Help Us Find the Most Surreal Places in the World

The real world can be weird, but there are some places around the globe that are just incredibly surreal. Whether you’re strolling through the mind-bending wonders of Holywood, Scotland’s Garden of Cosmic Speculation, trying not to get dizzy during your ride on the Surreal Elevator in Queens, New York, or struggling to comprehend the odd dimensions of the Rocchetta Mattei fortress in Grizzana Morandi, Italy, there are places all over the planet that seem to gleefully break the bonds of conventional reality. Now we want to hear about the most surreal places you’ve ever discovered, whether it was some strange, built-space or a nearly unbelievable natural setting!

(Image: Flexdream/CC BY 3.0)

In the thread below, tell us about the most surreal places you’ve ever discovered, where they were, and why they were so mind-blowing. If you have any pictures of your surreal experience, please include those as well! Your response may be included in an upcoming round-up article on Atlas Obscura. Let’s get weird!

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The town of Xilitla in Mexico was a magnet for British surrealism. Painter/sculptor Leonora Carrington lived there for a time and there is a small museum with some of her works in the town.

But the real surrealism is in Las Pozas, an architectural fever dream by Carrington’s friend, Edward James. Stairs that lead to nowhere, structures whose only purpose is aesthetic. Truly a unique experience both during the warm, balmy days or during the odd cool, fog-filled ones (as was the case when I visited and took these pictures) of Xilitla.

Spanish surrealism (exemplified by Remedios Varo and Luis Buñuel) favored Mexico City instead. I can’t really think of a single surrealist place in the city, though. Real surrealism in CDMX happens by just being there.

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Stairs that lead to nowhere - - nothing wrong with that

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House on the Rock, Wisconsin impressed the author Neil Gaiman for good reason… it took us six hours to get through without spending real time with any of the collections or displays.
On a gentler scale, I enjoyed Forestiere Underground Gardens in Fresno, California.

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Inside Mendenhall Glacier, Alaska. It was a long and strenuous hike up to the inside of the Mendenhall Glacier. Very cool to be inside and well worth the effort!

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It’s up Wildwood Dr across the highway from Tugman Park. I believe it’s called Clear Creek Lake. It’s a bit of a hike in & can be wet depending on time of year & weather, but the lake is so clear it reflects back the trees perfectly. There’s also a little waterfall that ranges from a trickle to fairly impressive depending on the amount of recent rainfall.

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The most surreal place I’ve ever visited is the Newgrange monument in Ireland. Some people think it may have once been used for ritual sacrifice, but I got the feeling it was more like a primitive funeral home.

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The Chapel of Jimmy Ray just outside of San Miguel Allende is very Surrelistic collection of buildings decorated in mosaics abs sometimes built with bottles.

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Bomarzo is unbeatable. A short drive from Fellini’s favourite film locations in the surreal piazzas of Viterbo, and you are captured by the enchanted garden of Count Orsini and his nightmare visions of Bomarzo

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Picture in Bomarzo garden

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Just realized this is actually a good example of CDMX spatial surrealism: Espacio Escultórico.

Instead of using the volcanic rock fields caused by the eruption of the now-extinct Xitle volcano as a place of contemplation for the frailty of human life and how powerless we are against nature and etc., the country’s most important public university decided to put a bunch of colorful, abstract sculptures on top of them.

Lava fields are one of those landscapes that often make us think “otherwordly”. Throw in the sculptures, add how (on clear days) you can see Mexico City’s massive urban sprawl looming over this peculiar nature and (on EXCEPTIONALLY clear days) feel the threat of history repeating itself by seeing the definitely-active Popocatépetl and its somewhat-dormant partner Iztaccíhuatl off in the distance, and “surreal” feels just about right.

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Lærdal Tunnel in Norway on a motorcycle. It’s nearly 25 KM long with occasional lit up spots, huge air handling machines that make it very windy and noisy, and leaks in the ceiling that make it feel like you are riding in the rain. The speed limit is 80 km/hr, and it felt like everyone wanted to pass me if I didn’t go quite a bit faster. Not recommended for the claustrophobic!
It sort of felt like being in the movie “Tron”.

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Wow, I love how neon that made it look!

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I went to a few surreal places on a trip to Switzerland and Austria a few years back. One is the HR Geiger Museum in Gruyeres, Switzerland and the other is the Swarovski Museum in Austria. The Geiger Museum houses all means of artwork from HR Geiger himself as well as a small room for visiting artists. There are sculptures, paintings, digital art, videos and sketches. There is even an entire dining room set that he designed. Photos are not allowed inside the museum but if you want you can visit the bar next door. If you are a patron of the bar, you are free to take photos. The bar’s ceilings look like massive alien spines and there are baby doll heads covering the wall. I sneaked a few dark, grainy photos inside the museum. The Swarovski Museum had 14 rooms each designed by a different artist and these rooms will change throughout the years. There are also some permanent art installations as well like the crystal dome that you can enter and enjoy the light playing through the crystal walls.


Geiger Museum

Geiger Museum

Geiger Bar

The Swarovski Museum entrance.

The crystal dome

Bizarre Art

Surreal videos inside miniature crystal palaces

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Great pictures, I would love to see this place

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Some of America’s Western natural areas strike me as the most surreal landscapes anywhere, especially New Mexico’s Bisti Badlands wilderness area and its nearby cousins. Here’s a group of my photos of this special place where you can truly feel like you are on another planet.

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right where i am sitting now…(!)

Both of those places are on my bucket list.