CHARLOTTE, N.C., Jan. 30, 2016 – Once travelers have visited all the must-see sights, the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the pyramids of Giza, the Colosseum, they begin to reach beyond their boundaries. Like artist Paul Gauguin, people afflicted with incurable wanderlust venture ever deeper into new realms of discovery.
Historian Daniel Boorstin once wrote, “A traveler goes in search of people, of adventure, of experience. A tourist goes for sightseeing. Just like the question is more interesting than a statement, and a road more intriguing than a map, I aspired to be a traveler. Be brave. Go through open gates.”
This story is dedicated to curiosity seekers who dare to “go through open gates.”
Here are seven little-known places to add to your traveling bucket list.
1 – Alberobello, Italy – Perhaps Lonely Planet describes this UNESCO World Heritage Site best when it says “Alberobello resembles an urban sprawl – for gnomes.”
Alberolbello is known for its “trulli,” which are small circular limestone buildings dating to the 14th century. The dwellings, featuring conical roofs, incorporated a prehistoric construction technique that is still used in the southern region of Puglia in Italy.
Alberobello is a village of approximately 1,500 whitewashed “beehives” that were built without mortar. It derives its name from the oak forest of Arboris Belli, or beautiful trees, that once thrived in the area.\
2 – The Crooked Forest, Poland – Nobody really knows why the 400 pine trees in a small corner of western Poland grew with an arced bend at the base of their trunks.
Though still a mystery, it is believed the trees were planted around 1930 and the bending is the result of some type of human adaptation.
Located outside Nowe Czarnown, West Pomerania, Poland, the question is how it was accomplished and why. One theory is that the curves in the timber would be more useful in the production of furniture.
3 – Hanging Temple, China – This architectural wonder is built on a cliff near Mount Heng in the province of Shanxi in China. The monastery, built in 491, has more than 40 halls, cabinets and pavilions that are connected by evenly distributed and balanced corridors, bridges and boardwalks.
The monks who inhabited the temple had three primary reasons for choosing the unusual site; first was to create a house of worship that showcased their determination, second was protection from weather, especially floods; and third was to promote unity among the Chinese people through a combination of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism.
The halls contain about 80 vividly carved sculptures cast from bronze, iron, clay, copper and terracotta.
4 – Jain Temple, Ranakpur, India – Said to be the most spectacular Jain temple in the world. Situated between Jodhpur and Udaipur, India, Ranakpur is most famous for this marble architectural masterpiece.
According to local legend, Dharma Shah, a businessman in the region, began construction in the 15th century after having a divine vision. It was built to honor Adinath, the founder of the Jain religion.
As with many temples in India, the Ranakpur is also noted for its huge population of monkeys, which live in and around the grounds.
5 – Las Lajas Sanctuary, Colombia – Inspiration for the basilica came in 1754 when a mother and her deaf-mute daughter were caught in a major storm in the canyon of the Guaitara River in Colombia. According to some legends, the young girl witnessed a silhouetted apparition of the Virgin Mary during periods of illumination by lightning and was miraculously cured.
The image on the stone can still be seen today, and the area has been a popular pilgrimage site since the 18th century.
The Shrine of Our Lady of Las Lajas as it exists today was built between 1916 and 1949. Rising 330 feet from the bottom of the canyon, it is connected to the opposite side of the canyon by a 160-foot-high bridge.
The original shrine was constructed of straw and wood in the middle of the 18th century.
6 – The Capuchin Crypt, Rome, Italy – Commissioned in 1626 by Pope Urban VIII, this destination is more accessible than some of the others, but it is also the most macabre. Our Lady of the Conception of the Capuchins is a church in Rome on Via Veneto near Piazza Barberini.
In 1631 Cardinal Antonio Barberini ordered the remains of thousands of Capuchin friars to be exhumed and transferred to a crypt under the church.
In the process, the crypt, which is divided into five chapels, was elaborately decorated with the bones of the departed monks to create works of art.
One plaque in one of the chapels reads, “What you are now, we once were; what we are now, you shall be.”
7 – Sintra, Portugal – Nestled on a breathtaking hillside outside Lisbon, Portugal, Sintra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site composed of two cities. It is known for its 19th-century architectural monuments, which are in a forest setting.
Among the medieval buildings are Castelo do Mouros, Pena National Palace and the Sintra National Palace.
While the buildings themselves are spectacular, it is the setting and the historical importance for the Portuguese people that have provided Sintra with its unique significance for its countrymen.
And there, you have it. Seven delightful little-known destinations just waiting to be discovered. “Be brave. Go through open gates.”
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About the author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award-winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of the Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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