As any experienced traveler knows, you can tell a whole lot about a place by its bathrooms. Whatever you prefer to call them – lavatory, loo, bog, khasi, thunderbox, dunny, washroom or water closet – toilets are a (sometimes opaque, often wide-open) window into the secret soul of a destination.

It’s not just how well they’re looked after that’s revealing, but where they are positioned and the way they’ve been conceptualized, designed and decorated. Toilets so often transcend their primary function of being a convenience to become a work of art in their own right, or to make a cultural statement about the priorities, traditions and values of the venues, locations and communities they serve. These are some of our favorite toilets around the world.

This article is an excerpt from Lonely Planet's Toilets: A Spotter's Guide.

Unusually designed bathrooms
These peering public toilets are found in Wellington, the capital of New Zealand © travellight / Shutterstock

1. Lobster loos, Wellington, New Zealand

Spend a penny? Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, spent NZ$375,000 on architect Bret Thurston’s boggly-eyed design for the public lavatories on the city’s windswept waterfront. It is hoped that the two tentacles, armoured in orange steel, will attract tourists to Wellington, though it’s a long way to go.

A toilet precipitously perched on the edge of a cliff
The cliffside Barafu Camp toilet hangs over 4600m of vertical air © Jørn Eriksson / 500px

2. Barafu Camp, Tanzania

Squatting on the edge of a cliff, 4600m up the flanks of Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the Barafu Camp khazi takes the concept of a long-drop toilet to an elevated level. Pole pole (slowly, slowly) is the standard mantra when climbing Africa’s highest peak, but that adage doesn’t apply here.

A toilet and shower stand in the middle of a wide dirt plain
The mysterious shower and toilet in the middle of nowhere in Iceland © Marco Stupan / 500px

3. Krafla, Iceland

This ever-so-alfresco ablution station in the middle of the Icelandic outback, near Krafla Geothermal Power Station, is an enigma. No one seems to know who installed it, or why, but that doesn’t worry happy hikers who, after stumbling across it, invariably Instagram images of themselves perched on the pan.

IM Pei toilet.jpg
The stunningly designed toilet at the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar © Harry Hexie / 500px

4. Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar

Although this structure (designed by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Ieoh Ming Pei) looks capable of blasting off into space and attaining warp speed within seconds, it actually has a slightly more prosaic purpose in life – as a public convenience in the park outside the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha.

A fountain of toilets
Foshan's fountain of toilets is made of 10,000 toilets, sinks and urinals © Al Sol / 500px

5. Fountain of toilets, Foshan, China

Made from 10,000 toilets, sinks and urinals, this fantastic flushing fountain graces Shiwan Park in Foshan, China, the world’s ceramic capital. The installation, which is 100m (330ft) long and 5m (16ft)high, is the handy work of Chinese artist Shu Yong, who used factory seconds and pre-loved pans to create his masterpiece.

A ladies restroom in a dry environment

6. Long-drop, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania

Tanzania’s Oldupai Gorge is part of the Rift Valley, where the human species spent its formative years. Our ancient forebears went about their business here in the eastern Serengeti over 1.9 million years ago. Continuing in that tradition, this toilet features a seat directly overhanging the edge of the ravine.

Public toilets in New Zealand
Matakana's public toilets drew fans and critics, but the result is certainly unique © Holger Väth / 500px

7. Public lavatories, Matakana, New Zealand

Locals in Matakana waited seven years and spent a pretty penny (NZ$400,000) to come face-to-face with their pouting public toilets, which provoked plaudits and protestation. Matakana lad Steffan de Haan’s design is highly symbolic, from the facade to the ship-shape cubicles, a nod to the local boat-building industry.

A toilet buried in a snowbank overlooking a mountain
The toilet at Mt Shuksan might not have much privacy, but the view is spectacular © Joel Castaneda / 500px

8. Mt Shuksan, Washington, USA

Facilities at Mt Shuksan’s Sulphide Glacier base camp offer a grand vista of Mt Baker on a clear day, but they can be a bit breezy when the weather comes in. The peaks rise in North Cascades National Park in Whatcom County, Washington, just 19km (11.8 miles) shy of the Canadian border.

A small island with just some trees and a toilet
The little "Toilet island" in the middle of Caribbean sea © Tomas Mähring / 500px

9. Toilet island, near Placencia, Belize

Eat your heart out Robinson Crusoe. This paradisiacal punctuation mark in the Caribbean Sea off Placencia, Belize, boasts its own flushing throne, from where the king or queen of the castaways can survey their desert-island domain. It’s a long way to the shops when you run out of paper, though…

A toilet surrounded by mossy trees
The toilet near Sproat Lake in British Columbia, Canada ©Susan Breau/500px

10. Eco-toilet, British Columbia, Canada

Yes, of course bears do… especially when the facilities are this swanky. Make like a grizzly and sit in the woods, on this uber green composting machine in Taylor Arm Provincial Park, a raw wilderness area on the north side of Sproat Lake in British Columbia, Canada.

