Most of us are longing for a holiday right now – and if you’re anything like us, you’re already planning where to go once travel is possible again. But how to satisfy your wanderlust from home in the meantime? While you’re planning and dreaming, it’s a great time to brush up on your destination knowledge. So we asked our fellow travellers to pick a country – any country at all – and we’d find a random fact about it.
The response to our Facebook and Twitter polls was incredible and we uncovered some fascinating, quirky facts that even we hadn’t expected. Because we got such a great response, we wanted to share some of our favourites, diving deeper into some of the destinations you asked us about and discovering the stories behind the random facts. We’ve grouped the facts by continent and country (or region!) to make it easy to find out more about your destination of choice. Keep reading and with these fun trivia facts, we promise you’ll be the expert among all your friends.
Random facts about the UK
When we asked you to pick a country, many of you chose Scotland. Did you know that Scotland has the world’s best tap water? It’s true. Drinking water in the country is tested every two seconds on average – making it the most tested in the world. The Drinking Water Quality Regulator for Scotland reported that a whopping 99.91% of samples tested passed stringent water quality standards.
The highest-ever temperature recorded in England was 38.7 C (101.66 F). This was on 25 July 2019 and was recorded in Cambridge University Botanic Garden. Previously, the UK record was 38.5 C (101.3 F), recorded near Faversham in Kent on 10 August 2003.
The HMS Titanic was built here, in Belfast, at the Harland and Wolff shipyard. Over 15,000 men worked on the construction of the ship, the largest man-made object to ever set sail. The Titanic was built in a dry dock, of which the Harland & Wolff shipyard had three – and you can still visit Thompson Dock, the largest, today. It took three years to build the ship and on its launch day, 31 May 1911, over 10,000 people attended hoping for a glimpse of the ship before it set sail.
One of our favourite random facts comes from Wales. We all know of the Wright brothers, but have you heard of Welsh inventor Bill Frost? Apparently, he took to the air eight years prior to the brothers in 1895. His ‘Flying Machine’ wasn’t a huge success though, as it’s said to have crashed into a tree shortly after take-off and was later destroyed by a gale, so claims it took to the air are unsubstantiated. Sadly, we may never know if the stories of Bill’s flying machine are true.
Random facts about Europe
The oldest inhabited city in Europe is the Croatian city of Vinkovci. The city has been inhabited for over 8,000 years and was the birthplace of Roman emperors Valentinian and Valens. Situated beside the River Bosut in the easternmost part of Croatia, it’s also famously mentioned in Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express when Hercule Poirot is awakened by the sound of a scream on the train from Vinkovci to Slavonski Brod.
Denmark’s flag is the oldest in the world still in use by an independent nation, dating all the way back to 1219.
We couldn’t resist throwing in an extra fact about Denmark here too: did you know that Danish is said to be one of the most difficult languages to learn? Not only does it have complex pronunciation and a bunch of confusing silent letters, it also has three letters you won’t find in the English alphabet: Æ, Ø and Å.
We bet you never knew that there are around 20,000 castles in Germany. Most are at least 100 years old, and many have been turned into museums, galleries and hotels. Some of the most popular include Neuschwanstein Castle (also known as Swan Castle). This 19th-century beauty stands on the Bavarian Alps and was built for Mad King Ludwig or Louis II of Bavaria. Also worth visiting is Frankenstein Castle near Darmstadt, thought to have been built in the mid-1200s. It’s supposedly haunted by the ghost of alchemist Johann Konrad Dippel – and, of course, there are those who say that Mary Shelley wrote her tale based on the castle here. All that remains today are ruins, but it’s definitely still a sight to see.
How’s this for a random fact? The Rubik’s Cube was invented by a Hungarian! Inventor and architect Erno Rubik was born in Budapest in 1944, and taught as a professor of architecture at the Budapest College of Applied Arts from 1971 to 1979. It was while teaching here that he first came up with the design for his three-dimensional puzzle, creating the first working prototype from wood and elastic bands in 1974. In interviews, he said he was ‘searching to find a good task for my students.’ In 1979 he licensed the ‘Magic Cube’ to Ideal Toys. They rebranded it to Rubik’s Cube and started selling it internationally in 1980. To date, over 350 million of these puzzles have been sold, making the Rubik’s Cube one of the best-selling toys of all time.
Montenegro has one of the oldest olive trees in the world. Stara Maslina is said to be over 2,000 years old, and if you want to see it for yourself, head for Stari Bar (the City of Bar). One side of the tree is completely burnt, following a lightning strike.
There is no tooth fairy in Spain. When children lose a tooth, they place it under their pillow and a little mouse called Ratoncito Pérez comes to collect it. This character originated in a story in 1877 but disappeared again until 1894, when writer Luis Coloma used him in his story told to appease an eight-year-old Alfonso XIII, who had just lost a tooth. Ratoncito Peréz lived with his family in a box of cookies in Madrid. He would regularly run away from home and into the bedrooms of children who had lost a tooth. Today, he’s a popular character and was the first fictional character to be honoured with a plaque in Madrid, at 5, Calle Arenal. It reads: “Here lived, in a box of cookies, Ratóncito Pérez, according to the story that the father Coloma wrote for the young King Alfonso XIII.”
