Friday, February 5, 2016

Seven delightful little unknown places for travelers

Aerial of Sintra, Portugal   (wikipedia)
CHARLOTTE, NC First there were the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, then the Seven Wonders of the Modern World followed by Seven Natural Wonders of the World, so why not Seven Little Wonders of the World.

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 7 little known places to add to your traveling bucket list.
Souvenir shops in Alberobello, Italy where 400 "beehive" houses beckon visitors to explore  (wikipedia)
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 it “trulli” which are small circular limestone buildings dating to the 14th century. The dwellings featuring conical roofs incorporated a prehistoric construction technique which is still used in the southern region of Puglia in Italy.

Alberobello is a village of approximately 1500 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.
Poland's Crooked Forest is still a mystery   (wikipedia)

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 has more than 40 halls, cabinets and pavilions that are connected by evenly distributed and balanced corridors, bridges and boardwalks.
The Hanging Temple of China built more than 17 centuries ago clings to its cliffside home  (wikipedia)
Built in 491, 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.
Spectacular facade of the Jain Temple in Ranakpur, India  (wikipedia)
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.
Las Lajas Basilica in Colombia resting along the Guaitara River is now a pilgrimage site  (wikipedia) 
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 tall 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 located on Via Veneto near Piazza Barberini.
Artwork made from the bones of Capuchin monks  (wikipedia)

In 1631 Cardinal Antonio Barberini ordered the remains of thousands of Capuchin friars to be exhumed and transferred to a crypt which lies 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 ornamental 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 comprised of two cities. It is known for its 19th century architectural monuments which can be found in a forested setting.

Majestic and colorful Pena Palace overlooks the landscape in Sintra, Portugal  (wikipedia)
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.