Brits may be bracing themselves for a heatwave, but it pales in comparison to the sweltering temperatures sweeping America’s West Coast.
Devastating wildfires have ripped through California in recent days, while Death Valley has seen the mercury hit 54C.
The baking temperature is the highest on record since 1913, when the area reached 57C – considered the highest ever recorded on Earth.
Death Valley has a fearsome reputation as the hottest place in the planet – so warm, in fact, that national park officials once sent out a plea to stop tourists frying eggs on the ground.
From sizzling heat to constant darkness and even underground cities, only a few select places in the world boast such unique selling points.
Here, we take a trip around the planet’s most extreme tourist attractions.
Death Valley: The hottest place on Earth
The lowest point in North America, Death Valley is a national park like no other, boasting roasting temperatures and some of nature’s most astounding mysteries.
Touching the earth at Badwater Basin and you’ll notice a snow-like substance caking much of the hard ground, which is actually salt that remains after temporary lakes form during heavy storms.
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Even more incredible is the sight of trails stretching more than 1,500 feet – the result of a mysterious phenomenon that sees huge rocks dragging themselves across the ground.
The small number of dunes of Death Valley are said to ‘sing’ to visitors, emitting a sound like a pipe organ or airplane drone when sand falls down the tallest hills.
Movie buffs should also check out Artists Drive, a beautiful area full of multi-coloured hills. The landscape inspired the scenery for Tatooine in Star Wars: A New Hope, while it has also features in classics including Spartacus, The Twilight Zone and Tarzan.
Speaking to the BBC, one resident explained the temperatures get so hot that you can’t even sweat properly.
“It feels so hot that one thing it took me a while to get used to is that you can’t actually feel the sweat on your skin because it evaporates so quickly,” she said.
“You might feel it on your clothes, but you don’t actually feel sweat on your skin because it dries so quickly.”
Coober Pedy: The underground city
Far out in the Australian Outback, Coober Pedy is a bit of a trek – the nearest town is more than 200km away.
However, the unique tourist spot has two big selling points.
Firstly, it is known as the ‘opal capital of the world’, with miners for generations flocking to the town to hunt for the precious stones.
Secondly, hiding beneath the arid ground is an incredible underground town, boasting a tunnel of homes, hotels and even an art gallery.
With recorded temperatures reaching up to 47C, residents escape the heat by living permanently under the earth – and like Death Valley, it has proved an irresistible lure for Hollywood.
The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, was partially filmed in White Cliff’s Underground Hotel, while Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome shot its car chases around the area’s Lunar Plains.
Bouvet Island: World’s most remote island
Lying 1,600 miles from South Africa, the nearest permanently inhabited land, Bouvet Island is the world’s most remote island.
The notoriously inhospitable mass of rock and ice is 19 square miles and is only braved by hardened explorers – but boasts a fascinating history.
Norwegian Polar Institute)
In 1964, South African explorers came across an abandoned lifeboat on the island, finding no trace of its crew.
Described as a whaler or ship’s lifeboat, the vessel is believed to have come from a larger ship, but no trading routes pass within a thousand miles of the coast.
To this day, mystery remains about how the tiny boat would have been able to navigate to the island – and why its occupants were seeking to.
In 1979, a series of mysterious flashes near the island were caught by US satellites.
Known as the ‘Vela incident’, they were believed to have been a series of nuclear tests, allegedly in a joint operation by Israel and South Africa, though no foreign power has ever official acknowledged the incident.
Rjukan: The town in six months of darkness
If you’re afraid of the dark, it might be wise to steer clear of Rjukan, Norway, for that long-awaited holiday.
Sitting between two hulking mountains, the quiet town’s beautiful waterfalls are a famous landmark – but it is also among the darkest settlements in the world.
AFP via Getty Images)
For decades, Rjukan received no direct sunlight at all for six months a year and villagers were forced to take a cable car Hardangervidda, Norway’s largest national park, to soak up some rays.
However, in 2013, the town struck upon an ingenious solution that had first been mooted 100 years earlier – constructing a system of giant mirrors that beamed light down towards the valley.
Martin Andersen, the artist behind the mirrors, told the Guardian that families had grown tired of having to trek to escape the night.
AFP via Getty Images)
“We’d look up and see blue sky above, and the sun high on the mountain slopes, but the only way we could get to it was to go out of town,” he said. “The brighter the day, the darker it was down here.”
French Polynesia: Shark lovers’ paradise
Take a swim in French Polynesia and you’ll come eye-to-eye with a host of incredible sea life – including one of the world’s biggest collection of sharks.
Off the island of Fakarava, divers can swim a narrow passage just 200m wide filled with more than 700 of the amazing beasts.
The stunning site is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and boasts more than 20 different types of species – including tiger, gray reef, lemon, blacktip, whitetip, blackfin, and mako.
Toursits are welcome to swim with the sharks, which are said to be the souls of ancestors in local lore, and attacks in the region are incredibly rare.
Since 1580, only six confirmed cases have have been reported, according to the Independent.
However, one horrific incident did occur back in 2019, when a mum has both her hands bitten off in front of her six-year-old son.
The High Commissioner of the Republic in French Polynesia said: “This is a sudden and very rare attack in French Polynesia.
“An investigation is under way to determine the circumstances behind this tragedy.”
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