A painted building with a sign reading "Confort Toilettes Normales"
Toilets found in Chott el Djerid, Tunisia © Lucio Valmaggia / 500px

11. "Comfort toilets", Chott el Djerid, Tunisia

Chott el Djerid, a large salt lake in southern Tunisia, was used as the setting for Luke Skywalker’s boyhood home in the original Star Wars film. The Lars’ subterranean homestead may have been destroyed, but the Galactic Empire failed to extinguish the new hope represented by these roadside ‘comfort’ toilets.

Wooden dividers separating outdoor toilets
A stellar view is the trade-off for limited privacy at these toilets in the Grand Canyon © James Capo / 500px

12. Tonto Trail, Grand Canyon  National Park, USA

Limited privacy is the trade-off for sensational views from the hot seats of these composting campsite toilets on the 112km (70 mile)-long Tonto Trail through Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Instead of going rim-to-rim, the Tonto Trail traces the Colorado River, traversing the bench separating the inner gorge from the upper canyon.

A sign reading "WC" in the middle of a red desert
A sign for the toilet in the Siloli Desert, Bolivia © Robert Downie / 500px

13. Desert toilet, the Siloli, Bolivia

You can forget frills, privacy and shelter in this open-air latrine in the arid heart of Bolivia’s Siloli Desert, but there’s never a queue for the toilet. The Siloli, a continuation of the Atacama Desert in neighbouring Chile, is famed for wind-sculpted rock formations such as Arbol de Piedra (Stone Tree).

A bathroom with running water from the taps
The taps from the waterfall washroom at Taroko National Park use water from a nearby waterfall © Jan Philipp Kohrs / 500px

14. Waterfall washroom, Taroko National Park, Taiwan

The Baiyang Waterfall Trail in Taiwan’s Taroko National Park might not be very long, but it boasts seven impressive tunnels and numerous curtain-style cascades along its 2km (1.2-mile) length. Appropriately, the washroom by the trailhead is fed directly by one of the path’s waterfalls

Three urinals against a wall covered in green leaves
The leafy toilets inside the Schönbrunn Castle in Vienna © Pierre F / 500px

15. Schönbrunn Castle toilets, Vienna, Austria

These leafy conveniences are found in the vast verdant grounds of Vienna’s 17th-century Schönbrunn Castle. This 1441-room Baroque palace, complete with expansive gardens exquisitely manicured and shaped over successive centuries by the green hands of the Habsburg’s royal gardeners, is one of the biggest attractions in the Austrian capital.

A toilet with a window overlooking a nice landscape
This roadside rest stop in Laos features a postcard-worthy view © Yehonathan Elozory / 500px

16. Valley view restroom, Laos

Sit, stand or squat – the choice is yours in this well-maintained roadside rest stop in the mountainous Southeast Asian nation of Laos. Whichever way you lean, the valley view from the loo, through a wide-open hole in the wall, is utterly uplifting.

An outhouse next to a waterfall
The wooden outhouse next to Huldefossen waterfall in Norway © Roelof Nijholt / 500px

17. Huldefossen waterfall, Norway

No need to run the tap while perching on this picturesque potty next to the cacophonous Huldefossen Waterfall near Førde in Norway; the sound of thousands of gallons of water rushing over the 90m (295ft) drop should drown out any unwanted acoustics. Norway boasts nine of the world’s 20 highest waterfalls.

Feces art at the Toilet Museum, Mr. Toilet House, Suwon City Toilet Culture Museum at Suwon city South Korea
Art outside the Mr. Toilet House in Suwon, South Korea © Jaana Pesonen / Shutterstock

18. Mr Toilet House, Suwon, South Korea

Suwon, in South Korea, boasts a theme park totally devoted to toilets. The eccentric attraction revolves around a commode-shaped museum, former home of Sim Jae-duck – aka ‘Mr Toilet’ – one-time mayor of Suwon and first president of the World Toilet Association, which strives to improve sanitation in developing countries.

A red toilet overlooking a deep valley
The outhouse at Segantini Hut © Hans Georg Eiben / Getty Images

19. Segantini hut restroom, Switzerland

Austrian-born 19th-century painter Giovanni Segantini lived his last years in a St Moritz alpine aerie now known as Segantini Hut, capturing the Swiss peaks with his palette. The hut, perched at 2731m (8960ft), is currently a lodge, where visitors to the iconic outhouse enjoy eye-watering valley views of the Engadine.

A wooden outhouse with a backdrop of a snowy forest
The Chena Hot Springs Resort's outhouse in Alaska © Sunny Awazuhara- Reed / Design Pics / Getty Images

20. Log outhouse, Chena Hot Springs Resort, Alaska, USA

If Santa has an outhouse, it surely resembles this log bog on the banks of a creek meandering through Chena Hot Springs Resort in Fairbanks, Alaska – though you’ll have to be an employee to enjoy it. The resort also boasts an Ice Museum, featuring frozen carvings, including a life-size effigy of jousting knights and a depiction of a (non-functioning) ice toilet.

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This article was first published April 2016 and updated April 2020

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