- There are plenty of optical illusions that exist offline.
- There are whole museums dedicated to illusions in cities like Edinburgh, Scotland and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
- Others include natural wonders like Lake Sørvágsvatn in the Faroe Islands.
People seem to love optical illusions.
And then there are the ones that you can actually visit IRL – natural sites, museums, and tourist attractions.
We rounded up 17 of the best optical illusions worth travelling for, from a mirror maze in California to an infinite tunnel of books in China to a gravity hill in Scotland.
Museum of Illusions, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
This new museum in Kuala Lumpur is dedicated to optical illusions. Exhibits range from a vortex tunnel to a rotated room to a bottomless pit. If you’re looking for something less interactive, there are plenty of framed images that will play tricks on your eyes while you try to figure them out.
Pictured above is the head on the platter exhibit where visitors can experience the illusion of a hidden body. You can only truly understand how it works after a visit to the museum.
Yangzhou Zhongshuge, Yangzhou, China
Book worms will love this library and store in China. One of its rooms boasts black mirrored floors and curved shelves that reach up to the ceiling, creating the illusion that this “tunnel” of books stretches on indefinitely.
Camera Obscura and World of Illusions, Edinburgh, Scotland
Pretty much every exhibit in this museum is dedicated to optical illusions. There’s everything from the shrinking room (pictured above) to the mirrors maze and vortex tunnel.
The shrinking room is commonly known as an Ames Room, named after American ophthalmologist Adelbert Ames, Jr., who created the first such room in 1946. When seen from a certain viewpoint (through a pinhole), the room appears cubic, even though it’s actually shaped like a trapezoid, meaning its walls slant outward and its floor is on an incline. The room’s far left corner is lower than the near right corner, which is why someone standing in one corner looks bigger than someone standing in another corner. This is also why someone in the room appears to be shrinking as they walk across the room.
Click here to see what it’s like to visit the trippy attraction.
Pedra do Telégrafo, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Tourists who take photos at Brazil’s Pedra do Telégrafo look like they’re risking their lives, but in reality, they’re only standing a mere three feet or so off the ground.
However, if you frame the photo just right, you’ll be able to get the cliff and the ocean below, but not the ground underneath the cliff, creating the illusion that you’re on the edge of a major drop.
Click here to see what it’s like to visit this popular Instagram spot.
Lake Sørvágsvatn (Lake Leitisvatn), Faroe Islands
Known as the largest lake in the Faroe Islands -an archipelago consisting of 18 islands located between Iceland and Norway –Lake Sørvágsvatn looks like it’s sitting high above the ocean.
That’s because, when taken from this angle, photos of the lake make it seem as if the lake is level with the 328-foot cliff that’s facing the camera. In reality though, the lake is only about 98 feet above sea level.
Chicago Magic Lounge, Chicago, Illinois
The Chicago Magic Lounge features food, drinks, and of course, magic shows galore.
However, even the venue will trip you up – visitors enter through what looks like an ordinary laundromat, eventually finding themselves in an art-deco-style theatre. And the bathroom presents what looks like a massive hole in the floor, ready to take you to a different world. This illusion is created in much the same way as the paintings in Seoul’s Trickeye Museum.
The Mystery Spot, Santa Cruz, California
Described as a “gravitational anomaly,” the Mystery Spot sits in California’s Redwood Forest. The tourist spot challenges basic laws of gravity and physics; objects roll uphill and visitors lean over their toes without falling over.
The explanation behind this illusion is two-fold. The Mystery Spot sits in a particular part of the Redwood Forest where the trees grow crooked, creating an environment that is titled. The spot’s wooden house is also slanted. Visitors mistakenly use this house and the surrounding environment to judge movement – instead of the horizon – which is what causes their misperceptions.
Amanohashidate, Kyoto, Japan
Amanohashidate means “bridge to heaven” in Japanese, but what’s more interesting than this Kyoto landmark’s name is the way in which visitors view it. The sandbar, which stretches two miles into Miyazu Bay, is best looked at upside down, sticking your head through your legs.
