As I have learned over the years, there are a lot of strange things in this world. Some so strange that you have to see them for yourself to believe them. Throughout my years of researching foreign lands, I have come across some strange villages, that you probably would never believe existed unless you saw them for yourself. Today, I'm gonna introduce you to 14 villages that are just downright bizarre. For this MyTake, I am only including places that are inhabited and have status as official towns. So squatter settlements like Slab City, neighborhoods like Taos's Earthship Way, and theme parks like Popeye's Village (Pictured Above), will not be included.
That being said, here are 14 bizarre villages that actually exist.
COOBER PEDY, AUSTRALIA
Underground Mining Town
This is one of the more popular ones on my list, so I decided to put it first. The name alone would be enough to earn it a spot on this list, but what really earns it a spot is that it is a real life "Underground City of the Mole People." Located in the arid deserts of South Australia, the town was established in 1915 after the world's largest opal despot was discovered in the area. To this day, the town is home to around 1700 residents, who still earn a living from the region's rich opal mines. However, with temperatures reaching into the triple digits during the summer, residents have come up with an interesting solution to stay cool. Taking a page out of the local Aborigines' survival book, they constructed an entire city underground, the idea being that this was a far more effective cooling system then air conditioning. The village contains an underground church, restaurants and hotels. Thanks to its innovative design, the town has become a curiosity for tourists, which is a good way for the residents to supplement their mining income.
One of the World's Last Cave Villages
Located in northwestern Iran, Kandovan is the largest and one of the last remaining cave villages on earth. The village differs from Coober Pedy, because the homes have been carved out into soft volcanic tuff located above the ground, rather then beneath the ground with modern machinery. They are more similar to the famous cave dwellings of Cappadocia, located in neighboring Turkey. Also, unlike Coober Pedy which only emerged within the last century, Kandovan has been continuously inhabited for the last 800 years, with the residents still living in the very same dwellings as their ancestors. The village is currently home to 170 families, totaling a population of around 600. The homes are very basic and few have modern amenities and technologies. It's incredible that in the 21st century, there are people who still chose to live this way. It really puts things into perspective.
Real Life "Flintstone" Village
Die hard "Flintstone" fans will love this next village. Located near the Spanish border in eastern Portugal, Monsanto often boasts about being the "Most Portuguese Village in Portugal." The village was established in the 11th century and today is home to just over 800 residents. Its inclusion on this list is due to the fact that its builders took advantage of the natural geology, building stone structures beneath large granite boulders to create natural roofs. The incorporation of the natural geology has created one of the strangest urban landscapes on earth. Although these days, these sorts of structures are either abandoned or serve as restaurants or hotels, since modern residents have opted for more conventional housing. But this place is still pretty cool.
CABO POLONIO, URUGUAY
Off the Grid Hippie Hamlet
Cabo Polonio is an off the grid hippie hamlet, located on the eastern coast of Uruguay. When I say "off the grid", I truly mean "off the grid". There is no road access, and the community can be reached only by foot or ATV. There is no electricity or running water, though residents create their own energy via windmills and bicycles. Water is obtained from rain and wells, and residents grow their own food, some of which is sold at the small grocery store. The community is home to around 95 people, and a small hostel operates for tourists who want to experience a true off the grid lifestyle. During the winter, its residents stay warm by singing songs around a communal campfire. If anything, there is definitely a strong sense of community here, which you rarely find these days.
Gateway To Area 51
This is one of the more famous ones on my list and chances are you've heard of this one, but just incase you haven't..... Rachel is a small village located in southern Nevada. And when I say small, I mean only 54 humans and an unknown number of aliens live here, most of them in mobile homes. The "town" was founded in 1973 by a local farmer, and the only reason it still exists today, is because of its location along the "Extraterrestrial Highway". In 1989, Joe and Pat Travis saw an opportunity to cash in from the Area 51 conspiracy, and opened the Little A'Le'Inn in an attempt to draw in tourism. The gimmick worked, and the village has now become the stereotypical tourist trap, with the small hotel selling everything from alien trinkets, to alien burgers and jerky. The gift shop is covered with pictures of aliens, and residents tell made up tales of aliens staying at the hotel. Although some locals have started to experiment with farming, the town's only true source of income is tourism, and as long as there are believers, the "town" will continue to exist.
ACOMA PUEBLO, NEW MEXICO
Oldest Continuously Inhabited Village in the U.S.