Random facts about North America
Home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Barbados is also known for its rum. It not only produces the oldest rum in the world, but also one of the best. Mount Gay Rum was first made on the island in 1703, and today it’s sold in over 110 countries. We recommend paying the distillery in Bridgetown a visit on your next trip.
This is one random fact we definitely didn’t know. The tiny town of Churchill in northern Manitoba is the world’s polar bear capital. Between July and November, around 1,000 polar bears migrate here to spend the summer and wait for the winter months, when they hunt for ringed seals in the bay. If you want to see them, you’ll need to come by plane or train, as there are no paved roads leading into the town.
Jamaica’s national bird is a swallow-tail hummingbird, also called a ‘doctor bird’. Indigenous to the island of Negril, this spectacular bird has shimmering black and green feathers, the only hummingbird to sport these. The males have two long black feathers that stream behind them in flight. Many people believe it’s these black feathers – and the colouring on the bird’s head – that give rise to the ‘Doctor’ part of its nickname, as they resemble an old-fashioned doctor’s coat and hat.
Everyone loves Mexican food – so much so that UNESCO classified it as an irreplaceable part of the cultural heritage of humanity. However, the ‘Mexican’ food that you eat at home is more likely to be Tex-Mex. Burritos are generally only eaten in northern Mexico, and they’re nothing like the Chipotle-style or rice-filled burritos of US fast food chains. Authentic Mexican food isn’t always hot or spicy either. It’s often got more noticeable sour elements from the lime juice that Mexicans add to their cooking.
United States of America
There have been 27 versions of the US flag. The first flag had 13 stripes plus 13 stars that were arranged in a circle. These stars and stripes represented the 13 colonies that had declared independence from Great Britain. We don’t really know the origins of the first American flag, but there are those who believe it was designed by New Jersey Congressman Francis Hopkinson. Over time, each new flag has represented the addition of new states. Today, the American Flag has 50 stars representing the 50 states of the US.
Random facts about South America
Argentina has had two female presidents. The first woman president to be officially elected in the country was Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. However, in 1974 Isabél Perón, vice president to her husband Juan Domingo Perón, stood in as the first female president of Argentina for two years following her husband’s sudden death.
Brazil has been the largest exporter and producer of coffee in the world, accounting for 30% of the world’s production – and it’s been this way for almost 150 years. Minas Gerais is the largest coffee producing state, contributing to around 50% of the country’s coffee production.
Although Chile is over 4300km long, it’s only 350km wide as its widest point. It’s actually the longest country in the world, stretching from North to South in a narrow strip.
Trinidad & Tobago
We’ve uncovered one of our favourite random facts about Trinidad and Tobago: this is where the limbo dance comes from! The aim of the dance – to pass under a low bar while bending backwards at the waist, without falling or dislodging the bar – is said to come from local island traditions back in the 1800s and was said to once take place at wakes across Trinidad. The traditional version of the limbo performed at wakes is said to have symbolised slaves entering the galleys of a slave ship or spirits crossing over into ‘limbo’. It was made popular worldwide by the First Lady of Limbo, Julia Edwards in the 1950s.
Every country has their fair share of odd Christmas traditions, but one of our favourite random facts comes from Caracas, where it’s customary to travel to early-morning church services at Christmas time on roller skates. It’s thought the tradition came about as a warm weather alternative to sledding, as temperatures in Venezuela in December can reach the high thirties centigrade. Legend says that children must go to bed with a piece of string tied to their toe, and the other end dangling out the window. As skaters whizz by, they tug the string to let the children know it’s time to get up and join in. There’s no traffic to worry about either, as the government closes the streets to traffic until 8am so residents can skate to Mass in safety.
Random facts about Africa
Did you know that the Sahara is the largest desert in the world, bigger than the continental USA? It fills almost all of north Africa, covering some 8,600,000 square km in total. It measures between 800 and 1,200 miles from north to south and approximately 3,000 miles from east to west.
Africa is home to the world’s largest living land animal, the African elephant, which can weigh up to seven tons. Male African elephants can measure up to three metres high and only reach full size when they’re 35 to 40 years old – that’s around middle age for them, as in the wild these creatures can live to be 60 or 70 years old. At the Masai Mara Reserve in Kenya, you can see these magnificent animals as well as lions, giraffes, rare black rhinos and cheetahs.
For more than 1,000 years, Cairo has been Egypt’s capital city. Not many people know this, but the government is in the process of building a new capital to ease congestion in Cairo. The as-yet-unnamed city will be around 28 miles to the east of Cairo and will most likely house foreign embassies as well as the main ministries and government departments.
Friday in Morocco is ‘Couscous day’. It’s the equivalent of a British Sunday roast where families get together to enjoy a relaxing meal. As well as being the traditional Friday dish, couscous is also served at baptisms and weddings – and in many cities, you’ll find some restaurants serving nothing but couscous on a Friday. Traditionally the women prepare the couscous while the men head to the hammam and then to midday prayers. Children have the day off school, and many businesses stay closed until late in the afternoon. The family gathers around the table to enjoy couscous, prepared with a variety of vegetables and spices and topped with beef or chicken and tfaya, a blend of caramelised onions and raisins with cinnamon. This is a random fact that will come in handy if you’re planning a post-pandemic trip to Morocco, once it’s safe to travel again.
