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Regardless of your destination, there are always certain attractions you look forward to when you travel. Whether you seek out restaurants, parks, or museums, there’s always a type of attraction you travel for.

History buffs might travel to walk among the ruins of ancient cities, foodies seek out exotic tastes and flavors, and nature enthusiasts travel for foreign landscapes and time in the great outdoors.

There’s nothing unusual about any of that – all of the above is pretty standard. But what if I told you people dream of spending their holiday in the sewer? Or pay to be locked up behind bars?

The following are 5 places you never would have guessed would be popular tourist attractions.

5 Places You Never Would Have Guessed Would Be Popular Tourist Attractions

Toilets

Believe it or not, toilet tourism is actually a thing! From open-air outhouses in the middle of the Himalayas, to porcelain thrones with a control panel in Japan, clean, creative, and quirky public toilets are making a splash, and in many destinations have become legitimate tourist attractions.

While travelers to countries like China will have to learn how to squat, countries like Japan offer super-facilities you would expect from an exotic spa; a seat with a control panel that offers a three-speed bidet hose, a warm seat in winter and water with temperature to match!

And then there are loos with a view; huts and outhouses that have been placed throughout tropical islands and stunning mountain ranges, strategically positioned to take advantage of the powerful panorama.

Outhouse

Photo credit: Joseph

Australia’s Cliffhanger Loo with a View

One of the most famous bathrooms on the toilet tourism trail is Australia’s Cliffhanger Loo with a View. Overlooking the stunning Cobourg Peninsula in Garig Gunak Barlu National Park northeast of Darwin, the toilet is on a cliff overlooking a pristine beach and lagoon, where crocodiles bask on the sand and reef sharks hunt for prey.

The toilet is waterless, odourless and converts fresh waste into organic humus. And it toilet has become one of the chief attractions of the national park. A guest described it as watching a National Geographic documentary play out while sitting on the loo.

Casinos

Casino tourism is booming, and while it’s no surprise that people holiday to gamble in destinations like Las Vegas and Macau, Mega-casino complexes have become major tourist attractions in many cities around the world. In fact, most attract more tourism than iconic locations.

For instance, Crown Casino Melbourne pulls more visitors to Australia each year than the iconic Sydney Opera House. With an annual 10.9 million visitors compared to the 8.2 million who check in at the Opera House, well known tourist attractions don’t even come close to seeing the type of tourism numbers that Australian casinos do.

After-all, most Casinos double as Entertainment Complexes, and have a range of trendy restaurants, nightclubs and bars, well as theaters and resort amenities like water parks and swimming pools onsite.

Casinos date back to the 1600’s (the first gaming house was the Ridotto, established in Venice in 1638), and gambling has been popular since the day it started.

It has of course evolved throughout ages, and traveling to gamble is just as popular today as it is among those who play in online virtual casinos.

Sydney Opera House

Melbourne’s Crown Casino pulls more visitors annually than the iconic Sydney Opera House

Cemeteries

You might wonder why you would want to spend your holiday visiting a cemetery, but tombstone tourism is on the rise, and in many countries has become quite the trend.

Cemeteries are moving, beautiful, and creepy. They are full of history, culture, and art, and each culture has different burial methods and rituals, so many tombstone tourists ‘enjoy walking around and getting a feel for the customs by simply looking at the gravestones.’ Sherry Ott.

Travelers visit graveyards around the world to for many reasons; to “reflect on their lives, seek out the grave of a famous person, or travel to learn more about their family by finding the final resting place of loved ones.” – Tonya Prater.

Some of the most beautiful overseas cemeteries include Waverley Cemetery, in Sydney, Cemetiere du Pere Lachaise in Paris, Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, and Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires.

Each of these are now tourist attractions in their own right, proving that graveyards are as much for the living as for the dead.

Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires

Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires.

Prisons

Prison tourism may sound dark, but visiting old jails is on the rise, and many historic prisons around the world are now recognized as World Heritage Sites.

Many countries convert their old prisons into museums or recreational sites catering to tourists. They tell the stories of the criminals who languished, rioted, plotted revenge and met their maker. Some old prisons have even seen new life as hotels and “haunted houses.”

During the time they were operational, notorious prisons like Alcatraz in San Francisco, the Tower of London (where they cut off Anne Boleyn’s head), and Port Arthur Tasmania struck the fear of God into law abiding men. But now people are paying to get in.

Off the coast of Cape Town, Robben Island is one of the most visited prisons in the world, having found infamy as the place where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated during South Africa’s apartheid. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, guided tours from the mainland are led by former political prisoners.

Port Arthur Tasmania

Port Arthur Tasmania

City Sewers

The above four categories were perhaps strange, but understandable. But a city sewer? I sure you can think of 100 better ways to spend your holiday!

