Whether they're unusually short, unusually long, sound like a surprising or naughty English word, or are just plain silly, places with unusual names can be fun destinations.
Both in English-speaking countries and elsewhere you can find places that have names that sound weird to English speakers. Many of these places are small towns without much to do, but some offer T-shirts or other souvenirs with the place's name. If nothing else, you can always take a picture with a highway sign or "Welcome to X" sign to show your friends later. In non-English speaking countries, however, you may encounter even large cities and major travel destinations with unusual names.
For English-speaking countries, it's common that a funny name derives from a completely normal name in an older form of English or a native name for the place. In a few cases the name has been intentionally changed from a normal name to a more unusual one. In non-English speaking countries the unusual name of the place is of course just a normal name to the locals. This works the other way around too, normal names in English-speaking countries might sound funny to a foreigner. For instance, the small town of Roto, Australia has found its way onto lists of funny place names in Spanish, in which it means "broken". Finnish-speaking visitors may find Herne ("pea") Bay in Kent funny, as well as Piha ("yard") in New Zealand and the country of Nauru ("laughter").
See and Do
All but the smallest destinations on the list usually have other attractions, but given that you are in a place with a funny or unusual name, why not take a photo of road, street and perhaps even business signs with the name.
In some cases the place has indeed turned the name into a tourist attraction and therefore there are funny souvenirs you can buy, like the "Hell frozen over" postcards. Look out for bumper stickers, hats, T-shirts, postcards, or similar items at general stores, gas stations and souvenir shops.
Often, these places offer a unique postmark for postcards, seasonal greetings from the North Pole or love notes from Valentine. North Pole, Alaska has been known to sell "a letter from Santa" with the town's postmark.
The locals are probably tired of hearing jokes about the name of their city. The names were often chosen many years ago, when the words had no double meaning, or make sense locally as the name only looks odd in the English language. Hypothetically, if "phoque" is a seal in some other language, there's no reason a community speaking that language shouldn't give the name to a geographic feature - even if phonetically it resembles an English-language expletive.
Also, don't feel tempted to steal any road signs no matter how funny the names on them are. Like the Route 66 signs that have been lost to souvenir hunters often enough for the locals to start painting the highway number shields directly onto the asphalt, these are needed for navigation by subsequent travellers.
- W National Park, a tri-national park in Niger, Benin, and Burkina Faso, surrounding a portion of the Niger River that's W-shaped (if you squint)
- Nosy Be, a resort island. Here you can also find the city of Hell-Ville, and nearby a few smaller Nosy islands.
- Pool, the region around the capital.
- Yei and Wau (South Sudan), two major South Sudanian cities that might or might not make visitors exclame yay! and wow!
- Mafia Island, reportedly one of the Indian Ocean's most hidden gems, organized crime is probably not an issue here.
- Guide, a small town, so you maybe don't need a guide
- Indore probably has more outdoor activities than the name would make the casual observer assume
- Obama (meaning "little beach"), mildly famous as it shares its name with the 44th U.S. president. It's about 700 km (430 mi) from Obama to Usa, the centuries-old shrine in Oita (prefecture).
- Oral, a major city in the western part of the country near the Russian border, founded by the Cossacks.
- Air Itam (pronounced "eye EE-tahm"), also not an airline, but a town.
- Insein is a township across the Hlaing River from Yangon. If you are taken there, you probably won't be crazy, but you could be in trouble, as the Insein Prison has been notorious for the detention of political prisoners under harsh conditions.
- Antique - a province on the island of Panay
The bird was named after the country.
- Batman — not exactly Gotham, but rather a dull hub for the oil drilling operations nearby
- Van, a city on the shore Lake Van, established long before motorized vehicles were invented.
- Mary, formerly named Merv like the adjacent ruins of a city on the Silk Road, also on the world heritage list.
- Pop, formerly named Bob (which, in turn, is the Arabic for gate)
- Hue, the colorful former imperial capital.
- My Son, yet another world heritage listed archaelogical site. No other places that appear to be named after relatives are found nearby.
- Pal is a great place to go skiing during winter, mate.
