Atlas Obscura is really the type of site that should be labeled as not safe for work. Not because there’s anything offensive about it don’t worry, you can click safely but because the posts make you really, really want to get out of the office.
That’s the goal, according to the site’s two 26-year-old founders, Josh Foer and Dylan Thuras. They started the site, described as a “compendium of the world’s wonders, curiosities and esoterica” three weeks ago, seeding it with strange places discovered on a road trip across the U.S. and during an extended stay in Hungary. Travelers from around the world have since chipped in with local oddities they’ve discovered on their own.
The project didn’t disappoint. Atlas Obscura has quickly become a travel guide for voyagers in search of destinations that would normally never crack tourist itineraries. In Liverpool, there’s an art installation consisting of 100 identical statues of the naked artist. In Zurich, there’s the Moulagenmuseum, dedicated solely to displaying wax representations of painful facial diseases. And in Brooklyn, there’s a secret tunnel under Atlantic Avenue, where the body of a murdered British man is still likely hidden somewhere in the walls. More helpful still, Atlas Obscura includes a map for each oddity’s location and frequently includes tips on how to gain access.
Foer says he hopes the site inspires people to do more than simply browse for weird places on their … lunch hour, of course. The duo is planning a guided tour through Philadelphia that tackles the city’s stranger scenes. “Armchair traveling can only take you so far,” Thuras says. “We’re interested in anything that encourages more actual travel.”
Thuras and Foer say they’ve both been surprised by the reception they’ve gotten during the site’s short lifespan; high traffic forced them to beef up their server in the first week the site went live. Thuras says it’s hard to say exactly why Atlas Obscura resonates with travelers, who have flocked in droves to contribute new places to the site. “I think as the world gets smaller, people are still excited to see that there’s lots still to discover and that there’s still a lot of weird stuff out there,” he says. The hope is that Atlas Obscura will become the go-to place for documenting those oddities.
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