Photo: KnowInsiders
Photo: KnowInsiders

Imagine pulling into an unfamiliar town where everything looks slightly, well, off. Maybe everyone at the gas station is grinning like maniacs or all the stray cats smell like eggy farts. Whatever the weirdness is, the town is too X-Files-y to stick around, so you pray the car starts as soon as you turn the ignition. And if you land in one of these quirky towns, you might not want to stop the car in the first place.

List of top 10 weirdest tiny towns on Earth

1. Centralia, Pennsylvania (USA)

2. PhinDeli Town Buford, Wyoming (USA)

3. Nagoro (Japan)

4. Coober Pedy (Australia)

5. Hallstatt (China)

6. Tangier (USA)

7. Lily Dale (USA)

8. Setenil de las Bodegas (Spain)

9. The Federation of Damanhur (Italy)

10. Kihnu Island (Estonia)


What are the top weirdest tiny towns around the world?

1. Centralia, Pennsylvania


Population: 9 (as of 2019)

Why it's weird: It's a ghost town that's not quite dead yet

Photo: WGAL
Photo: WGAL

This former mining town saw its population plummet after it suffered a catastrophic coal mine fire back in 1962. The fires are still burning underground, and it's thought they'll continue for another 250 years.

But don't let that fool you into thinking this place is a ghost town; despite the US government revoking the town's zip code and condemning all of its buildings, as of 2013, there were still seven holdouts who refused to pick up stakes and abandon the settlement.

The government agreed to let them stay, on the condition that once they die, their property will be given up under eminent domain. Fun times.

2. PhinDeli Town Buford, Wyoming


Population: 0

Why it's weird: It's basically deserted and named after a brand of Vietnamese coffee

Photo: Wikipedia
Photo: Wikipedia

The American dream's well and alive -- if you consider buying a town and naming it after a coffee brand the American Dream. Back when its name was simply "Buford," this Wyoming town had only five buildings and a grand total of three residents: Don Sammons (the town's owner and mayor), his wife, and their son. Once his wife died, and his son moved away, Sammons decided to pack up and abandon his plot by auctioning it off to the highest bidder(s) -- a pair of Vietnamese men who paid $900,000 and changed the name of the town to reflect an imported brand of Vietnamese coffee that they then began selling there.

3. Nagoro


Population: 27 humans (as of 2019), 350 human-sized dolls

Why it's weird: See below

Photo: The Straits Times
Photo: The Straits Times

Upon returning to her hometown and discovering that the population of hundreds had dwindled to a meager 37, 64-year-old artist Ayano Tsukimi had the brilliant/depressing idea of creating life-sized doll replacements for each of the people who once lived there. The dolls are propped up and arranged throughout the town, doing whatever their living counterparts used to do, which presumably was creeping out everyone who passed through town.

Tsukimi's up to about 350 dolls these days and continues to make a new one each time someone dies or leaves town. It's just a matter of time before there's nobody left here but lifeless, freaky dolls. Doesn't it just warm your heart?

4. Coober Pedy


Population: Approx. 1762

Why it's weird: Pretty much everyone lives underground

Photo: The Big Bus tour and travel guide
Photo: The Big Bus tour and travel guide

This tiny Aussie town is the world's primary source of high-quality opal gemstones, earning it the nickname "The Opal Capital of the World." Sounds tame enough. But decades ago, when miners first started pulling shimmering gems out of the ground here, they decided to beat the oppressive Outback by building their living quarters underground.

These days, the methods for extracting opal may have improved, but the majority of Coober Pedy's roughly 1,600 residents still live like mole people, since the insulation provided by the rock walls save on AC bills in the summer and heating bills in the winter. Is this the next wave of design in New York City? Only time will tell.

5. Hallstatt


Population: Unknown

Why it's weird: It's an Austrian town, but in China

Photo: Vagabond Journey
Photo: Vagabond Journey

If you're unfamiliar with the Chinese practice of making knockoffs of established products, well, China's notorious for making knockoffs of established products.