- Fucking (rhymes with "booking"), a village of 100 inhabitants near Salzburg. About 70 km to the northeast you can find the villages of Oberfucking and Unterfucking. Kissing and Petting are also nearby, and listed under #Germany below.
- Sofia, indeed named after a lady; the city is named after St Sofia church in the city, in turn named after Sophia the Martyr.
- Ii, this town in northwestern Finland has the shortest name in the country and reportedly one of the shortest in the world.
- Brest, a city in Brittany.
- Condom, a small town in the department of Gers.
- Mulhouse may be appreciated by visitors from Springfield.
- Nancy, a medium-sized city in Grand-Est
- Nice (pronounced like the English word "niece"), a seaside city that's almost certainly the most popular destination on this list
- Tours (with a silent "s"), a city in the Loire Valley. A little road train tours the city.
- Assmannshausen, a town in Hesse
- Baden-Baden, translates to Bathing-Bathing, and it is a very longstanding spa town. Many German towns have "Bad" names; that doesn't mean that they're necessarily bad places as their names translate to "bath".
- Kissing, a town near Augsburg, Bavaria
- Petting, a small town in Bavaria
- Titisee - lake and spa-town in the Black Forest
- Worms (rhymes with dorms)- an important city during medieval times.
- The pronunciation of Pécs sounds suspiciously like the word for a female dog.
Known for its olive oil.
- America, northwest of Venlo, has surprisingly little in common with the continents across the Atlantic Ocean – including Holland (Michigan).
- Best, north of Eindhoven is arguably the best place in the Netherlands.
- Enter in Overijssel can best be entered via the A1 highway.
- Grave isn't as dead as the name might make you think. The fortified city centre isn't the youngest either, being some 800 years old.
- De Hulk (The Hulk) in North Holland is not affiliated to the Marvel character.
- Monster, located near The Hague has not had any sightings of monsters thus far.
- Made is a place near Breda that surprisingly was made at some point in time. In Dutch the name translates to maggot.
- Rectum, north of Enter, is not as shitty as it sounds.
- Å (meaning "river"), on the island of Moskenesøya – one of several places called "Å".
- Hell (from the Old Norse word for "overhang"), a village in Trøndelag.
- Marker is a town where 3,400 Norwegian citizens have marked their home.
- Ski, deriving its name not from a "ski" (which itself is a Norwegian loanword), but rather from an Old Norse word meaning "horse racing track".
- Tonnes is a strong contestant for the heaviest postal code, weighing in at 8750 Tonnes.
- Police - a town in West Pomeranian Voivodeship, name of the town comes from the Slavic pole, which means "field".
- Puck – a city in Pomorskie, unclear if they have an ice hockey team. Just across the Puck Bay, you can find the town of Hel.
- Bath, indeed a historic Roman spa city.
- Battle, on the site of the Battle of Hastings.
- Beer (Devon) a town whose name comes not from the alcoholic beverage but from the old English word bearu, meaning forest.
- Butt Lane, a village in North Staffordshire whose name seems amusing to Americans.
- Devil's Bridge in Wales has three bridges stacked on top of each other, one of which is said to have been built by the Devil.
- Dollar, Scotland is a mere 13 miles east of Stirling.
- Dorking, in Surrey, England.
- Dull, a village in Perth and Kinross, Scotland (and its twin towns, Boring, Oregon, USA and Bland, Australia)
- Enfield on the northern edge of London has areas called Freezy Water, Ponders End, Turkey Street and World's End.
- Gotham, a village in Nottinghamshire where Batman doesn’t live. The name originates from the Old English for goat.
- Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Wales – longest place name in Europe.
- Nasty, a hamlet near Ware, Hertfordshire, England
- Nowhere, marshy area by the River Bure near the village of Acle, Norfolk.
- Penistone (pronounced "PEN-is-stone"), a town north-west of Sheffield, confusing automated censoring algorithms to this day.
- Potters Bar, a town in Hertfordshire
- Sandwich in Kent. John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, devised the sandwich as a piece of salt beef between two slices of toasted bread.
- Twatt, a village on the Orkney Islands whose residents are more pleasant than the name suggests.
- Westward Ho! is not really interesting enough to merit an exclamation mark.
- At least three towns called Eureka; one in Canada, and two in the United States.
