Atlas Obscura: An Explorer’s Guide to the World’s Hidden Wonders

Discover natural wonders, architectural marvels and eye-opening events that prove our world really is a cabinet of curiosities


September 20, 2016 :: 9:30 AM

“It’s the kind of book that makes you want to pack in your workaday life and head out to places you’d never have dreamed of going, to see things you could not even have imagined,” says author Neil Gaiman, praising the latest print work by Atlas Obscura, a collaborative project that aims to discover our planet’s most amazing hidden spots and document them for posterity’s sake. The book, available later this month, catalogs the entirety of the people, places and things that inspire wonder in the most seasoned and worldly of travelers. The result is a compendium of more than 600 natural wonders, architectural marvels and eye-opening events—alongside brilliant photography, maps and charts—that prove our world is a cabinet of curiosities. Herein we’ve chosen to highlight seven of the globe’s most intriguing destinations.


Congo Mirador, Zulia | Venezuela

There’s something strange in the air where the Catatumbo River flows into Lake Maracaibo. For 260 nights out of the year, often for up to 10 hours at a time, the sky above the river is pierced by almost constant lightning, producing as many as 280 strikes per hour. Known as the relampago del Catatumbo (“ the Catatumbo lightning” ), this everlasting lightning storm has been raging for as long as people can remember. In  1595,  Sir  Francis  Drake’s  attempt to  take the  city  of  Maracaibo  by  night  was  foiled  when  the  lightning  storm’s  flashes gave away his position to the city’s defenders. This happened again during the Venezuelan War of Independence in 1823, when Spanish ships were revealed by the lightning and fell to Simón Bolívar’s upstart navy. In fact, the lightning, visible from 25 miles away, is so regular that it’s been used as a navigation aid by ships and is known  among  sailors  as  the  Maracaibo  Beacon. Interestingly,  little  to  no  sound  accompanies  this  fantastic  light  show,  as the lightning moves from cloud to cloud, far above the ground. It’s  still  unknown  exactly  why  this  area—and  this  area  alone—should  produce  such  regular  lightning.  One  theory  holds  that ionized methane gas rising from the Catatumbo bogs meets cold air pouring down from the Andes, helping to create the perfect conditions for a lightning storm. The best place to see the storm is from Congo Mirador, a village built on stilts on Lake Maracaibo. Head to Encontrados to make arrangements. N 9.563214  W 71.382437

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