5 of the world’s most obscure places; worth a visit for the name alone

At the sprightly young age of 41 I realise I’m very fortunate to have seen as much of the world as I have. However my curiosity to explore more of our planet grows with each passing year and with each story I hear about a new place. Reading travel adventures is a great source of ideas. One of my favourite pastimes is studying maps and globes, and these provide me with some of the most unusual, yet strongest, travel urges. Here are just five places that I know very little about, but that I would love to visit if only for their alluring names and the emotions that their names evoke.

1. Fray Bentos

Those of us who grew up in the UK will be familiar with Fray Bentos pies; cheap meat, cheap tins, and perfect food for students. But did you know that there is a fairly large city in Uruguay that is named after the pie? Ok, it’s probably the other way round, but in any case I was amazed to make this discovery when travelling on a bus towards Montevideo. Our visit to Uruguay was only fleeting and didn’t allow for a detour to Fray Bentos, but it’s certainly a place I’d love to visit. I expect there won’t be a pie in sight though.

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2. Attu Island

One of the outermost Aleutian Islands, this tiny dot on the map is one of the most inaccessible places on the planet. I have heard of bird-watching trips that take place there, although the journey to reach it sounds positively hellish. Attu Island was also the place of the only land battle of WW2 that took place on American soil. Why the fascination? My wife is known by the name Attu to her family, and having found her namesake island on the map I feel it right to take her there one day. It will be one very big (and uncomfortable) adventure…

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3. Wallis and Futuna

Located in the South Pacific, a few hundred miles north east of Fiji, I had never heard of the existence of these islands until recently. I’m not quite sure what the image is that the name best conjures, but it’s not of a tropical paradise; something that the location on the map suggests it might be. Besides which, I’ve never met anyone who has been there.

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4. Yakutsk

Anyone who played the board game Risk will be familiar with Yakutsk. A wild, remote corner of Siberia, this area is home to some of the coldest temperatures on Earth. If you read this feature from the Independent by Shaun Walker and are not deterred from wanting to go there, then you probably share my weird fascination with this place of extremes. Given the severity of the conditions in Yakutsk, I suspect that this may be a solo journey.

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5. Sao Tome and Principe

If we think of islands off the coast of Africa, thoughts may turn to Zanzibar, or perhaps further afield to Mauritius and the Seychelles. Lesser known are these tiny islands nestled in the ‘armpit’ of Africa (meant in the nicest possible way). Once a Portuguese colony and now a melting pot of cultures, the Sao Tome and Principe Islands are only slowly opening their doors to the world of tourism. Not so easy to reach, these islands represent an adventurous destination that is worth a look in the next few years.

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What is the strangest place you have a desire to visit?

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12 Responses to “5 of the world’s most obscure places; worth a visit for the name alone”

  1. We have some strange names in Canada. I wrote a post last year about odd names in Canada that I would love to visit myself. Most notably Dildo Newfoundland. My proof that it exists

    April 1, 2010 at 3:20 pm
  2. Jim #


    or maybe deadhorse

    or perhaps Mule Shoe

    I think i’d go for Mooloolaba..

    April 1, 2010 at 7:18 pm
  3. I will be going to Wallis & Futuna this coming June:)
    I love the following place names: Ouagadougou, Antananarivo and Bujumbura. Worth going simply for the names. Been to the first two; was supposed to go to the last but a few rebel rockets landed the day I was supposed to fly in, and I cancelled my flight…

    April 2, 2010 at 2:06 am
  4. Dave and Deb, some fabulous names there, none more crazy than Dildo, Newfoundland. No doubt one of those places where the locals are fed up of visitors posing by the signs to the town (same goes for Twatt in the Shetland Islands)

    Jim, good to hear from you! I particularly enjoyed reading about Deadhorse from your link. Longest night: 54 days, 22 hours, 51 min – that does not sound nice…

    Wee Cheng, you have covered so many places. I am in awe 🙂 You’ll have to share your stories from remote Africa. I agree that Ouagadougou is a wonderful name. But then so is Burkina Faso.

    April 2, 2010 at 11:00 am
  5. Wow – this list makes me feel like I know so little of the world! Love the names and I’ve learned something today too 🙂

    April 6, 2010 at 2:58 pm
  6. I grew up in a town called Sandwich so i find that foreign names that sound a bit rude or incongruous are one of the best reasons to travel.
    There is a village near LongSheng in China’s GuanXi province called Long Pu that rarely fails to bring a smile to my face.
    The Major of Batman in Turkey claiming he would sue Warner Bros suggests that living in a strangely named place makes you strange.

    Of course these are just weird due to translation but in Central Asia they like to go a little left field in their own language. Astana is the name of Kazakhstan’s new capital. Nothing funny except that in Kazakh Astana translates as “Capital”. Kyrgyzstan’s capital Bishkek translates as a kind of milk churner and Tajikistans capital Dushanbe in Tajik means ….. Tuesday.
    Go figure.

    June 7, 2010 at 5:50 pm
  7. Thanks for the Central Asian education James; I’d never have guessed those names! Esp. Tuesday, or Dushanbe… strange indeed. I was always surprised to find White Stane o’ Willies on a map of Shetland, and have never understood why it hasn’t appeared on any of the lists of rude sounding place names…

    June 8, 2010 at 4:50 pm
  8. Connie #

    Fucking. In Austria…. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fucking,_Austria (pronounced differently in German…apparently the Village traffic sign has been stolen quite a lot by English speaking tourists…

    June 10, 2011 at 10:25 am
  9. Christina #

    Fakarava (Tuamotus Islands, French Polynesia) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fakarava

    the most beautiful, pristine reef with hundreds of sharks hanging in the current on the south pass on any single dive – who would guess with a name like Fakarava?

    June 10, 2011 at 11:16 am
  10. Debs #

    Ski resort in NZ called Whakapapa. . ..not so funny right? But the Wh is pronounced as a F!

    June 10, 2011 at 11:47 am
  11. Tulio #

    Actually, because of work, I’ve been in São Tomé and Príncipe quite a few times… I really liked it! There’s a weekly flight from Lisbon, and a less trusworthy one from Libreville… It’s a hikers and trekkers paradise… The country is so small, people call each other “cousins”… haha

    June 10, 2011 at 12:52 pm
  12. Colin #

    There’s a place called kickatinalong in Vic , Australia

    June 10, 2011 at 5:46 pm