The Wonderful Barn, Ireland

The wonderful Barn, Leixlip
photo © mytouristmaps

Constructed in 1743 after the ‘Black Spring’ famine by John Glin for the Government of Ireland on commission by local landlady Katherine Conolly, the Wonderful Barn is a spectacular corkscrew-shaped grain store built to avoid shortage of grain in case of another famine period. Its construction gave employment to the impoverished local people.

The building, located in Leixlip, County Kildare, is 22,25 meters high and there are 94 limestone steps to the top from the 11 meters-diameter base. Since 2006 the Wonderful Barn is placed on the World Monuments List of 100 Most Endangered Monuments.

Lena Pillars, Russia

Lena Pillars
photo © A. Butorin
The Lena Pillars are a Unesco World Heritage site with stunning rock pinnacles formed in the Cambrian period alongside the river Lena, around 200 kilometers south from the Siberian city of Yakutsk, known as the coldest city in the world.

 

The pillars are up to 300 meters high and the area is an important archaeological site, with loads of Cambrian fossils and ancient human rock paintings.

Blue Whale Watching

The gigantic blue whale is the biggest animal on earth: up to 30 meters long and 150-170 tons of weight (like about 2000 men!). Its tongue can have the same weight as an elephant and its heartbeat can be detected from more than three kilometers.

Blue Whale comparisonThe blue whale name comes from the underwater colour, although his body is actually grayish-blue.
His diet mainly consists of krill, small crustaceans of which a blue whale can eat up to 4 tons every day (about two million of them!).

According to recent scientific studies, the life expectancy of a blue whale is up to 70-90 years and can be determined by the layers of their earwax.

The blue whales emit a particular vocalization sound that permits them to hear each other: the low-frequency sounds may travel up to more than 1500 km underwater.

World’s best places for blue whale watching:

Canada
Saguenay Fjord
from June to October

Iceland
Hùsavìk
from May to August

Azores
Pico Island
April, May

U.S.A.
Monterey Bay, California
San Diego, California
from June to October

Mexico
Baja California Sur
from January to March

Sri Lanka
Mirissa
from December to April
Trincomalee
from March to August
Chile 
Corcovado Gulf
from January to April

Australia

Perth Canyon
from March to May

New Zealand
Kaikoura
July, August

Light Pillars

Light Pillars
photo © Powhusku
 

Light pillars are beams of light formed by an optical phenomenon created by the reflection of light from flat hexagonal ice crystals horizontally suspended in the atmosphere.

Different shape and colour depend on the source of light, which can be natural (sun, moon) or artificial (streetlights), on the position of the crystals: the higher they are, the taller the pillars are, and on the number and dimensions of the crystals: the larger and more numerous they are, the more pronounced is the effect.
Due to the low temperature required, this effect is typical of arctic regions.

Valadier Temple, Italy

Valadier Temple
photo © Alicudi
 

Located in the central Italian region of Marche, about one hour drive west of the city of Ancona, this gorgeous temple designed by the Italian architect Giuseppe Valadier in 1828 was originally a refugee for Christian pilgrims.

The temple is at the entrance of the Frasassi caves complex, whose Abisso Ancona is one of the biggest cave chambers in the world, 180 meters long and 200 meters tall, enough to accommodate the Milan Cathedral.

Beside the temple stands the Sanctuary of Santa Maria Infra Saxa, built in 1029 and completely carved into the rock.

Fanjingshan, China

Fanjingshan
photo © Nathan Ackley
 

The UNESCO World Heritage site of Fanjingshan, also known as Mount Fanjing is a stunning mountain area located in the Wuling Mountains, in the Guizhou province of China.

The mountain site is formed by three peaks: the Mushroom Rock (2.318 m), the Old Golden Peak (2.474 m) and the spectacular Red Cloud Golden Peak (2.336 m) on whose top, onto a 100 meters high rock pinnacle, the Mile Temple and the Shijia Temple are connected by a bridge above the rift that splits the peak into two parts. Visitors can reach the two temples by the whole walking trail (8.888 steps, 5-6 hours), or by cable car and a shorter trail of about 2.300 steps.
Fanjingshan is a sacred Buddhist mountain, a pilgrimage destination for thousands of worshipers every year.

The whole Wuling Mountains area has plentiful biodiversity with more than two thousand species of plants and endemic endangered animals like the grey snub-nosed monkey, the Chinese giant salamander and the forest musk deer.

