Tourism means something different to each of us individually – a regular family trip to the South of France, a year spent traversing the South American continent, or jetting off to a new European city whenever you get the chance. But on a global scale, it means a great deal, representing 10% of the world’s GDP and 1 in 10 jobs worldwide. And today, September 27, is the designated World Tourism Day – which, since its inaugural year in 1980, has been a day to raise awareness of the great role tourism plays within the international community, and to celebrate the growing positive impact it has on social, cultural, political and economic values across the globe.
Travel these days seems to be dominated by visual experiences, whether we’re describing the colours of that all-too perfect sunset on our last night in paradise, reminiscing about golden beaches and clear oceans, or throwing it back to a recent getaway with a well-framed Instagram photo. And rightfully so, because for the majority of us, encountering new sights and awe-inspiring scenery is a large part of why we travel. But that’s neglecting an important piece of our experience – the sound. Especially for this occasion, we’re putting our blindfolds on and paying sole attention to our sense of sound as we explore some of the most sonically-unique destinations you can find on the map.
Kelso Dunes, Mojave Desert, California
The Kelso Dune Field is home to what’s known locally as the singing sands – something that has to be heard to be believed. When the winds at its driest, and human interaction causes the sand to shift, this sonic wonder of the world comes to life and produces an eerily deep drone that would wouldn’t sound out of place in a Hans Zimmer soundtrack.
Temple of Kukulcan, Chichen Itza, Mexico
Stand at the foot of this Mayan-built pyramid and clap your hands. What will happen next is astonishing. This structure doesn’t simply echo your clap, it replies with a sound that replicates birdsong, and emits a quick chorus of chirps. But according to many experts, this is no accident. The echo replicates the call of the sacred quetzal bird, making it an acoustic, architectural masterpiece.
Võru County Forest, Estonia
It’s the peace and quiet that draws people out of cities and into forests. But that doesn’t mean they’re seeking silence – it’s actually the opposite. When we retreat into these areas, it’s so we can return to those natural sounds and the stillness they bring. And in Estonia’s Pähni Nature Centre, you’ll find a unique installation designed to accentuate that phenomenon. Hikers can take a break, rest their feet and clear their minds with the calming sounds of the forest surrounding them.
These are just three of our favourite sonic tourist destinations, and there are countless more just waiting to be heard around the world. They prove that while sightseeing will likely always dominate our reasons for travel and exploration, there is a lot to be said for experiences that satisfy our ears rather than our eyes. And sometimes those experiences are more unique and exhilarating than any photo album could be.