- Blow-Me-Down Mountains and Blow Me Down Provincial Park, Lark Harbour near Corner Brook. Western Newfoundland is exposed to the open Gulf of St. Lawrence and it gets windy enough to stunt the growth of trees near the shoreline. A few places are named "blow me down"; the Newfies are not joking. At the top of a mountain? It only gets windier.
- Dildo, Newfoundland and Labrador. One of many unique Newfoundland toponyms such as Ass Rock, Come by Chance, Pushthrough, Tickle Bay and Spread Eagle Island... not to mention Witless Bay. Gayside renamed itself Baytona. Newfoundland outports are prone to names like Joe Batt's Arm or Squid Tickle, but these are geographic features; an "arm" is a narrow extension, inlet, or reach from a much larger body of water while a "tickle" is a short narrow strait.
- Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, near Fort Macleod, Alberta. Local natives were prone to herding buffalo off a cliff; one happened to be in the wrong place in the wrong time and the rest is UNESCO-listed history.
- Horsefly Lake Provincial Park and the nearby town of Horsefly, in British Columbia.
- Medicine Hat, Alberta. It's named after a native word, saamis, that translates to Medicine Man's Hat.
- Road to Nowhere, at the edge of Iqaluit, Baffin Island. There is no intercity road access to Nunavut. Iqaluit, on Frobisher Bay, is no exception.
- In the Innu-aimun language, "Sheshatshit" means “a narrow place in the river”. The community, about 20 mi (32 km) beyond Goose Bay, Labrador on paved road, is inhabited by the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation – who pronounce this "Sheshajeet".
- On the Trans-Canada Highway, there's a Saint-Louis-du-Ha! Ha! in Quebec.
- Swastika is a small 1908-era mining community near Kirkland Lake in northern Ontario. When World War II in Europe broke out, the locals insisted they had the name first, Hitler be damned, and stubbornly refused to change it.
- Granma, a province in Cuba. Like the Communist newspaper, it's named after the yacht Fidel Castro and other revolutionaries sailed from Mexico to Cuba. The yacht, in turn, was named after the original (American) owner's grandmother.
- Hell, a small community in the Cayman Islands
- Morón in Cuba is likely inhabited by people just as smart as anyplace else
- Aloha, Oregon (and not Hawaii)
- Bath, Maine
- Bend, Oregon
- Boring, Oregon (and its twin town, Dull, Scotland!)
- Carpinteria, California. It's not clear whether they also have carpenters from Nazareth.
- Celebration, Florida. It was designed by the Walt Disney Company to be a "perfect community".
- Chicken, Alaska was named for ptarmigan, a bird hunted locally as food. Apparently "chicken" was easier to spell. No town twinning with Hahn, Germany (which means “cockerel”or "rooster").
- Christmas is in Florida. Other seasonal-themed U.S. postmarks include tiny Antler (South Dakota), a Santa Claus (Indiana, directly south of Ferdinand) and a pair of Bethlehems (New Hampshire and another in Pennsylvania). The former Pennsylvania steel-making town was founded on Christmas Eve.
- Devil's Elbow is a tiny Route 66 community named for a particularly awkward bend in Missouri's Big Piney River.
- Gay, Michigan is a former mining village on the Keweenaw Peninsula, named for the mine's director Joseph E. Gay. There's little here, other than a bar which has taken the name of the town and a Gay Parade on the 4th of July.
- Halfway, Oregon was named for being halfway between two other Baker County (Oregon) towns.
- Hell, Michigan. About 5 or 6 hours straight down from Paradise.
- Hicksville, New York. None of that newfangled indoor plumbing like they got in Flushing. (But seriously Hicksville, named for Long Island Rail Road president Valentine Hicks, is a major Nassau County suburban rail hub for commuters to New York City.)
- Holland, Michigan is known for its Dutch heritage. Multiple US towns are named for foreign lands such as Holland, Mexico and even Cuba. Reportedly, Harlem in New York City got its name as a compromise because nobody in Harlem at the time came from the namesake Dutch town.
- Home, Washington. There's no place like it.
