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World's coolest secret tourist attractions

World's coolest secret tourist attractions

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park (Photo: Krzysztof Wiktor/Shutterstock)


The world's most famous tourist attractions are definitely cool, but that cool also comes with crowds. Forgo the Eiffel Tower and the Blarney Stone for these cool, secret tourist attractions that most travelers haven't heard of.

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Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Ditch the tourist crowds at Old Faithful and head to Yellowstone's secret star, the Grand Prismatic Spring. Approximately 370 feet wide and 121 feet deep, Grand Prismatic is the largest hot spring in the park and the third largest in the world. The water may look tempting, but don't dive in—it's around a scalding 160 degrees. The stunning colors are caused by different species of pigmented bacteria, photosynthesis, and refracted light.



Newgrange (Photo: Pecold/Shutterstock)


Newgrange, Ireland

Despite the name, Newgrange is actually older than Stonehenge. The passage tomb (and ancient spiritual place) is most popular during the winter solstice. Every year around December 19 to 23, the rising sun aligns with a hole in Newgrange's roof, and as the rays shine through, the whole chamber lights up. The sight is so amazing that thousands of people enter a lottery to visit during this annual event, but only 20 people are allowed to attend each day of the solstice. Unfortunately for lottery winners, the famous overcast Irish weather means there's no guarantee the sun-dependent phenomenon will take place.



Ngorongoro Crater (Photo: Kitch Bain/Shutterstock)


Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania

Nicknamed "Africa's Garden of Eden," this volcanic crater houses about 25,000 wild animals, as well as an incredibly diverse sub-Saharan ecosystem—meaning visitors can see everything from open plains to alkaline lakes in one spot. The crater serves as a natural zoo, holding the "big five" (rhinos, lions, leopards, elephants, and buffalo) all in one place. Visit in December or June during the annual migration of wildebeest and zebra, when over 1 million of the creatures enter and exit the area.




The Colosseum (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)


The Colosseum (Underground), Italy

Rome's Colosseum, an ancient amphitheater and former gladiator battleground, is one of the world's most famous attractions. But most people don't know that there's a whole secret section that can now be explored—the underground. In 2010 the Italian government decided to allow small groups of visitors inside the Colosseum's subterranean level to see where gladiators made their grand entrances from and their final exits (at the Porta Libitina, the arch through which bodies were removed). Visitors can also see where exotic animals like lions and tigers were held below ground before being hauled up in elevators to appear suddenly before the screaming crowds.



Pamukkale, Turkey (Photo: Verkhovynets Taras/Shutterstock)


Pamukkale, Turkey

The bright blue pools of Pamukkale in Turkey look as if they're sitting atop piles of snow or cotton (hence the name, which is Turkish for Cotton Castle), but in reality the natural pools and terraces are formed by calcite deposits. The thermal pools, with temperatures of around 95 degrees and a number of healing minerals, are thought to have therapeutic qualities, so be sure to take a dip in the Sacred Pool if you visit. Ancient emperors and kings used to vacation at the pools here, so you’ll be bathing in history.


Racetrack, Death Valley (Photo: Bryan Brazil/Shutterstock)


Racetrack, Death Valley, California

It's a mystery of the desert: In an isolated valley between the Cottonwood and Last Chance mountain ranges, the Racetrack features rocks that appear to be moved by a secret force. The rocks sit on a playa (dry lakebed) and move across the flat surface, leaving trails in their wake. According to the National Park Service, some of the large rocks have traveled up to 1,500 feet, but no one has ever actually seen them move.


Gruner See (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)


Gruner See, Austria

Here's a reason to return to a destination: If you visit Austria's Gruner See (Green Lake) in the winter, you can hike around the park. Visit again in the summer and the snow and ice on the nearby mountains have melted and flooded the park with emerald-green water (up to 30 feet deep in some spots). In other words, you can scuba dive along the same trails that were hikeable just half a year ago. Fish and divers alike swim over park benches, under bridges, and past road signs.


Ha Long Bay Floating Villages (Photo: PhotoRoman/Shutterstock)


Ha Long Bay Floating Villages, Vietnam

Rather than living next to the water, the inhabitants of the Ha Long Bay fishing villages live on the water in floating houses. They make a living off the sea as well, with most people working as fishermen or shrimp farmers. Tourism is also now an important part of the villages' economy, and there is even the floating Cua Van Floating Cultural Center, which showcases the villages' lifestyle and history.


'Mano Del Desierto' (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)


'Mano Del Desierto', Chile

Is this massive hand rising out of Chile's Atacama Desert the start of a monstrous zombie uprising? No—it's a sculpture by artist Mario Irarrazabal. The 36-foot-tall hand was erected in 1992 out of iron and cement; its massive size is meant to emphasize human vulnerability. The hand stands in the middle of nowhere along the Pan-American Highway, so wave hello to it as you drive past, or stop for photo ops.Moses Bridge, Netherlands

Just like the biblical story of Moses parting the Red Sea, the Moses Bridge parts the waters of a moat in the Netherlands. The design was inspired by the surrounding fortress (Fort de Roovere)—designers didn't want to build a traditional bridge and defeat the point of a moat, so they opted to build this intriguing pathway. Pedestrians can cross the bridge in dry comfort: The top of the bridge is flush with the water, and two dams control the water level so it doesn't spill into the bridge.


Moses Bridge (Photo: EHS News)


Moses Bridge, Netherlands

Just like the biblical story of Moses parting the Red Sea, the Moses Bridge parts the waters of a moat in the Netherlands. The design was inspired by the surrounding fortress (Fort de Roovere)—designers didn't want to build a traditional bridge and defeat the point of a moat, so they opted to build this intriguing pathway. Pedestrians can cross the bridge in dry comfort: The top of the bridge is flush with the water, and two dams control the water level so it doesn't spill into the bridge.

See slideshow: World's coolest tourist attractions

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