Unique Borders You Must See Before You Die
There are lots of strange international borders in the world. Let's take a look at some weird geography with the most complex and weird borders!Places
You’ve probably never considered some of the world’s many international borders to be particularly interesting sights; after all, they’re just boring old geographic boundaries of political entities or legal jurisdictions, right?
While most of them are ordinary, some have very interesting features. Let's take a look at some seriously wacky borders you should think twice about checking out before you die.
10. Derby Line, Vermont
This tiny village in the town of Derby Line, Orleans County, Vermont, might look like any other small-town community; it’s got its own convenience stores, bus routes, and regular people going about their everyday lives; nothing unusual so far.
But life in this small town is a little more interesting than you might expect, because the people here technically live in two separate countries. How exactly is that possible? Well, the aptly named Derby Line literally straddles both Canada and the United States at once, because the official border runs straight through the middle.
Although this bizarre happening might make a great ‘interesting fact about my hometown’, life on the border also comes with its own set of problems. Border control here has reportedly become so strict that residents of Derby Line must carry their passports on them at all times. Just imagine not being able to cross the street without having to enter a different country.
This peculiar little town is also famous for the Haskell Free Library and Opera House, which – being pretty much 50% in Canada and 50% in the US – is the only library in the world to serve two countries at once, doubling up as an opera house where you can be seated in America while watching a performance take place on stage in Canada.
Although the building itself cannot be officially used to cross the border, visitors are still expected to exit the building to their original countries, or they could face some serious fines.
9. Northwest Angle
The people of Derby Line might be living in two separate nations at once, but what if your hometown was accidentally placed in a different country entirely? That’s exactly what happened to Northwest Angle, a 123-square-mile area of Minnesota which is technically located slap-bang in the middle of Canadian territory.
This bizarre situation came about in 1787 when the treaty of Paris decided which British territories would go to the Americans, but the map used to do so wasn’t exactly accurate regarding the legitimate source of the Mississippi River, meaning Minnesota’s poor old Northwest Angle ended up being dumped in Canada instead.
Nowadays, a tiny convenience store named ‘Jim’s Corner’ acts as an official border control for the town, and residents must use a video phone there to contact customs agents in either mainland Canada or the United States before leaving their hometown, depending, of course, on which direction they’re heading.
As if that wasn’t complicated enough, the children of Northwest Angle also reportedly face a daily commute of some 3 hours in total, which involves passing through border control four times a day.
8. Baarle-Nassau and Baarle-Hertog
This strange geopolitical anomaly takes place between the small towns of Baarle-Nassau, a municipality of the Netherlands, and Baarle-Hertog, an official municipality of Belgium, where – in some cases – you might sleep in one country and prepare breakfast in the next.
Back in the middle ages, small parcels of land were divided up between local aristocratic families, but when Belgium declared independence from the Netherlands in 1831, the two nations were suddenly left seriously confused over who exactly owned what land.
Official international borders were not finalized until 1995, and they’re a real mess to say the least; as Baarle-Nassau is now home to nearly 30 surrounded portions of land or ‘enclaves’ of Baarle-Hertog, and vice-versa.
This over-complicated border has therefore created what can only be described as a giant Russian doll containing one country inside of another, where white pavement markings designate which country you might be in at any given time, often splitting houses, shops and streets between the two countries.
Although many residents now possess dual citizenship to both countries, some have even been known to move their front doors for their own economic advantage, so that they clearly fall on one side of this frantic, maze-like border.
7. Penon de Vélez de la Gomera
Simply put, Penon de Vélez de la Gomera is a small island in the west of the Mediterranean Sea which also happens to be home to the shortest border in the world - spanning just 90 yards.
This little piece of land conveniently separates Spain from the Moroccan coast and is also the site of a pretty interesting rock fortress which is accessible by helicopter and is heavily monitored by Spanish forces around the clock.
Although the Spaniards fiercely protect the fortress, warning off anyone who attempts to approach and proudly erecting their national red and gold flag at its peak, it’s a bit ironic that the border itself is simply marked out by a piece of string strewn across the sand.
6. The Siachen Glacier
Most International borders fall somewhere on land or in the ocean, but the truth is there are no official rules regarding where a border should or shouldn’t end up, and this one just happens to be atop a 20,000-foot icy glacier - the second largest in the entire world in fact.
It’s a little more complicated than that, though, because the Siachen Glacier – which separates Pakistan and India – has been the source of a decades-long competitive dispute. When these two nations were outlining their borders many moons ago, they both agreed that the ‘official’ line would probably lie somewhere on the Siachen glacier.
But of course, neither country was too keen to physically mark it up there themselves, so it was kinda left at that.
That is until Pakistan deployed a set of troops to claim the Glacier as their own in 1984, provoking India to quickly respond by sending 300 of their own people to do the same, which basically kick-started what you could call a bit of a snowball effect over which nation can send the most people up the glacier to claim it.
The craziest part is – with around 10,000 Indian soldiers alone having been stationed on the glacier thus far – countless troops from both nations have tragically lost their lives defending what is ultimately a worthless lump of barren ice.
5. Bir Tawil
We’ve already looked at some examples of nations squabbling over who owns what when it comes to confusing borders, but what would happen if neither country wanted the land to begin with?