You’ll see the bridge as a dragon flying into heaven if you look at it this way, and legend has it, doing so will bring you good luck.
Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze, San Francisco, California
Located on San Francisco’s Pier 39, this black-light-lit maze is quite the challenge, and probably one of the only places you’ll ever be able to find yourself in two places at once.
Mirrors don’t absorb light, so when they’re placed on a wall, they render that wall invisible. Because a mirror maze features mirrors on almost every wall, visitors have a hard time telling what is actually a wall and what isn’t, causing them to bump into their own reflection.
Visitors can spend hours trying to make it through the maze, bumping into their own reflections.
Rakotzbrücke (Devil’s Bridge), Gablenz, Germany
When viewed on a calm day, when the Rakotzsee below is still, it looks as if the bridge creates a perfect circle, thanks to its reflection in the water.
Hoober Stand, Wentworth, England
The Hoober Stand was built in the mid 18th century to honour Thomas Watson Wentworth, who fought alongside King George II in the Jacobite Rebellion.
Although it looks relatively plain from the outside, the stand is in the shape of a tapering pyramid with a hexagonal lantern on top. The tower’s angles not only create the illusion that it’s toppling over, but they also make it seem like the lantern moves depending on where it’s viewed from.
For example, in the photo above, the lantern looks like it’s situated to the left of the tower’s center, even though it sits squarely in the middle.
Trickeye Museum, Seoul, South Korea
This isn’t your average museum where you simply look at the paintings on display. Visitors here interact with them.
The artists whose work is featured in Seoul’s Trickeye Museum use a technique known as “trompe l’oeil,” which means “deceive the eye” in French. The technique uses perspective and specific shading techniques to create the illusion that 2D images are actually 3D, making them seem like they’re popping out of the painting into real life.
SLS Hotel & Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada
Most casinos are known for being over the top, but SLS takes it to the next level with the large LED screen that sits above its bar. The screen, which boasts more than two million LED lights, makes images come to life in a shockingly realistic way. Anything from a rubber duck to a giant face have looked down on bar visitors in the past.
Pictures don’t do the illusion justice though, watching it is much more impressive.
Electric Brae, Ayrshire, Scotland
This gravity hill in Scotland is sure to stump anyone who looks at it. The road, located alongside a cliff, appears to be going uphill when it’s really going downhill and vice versa.
Therefore, a car without its brakes on will look as if it’s rolling uphill, pulled by some unseen force. For years, people thought that this unseen force was electricity, hence the hill’s name.
In reality though, gravity hills are optical illusions, created when the horizon is obstructed. Without a horizon as a reference, it becomes hard for viewers to determine which way a hill is sloping.
Spook Hill, Lake Wales, Florida
Similar to Electric Brae, Spook Hill is another gravity hill that perplexes viewers. But instead of electricity being the force behind what seems like an uphill pull, locals say it’s the spirit of either an alligator or a Native American chief.
The story goes that the chief fought the alligator in an effort to stop it from terrorizing his land. Both died in the battle on top of this very hill, hence why their spirits are said to haunt the site.
Moncton Magnetic Hill, New Brunswick, Canada
Although Moncton Magnetic Hill doesn’t have a legend behind it like Spooky Hill or Electric Brae, cars here roll uphill in the same way.
This hill has been a tourist destination for more over 80 years, and during peak seasons, the hill charges drivers $US6.
3D Zebra Crossing, London, England
Introduced in February 2019, this 3D zebra crossing not only stumps pedestrians, but also forces motorists to slow down. Located on St. John’s Wood High Street, which is near the famed Abbey Road, the crossing was created after concerns of road safety from residents.
The 3D crossing is reportedly the UK’s first, but it’s a trend that’s been popping up in other cities like Ísafjörður, Iceland, and New Delhi, India.
- Read more:
- 40 mind-boggling optical illusions that have stumped the internet
- 20 classic optical illusions that stump everyone
- 10 of our favourite optical illusions that involve cats and dogs
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.