As any experienced traveller knows, you can tell a whole lot about a place by its bathrooms. Whatever you prefer to call them – lavatory, loo, bog, khazi, thunderbox, dunny, washroom or water closet – toilets are a (sometimes opaque, often wide-open) window into the secret soul of a destination.
From pews with mountain views to eco-thrones of sticks and stones, the most extraordinary examples often transcend their primary function to become works of art or cultural statements in their own right.
Barafu Camp, Tanzania
Squatting on the edge of a cliff, 4600m up the flanks of Mt Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, the Barafu Camp khazi takes the concept of a long-drop toilet to an elevated level. Pole pole (slowly, slowly) is the standard mantra when climbing Africa’s highest peak, but that adage doesn’t apply here.
Public lavatories, Matakana, New Zealand
Locals in Matakana waited seven years and spent a pretty penny (NZ$400,000) to come face-to-face with their pouting public toilets, which provoked plaudits and protestation. Matakana lad Steffan de Haan’s design is highly symbolic, from the facade to the shipshape cubicles, a nod to the local boat-building industry.
This ever-so-alfresco ablution station in the middle of the Icelandic outback, near Krafla Geothermal Power Station, is an enigma. No one seems to know who installed it, or why, but that doesn’t worry happy hikers who, after stumbling across it, invariably Instagram images of themselves perched on the pan.
Thiksey Monastery, Ladakh, India
Located on a hilltop about 20km (12.5 miles) from Leh in Ladakh, India, Thiksey is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery of the Yellow Hat (Gelugpa) sect. Lamas here live quiet lives dedicated to the cultivation of the view of emptiness... but at least they have a great valley vista from their ‘panorama toilet’.
Eco-toilet, British Columbia, Canada
Yes, of course bears do... especially when the facilities are this swanky. Make like a grizzly and sit in the woods, on this uber green composting machine in Taylor Arm Provincial Park, a raw wilderness area on the north side of Sproat Lake in British Columbia, Canada.
Tonto Trail, Grand Canyon National Park, USA
Limited privacy is the trade-off for sensational views from the hot seats of these composting campsite toilets on the 112km (70 mile)-long Tonto Trail through Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona. Instead of going rim-to-rim, the Tonto Trail traces the Colorado River, traversing the bench separating the inner gorge from the upper canyon.
Schönbrunn Castle toilets, Vienna, Austria
These leafy conveniences are found in the vast verdant grounds of Vienna’s 17th-century Schönbrunn Castle. This 1441-room Baroque palace, complete with expansive gardens exquisitely manicured and shaped over successive centuries by the green hands of the Habsburg’s royal gardeners, is one of the biggest attractions in the Austrian capital.
Valley view restroom, Laos
Sit, stand or squat – the choice is yours in this well-maintained roadside rest stop in the mountainous Southeast Asian nation of Laos. Whichever way you lean, the valley view from the loo, through a wide-open hole in the wall, is utterly uplifting.
Huldefossen waterfall, Norway
No need to run the tap while perching on this picturesque potty next to the cacophonous Huldefossen Waterfall near Førde in Norway; the sound of thousands of gallons of water rushing over the 90m (295ft) drop should drown out any unwanted acoustics. Norway boasts nine of the world’s 20 highest waterfalls.
Gaudí-style toilets, Bahia, Brazil
Gaudí-style toilet blocks are a surprise addition to a sprawling Brazilian beach resort like Bahia’s Praia do Forte, but they’re just one of many modern additions that combine to confuse leatherback turtles that have nested here for thousands of years. Fortunately, a local sanctuary looks out for the bewildered beasts.
Segantini hut restroom, Switzerland
Austrian-born 19th-century painter Giovanni Segantini lived his last years in a St Moritz alpine aerie now known as Segantini Hut, capturing the Swiss peaks with his palette. The hut, perched at 2731m (8960ft), is currently a lodge, where visitors to the iconic outhouse enjoy eye-watering valley views of the Engadine.