Never been to South Africa? Wine lovers, take note. South Africa’s Cape Winelands are home to around 560 wineries and 400 primary producers. It’s here you’ll also find Route 62, thought to be the longest wine route in the world!
Random facts about Asia
A random fact that surprised the Skyscanner team: the earliest form of chess is thought to have originated in India around the 6th century AD. Prior to this, a four-player war game called Chaturanga was commonly played. When this travelled to Persia, the Sanskrit word ‘rajah‘, meaning ‘king’, was changed to the Persian ‘shah‘. It’s from this word that European names for the game are derived. The English word ‘chess’ comes from the French ‘echec’.
Indonesia is made up of a whopping 18,307 islands. At least, that’s what the National Institute of Aeronautics and Space claimed back in 2002. Nobody can really agree on just how many islands there are – the CIA estimates 17,508 islands, whilst the Indonesian government says it’s 17,504. Many of these islands only appear at low tide, and only a small handful of these are thought to be permanently settled.
There are many random facts about Japan, but this is one of the best. Japan has around 12 ‘cat islands’, places where there are more cat residents than people. One of these is Aoshima, home to more than 100 cats. Here, cats outnumber humans by six to one. Aoshima – like many other cat islands across Japan – has seen a steep rise in the number of tourists visiting in recent years.
The chain Jollibee is known as ‘the McDonald’s of the Philippines’. This popular fried chicken chain’s signature dish is the Chickenjoy – a slice of fried chicken with spaghetti on the side, smothered in tomato sauce and topped with minced beef and hotdog slices. The chain is already expanding outside the Philippines, with 38 restaurants in the USA.
How’s this for a random fact to share with your friends? Thailand is the home of a delicacy made entirely from saliva. Swiftlet nests, made from the saliva of the male swiftlet bird, have a briny, sea-salt flavour and are one of the most expensive, sought-after delicacies in the world. Locals collect these nests from caves and due to their dangerous harvesting methods, painstaking preparation, and alleged long and extensive list of health benefits, they sell for over £640 per 450g.
Vietnam has about 45 million registered motorbikes. This means that roughly every other person has a motorbike, so catching a ride on one should be easy. Motorbikes play an important role in every aspect of life in Vietnam, particularly in busy cities like Hanoi, where almost everyone has one.
Random facts about Oceania
The most random fact on our list has to be this one: the world championships of cockroach racing are held every year in Brisbane. It all started in 1981 when the organiser’s brother, Mark, overheard two old men arguing over which Brisbane suburbs had the fastest roaches. Mark suggested they find out for themselves by each bringing a roach to race, and the Australia Day tradition was born. Every year over 5,000 people come to participate and watch – you can bring your own specially trained roach or pick up a pre-trained one on the day for a price. Experts recommend feeding your roach beer the night before, before releasing them in the middle of the arena for the race. No flying is allowed, and the first roach to cross the line is immortalised in the Cocky Hall of Fame; there’s even a pub voucher for the winning three roach owners.
The island nation of Fiji in the South Pacific is a popular holiday destination, but we bet you didn’t know about its rich history. The story of Fiji begins in 1500BC, when Chief Lutunasobasoba arrived from Taganika in his giant war canoe, carrying special treasures from the Temple of King Solomon. Amongst these treasures was a special box, the KatoMana or ‘Box of Blessings’. Sadly, the box fell into the sea near the islands, and Lutunasobasoba gave the order not to retrieve it. When General Degei returned many months later to try, he found a large diamond outside the box but was cursed and transformed into a snake with a diamond on its head. It is said he lurks, trapped, in an ocean cave in Sawa-i-lau in the Yasawas. Today, many Fijians believe the box is still buried underwater between Mana and Likuliku and brings blessings to the area’s villages.
The North Island of New Zealand has a place named Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenu. It’s a hill near the town of Porangahau, south of Waipukurau in southern Hawke’s Bay – and it’s one of the longest place names in the world. There’s an interesting tale behind where the name came from, too. Legend says that Tamatea, a great chief and explorer, got into battle when travelling through Porangahau, and his brother was killed. So grief-stricken was he that he stayed there for some time, sitting on the grassy hill every morning to play a lament on his koauau (a Maori flute). The name Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenu is a direct translation of the sentence “hence the name indicating the hill on which Tamatea, the chief of great physical stature and renown, played a lament on his flute to the memory of his brother.” How’s that for a random fact?
This group of over 900 islands is home to 611,343 people, and the official language here is English. However, it’s estimated that less than 2% of the population speaks English fluently. There are 74 local languages here, four extinct ones and 70 comprised of a wide mix of influences, including English and languages from surrounding countries.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading all of our fun, strange, and interesting facts about destinations worldwide, and that it’s inspired you to start planning a trip for the future, once travel is possible again. You can book with confidence with Skyscanner as our flexible booking policies ensure you can change or cancel your plans last minute, if you need to.
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