Imitation is flattery, or so it’s said. We asked our travel editors to suggest some of the world’s most eccentric imitations, from meticulous Stonehenge replicas to a curiously placed Statue of Liberty. So forget your bid to see the real thing; tease your sense of place and perspective with these confounding copycats instead.
1. Foamhenge, Virginia, USA
The mystery of Stonehenge has inspired many amusing clones - Carhenge, Fridgehenge, and Phonehenge to name a few. But none combine kitsch with exhaustive accuracy quite like one man’s megalithic tribute-in-styrofoam.
Foamhenge was created by ‘fiberglass wizard’ Mark Cline and stands like a wistful Druid on a grassy bluff in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Virginia. Cline went to painstaking lengths to match the shape and size of each spongy block to its original and even consulted a ‘psychic detective’ to advise him on how to position the monument to be astronomically correct. The result is sublime silliness.
Tip: compare and contrast with Roadsideamerica.com’s (roadsideamerica.com) map of replica Stonehenges from all over the US.
Dora Whitaker is Destination Editor for eastern USA.
2. The Eiffel Tower, Las Vegas, USA
Fakery is an art form in Las Vegas; Sin City boasts a Statue of Liberty, an Egyptian pyramid, and even a mock Colosseum. But it’s the model of the Eiffel Tower that holds the eye. It’s half scale, but only because a full-size replica - as originally planned - for the Paris Las Vegas hotel and casino (parislasvegas.com) was a problem so close to the airport.
Built between 1997 and 1999, this predictably preposterous addition to the surreal Strip plants its back legs through the casino’s ceiling; you can take a glass elevator to the top for panoramic views from the 46-storey high observation deck. There’s a restaurant up there, too - and, this being Vegas, you could always, as the marketeers put it, ‘say I do with a view’...
Tip: hoard your cash and sate your appetite simultaneously with a lunchtime visit to one of the big casinos’ legendary all-you-can-eat buffets. You’re entitled to free cocktails if you’re gambling, too, but don’t go overboard. The house always win in the end.
James Kay is a writer and Digital Editor for lonelyplanet.com.
3. Window of the World, Shenzhen, China
China has become known as the land of replicas; there are entire towns in the Middle Kingdom styled on somewhere else, like Thames Town near Shanghai and the replica Austrian village in Guangdong province. But there is one attraction that trumps them all: Window of the World.
This theme park consists entirely of world landmark replicas, some of which are quite large. The 108-metre-high Eiffel Tower copy, for example, is one-third of the size of the real thing. The replicas are roughly arranged by continent, but geographical discrepancies abound: Rio’s Christ the Redeemer statue looks serenely down on the moai heads of Easter Island.
Tip: add to your fake experience by visiting during a faux festival celebration, such as the Cherry Blossom Festival in spring, or take a rollicking raft trip down the park’s mock Grand Canyon.
Megan Eaves is North Asia Destination Editor at Lonely Planet.
4. Statue of Liberty, Pristina, Kosovo
Lady Liberty has countless flattering replicas around the world, yet it’s hard to find a place that embraces her symbolism as fervently as Kosovo’s capital, Pristina.
Here, the copycat statue – reportedly the world’s second-largest – isn’t the only sign of the locals’ glorification of America. Soon after Kosovo proclaimed independence in 2008, Pristina unveiled a statue of US President Bill Clinton in the downtown boulevard named after him. However, a few years later Grande Dame climbed higher in the urban landscape: to the rooftop of the aptly named Hotel Victory (hotel-victory.com). Predictably, the luxurious hotel is popular with foreigners.
Tip: for more pro-American sentiment, stroll down George Bush Street. Continue statue-spotting to find Mother Teresa – this famous lady was born in Skopje, in neighbouring Macedonia.
Brana Vladisavljevic is Destination Editor for Southeastern and Eastern Europe.
5. St Peter’s Basilica, Nikkō, Japan
The soaring dome, the sweeping colonnades, the appropriately crowd-filled piazza: yes, it’s St Peter’s Basilica right here in Japan. While it’s not as big as the real thing – the dome reaches 5.5m high – crouch down next to it and you’d think you were, in fact, crouching down next to an exceptionally good replica of the basilica.
You’ll find St Peter’s near Gaudi’s La Sagrada Familia and the Eiffel Tower at the impressive Tobu World Square (tobuws.co.jp), about 130km north of Tokyo. Taking five years to construct, the theme park boasts 102 replicas, created in careful detail at 1:25 scale. There are even 140,000 miniature people.
Tip: don’t miss the (very real) World Heritage shrines and temples of Nikkō while you’re in the area.
Laura Crawford is Destination Editor for Japan, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar & the Philippines.
6. Santiago de Compostela cathedral gate in London, England
It usually costs weeks of effort to gaze upon the Pórtico da Gloria. The intricate doorway to Santiago de Compostela’s cathedral marks a symbolic end to the Way of St James pilgrimage, a journey undertaken from across Europe to the northern Spanish city.
Santiago de Compostela’s cathedral - and in particular the three-piece portico - has been slackening jaws since it was carved in 1188. But a similarly stupefying experience is possible within one of London’s most famous museums, the Victoria & Albert (V&A). The Cast Courts room, the result of the 18th century’s vogue for imitations, is a treasure trove of copied masterworks. The most imposing is a scale plaster cast of Santiago de Compostela’s cathedral portico. The illusion is remarkable, from the stone-like texture to the grave saints’ faces, although it jostles strangely next to a pulpit from Pisa and an Irish Celtic cross.
Tip: the V&A is part of London’s golden triangle of museums, all on Exhibition Road in South Kensington - best of all, their permanent collections are free. After sauntering around the V&A, check out the gloriously gothic Natural History Museum or the Science Museum nearby.
Anita Isalska is a London-based writer and Digital Editor for lonelyplanet.com.
7. The Falconcity of Wonders, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
OK, it doesn’t exist yet, except for in the fevered imaginations of Dubai’s developers. But when, or if, the Falconcity of Wonders is ever completed, well, it will be wondrous indeed. The project aims to replicate life-size versions of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, including the Great Pyramids and Hanging Gardens of Babylon, plus iconic world landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal and a 1m sq copy of New York’s Central Park.
Tip: don’t hold your breath for the Falconcity (falconcity.com) to materialise. The project was launched in 2005 and so far only 350-odd residential villas have been constructed in the area. But this is Dubai, land of indoor ski slopes and man-made, palm-shaped islands, so anything is possible.
Helen Elfer is Destination Editor for the Middle East and North Africa.