Unusual settlements and dwellings around the world: Nine incredible places humans live

A world with no cars sounds pretty great. That is, until you want to move something heavy from one place to another. Or go and visit your friend who lives a few kilometres away. Or buy fruits and vegetables that don't grow in the town you live in.

We take cars for granted now in the places we live. Same as we take roads for granted, and shopping malls, and TV signals, and everything that makes our lives feel "normal".

Not everyone, however, lives that way. Not everyone lives in "normal" cities. Not everyone lives in the sort of villages or towns that we would recognise as standard. Around the world, there are people inhabiting the strangest places, living their lives in the most bizarre ways.

Hot air balloon ride in Cappadocia

Sail over the Anatolian plains in a hot air balloon and see the diverse landscape of Cappadocia in Turkey, with its limestone caves, river valleys and villages.

I don't know if I'd want to live in these places. But they're amazing to visit.

Floating villages of Tonle Sap, Cambodia

Yes, some of these floating cities on the lake near Siem Reap in Cambodia are as much tourist attractions these days as they are places to live. However, there are still plenty of people who are genuinely living this life afloat, with their babies and their dogs and all of the other things we're used to seeing as part of normal village life, only these settlements are on barges that are lashed together with ropes, whole communities that exist on the water, their inhabitants rarely setting foot on land.

Caleta Tortel, Chile

Far to the south of Chile, deep in Patagonia, lies this isolated little town of just 320 people, which didn't even have road access to the rest of the country until about 10 years ago. And what good would that road have been for Tortel's residents? No one had a car. That's because there are no roads in the town itself at all, just wooden boardwalks that connect a string of houses clinging to the hillside. There's no pub; no restaurants outside of the B&B-style hotels. It's odd, to say the least.

Matamata, Tunisia

Star Wars fans will recognise this troglodyte village from the original movie – Matamata served as the fictional home of Luke Skywalker. People still live in the town, too, in much the same way as the Skywalkers did: inhabiting large pits that have been dug out of the rocky earth, each with caves chiselled into the sides to act as kitchens and bedrooms and lounges. It really does feel like something out of a galaxy far, far away.

See: Tunisia - the real-life home of Star Wars

Manshiyat Nasser, Egypt

Manshiyat Nasser is a community of 60,000 people that is completely covered in rubbish. Not in a figurative sense, either. The inhabitants of this town, on the outskirts of Cairo, are known as "Zabbaleen", or "garbage people", and collect the rubbish generated by Cairo's 20 million inhabitants, bringing it back to their home to sort it for recyclables. Everywhere you look in Manshiyat Nasser – on the streets, on the roofs of buildings, in houses – everything is covered in garbage.


The Villages, US

This Floridian township has about 150,000 residents, none of whom are under the age of 55. Yes, this is the world's largest retirement village, and it's a weird one. Read the book Leisureville and you discover that the goings on in The Villages are nowhere near as wholesome or family-friendly as the knitting circles and bowls clubs you might be picturing. Let's just say that STIs are rife.  

Jaisalmer Fort, India

There are plenty of forts throughout the ancient state of Rajasthan in India; however, they're mostly tourist attractions now, faded monuments to former glory. The city of Jaisalmer, however, is different. The fort here is still a living, breathing thing, an ancient organism that goes on the way it always has, with kids playing cricket in the cobbled streets, vendors selling produce, old women staring out of darkened windows, and, now, camera-toting tourists all around.

See also: The jewels of Rajasthan revealed

Xuankong Si, China

You really have to trust your engineers when your house is built into the side of a sheer cliff some 75 metres above the ground. Though only a few caretakers still live at Xuankong Si, a monastery and temple complex in the Shanxi province of China, they go to bed each night knowing their lives depend on the work of builders who erected these amazing structures some 1500 years ago. The creaking of wooden beams would have to freak you out.

See also: 20 things that will shock first-time visitors to China

Slab City, US

This caravan-dwelling settlement of retirees, hippies, drifters and oddballs in the Californian desert is off the grid, and off the planet. While there are tourist attractions at this former army base, from the brightly painted Salvation Mountain to the East Jesus art installation, this is mostly just a place for people to live, albeit a strange one. For those who seek true freedom – freedom from rental payments, freedom from restrictions, freedom from society – Slab City is the answer.

Cappadocia, Turkey

There are buildings in this rocky region of central Turkey that go down to five storeys underground, and date back to Roman times. Entire underground cities exist here, including churches and cathedrals. Most of the rock houses in Cappadocia that are still inhabited, however, are above ground, dwellings that have been chiselled out of the strange rock chimneys that the area is known for. Some have even been turned into guesthouses, for those who want to know what if feels like to live here.

See also: The best way to see Cappadocia is from the air

Where are the strangest places to live that you've seen? Have you ever lived anywhere that other people consider bizarre?

Email: b.groundwater@fairfaxmedia.com.au

Instagram: instagram.com/bengroundwater

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