7 Places Around the World Where Borders Get Weird

The earth is defined by borders -- borders between continents, countries, states, and towns. It's how we make sense of the world, and how we govern it. While most borders seem to make sense, there are a few places across the globe where boundaries get a little funky. With geographic confusion to time zone issues to flashy performances, here are seven places with unusual borders.

1. Baarle-Hertog/Baarle-Nassau

Courtesy of Flickr/iamdanw

Courtesy of Flickr/iamdanw

On the border of Belgium and the Netherlands lie two towns that are -- quite literally -- inextricably linked. The Belgian town of Baarle-Hertog and the Dutch town of Baarle-Nassau are essentially one town comprising a series of enclaves (that is, territory belonging to one governing body surrounded by land belonging to another governing body), meaning that some pockets of the town are Belgian and some pockets are Dutch (see map below). The borders are marked by a series of white plus signs drawn through the streets, with B and NL indicating which country is on which side. The borders go right through homes, restaurants, and more. Why did this mess happen? It goes back to a series of complex land agreements in medieval times.

Consider staying in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, just a 45-minute drive away:

A map of Baarle-Hertog/Baarle-Nassau. Courtesy of Wikimedia/Tos

A map of Baarle-Hertog/Baarle-Nassau. Courtesy of Wikimedia/Tos

2. Cooch-Behar District

Courtesy of Wikimedia/Open Street Map/nittyG

Courtesy of Wikimedia/Open Street Map/nittyG

The border between Bangladesh and India in the Cooch-Behar district has a similar problem as Baarle-Hertog and Baarle-Nassau -- there are enclaves galore. The most notable of which was an “Inception”-like series of enclaves, in which an Indian enclave in Bangladesh surrounds a Bangladeshi enclave, which in turn surrounds another Indian enclave. (We hope the image helps explain this better.) But in 2015, India ceded the third-order enclave to Bangladesh, so today, there is only a Bangladeshi enclave inside an Indian enclave in Bangladesh. Much simpler, right?

3. Liberty Island

Courtesy of Flickr/John Drake

Courtesy of Flickr/John Drake

Ah, the Statue of Liberty. An emblem of New York! Well, that’s somewhat debatable. Lady Liberty is perched on Liberty Island, which technically sits in New Jersey’s waters, making the island part of New Jersey. But a special agreement between New York and New Jersey gives New York control of the island, though taxes go to New Jersey, and Jersey City supplies electricity to the island.

Where to Stay Nearby:

4. The Diomede Islands

Courtesy of Flickr/naql

Courtesy of Flickr/naql

Situated in the middle of the Bering Strait, the two Diomede Islands, Russia’s Big Diomede and the U.S.’s Little Diomede straddle the International Date Line. So even though the two islands are only 2.4 miles apart (at their closest points), they’re in vastly different time zones -- with a 21-hour difference. Thus Big Diomede has earned the nickname Tomorrow Island, while Little Diomede is referred to as Yesterday Isle.

5. Bir Tawil and Hala'ib Triangle

Egypt is yellow, Sudan is blue, Bir Tawil is white, and the Hala'ib Triangle is green. Courtesy of Wikimedia/Cmglee

Egypt is yellow, Sudan is blue, Bir Tawil is white, and the Hala'ib Triangle is green. Courtesy of Wikimedia/Cmglee

Between Egypt and Sudan lies an 800-square mile region called Bir Tawil, which is not claimed by any country, and next to it is the Hala'ib Triangle, a region claimed by both Egypt and Sudan. These areas came into existence due to an unusual border situation: The political border between Egypt and Sudan was defined in 1899, and it differs from the countries’ administrative border, which was established in 1902. Somehow, both borders excluded Bir Tawil, and the land remains unclaimed today. But the dual borders gave both countries claim over the Hala'ib Triangle (the political border gives the land to Egypt, while the administrative border gives it to Sudan).

6. Haskell Free Library and Opera House, Derby Line, Vermont

When an American and a Canadian want to open a library and opera house together, what better place to put it than right on the border between the U.S. and Canada? That is exactly what happened in Derby Line, Vermont. The Haskell Free Library and Opera House is the only library in the world that serves two countries at once, and, in case you were wondering, visitors don’t need to show a passport to enter. That being said, visitors cannot use the library and opera house to cross between the countries -- they can only enter, either use the library or see a show at the opera house, then return to their starting country.

Consider staying at the Jay Peak Resort, a 45-minute drive from Derby Line:

7. Wagah Border

Courtesy of Flickr/Giridhar Appaji Nag Y

Courtesy of Flickr/Giridhar Appaji Nag Y

There’s nothing geographically unusual about the Wagah Border between Pakistan and India, but it's the site of a unique border closing ritual. Each day, two hours before sunset, Pakistan Rangers and the Indian Border Security Force conduct a dance-like drill that ends with the simultaneous lowering of the countries’ flags. The ceremony draws a large number of tourists each day.

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