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World's strangest towns
  • The Chinese love England so much that they developed a town named after the River Thames with a classic English market town theme. Thames Town is as real as Lyme Regis and Chester, with buildings, a pub, fish and chip shop and even a church resembling quintessential England. A similar town is planned near Beijing.

  • This opal mining town has seen abandoned mines converted into homes, protecting residents from the desert heat. As mining licenses are hard to acquire, owners add 'extensions' to their homes in order to find more opals. The unique town has a population of 3,500 and over 45 different nationalities. As well as underground homes, Coober Pedy has underground museums, opal shops, art galleries, churches and, of course, opal mines.

  • One of a growing number of 'ghost cities' in China, Kangbashi was built for a million inhabitants - but is almost devoid of people. Less than 28,000 (just one per cent of the planned population) call it home and many wonder if the remaining 99 per cent will ever turn up. The 10-lane boulevards are deserted, the traffic lights that flick from red to green are not needed and the tens of thousands of new flats in the residential skyscrapers are abandoned. It may look like any other modern metropolis with office blocks, a court building, libraries, posh housing estates, schools and shopping malls, but other than the government officials paid to be in Kangbashi, it's virtually bare.

  • Manshiyat Naser, aka Garbage City, is one seriously strange place we can't imagine you'd want to visit. The settlement, on the outskirts of Cairo, has an economy which revolves around the collection and recycling of rubbish. Trash flows freely and is stacked storeys high, there's often no running water and the residents live at poverty level but have a long-held tradition of scavenging and sorting. They manage to recycle an extraordinary 80 to 90 per cent of what they find, feeding scraps to livestock, repairing whatever they can and selling things on or burning them for fuel.

  • This curious mountain commune in Kunming, Southwest China has become a safe haven for Chinese dwarves who live and perform at the theme park, Kingdom of the Little People. Dwarf Town may seem an insensitive place to visit, but its residents, who are no taller than four and a half feet, have said that it has helped them escape discrimination. It is overseen by an emperor, an empress and a parliament and each day the 120 residents put on a show for visitors, involving acrobatics, singing and dancing.

  • Dedicated to human unity, Auroville in the south of India "wants to be a universal town where men and women of all countries are able to live in peace and progressive harmony above all creeds, all politics and all nationalities". The experimental township has been endorsed by the Indian government and UNESCO and instead of paper and coin currency, the 2,200 residents are given account numbers that connect to a central account. In the middle of the town is the Matrimandir, a golden sphere where residents go for even more peace and tranquillity.

  • Elsie Eiler is the entire population of the Nebraskan town of Monowi. The 78-year-old is the mayor, librarian and bar owner. The population was 150 in the 1930s but it lost many of its younger residents to cities offering better jobs. Elsie lived in the village with her husband Rudy until he died in 2004. It may seem lonely being the only resident, but Elsie says she has visitors coming from as far as 80 miles away to drink beer and feast on burgers at the Monowi Tavern.

  • The North Korean village of Kijong-Dong is known as 'Propaganda Village' to those outside the country and as 'Peace Village' by North Koreans. It is located north of the demilitarised zone between South and North Korea. Kijong-Dong is where you'll find the third tallest flagpole in the world at 160 metres (in case you were wondering) after a 'War of the Flagpole', where the South built a 98.4m pole in the 1980s and the North responded by building an even taller one. It is the only place that can be seen in North Korea from across the border and although the North Koreans claim 200 families call it home, the South Koreans claim they can see that it is completely deserted.

  • The virtual ghost town of Centralia in Pennsylvania no longer exists on some maps. It was left practically uninhabitable after a widespread mine fire that burned for almost 50 years. Apparently the downfall of the town began in the 1960s when a trash fire was lit in the local landfill and spread through the mines beneath the town. Workers battled the fire for the next two decades but by the early 1980s the fire had affected around 200 acres. The smoke, fumes and toxic gases leaked up through the backyards, basements and streets, causing nearly all of the residents to leave.

  • This unusual yet picturesque town in Andalucia, Spain is famed for its dwellings built under the shadow of a rocky gorge. Setenil de las Bodegas is unique among the region's pueblo blancos (white villages) with the blinding white houses appearing to grow from the rocks. The residents don't even need to build a whole house in the town as many have rock roofs. Others live in the caves and just construct the facade.

  • The Japanese government pays people to live in this strange island town, which sits at the base of an active volcano, constantly exposing inhabitants to unnaturally high levels of sulphur. Residents often have to wear gas masks because of this toxicity.