World-famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Statue of Liberty and even our own Big Ben are visited by millions of travellers every year, and are some of the most photographed locations in the world (type the hashtag of any of these destinations into Instagram and you'll see a hundred filtered variations of the same shot, by different people).
Embarking on a gap year or long stay trip is the perfect opportunity to cross those things off of your bucket list that have been on there since, well, forever! In a time where famous landmarks are almost universally accessible and people are constantly looking for the newest best thing to put on social media to show their friends, what about travelling to see distinctive and unusual landmarks which have that little extra added mystery? Gap years and backpacking trips are the perfect window of opportunity to see some of the world's more interesting and unusual destinations and landmarks. In this article we've selected some of the best to give you a sprinkle of inspiration and a dash of wanderlust. Take a look below.
Moai faces, Easter Island
Located on one of the most isolated places on the planet, the Moai faces are monuments crafted by the ancient Polynesian population that used to inhabit the Easter Island (locally known as Rapa Nui). Today, although wind and sea air have meant that the Moai have faced (excuse the pun) some damage and hardship to their original craftsmanship. Each silent statue weighs around 14 tonnes, so it's a real mystery as to how the Rapa Nui inhabitants managed to craft and move these monuments to their different locations around the island.
Blue Mountains, Australia
Less than two hours from Sydney by car or train lay the spectacular Blue Mountains, immersed in a valley in New South Wales. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, they get their strange, and often questioned, name from the distinctive blue haze, from where the sunlight mixes from drops of oil released by the eucalypts that blanket the region's vast valleys. The site is also home to several cultural Aboriginal sites and has about 140km of walking trails for tourists to enjoy.
Hand of the Desert, Chile
If you came across a giant sculpture of a hand in the middle of an otherwise relatively desolate desert, wouldn't you be a little confused too? The Hand of the Desert, locally known as the Mano de Desierto, was actually constructed by the Chilean sculptor Mario Irarrazabal at an altitude of 1,100 metres above sea level, to use the human shape to express emotions like injustice, loneliness, sorrow and torture. The exaggerated size - it stands 11 metres high - is meant to emphasise human vulnerability and helplessness.
Kjeragbolten (The Balancing Rock), Norway
Kjeragbolten is a massive 5 cubic meter boulder wedged in to a crevasse on the edge of the Kjerag mountain in Lysefjorden, Norway. The block of stone is suspended 984 metres above the deep abyss. Despite its impressive appearance, it is actually easily accessible for travellers on foot without any special equipment. The whole of Kjerag mountain is a popular hiking area, and Kjeragbolten is a favourite photo spot.
Yonaguni Monument, Japan
Of all the famous and unusual monuments in the world, none are more perplexing as the mystery of Yonaguni, a giant underwater rock formation that lies just off the coast of the Ryuku Islands. Discovered by a group of divers trying to observe the behavioural patterns of hammerhead sharks, it immediately sparked international debate - was the formation natural or man-made? Why was it there, and how did it get there? A section of rock even resembles a crude carving of a human face, and you can see it for yourself as the formation only lies 16ft under sea level - perfect for experienced scuba divers. However, the tide changes and heavy currents in the area mean it can be dangerous for those exploring the monument, so invest in some good quality scuba diving travel insurance so you remain financially protected should something happen.
Terracotta Army, China
The Terracotta Army was discovered by local Chinese farmers in 1974, and later archaeologists found a total of 3 pits consisting of more than 8,000 terracotta soldiers and 130 chariots and horses. Thought to be buried in order to form a protective border around the Emperor's mausoleum for the time, the rest of the tomb remains a mystery, and is thought by experts to contain a number of booby-traps like poison darts, to protect against intruders and robbers, but any further excavation has been stopped by the Chinese government.
The Georgia Guidestones
An arranged set of six granite slabs that convey a set of ten instructions and guidelines in the event that the world suffers an apocalypse or Doomsday type event where the remaining population must rebuild Earth, are located in Georgia, America. The guidestones are inscribed in eight modern languages, and with a shorter message inscribed at the top of the structure in the four ancient languages: Babylonian, Classical Greek, Sanskrit and Egyptian hieroglyphs. As there was no explanation offered to why this monument was erected, there are several theories and conspiracies as to why these instructions have been put in their place for the world to see.
Landmark Travel Tips
Alpha Travel Insurance and alphatravelinsurance.co.uk are trading names of Travel Insurance Facilities Plc, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority FRN306537. tifgroup is trading name of Travel Insurance Facilities Plc registered in England No. 3220410. tifgroup; all rights reserved. Registered Office: 1 Tower View, Kings Hill, West Malling, ME19 4UY