Book Review: Secret Marvels of the World by Lonely Planet

Secret Marvels of the World - cover
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What sort of traveller are you? Do you prefer to stick to well-known sights, or are you keen to discover something new? Or do you like to explore the wonders of our planet from the comfort of your own home? A new title from Lonely Planet, Secret Marvels of the World, is a feast of information for curious travellers of every type.

Secret Marvels of the World
Secret Marvels of the World – a new title from Lonely Planet

Secret Marvels of the World

The book is subtitled “360 extraordinary places you never knew existed and how to find them”. It is a mixture of the odd, the very odd, and the simply baffling. Some of the places mentioned are intentionally bizarre, like the ice cream parlour in Venezuela with 1,000 flavours including garlic, prawns in wine and beef stew. Others are more accidental, such as the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone or an abandoned amusement park in Aruba. Some I’m not at all sure about – why exactly does Vanuatu have an underwater post office?

Secret Marvels of the World by Lonely Planet
A sample page from Secret Marvels of the World

The author obviously has a taste for the grotesque – ossiaries, tombs and preserved human remains seem to be a recurring theme. And there are lots of quirky museums, like the Beneficial Microbes Museum in Taiwan or the Lunchbox Museum in Georgia, USA. Nature gets in on the act too. There are the Waitomo Glowworm Caves in New Zealand (check out my post on Waitomo), the “living fires” of Romania and Namibia’s singing dunes.

Get 10% off your order total when you buy Lonely Planet books. Just use code WORLDWIDE10 at checkout. (Offer does not apply to titles available for pre order and is available in UK, US and Canada only.)

An Individual Collection

A collection of this type is likely to be individualistic and can only be the tip of the iceberg. I pride myself on being able to ferret out odd and unusual things but I had only visited a handful of the places in this book (two of them were the Wave Organ in San Francisco and the Big Pineapple on Australia’s Sunshine Coast). I even found sights in London I hadn’t known about.

Secret Marvels of the World by Lonely Planet
The arrangement is idiosyncratic – in keeping with the content!

The book also includes lists: you always wanted to know the 10 Top Tremendous Toilets or Bizarre Disaster Sites. And there are itineraries such as The Real Dracula Trail and Eerie Namibia. Each entry has information about how to visit. I found the arrangement – by longitudinal region rather than the more conventional continent/country – a little confusing. However this seems to have been quite deliberate, a challenge to see the world in a different way.

Seeking Inspiration from the World’s Marvels

There are some places in this book I’d love to see, particularly the Salvador Dali inspired Hang Nga Guesthouse in Vietnam or, closer to home, Vienna’s Hundertwasserhaus (I visited the Hundertwasser Toilets in New Zealand a couple of years ago). And there are others I’d rather avoid, including all of the 10 top nerve-wracking rocks (the picture of tourists perched on the end of Norway’s Trolltunga is enough to induce vertigo in anyone). But that’s the point of a book like this: it is an invitation to dive into a world we never knew existed, and to decide whether or not we want to explore further.

Secret Marvels of the World is a book for browsing and inspiration, a celebration of the bizarre and the unexpected. As the introduction says, “In a time when technology has given us a better understanding than ever before of the hows and whys of life, these places show us we don’t know the half of it”.

Secret Marvels of the World is available in hardback from the Lonely Planet shop. Or you can buy it as an e-book from Amazon.

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About Karen

WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren. I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 60 countries at the last count). I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica (I still hope to get there one day…), and my current favourite destinations are Italy, Spain and North America. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way.

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10 thoughts on “Book Review: Secret Marvels of the World by Lonely Planet”

  1. Thanks for sharing this book. I know places like the Beneficial Microbes Museum in Taiwan would not necessarily be up my alley, I love to find unique places (hopefully in France) that I can try out. I’ll definitely be checking out this book.

    1. Hi Janice, there are a few French places in this book. You probably know about the catacombs of Paris, but what about the Hindu-inspired Palais Idéal in Hauterives…

  2. This book looks like such fun and a veritable treasury of unique and bizarre places to read about and even plan a visit. Who doesn’t love a good ossuary and I have to admit, I have a tour to Chernobyl on my must-see list. I love going off the beaten track and weird is oftentimes pretty wonderful! Thanks for the reading suggestion. Anita

  3. I feel like I still have enough “regular” places to visit before starting on the places listed in this book although I suspect I’ve been to a few of them since we’ve stumbled on quite a few ossuaries during our travels.

  4. It sounds great but the Waitomo Caves are hardly a secret… tourists have been visiting by the bus load for years. Am keen to read it & see what else it has listed though.

    1. Interesting point, although I must confess I didn’t know about the Waitomo Caves until I went to that part of New Zealand. I suppose that things that are well known locally aren’t necessarily familiar to people elsewhere in the world. I think you’d find lots of inspiration in the book!

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