Honestly, if this village was located anywhere else, I wouldn't even consider it for this list. But the fact that it's located in the U.S., is reason enough to be included on this list. In such a modern and advanced country like the United States it is difficult to imagine that there are people who are still living the same way as their ancestors did. Yet, Acoma isn't the only such village in New Mexico, but it's certainly the most fascinating. Not only is it the oldest continuously inhabited settlement in the U.S., having been inhabited since 1100, its' unique location also earns it a spot on the list. The adobe village sits a top a sacred plateau known as the "Enchanted Mesa". This has earned it the nickname, "Sky Pueblo". Although most of the pueblo's residents have left in search of a more modern lifestyle, around 30 members of the Acoma tribe still live there. They are even willing to show you around for a hefty price. If all that isn't interesting enough, add to the fact the reservation on which the village sits is officially considered sovereign land. In other words, U.S. laws and the Constitution don't apply here. The reservation and pueblo are considered the private property of the tribe. Filming is prohibited outright, and photography is only permitted after paying a hefty fee. Even then, there are limits such as not being allowed to photograph cemeteries or tribal members. In fact, you are not even allowed to use binoculars or paint a painting without the tribe's permission. These regulations are seen as strange to people who have grown up their entire lives in the "Land of the Free."
Artificial Reed Islands
This is another one you've most likely heard of, and it's probably the most famous one this list. Officially, these islands are part of the city of Puno and are simply known as the "Floating Islands of Titicaca". So although its technically not a sovereign village, they still somewhat fit the criteria and are bizarre enough to be included on this list. Around 1200 Uru Indians live on around 100 self fashioned reed islands. Although they could easily opt for a more modern lifestyle, they choose to maintain this tradition as they make a good living off tourism. The islands are an actual functioning community with churches, schools and even tourist hotels, all of which are made entirely from reeds. However, some of the villagers have opted for modern technology, like cell phones and motors for their reed boats. Due to its status as a popular tourist attraction, the "authenticity" of life in the village is often questioned, but the architecture is very real and people DO live here, making it one of the strangest villages on earth.
The Village of Dwarfs
You won't find this remote village on any map. In fact, you won't even find it on Wikipedia. The village is nestled in a remote southwest corner of China's Sichuan Province. Seldom visited by the outside world, the first Westerner to set foot in this village was an English scientist in the 1940s. He spoke of a congregation of villages inhabited by several hundred dwarfs. His story was immediately dismissed as pure traveler's folklore, but as more travelers began to report these sightings, the village proved to be very real. By 1951 it had been discovered by the outside world. Although the actual population is far lower then originally reported, at just 80, it has become a medical anomaly, due to the fact that it has the highest rate of dwarfism on the planet. Of the 80 villagers, 36, around 40%, suffer from dwarfism, FAR beyond the normal rate. Its shortest inhabitant is just over 2 ft, and its tallest inhabitant is just 3 ft 10. Although dwarfism is not unheard of in China, finding such a large concentration within a single population is unprecedented. Although there have been several theories ranging from disease to poisoning by Japanese soldiers, and even dark cruses, no scientist has been able to come up with a definitive explanation. Since the Chinese government strongly discourages travel into the village, we will most likely never know the truth.
NOIVA DO CORDEIRO, BRAZIL
The Village of Beautiful Women
A village inhabited solely by young, beautiful, single women looking for men. Although every straight man has had this fantasy at some point in his life, this is the kind of thing you only see in a James Bond movie, right? Well.... wrong! If you're a single man in your 20s or 30s struggling to find love, then learn Portuguese, get Brazilian residency, and book a one way ticket to Minas Gerais. Although it sounds too good to be true, this rural village located south of Belo Horizonte is very real. And I don't think it's a pure coincidence that such a village exists in Brazil of all places. The village was established in 1891 by a woman who was exiled for committing adultery. Eventually, more and more women looking to get away from men settled in the village, and it eventually grew into a self sufficient all female commune. The village is currently home to around 600 women and is entirely self sufficient, with the women growing their own food. Although the women enjoy the peace and stability that comes from not having any men around, and have certainly proven they can survive without them, the reality is, these women are still women, and women have certain urges that only a man can satisfy. For that reason, the village isn't "entirely" off limits to men. The villagers are allowed to marry, and their husbands are allowed to stay in the village during the weekend, under the sole condition that they do not disturb the fabric of their all female society. But unsurprisingly, such a lifestyle doesn't appeal to most men. So in a final act of desperation, the women of this village have put out several ads pleading for husbands. The only qualifications, he has to be nice, willing to fuck, and give her her space. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.
CANDIDO GODOI, BRAZIL
The Village of Twins
Since we're already in Brazil, let's stay there for our next one. Just like with the dwarf village in China, this village in Rio Grande do Sul, close to the Argentine border, completely defies all aspects of conventional science. This village has a higher concentration of twins, than any other place on earth. Of the village's 6,000 residents, 700 are twins. That's 1,000% higher then the global average. The strangest part is, these twins were all found to be of German and Polish descent, which has lead to several conspiracy theories. It's a known fact that several Nazis fled to South America, during World War II. The most popular conspiracy states that a Nazi doctor named Josef Mengele conducted genetic experiments on German women already living in this village, in an attempt to create a master Aryan race. However, Brazilian scientists rebuke this claim, as they say the twin phenomena was already present long before Josef Mengele arrived in the region. Mainstream doctors attribute this strange anomaly to nothing more then a natural mutation, which made the twin gene more prevalent here then in other places. But this is not the only such case known to exist. There is a village in India and a village in Nigeria that have also recorded an unusually large percentage of twins. But the Brazilian case is definitely the strangest and most well known.
