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Best Fake Tourist Destinations in the World

Why travel halfway around the world when the world can come to you? This, apparently, is the logic behind the latest trend in domestic tourism: “fake” tourist destinations.

Dubai, to cite one prominent example, is well on the way to a full-size replica of the Taj Mahal. India has plans to mimic Cambodia’s Angkor Wat (more like, Angkor “what were they thinking?”). While there is no substitute for authenticity, sometimes counterfeits have their own allure.

A beach in Paris? Bien sûr! Photo credit

Paris Plages

Forget world-class museums, iconic landmarks, food and shops. What Paris needs is a beach.

You know who says that about Paris? Nobody.

And yet, if the Louvre, Eiffel Tower and Champs-Élysées are not your coupe of Champagmne, you can slap on the sunscreen and head to a beach on the bank of the River Seine. Every July, a section of la voie Georges-Pompidou on the rive droite of the Seine transforms into an urban beach, with palm trees, hammocks, cafés and, of course, sand. Get your towel down early – Paris Plages has over 2,000,000 visitors every season.

Paris City Guide

LEGO Miniland, Denmark

If you want to see the world but don’t have the budget, a trip to Miniland in Legoland Billund is just the tonic. From Abu Simbel, Egypt to Holland, a Hollywood film set to Bergen, Norway, it’s never been easier to trot the globe. OK, the world is made of 20 million Lego blocks but it’s still brilliant fun.

The Venetian, Las Vegas

The Venetian Resort Hotel Casino Las Vegas is an uncanny slice of La Serenissima in the Nevada desert. Built with Bugsy-like hubris, the hotel – and, indeed, leviathan counterpart in Macau – features a kilometre-long canal complete with gondoliers, a Ponte dei Sospiri and Piazza San Marco. The Sin City resort one-ups the real Venice too: if you consider serenading opera singers an improvement on pigeons and UNESCO World Heritage architecture, that is.

Las Vegas City Guide

Taj Mahal Bangladesh

While Dubai is about to build its own Taj Mahal, Bangladesh already has a replica 10 km outside capital Dhaka. Built by a wealthy local filmmaker, Ahsanullah Moni, the project cost more than $50 million USD and took five years to complete. However, it was not without controversy, as the Indian High Commission threatened to sue Moni for copyright infringement. “You can’t just go and copy historical monuments,” said a spokesman, who later softened his stance by conceding the new building would not deter travellers from visiting the original: “A copy is a form of flattery, I suppose.”

London Thames Town, Shanghai

The two most important rules for fake destinations are visual authenticity and public interest. Unfortunately for Thames Town on the outskirts of Shanghai, organisers have only done half the job. This faux English village looks the biz, with pubs, houses, a church and even a fish and chip shop. One problem: no one visits, which results in a creepy ghost town vibe where the streets are empty save for a few Chinese tourists posing for pictures in front of the “sites”. Then again, with the current tourism downturn in England, that’s actually pretty realistic…

Shanghai City Guide

Foamhenge, Natural Bridge, Virginia

Foamhenge in Natural Bridge, Virginia is exactly as advertised: a styrofoam version of the mysterious prehistoric monument in the English county of Wiltshire. Another mystery? Why on Earth are you in the middle of Virginia?

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