Such a sad example does in fact exist, and it’s known as Bir Tawil: an 800-square-mile patch of roadless desert which happens to fall right on the border between Egypt and Sudan.
This forgotten corner of the world was created when the original border between Egypt and Sudan was redrawn in 1902 by the United Kingdom, who, in one royal faux pas, forgot to account for poor old Bir Tawil.
Because Egypt and Sudan could no longer agree on the correct version of their international border, this solitary stretch of sand has been left in total limbo, with Egypt claiming it belongs to Sudan and vice-versa.
Basically, Bir Tawil is the geographical equivalent of the kid picked last on sports day, or the younger sibling your parents bribe you to take out for the day. Even wilder, though, is that its unique status as one of the few remaining unclaimed areas of land in the world has inspired some eager individuals to try and conquer it themselves.
For instance, a Virginia dad called Jeremiah Heaton ‘claimed’ the land in 2014 as a birthday present for his daughter, who he later declared as Bir Tawil’s first princess.
4. The China & Philippines Maritime Border
Here is the first border which isn’t positioned in a town, desert or island but in the ocean itself. What else makes this watery border so interesting though? Well, the Maritime Border between China and the Philippines has been the cause of a huge territorial falling-out between the two nations in what has now been officially called the ‘South China Sea Dispute’.
While Bir Tiwal and the Siachen Glacier are essentially useless land areas, the Maritime Border just so happens to fall within one of the world’s largest trading routes, which brings in a whopping estimated $3.37 trillion each year, alongside its additional reserves of natural resources like gas and oil.
You can understand why both nations want to lay their claim on this particular area of ocean, but it’s not only China and the Philippines who are in the running: Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei also have overlapping territorial claims within areas of the South China Sea, based on conflicting accounts of history and geography.
With each nation fiercely guarding its share of this valuable asset, it’s no wonder that this historic conflict has remained unresolved for decades, and it doesn’t seem like any one nation will come out on top anytime soon.
If these examples haven’t already proved that it can get complex enough when two countries meet in an extraordinary way, then let’s think about doubling it for a second. This is officially known as a ‘quadripoint’, which is basically any point on Earth that touches the border of four distinct territories at any one time.
It is believed that there are actually a couple of these around, but perhaps most notable is the four-nation quadripoint border of Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, where the territories seemingly meet at a junction of the Zambezi river.
Unfortunately, it is now more widely believed that this bizarre four-way split could in fact be two separate ‘tripoints’ existing about 100 to 150 meters apart, but the quadripoint border is an amazing concept nonetheless.
Around the world, there are many quadripoint locations among multiple nations and provincial areas. In North America, these places are more commonly known as Four Corners. For example, you can be in 4 states at one time at the corners of Colorado, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.
2. The Diomedes
As complicated as they may be, our many borders serve one clear purpose – to separate the world’s nations and ensure the firm identity of the country within. But what if we took things a step further, creating a border which separates space and time itself?
It might sound like something out of Doctor-who, but there is in fact one world border which pretty much does just that: The Diomede Islands, a place where you can quite literally see into the future.
Located on the Bering Strait which runs between Siberia and Alaska are two islands: Big Diomede which officially belongs to Russia and is uninhabited, and Little Diomede, which is home to an American population of around 146 people.
The land itself is separated by a small 2.4 mile, 3.9km stretch of ocean, but the islands also happen to sit on either side of the international dateline, which officially divides the world's time zones.
As a result, there is a total time difference of 21 hours between the two islands, meaning that the people of Little Diomede can literally wake up on Saturday morning at 9 AM and eat breakfast while watching the Sunday morning sunrise at 6 AM over on Big Diomede.
1. Korean Demilitarized Zone (DMZ)
Some of the strange international borders on this list might make for an interesting travel destination; perhaps you could eat at one of the many restaurants on the Baarle-Nassau and Baarle-Hertog divide, or maybe you’d like to see a show in the Haskell Opera house in America before quickly hopping over to borrow a book from the neighboring library in Canada.
This next border isn’t one you’re going to want to rush out to take selfies at any time soon though, unless you’re looking to get yourself arrested in the process. The border between North and South Korea is one of (if not the) most dangerous border in the world.
Known as the Korean Demilitarized Zone or DMZ, this strip of land running along the Korean Peninsula is so heavily militarized that it has already caused numerous incidents including military and civilian casualties on both sides.
North Korea has thousands of artillery pieces near the DMZ which could bombard South Korea’s capital, Seoul, with over 10,000 rounds every minute as experts believe that 60 percent of its total artillery is positioned within a few kilometers of the DMZ.
Tense negotiations between the two nations take place at a joint security area (JSA) near the western end of the zone, where even the official meeting table is split directly in half, meaning officials can meet without ever stepping into each other’s country.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, the forces locking humans out of the DMZ have miraculously allowed local animal species to thrive there, creating a mutually-protected nature reserve, like a beautiful rose growing out of the pavement.
If you do still fancy trying your luck at the DMZ, you can take a guided tour, which even offers family tickets for a really quirky day out with the kids. I hope you were amazed at these interesting and unique borders found all around the world. Thanks for reading!