OODOMARI & NITODA, JAPAN
The Cat Villages
Oodomari and Nitoda are two villages on the tiny Japanese island of Tashirojima. The 1.2 sq. mile island lies in Miyagi prefecture just off the eastern coast of Honshu. With a measly population of just 100, there are more cats on the island then there are people. During the Late Edo period, the island had a large number of silk worm farms. Several cats were brought over to control the local mouse population. However, left unneutered they began to breed like rabbits, or cats rather, and now outnumber people 6 to 1. However, the locals let them be as they are considered good luck, and are even believed to have spared the island from the 2011 tsunami. A cat shrine sits on the island, which was erected after a local fisherman accidently crushed one of the cats with a rock. Although this isn't the only cat island in Japan, it is certainly the most popular, and the small mostly aging population choose to remain to cater to the dozens of cat lovers who visit daily. With Japan's cuteness obsession, it should come as no surprise that such villages exist throughout country.
ORANIA, SOUTH AFRICA
The World's Only "Whites Only" Town
In South Africa's Northern Cape province exists a village that is not only morally controversial, but also illegal. But before we jump to any conclusions, we need a bit of background information. The town was established in 1963 during the Apartheid era, with the intention of creating a place that would preserve the Afrikaner culture and identity. The intent was that similar communities would be established, eventually leading to the creation of a sovereign Afrikaner state. Orania was disbanded in 1989, only be reestablished after the fall of Apartheid, with the same goals in mind. In more recent years however, it has become more a safe haven for white South Africans who grew tired of falling victim to the country's growing black on white crime. As well as a response to the ANC's "Black Empowerment Programs", which have prevented many whites from getting jobs, even in sectors where blacks are lagging. The 3.5 sq. mile community is completely fenced off from the rest of the country, and even went as far as to proclaim sovereignty, even establishing its own currency. The town, with a population of around 1500 is entirely self sufficient, producing its own food, water and electricity, and providing the same services as any normal town would, including schools, churches and hospitals. Although several federal lawsuits have been filed against Orania on the grounds of "racial segregation", Orania's residents argue that, "there are plenty of black enclaves in the country where whites are not permitted to live." Although the facts may not favor political correctness, the reality is, the crime rate in Orania is practically 0%. As is the unemployment rate. Residents leave their keys in their cars, and their doors unlocked at night, something that would be unthinkable in the rest of the country. So despite what your morals are telling you to think, the reality is, Orania is the only stable and crime free town in the country.
The Village That's Legally A Country
This next one makes the list not because of its' strange architecture or inhabitants, but because of its' bizarre status. Located in the Italian province of Imperia, close to the French border, the village proclaimed itself as a sovereign nation in 1963. The whole story is a bit complicated, but the simple version is, some guy in the 1800s screwed up some documents, and when the Papal States unified to form the nation of Italy, Seborga was somehow left out. So legally, the village was never incorporated into the nation of Italy. Its residents have used this technicality to justify their existence as a sovereign nation. However, no nation officially recognizes Seborga's sovereignty, and everyone aside from other micronations consider it part of Italy.
AND FINALLY, the strangest village of all........
The Penis Village
Upon entering the remote Bhutanese village of Sopsokha, you would be easily forgiven for thinking the place had been vandalized by perverted pranksters, the night before. But no. This quaint Himalayan village is literally obsessed with penises. Although it is not the only village in Bhutan where you will find phallic art, nowhere is it more ubiquitous then in Sopsokha. But, as with every village on this list, there is a legitimate story behind this oddity. Following an arrow he shot from Tibet, monk and poet Lama Drukpa Kunley arrived in Bhutan in 1499. The legend goes that along the way he subdued a female demon by knocking her on the head with his penis, or as he liked to call it, the "Flaming Thunderbolt of Wisdom’. Wielding it as a weapon, he impaled the rears and throats of other demons, as he made his way through the Himalayas. This "thunderbolt" was so powerful it could knock out teeth, burn flesh and turn demons into protective deities. Taking his belief that the rigidity of clergy was constraining the free flow of Buddha’s true teachings, this rebel monk found his meditation practice in "girls and wine", sharing his unconventional wisdom through sex and lewd behavior. He would entwine blessing threads around his penis for good luck and debate metaphysics using flatulence. By the time of his death it is said that he had engaged in sexual intercourse with no fewer then 5,000 women, all in the name of spirituality. Such eccentric teachings elevated the Divine Madman to the status of Bhutan’s favorite saint, and the proliferation of posturing phalli flourished throughout the country. For this reason, the penis is today considered a symbol of good fortune in Bhutan. They are worshipped and adorn the walls of temples and homes, often depicting ejaculation. This is believed to provide protection to the family living there. In addition, villages like Sopsokha sell erect penises as tourist souvenirs. It really doesn't get any stranger then that. If you for some bizarre reason have a fear of penises, it's best if you not visit this village.
THANKS FOR READING. If you know any more bizarre villages, tell us about them in the comments section.