Mount Fanjing can be reached from the city of Tongren by a two hours bus drive and the best period to visit it is from March to November.

For any further information visit the Fanjingshan Official Website.

Bonito, Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil

Bonito Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil
photo © Lucas Cordeiro Barbosa Dijigow
 

The area surrounding the municipality of Bonito is one of the best natural attractions in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, in the South-Western part of Brazil.

One of the best sightseeing from Bonito is the Rio da Prata and Rio Sucuri / Rio Formoso, where floating guided tours allows to snorkel and dive into the crystal-clear water: a unique scenery created by the water flowing onto the limestone rocks.

Abismo Anhumas
photo © Edmilson Sanches

About 20 km West from Bonito other striking natural formations are the Abismo Anhumas (Anhumas Abyss), an underground lake 70 meters below the ceiling of an enchanted cave with underwater stalagmites, (among the biggest in the world, up to almost 20 metres high) and the Gruta do Lago Azul Natural Monument, one of the biggest flooded caves in the world, were prehistoric large mammals fossils of giant sloth, sabre-toothed cat and giant armadillo have been found.   

50 km South of Bonito, the Buraco das Araras, a massive sandstone crater,  hosts hundreds of aracari toucans and red/green macaws.

Mada’in Saleh, Saudi Arabia

Mada'in Saleh, Saudi Arabia
Qaṣr Al-Farīd tomb photo © Ahmad AlHasanat
 

Also known as Al-Ḥijr or Hegra, this impressive archaeological site belonged in the first century AD to the kingdom of Nabatean, a nomadic Bedouin tribe of the northern Arabian peninsula, whose capital was Raqmu, now known as the famous Petra (Jordan).

According to the Quran, it is believed that this is a cursed place, owing to the punishment with natural disasters given from Allah to the Thamud people (8th century BCE) for their idol worshipping.

The outstanding location consists of 131 rock-cut monumental tombs and was the first Arabian proclaimed UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008.

The site is reachable by car from the nearest towns with flight connections: al-Wajh (100 km) and al-Ula (20 km).

All visitors need a permit to visit Mada’in Saleh (you can easily obtain the permission in the Hotels near the site).

Northern Ireland’s Peace Walls, U.K.

Belfast Peace Walls
Peace Wall in Cupar Way, Belfast, photo © mytouristmaps
 

Some of the Northern Ireland’s neighborhoods are still divided by walls: the Peace Walls (or Peace Lines) separate the nationalists/Catholics/Irish from the loyalists/Protestants/British people.

Most of them are in Belfast, others are also existing in Portadown, Derry and Lurgan, with a total length of around 34 km; some of them have gates that are opened only during daylight.

The walls were initially built as a temporary structure to avoid the violence episodes; the first peace line is dating back to 1969 in Belfast after the riot that had involved nationalists, loyalists and police that caused more than 150 homes destroyed, almost two thousand families evacuated, 8 killed and more than 700 injured people.

The number of the walls have raised from less than 20 in the early 1990s to more than one hundred nowadays; there was also an increase after the Irish-British Good Friday Agreement of the 10th April 1998.

According to the public local opinion, the walls are still necessary to maintain the peace and avoid the violence in those areas: the majority of the people still think that more time is needed to change the mentality that has caused lots of conflicts in the past.

In September 2017, the Northern Ireland Department of Justice published its Interface Programme, which intention is removing all the structures by 2023.

Reading the messages of thousands of people marked on the Peace Walls, it is evident that the thought of the people, with or without walls, is still aimed at peace.

Lough Tay, Ireland

Lough Tay, Ireland
photo © mytouristmaps
 

The Lough Tay, located in the Wicklow Mountains, about 50 km south from Dublin, is also known as the Guinness Lake due to its shape and colours.

The white sandy beach on the northern coast makes the Guinness foam. The brown colour of the water close to the beach (due to the water coming from the streams that rise on peat covered uplands) complete the incredible visual similarity to the famous Irish pint.

You can see the lake from the R759 scenic route, or if you want a better view from the top, take the walking trail towards the Luggala mountain (accessible from the R115 — the best scenic drive in the Wicklow mountains) or the Djouce mountain, one of the most spectacular walks in the Wicklow Mountains, from which you can see the whole Dublin bay and, on a clear sky day, also the Welsh coastline.

The Lough Tay beach was chosen in 2013 as the set for the village of Kattegat in the Vikings tv series.