It's not limited to products, though, as evidenced by the existence of this near-exact replica of the Austrian town of Hallstatt. Construction began back in 2012 by a mining company called China Minmetals, and with completion still a year or two off, the town's barely had any occupants move into its faux-Alpine buildings. Perhaps they're waiting for the Ricola guy to summon them.

6. Tangier, Virginia


Population: 727

Why it's weird: Everyone speaks in a unique, semi-English accent

Top 5 Weirdest Tiny Towns On Earth That You May Not Have Heard
Photo: ChesapeakeLiving

This island town's main claim to weird fame is the fascinating brogue it's approx. 700 residents speak. Between extreme isolation and the fact that it's founded by Cornish settlers in the 1600s, Tangier's a petri dish for the development of a dialect that sounds more like an English accent than an American accent, but not quite likes either one. On top of the funky accent, though, Tangier's isolation has also resulted in many of its residents having a unique genetic disorder known as Tangier disease -- which has nothing to do with the fallout from Malcolm Forbes' 70th birthday party.

7. Lily Dale, New York


Population: Approx. 275

Why it's weird: It's like Woodstock for spiritualists

Photo: I Love NY
Photo: I Love NY

Established as an upstate haven for mediums, shamans, psychics, and spirit guides, Lily Dale was a big deal during the heyday of the Spiritualist movement in the late 1800s/early 1900s. These days, the permanent population hovers at around 200, but the town sees about 20,000 visitors each year when pilgrims congregate to attend demonstrations and lectures from luminaries like Deepak Chopra and other people who hawk enlightenment at your local bookstore and cable access channels.

8. Setenil de las Bodegas


Population: 2732 (as of 2018)

Why it's weird: It's built right into the side of a mountain

Photo: cityseeker
Photo: cityseeker

Located northwest of the Spanish city of Ronda, this town of 3,000 is (BAD PUN ALERT) solid as a rock... because many of the town's buildings are literally built into the side of the Cadiz mountains. These whitewashed houses and cafes are tucked under cliffs and inside caves, with the bare rock face forming their back walls and ceilings. Don't let the quaint appearance fool you, though: Setenil's famous for the quality of its meat products, and its bars and restaurants are not to be underestimated.

9. The Federation of Damanhur


Population: 800

Why it's weird: It's known as “The Laboratory for the future of mankind.”

Photo: LivingNow Magazine
Photo: LivingNow Magazine

This town, with a population of only 600, is known as “The Laboratory for the future of mankind.” It was founded in 1975 by Oberto Airaudi as a sort of commune for him and his friends. Known simply as Damanhur, it’s an ecovillage and spiritual community in the Piedmont region of northern Italy. The town has many underground “Temples of Humankind,” built at depths reaching up to 100 feet beneath ground level.

In Damanhur people live in community houses of 10-30 people. Living in a community and sharing life with other people is an important part of the damanhurian philosophy, however, they recognize that having your own private space is also fundamental. The federation even has its own currency, called Credito. It might sound crazy, but this town (and its stunning setting) is a must-visit place.

10. Kihnu Island


Population: 690

Why it's weird: Women here are in charge of its 600 inhabitants

Photo: DocumentaryTube
Photo: DocumentaryTube

It’s one of the world’s last matriarchal societies, which is set on a little island in the Baltic Sea. The highlight of this place is that women here are in charge of its 600 inhabitants, and this has been the reality of this island for centuries. As per the reports, the men on the island go out to sea for months at a time, as they are largely fishermen, and they leave behind women to protect tradition, govern the island, and pass on the culture to children.

Hum – The Smallest Town in the World

Hum, with its 30 inhabitants, is the smallest town in the world. It is located in the heart of Istria in the Municipality of Buzet. It is 14 kilometers away from the town of Buzet and can be reached by car, excursion buses, and many come on foot so they can better view the interesting sights and natural beauties.

The most interesting way to get to it is certainly through the Glagolitic Alley („Aleja Glagoljaša“), a road between Roč and Hum, along which great stone monuments are located in the surrounding fields, each representing a letter of the Glagolitic alphabet.

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