably just like our ancestors.

The unusual landscape of Matmata is filled with these ingenious dwellings burrowed into the rocky ground and is a testament to human’s ability to domesticate almost anywhere.


6. Whittier, Alaska

whittier alaska
Whittier showing a vibrant, eclectic metropolis with frontier spirit, located in heart of great Alaska wilderness.
annhfhung / Getty Images

A 14-story building that used to be a military barrack, today makes up the entire town of Whittier. Known as the “Gateway to Prince William Sound,” the town has 220 residents who all live under one roof, with a gas station, police station, church, and video rental shop all located in one building called Begich Towers. There is only one tunnel to enter or exit the town, and it opens twice every hour, shutting at night and reopening the following day.

Each summer, Whittier gets 22 hours of sunlight, and in winter it may get covered with as much as 20 feet of snow. The Inn at Whittier is a hotel and restaurant that faces the sea at Prince William Sound and is an attraction for the locals as well as many tourists from across the globe who come to Alaska for adventure.


7. Longyearbyen, Norway

longyearbyen norway
Colourful houses in Longyearbyen, Svalbard, Norway.
anjci (c) all rights reserved / Getty Images

What if the place you live in does not let you officially die? That is (sort of) the situation in the town of Longyearbyen in Svalbard, Norway, which is the world’s most northernmost city. The name of the town is literal, actually meaning “long year.” The sunsets each year for the very last time on October 25th and does not rise again for four months. It’s such a big deal when the sun officially returns to Longyearbyen on March 8th, that all of the citizens gather on the steps of the old hospital at precisely 12:15 to await its arrival, kicking off a week-long celebration called Solfestuka.

Other interesting facts about Longyearbyen include:

  • The citizens are used to living alongside polar bears and reindeer.
  • Snowmobiles are the preferred mode of transportation, and none of the streets are named.
  • It’s home to the world’s northernmost gourmet restaurant, the historic Huset, which boasts one of Europe’s largest wine cellars (hey, you have to do something all winter!).

But perhaps the most interesting thing about Longyearbyen is that its citizens aren’t allowed to die. The incredibly frigid year-round Arctic climate doesn’t permit the dead body to decompose, and so it’s one small graveyard that stopped accepting burials more than 70 years ago. Residents are required by law to go elsewhere to die; and if death does occur in the town, the body must be transported to Norway by ship or plane.

If you want to add some truly quirky places to your bucket list that most people have never even heard of, much less visited, just set your typical travel taste aside and explore these truly unusual places.