But tourists all around the world are hitting the sewers, exploring the tunnels, drains and other wastewater structures underneath the city from ancient Rome to present-day New York.

The first sewer system to offer tours was the city of Paris in 1867, and it remains a worthy Paris attraction to this day. At Le Musée des Égouts (the sewer museum) visitors can learn about the history of the system and see parts of it up close.

Other destinations with popular sewer tours include Vienna, Sydney, New York and Rome. Rome in particular makes for an interesting tour. Built in the sixth century B.C.E., the sewers not only evacuated waste from the city, they also evacuated people.

“There’s a very longstanding tradition in the history of Rome where unwanted elements of society—so criminals, deposed tyrants even Christian martyrs—would be cast down here, symbolically to be flushed out of the city,” Professor Mark Bradley told the BBC.

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Megan is an Australian Journalist and award-winning travel writer who has been blogging since 2007. Her husband Mike is the American naturalist and wildlife photographer behind Waking Up Wild; an online magazine dedicated to opening your eyes to the wonders of the wild & natural world.

Having visited 50+ countries across all seven continents, Megan’s travels focus on cultural immersion, authentic discovery and incredible journeys. She has a strong passion for ecotourism, and aims to promote responsible travel experiences.

    

    22 Comments

  1. Everyone travels for different reasons. Some people live to explore the great outdoors and see the Earth’s natural wonders. Others spend hours shuffling through the world’s most prestigious museums, poring over art and artifacts. Then, there are those who live for a good time, traveling from city to city to experience global celebrations unlike those they might see at home. I travel to explore my self. I like those places and got information about this places. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Absolutely Jon, glad you enjoyed reading about some of the more off beat reasons people travel 🙂

  2. I would be absolutely interested in old prison tours. Looks like there are a bunch of prisons with wild history to them. On the other hand I could have never imagined a city sewer tour. Stinky… but might be fun and interesting!

    • Totally with you on the prisons – my favorite are always those in ruins where the wild has reclaimed the site. So much more interesting! Haven’t done a sewer tour yet myself lol but maybe take a nose peg 😀 haha

  3. Not too strange or out of the box to be honest. Sewers maybe.

    • Maybe these have become more mainstream than I thought 😀

  4. Interesting list Meg! I laughed at toilets, though I have been one of those tourists taking selfies over a squat toilet before 😀

    • Glad you enjoyed it Miranda! Haha I’ve been there too 😀

  5. We visited Port Arthur Convict Site on our visit to Tasmania too. When you standing in front of the main penitentiary you can feel the heartache and struggle that went on there over a hundred years ago.

    • It’s a very moving place that’s for sure. So many stories there among the ruins.

  6. Turns out I’ve been to a few prisons thinking back! Alcatraz, there’s also one on Easter Island, which, while a working prison, the prisoners make arts and crafts and you can purchase them from the side of the road.

    • Sounds cool Gary! And great that you’re able to support the local prison community.

  7. Did the sewer tour in Paris – pretty smelly, but very interesting! Only 4 euros to get in and it took around an hour. If you love engineering and history and architecture you will thoroughly enjoy this incredible story. It’s amazing to step back in time and contemplate the task the Parisian’s had to undertake to complete this.

    • 4 Euros is a bargain for a tour. Glad to hear you found it interesting, it’s definitely a valid part of history, just one we rarely learn about!

  8. Really looking forward to visiting Vegas one day. Not that I have a big interest in visiting Casinos normally, but you know, it’s Vegas. We did actually stay in Crown Casino in Melbourne last year and it was a luxurious hotel. Didn’t play in the casino though.

    • Vegas is great 😀 It’s like an alternate universe though lol and as non gamblers we were over it within 3 days, but it’s fun walking up and down the strip and visiting the themed hotels, a lot of entertainment too.

      We stayed in Crown Melbourne a couple of months ago as well – great place!

  9. I love visiting cemeteries. Call me crazy but I find them so peaceful.

    • I actually agree with you – I really enjoy walking around and reading the different inscriptions, some of the tombstones are really beautiful. Hauntingly so, but still beautiful 🙂

  10. I’ve heard of a toilet on the streets in London that looks like a shiny cube from the outside; it’s apparently got one-way mirrored walls allowing people sitting on it to look out in all directions. Not sure if this makes it worthy of ‘toilet tourism’, kind of straddles the line between cool and creepy tbh!

    • Haha sounds crazy!! I would be so unnerved lol be interesting to know if people get stage fright haha

  11. Great post. We have toilet restaurants here in London, too!

    • Glad you enjoyed it! Cool craze right!

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