Housing in All Its Forms: The Most Unusual Areas of the Planet

Finding a place to live is not an easy task. The human being is also great at getting used to all kinds of housing situations. Here are some of the most incredible neighborhoods and the strangest towns in the world.

Strangest Towns in the World: Salvation Mountain, Colorado
Salvation Mountain, Colorado: Photo Joe Decruyenaere / CC 2.0

The Strangest Towns in the World

1 – Hong Kong, mini apartments

As in all places where real estate costs a fortune, living in Hong Kong presents very serious problems. People who do not have enough money to pay for a luxury apartment to live in find themselves stuck in tiny dwellings piled one upon another. Photographer Benny Lam, among others, is the author of a great project showing the daily life in these tiny places.

2 – Kowloon Walled City, Hong Kong

Also in Hong Kong, this neighborhood called Kowloon Walled City no longer exists. It was demolished in 1987. The area was controlled by organized crime. Police, whether English or Chinese, refused to patrol the area. It was composed of an agglomerate of apartments which were stacked on top of each other. Daylight was rare and the quality of life – or lack thereof – that prevailed is now difficult to imagine. Photographers Greg Girard and Ian Lambot documented life in this quarter before it was destroyed.

Strangest Towns in the World: Remnants of Kowloon Walled City's South Gate, Hong Kong
Remnants of Kowloon Walled City’s South Gate, Hong Kong: Photo Clément Bucco-Lechat / CC BY-SA 3.0

3 – Migingo, Lake Victoria

This tiny African island is host to a population of about 130 people and is located in Lake Victoria, near the borders of Kenya and Uganda. In fact, it is in a disputed territory between the two countries. The first inhabitants of the island settled there in 1991. It includes, among others, a few hotels, pubs, a pharmacy, and at least one brothel! This is a fishing community and it is said that sometimes pirates come and plunder the inhabitants after they sell their fish … Andrew McLeish, photographer,  went there recently.

Strangest Towns in the World: Eyewitness: Migingo Island on Lake Victoria, Kenya
Migingo Island on Lake Victoria, Kenya

4 – The villages on the water of Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Living on the water, in a floating village: it’s how hundreds of people live all over Southeast Asia. The best known of these villages on the water are those of Ha Long Bay, Vietnam. These people get drinking water from the city, have electricity thanks to generators, have floating schools, and even dogs who have never touched dry land!

Strangest Towns in the World: Ha Long Bay Floating village
Ha Long Bay floating village | Photo by Jennifer Obenza

5 – Sealand

The Principality of Sealand is a self-proclaimed nation established on a former anti-aircraft platform a few kilometers from the English coast. Its population is estimated at 50 people; its prince lives in England; the Principality offers anyone to become a knight; it claims to have a national soccer team; the platform has also been “annexed” by a man who proclaimed himself king Marduk Prime; a group of German and Dutch mercenaries attacked it without success in 1978.

6 – Setenil de las Bodegas, Spain

This is not a city for the claustrophobic. It was built between two huge rocks … one below and one above! A rock formation along the river Rio Trejo has enough space between its cliffs to build houses and that is what the people of Setenil de las Bodegas did. Thus, above some houses is a huge rock formation. What about earthquakes? Earthquakes, shmertquakes…

Strangest Towns in the World: Setenil de las Bodegas Cadiz Spain
View of Setenil de las Bodegas in the province of Cadiz, Spain: Photo Andrei Dimofte / CC BY 2.0

7 – Thames Town, China; Tianducheng, China; Venice Water Town, China

The Chinese love anything that’s out of the ordinary and that evokes luxury and abundance with some of the strangest towns in the world. The majority of Chinese houses and apartments are all built in the same manner and represent a purely functional architecture. Some Chinese developers have therefore thought it would be good to build replicas of the most famous European architectures. Thames Town is an English town; Tianducheng is a copy of Paris; “Venice Water Town” copies Venice. The three have very different successes: Thames Town and Venice Water Town, which are accessible by subway in Shanghai, are popular destinations for wedding photos; Tianducheng is a crumbling ghost town and almost no one lives there.

8 – Slab City, USA

Slab City, in the Sonoran Desert, California is a place where the laws do not exist. There is no running water or electricity and no toilets or sewers. In summer, the temperature rises to 50 degrees. However, about 150 people are permanently living there and a large contingent of campers settle there each year with their recreational vehicles. Jessica Lum, photojournalist, regularly returns to tell the stories of its inhabitants.

Strangest Towns in the World: Slab City, California
Slab City, California, Photo tuchodi / CC BY 2.0

9 – Chefchaouen, Morocco

Close to Tanger there is a completely blue Moroccan city. It is said that Jewish immigrants have painted the city blue because this color means heaven, paradise, freedom. Today, Chefchaouen is a tourist town that offers luxury hotels, markets for small gifts and souvenirs and Moroccan hashish in abundance. Photographer James Clear took some pictures of the place.

10 – Coober Pedy, Australia

When an opal mine was discovered near Adelaide in Australia, in 10 years hundreds of workers were present there hoping to make a fortune. To accommodate all these people who wanted to work, a city, named Coober Pedy, was founded. Since the temperature is very hot – it regularly exceeds 40 degrees – some preferred to build their homes underground. Commonly called “dugouts”, these underground houses are built from old abandoned mines.

Strangest Towns in the World: Coober Pedy Underground house
Coober Pedy Underground house: Photo Nachoman-au / CC BY-SA 2.5

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