I don’t know about you, but I’m getting a bit bored with all the overused images of famous landmarks and spots around the world. We have been so overwhelmed by them in fact, that our perfect impressions are now spoilt when we see the real deal. Therefore, this list is going to step right off the beaten track and show you the backside of these places. In some cases it reveals a dirty and hidden underbelly, in others, not much of anything really. But hey . . . at least it’s not your usual run of the mill list of “famous places”.
10 Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal has a problem: garbage. The Yamuna River which runs behind the Taj Mahal is filthy (as you can see). And while there is obvious a trash problem on the surface, below the surface lurks toxic chemicals that make it the most polluted river in all of India. In fact, recently the entire thing was covered in poisonous foam of a mysterious origin! Bleurgh! Not quite the picturesque impression we are all left with after viewing perfect photos all over traveler’s instagram! And it’s not just garbage and toxic water we need to worry about: smoke from industry is turning the great Taj Mahal yellow! There is more about that on Top 10 Ways You’re Picturing Popular Tourist Attractions Incorrectly.
9 Pyramids of Giza
It is awe-inspiring that despite the conquering hordes and the millennia that have passed, the pyramids of Giza (the last remnant of the seven wonders of the ancient world) still stand as the most striking feature of Cairo’s skyline. In some way we can perhaps say that the pharaohs are keeping watch still over their once-great nation. If you want to know what it smelled like in Ancient Egypt, you’ll want to check out our Top 10 Incredible Smells That Will Blow Your Mind.
Most people enter Petra through the Pharoah’s Treasury and that face of the exterior is the image most of us know when we we think of the place. But there is another entrance at the rear called the Monastery or El Deir. It got its name due to crosses carved on the interior when the area was used by Christian monks during the Byzantine era. Fortunately you can take special tours that go around the Monastery and other outer areas that are lesser known. Check out how drones are uncovering secrets at Petra on Top 10 Secrets of Drone Archaeology.
7 Hollywood Sign
According to CBS, “the sign went up in the hills overlooking Los Angeles in 1923 at a cost of $21,000 to promote a development by the Hollywoodland Real Estate Group. It read “Hollywoodland” until 1949, when the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce entered into a maintenance agreement to preserve it and the last four letters were removed.” In 2005, the original sign (replaced in the 1970s due to damage and age) was sold for $450,000 by a private owner. The area around the sign is now protected parkland that was once owned by Howard Hughes who had planned to build a mansion on the site. It has been host to many college pranks and one suicide of a budding starlet, Peg Entwistle (you’ll hear more about her on a future list). If you want to know about the Playboy connection to the Hollywood sign, read Top 10 Lesser-Known Facts About World Famous Landmarks.
6 The Colosseum
Are you wondering why this angle of the Colosseum looks like a big grey chunk of Swiss cheese? That’s because the structure was originally built using iron rods to hold the bricks together, and was dotted with gates and trapdoors to contain and coral the various animal entertainments. Over the years, as it fell into disuse, the citizens of Rome stole the iron leaving behind holes. They also stole bricks to build their houses, and the entire outer layer of marble which would have made for a very distinctly different looking amphitheater than the one we are used to seeing today. For a peak at how it probably looked, here’s Top 10 Ancient Wonders As You’ve Never Seen Them.
5 Mount Rushmore
Mount Rushmore was carved between 1927 to 1941 and contains the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. It was created to increase tourism to South Dakota—which worked. “Gutzon Borglum [the man who created the icon] chose the four presidents to represent the nation’s birth, growth, development, and preservation, respectively.” Pictured here is the other side of the mountain, illustrating the beautiful national park in which the sculpture finds itself. Happily, a ten year ban on fireworks due to “environmental concerns” has recently been overturned and the dazzling display will return to the mountain on Independence Day. If you can’t get enough of the mountain, check out more information on Top 10 Facts That Prove Mount Rushmore Was A Terrible Idea.
4 Easter Island Moai
More than 900 monolithic stone statues dot Easter Island in Chile. Carved and placed between A.D. 1250 and A.D. 1500 the statues still hold many mysteries. In fact, while we still don’t really know who carved them, why, or where they went! Incomplete statues lie in quarries on the island. Most of the best known statues look inland from the beach and it is the image of their faces that we most commonly see. Here, instead, is an image from behind the statues. Curiously, one group of seven of the statues (Ahu Akivi) face out to the sea and is perfectly aligned for the autumn and spring equinoxes! Many of the statues have complex carvings on their backs which are undeciphered. More details about these mysterious statues can be found on Top 10 Strange And Mysterious Islands.
It’s not awful but it’s not quite the Grand Canal. This, in fact, the Commune of Mira; as much a part of the famed and beautiful Metropolitan City of Venice as the area which gets thrown up on television to warn us of impending doom every time it floods . . . since A.D. 421! It is well and good to think of the Bridge of the Sighs, the Doge’s palace, St Mark’s square and all the wondrous costumes and dalliances of the famed Venice, but the people who sew those costumes, clean the bridge, and sell tickets at the attractions have to live somewhere! That’s where this lesser seen “back side” of Venice comes in. On the plus side, it’s Italy: you’ll still get the best coffee you’ve ever drunk. If you want to know more about this beautiful region of Italy, and you definitely should, read our Top 10 Unexplained Mysteries of Ancient Venice.
2 Buckingham Palace
Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith (also known as Queen Elizabeth) lives in this nice, but not mindblowingly stunning, house in London. Well . . . it’s a palace really, but it was once called Buckingham House (in 1703). Of course the front yard is much nicer to look at than this nondescript back yard that looks like any other middling English palace. The palace contains 775 rooms, including 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices, 78 bathrooms, 52 principal bedrooms, and 19 state rooms. It also has a post office, cinema, swimming pool, doctor’s surgery, and jeweller’s workshop. One day the house will be taken over by Prince Charles and a number of other odd things will happen that you can read about on Top 10 Ways The Queen’s Death Will Be Bizarre.
1 The Moon
One side of the Moon always faces us. Technically it is because “the spinning period of the Moon is the same as the time it takes for the Moon to orbit around the Earth.”. Untechnically: because aliens. Just kidding . . . maybe. Anyway, the far side of the Moon has been photographed and we now know that it is not quite as mysterious as man has always considered it to be. The image here was taken by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft and is the most detailed picture of the dark side of the Moon yet. It is, in a sense, one of the great unsolved mysteries of man that we could not solve until technology let us. For more information on the Moon, including a bunch of creepy and odd theories, look at Top 10 Weird Anomalies And Bizarre Conspiracies Of The Moon.