You may have mingled in the Mediterranean; cruised the Caribbean; ate your way through the markets of Asia; and sailed South America – claiming to have seen everything that planet earth has to offer. Visiting a country as a cruise destination may be a good way of seeing the various nations around the world but it does not mean you have seen everything that a particular country has to offer. Additionally, there are many small islands and archipelagic regions which you are unlikely to have visited on a cruise.
Some cruise providers will take you beyond the tourist hotspots and bustling capital cities; into the unknown. There are many hidden gems out there and we’ve discovered eight of most unusual destinations from around the world which will fascinate and amaze.
The Ecuadorian island of Floreana, one of the Galapagos Islands, is home to a beautiful setting amidst snow-capped mountains. Due to the island’s location, it is often referred to as “the edge of the world” as it sits isolated off the west coast off South America, facing out towards the South Pacific Ocean.
As the name suggests, the bay is renowned for its post office which has been in operation since the 19th century. Whalers would keep a barrel at Post Office Bay so that mail could be picked up by passing ships onto Europe and the United States. Mail is also dropped off at the island and sifted through by hand before being delivered to the island’s residents.
It is one of the only places you can amaze people back home by sending a postcard without a stamp via a 200 year old barrel and other travellers. This island offers much more than just a post office though; with “Devil’s Crown” – an underwater volcanic cone – being a popular site for snorkelling, where you are likely to see turtles, schools of fish, sea lions and even sharks.
At a different “edge of the world” is the Norwegian city of Bodo which sits north of the Arctic Circle – represented by a coat of arms which displays a sun on a red background. The coat of arms symbolises the midnight sun, which is viewable within the city.
This natural phenomenon occurs in the summer months and results in the sun being viewable for 24 hours. Travelling to Bodo between 2 June - 10 July will allow you to see this amazing sight; whilst travelling between December and January will allow you to experience 24 hours of night. Whilst there is no true polar night in Bodo, the mountains to the south block out the sun for the minimal amount of time that it would normally be visible.
A cruise is a perfect way to be able to visit the Chilean wonder of Rapa Nui, otherwise known as Easter Island. The island is renowned around the world for the national park which is home to the stone figures that gaze up into the skies known as “moai”. It is thought these statues were created by the Rapa Nui people who inhabited the island around 300AD – although it remains a mystery as to whether these were the first inhabitants of the island. The Dutch Seaman, Roggeven, was the first westerner to discover the stone statues in 1722 and people around the world have been puzzled ever since.
Because of the remote location of this 64 mile long volcanic island (its nearest location is Tahiti – 2,000 miles away) a cruise is the best way to access Easter Island. These statues are a must-visit and will leave you feeling baffled and curious about their origins and historic significance.
Located off the southern coast of South Korea lies Jeju Island, where the warm and wet weather make it a perfect Asian alternative to Hawaii. Referred to as the “Island of the Gods” Jeju is home to a range of iconic stone statues made from basalt and resemble a grandfather figure. Dol Hareubang (Status of grandfather or senior) has become a symbol of the island – although there are a number of theories surrounding their origin. One theory suggests it relates to the shamanic mushroom culture, as the mushroom is a popular symbol in mainland Korea.
Beyond these ominous statues, Jeju Island has many more bizarre and unusual features to offer to visitors. One particular tourist hotspot is Loveland, which was created by Hongik University graduates and features outrageous sculptures which will shock. Luckily, the island is home to an array of excellent natural features and picturesque beaches where you can relax if the weirder elements become too much for you.
Traverse through the archipelago that is Indonesia and visit the many surprises it has to offer, if you are willing to step away from the urban metropolis city centres. The Indonesian island of Komodo is renowned as the natural habitat of the largest lizard on earth, the Komodo dragon. The island is, unsurprisingly, home to the Komodo National Park and been labelled as one of the seven wonders of the natural world.
A visit to the Komodo National Park is one you will never forget and the area is largely unspoilt, with many pure beaches and corals in addition to the dragons and marine ecosystems. The residents of the island are descendants of convicts who were exiled to the island mixed with the Bugis and Sulawesi people.
Historically, the story of the island’s discovery tells of Dutch sailors, who reported a creature measuring seven metres and with the ability to spit fire. A Dutch sailor returned to the island with an army before killing some of the dragons and taking the samples back to zoology expert, Peter A. Ouwens. The dragons measured up much smaller and did not spit fire but this is thought to be the first reliable documentation of the details surrounding the origin of the Komodo dragon.
A mystery? There is very little information available about this island, which is part of the Australasian archipelagic nation of Vanuatu. The island has remained untouched and unspoilt for many years and there are no hotels, no developments, no roads and no stress. This tiny southern island of Vanuatu is a perfect spot for idyllic relaxation and comes very close to replicating paradise on earth.
The island has so much to offer and its location separates it from the rest of the world, leaving you to relax in idyllic surroundings. White beaches offer the perfect spot to sunbathe whilst the waters offer ideal opportunities to snorkel. Friendly locals will welcome you to the island and will greet you with open arms as they do not get many visitors. A handful of cruise operators stop here – and by visiting you will be able to unfold the mystery of this Vanuatuan idyllic paradise.
Patmos is a small Greek island located close to the coast of Turkey within the Aegean Sea and is steeped in history. This island features much in the way in the warm weather and stunning architecture; but what really makes this island a particular site of interest is the Cave of Apocalypse – located halfway up the mountain on the island.
This island is mentioned in the Bible’s book of revelation and is reportedly where John of Patmos was exiled in 95AD after being persecuted for his faith and the Cave of Apocalypse is where he received a vision of Jesus from God. In 1088AD, a monk built a monastery on the island and dedicated it to Saint John. The site became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, along with the Monastery of St John the Theologian and the island has become a popular site for Christian pilgrimage. UNESCO previously stated: ““There are few other places in the world where religious ceremonies that date back to the early Christian times are still being practiced unchanged.”
Salzburg is beautiful city filled with stunning architecture, intriguing museums and a welcoming culture – but this Austrian city is best known for its Christmas market, which is accessible on a river cruise with AmaWaterways. It is one of the oldest markets in Europe and the tradition dates back to the 15th century, featuring over 85 stalls. These stalls are surrounded by the beautiful surroundings of Baroque architecture and stunning snow-capped mountains.
It sounds like a normal location to visit thus far, but the appearance of Krampus in the city square may make you think otherwise. Krampus is a scary, goat-like figure which yields black cloak, terrifying mask and a birch branch with which to swat unsuspecting visitors. The attitude in Salzberg is that whilst St Nicholas represents the children who have behaved well throughout the year; Krampus would give children coal and swat them with his branch if they behaved naughty.
Whilst this tradition has relaxed with contemporary culture, the intimidating appearance of Krampus may shock and scare you if you are not expecting it. You’ll never think of Salzburg the same way…
Excited by what you have seen? We can assist you with booking a cruise to any of the destinations mentioned above. Whether you want to explore our list of mysterious locations or visit somewhere a little more familiar; our dedicated experts are ready to help.