- Intercourse and other unusual Amish names in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania including Blue Ball, Gap, Fertility, Mount Joy, Lititz, Bareville, Bird-in-Hand and Paradise.
- Jackpot, Nevada. Yes, this place is all about gambling.
- Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, founded in the early 19th century and later renamed for the distinguished American athlete in a ploy to get him to be buried there, which didn't happen.
- King of Prussia, Pennsylvania
- Lake Chargoggagoggmanchauggagoggchaubunagungamaugg in Webster, Massachusetts
- Liberal, Kansas. Despite the name, the majority of the residents voted for Trump in the 2016 Presidential election: the name is a reference to an early settler who was liberal with the scarce water.
- Loveland and Valentine are small former rail towns in Colorado and Nebraska (respectively); both were named after people, but "with love from Loveland" has been an annual Valentine's Day postal tradition since 1947.
- Mars, Pennsylvania
- Media, Pennsylvania
- Needles is a California desert outpost where Route 66 (of "Grapes of Wrath" fame) once entered the state from Arizona. It appears as the desert home of "Snoopy's brother Spike" in the "Peanuts" cartoon series.
- Normal, Illinois is a college town. A "normal school" is an old-fashioned term for a teacher's college.
- North Pole (Alaska) and North Pole (New York) – neither is located at the actual North Pole, but both have Santa Claus-themed attractions. North Pole (Alaska) has Santa or Christmas-themed street names.
- Page, Arizona
- Post, a city in the Texas Panhandle.
- Purchase, New York might be a good place to purchase some Pepsi (as it's home to the headquarters of parent company Pepsico).
- Romeo and Juliette are hamlets in Michigan and Georgia (respectively) with a matching set of postmarks for Valentine's Day.
- Sisters, Oregon is named for the Three Sisters Mountains, a group of three of the five tallest peaks in the state.
- Toad Suck, Arkansas, near Conway
- Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, formerly known as "Hot Springs" but renamed after a TV show
- Wall, South Dakota - remarkably no Trump campaign event has been held there yet
- Walla Walla, Washington, in the heart of wine country and a popular stop for people in the area
- Weed, California – named after a person, not a plant
- Woody, California (pop 135) is 25 mi (40 km) NNE of Bakersfield; Pixar's namesake "Toy Story" character appeared briefly as the town's picture postmark in August 2011.
- Yolo County, home to Davis, California
- Zzyzx, California, a small unincorporated area in the Mojave Desert
Quite a few Spanish-derived place names have been used more than once, mostly because they describe common climatic or geographic features (e.g. "Nevada" - snowy) or because they are named for a saint (e.g. San José, San Juan). So you might well find a City of Angels that contains a few hundred people at best or a San José that can't keep up with either its California or its Costa Rica namesake.
- Managua Airport is in the neighborhood of "Las Mercedes" and one of the many names it has borne (it's now named after 1930s revolutionary hero Augusto C Sandino who was murdered in Managua) was Las Mercedes International Airport
- Bland Shire - and you were wondering why no part of the Lord of the Rings was shot in Australia instead of New Zealand?
- Bucketty, New South Wales
- Casino, not famous for gambling
- Humpty Doo, Northern Territory
- Kurri Kurri, New South Wales
- Old Bar
- Town of 1770, Captain Cook landed here in 1770, his second landing on the Australian continent.
- Wagga Wagga, a significant city in New South Wales, though the locals just call it "Wagga"
- Woolloomooloo, a suburb of Sydney
- A talkative lot, Yap may refer either to the main island atoll of Yap or one of the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia.
- Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu, a hill in Hawke's Bay, North Island
- Lake Titicaca, the highest commercially navigable body of water in the world, shared between Bolivia and Peru.
- There are several Mercedeses in South America, albeit no Benz.
- Bananal, a village in the state of São Paulo.
- Fordlândia was founded by the Ford company as a rubber plantation, abandoned long before synthetic rubber supplanted natural rubber in World War II.
- Uberlândia and Uberaba, cities in Triângulo Mineiro, and you can get around by Uber taxi.
- Turbo, a small city. You can get here by fast boats featuring "concussion-inducing bumps as the launch jumps the waves".
- Coca (Ecuador), the capital of the province of Orellana.
- Charity, a port city.