Places with unusual names
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Travel topics > Cultural attractions > Places with unusual names
Whether they're unusually short, unusually long, sound like a naughty English word, or are just plain silly, places with unusual names can be fun destinations.
Understand
Both in English-speaking countries and elsewhere you can find places that have names that sound weird to English speakers. Many of these places are small towns without much to do, but some offer T-shirts or other souvenirs with the place's name. If nothing else, you can always take a picture with a highway sign or "Welcome to X" sign to show your friends later. In non-English speaking countries, however, you may encounter even large cities and major travel destinations with unusual names.
For English-speaking countries, it's common that a funny name derives from a completely normal name in an older form of English or a native name for the place. In a few cases the name has been intentionally changed from a normal name to a more unusual one. In non-English speaking countries the unusual name of the place is of course just a normal name to the locals. This works the other way around too, normal names in English-speaking countries might sound funny to a foreigner. For instance, the small town of Roto, Australia has found its way onto lists of funny place names in Spanish, in which it means "broken". Finnish-speaking visitors may find Herne ("pea") Bay in Kent funny, as well as Piha ("yard") in New Zealand and the country of Nauru ("laughter").
See and do
All but the smallest destinations on the list usually have other attractions, but given that you are in a place with a funny or unusual name, why not take a photo of road, street and perhaps even business signs with the name?
Buy
In some cases the place has indeed turned the name into a tourist attraction and therefore there are funny souvenirs you can buy, like the "Hell frozen over" postcards. Look out for bumper stickers, hats, T-shirts, postcards, or similar items at general stores, gas stations and souvenir shops.
Connect
Often, these places offer a unique postmark for postcards, seasonal greetings from North Pole or love notes from Valentine. North Pole, Alaska has been known to sell "a letter from Santa" with the town's postmark.
Respect
The locals are probably tired of hearing jokes about the name of their city. The names were often chosen many years ago, when the words had no double meaning, or make sense locally as the name only looks odd in the English language. Hypothetically, if "phoque" is a seal in some other language, there's no reason a community speaking that language shouldn't give the name to a geographic feature—even if phonetically it resembles an English-language expletive.
Also, don't feel tempted to steal any road signs no matter how funny the names on them are. Like the Route 66 signs that have been lost to souvenir hunters often enough for the locals to start painting the highway number shields directly onto the asphalt, these are needed for navigation by subsequent travellers.
Africa
Mafia Airport, the gateway to Mafia Island
Nigeria
Owo, a city and also a cutesy emoticon
Madagascar
Nosy Be, a resort island. Here you can also find the city of Hell-Ville, and nearby a few smaller Nosy islands.
South Sudan
Yei and Wau (South Sudan), two major South Sudanian cities that might or might not make visitors exclame yay! and wow!
Tanzania
Mafia Island, reportedly one of the Indian Ocean's most hidden gems. Organized crime is probably not an issue here.
Asia
China
View of Guide
Hong Kong
Junk Bay, which co-incidentally has a landfill at the east of the bay (although originally named for the kind of boat). Nearby areas are mainly newly developed satellite towns.
Indonesia
India
Japan
Kazakhstan
Oral railway station. One of the Trans-Siberian's southern siblings passes through here
Oral, a major city in the western part of the country near the Russian border, founded by the Cossacks as Uralsk after the nearby river and mountain range—the current name is a local rendering of this original name.
Malaysia
Air Itam (pronounced "eye EE-tahm" and meaning "Black Water"), also not an airline, but a town.
Mongolia
Mörön, Hövsgöl, not an uncommon destination due to its central location
Myanmar
Pakistan
Swat – a valley in the northwest of the country.
Philippines
Russia
Asbest, about 30 km northeast of Yekaterinburg, is indeed next to a large asbestos mine just like the town in Quebec described below.
Thailand
Turkey
Batman airport. And, doesn't the shadow of the lamppost on the wall very remotely resemble a round logo with a bat inside..?
The bird was named after the country, not the other way around.
Turkmenistan
Mary, formerly named Merv like the adjacent ruins of a city on the Silk Road, also on the world heritage list.
Uzbekistan
Pop, formerly named Bob (which, in turn, is the Arabic for gate)
Vietnam
Europe
Austria's most frequently stolen sign
Andorra
Pal is a great place to go skiing during winter, mate.
Austria
Belarus
Brest, near the border with Poland
Belgium
Bulgaria
Sofia, indeed named after a lady; the city is named after St Sofia church in the city, in turn named after Sophia the Martyr.
Croatia
Denmark
Dubbed in various surveys and polls throughout the years as the "happiest country in the world", here you can find Lol-land and Fun-en, as well as many more towns we could have Listed.
Middelfart, not to the right or the left.
Finland
France
Germany
Bathing at the Caracalla Therme spa in Baden-Baden
Greece
Known for its olive oil.
Ia, also known as "Oia", a town on the island of Santorini
Hungary
The pronunciation of Pécs (PEH-ch) sounds suspiciously like the word for a female dog.
Iceland
Hella
Ireland
Italy
Bra, a town in Piedmont, not the home to underwear but to the Slow Food movement and the University of Gastronomic Sciences.
Netherlands
Grave does feature a Jewish cemetery, among others
Norway
Poland
Spain
Switzerland
Grandson, a town at Lake Neuchatel, just north of Yverdon.
United Kingdom
England
It does exist!
Northern Ireland
If yer weren't so Ballymena with yer Ballymoney, yer could've bought a Ballycastle for yer Ballyholme
—short ditty composed with Northern Irish place names
Scotland
Wales
Islands of the Atlantic Ocean
Inaccessible Island is part of Tristan da Cunha, a British territory in the middle of the South Atlantic. Though remote, the island can be visited.
North America
There are at four towns called Eureka: one in Canada, and three in the United States.
Canada
Overlooking the Bay of Islands, Blow Me Down Provincial Park
Caribbean
The yacht Granma on display, not in Granma but in Havana
United States
American cities and settlements often copy their name from other existing cities or even countries, so don't be surprised if your home town/country becomes the name of a U.S. city.
The country store in Hell, Michigan features some "hellish" signs
Interstate exit to Truth or Consequences
Central America
Chihuahua, Mexico. the dog breed is named after the state.
Oceania
Australia
This section only shows highlights of the full list as the full list is too long. For the full list, go to Places with unusual names in Australia
Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
This way to Wagga Wagga
Northern Territory
Queensland
South Australia
Tasmania
Victoria
Western Australia
French Polynesia
Disappointment Islands, part of the Tuamotu Islands
Micronesia
A talkative lot, Yap may refer either to the main island atoll of Yap or one of the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia.
New Zealand
South America
View of Lake Titicaca
Brazil
Chile
Biobio, a region in Southern Chile.
Colombia
Turbo, a small city. You can get here by fast boats featuring "concussion-inducing bumps as the launch jumps the waves".
Ecuador
Coca (Ecuador), the capital of the province of Orellana.
Guyana
Charity, a port city.
Peru
Sauce, a city in San Martín. Means "willow" in Spanish.
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Last edited on 16 October 2021, at 09:07
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