Looking like a cross between a lunar landing station and a James Bond villain's lair, the gigantic hemispherical greenhouses of the Eden Project have become a symbol of Cornwall's renaissance. Dreamt up by ex-record producer Tim Smit, and built in an abandoned clay pit near St Austell, Eden's glass-domed "biomes" recreate major world climate systems in microcosm, from the lush jungles with stinky rafflesia flowers and banana trees of the Amazon rainforest to the olive trees, citrus groves and colorful flowers of the Mediterranean. The outside gardens include Cornish plants, local wildflowers as well as flora from South Africa and South Korea.
Built to mark the start of the new millennium, and now considered one of Britain's modern architectural wonders, the Eden Project aims to explore issues of environment and conservation, and point the way to a cleaner, greener future for us all. Exhibits cover everything from global warming to rubber production and chocolate making. It's incredibly impressive as well as educational and inspiring.
Eden Project biomes
From the visitor center, paths lead down into the pit where the two biomes rise up like giant bubbled domes, surrounded by landscaped gardens. Each biome is stocked with fauna that would flourish in its native habitat, exploring the ways in which plants, climate, weather, insects and animals interact to create their unique ecosystems. The highlight is the steamy, tropical Rainforest Biome, where a gravity-defying treetop walkway winds its way through the jungle canopy.
The zip wire and other adventures
Eden is home to England's longest zip wire, a giant gravity swing, a 12m-high bungee drop, and a heart-stopping 25m "free fall" jump on to an airbag. There's an additional charge for each activity, but there are combo tickets available.
In summer the biomes often provide a backdrop for live concerts during the Eden Sessions, and in winter host a full-size ice rink.
Tickets and opening times
Timed entry tickets must be booked online in advance (this includes members). Ticket prices for adults vary depending on the time of year, and are valid for return visits within a year. Children's tickets are £10 (free for under 5s). There are some variations to opening times through the year, but generally Eden Project opens 9:30am to 6pm daily (last entry around 4pm).
The Eden site is at Bodelva, 3 miles northeast of St Austell. Buses run from St Austell train station.