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Photos: When a natural disaster creates a hot tourist attraction

The world’s biggest mud volcano is awful-smelling, continuously erupting, and a surprisingly popular tourist destination.

In May 2006, a volcano of mud exploded in Sidoarjo, Indonesia. Likely triggered by the nearby drilling of a local fossil fuel corporation, the flows of hot mud displaced tens of thousands of Javanese villagers, and have continued to flow ever since.

Today, with fields submerged by sludge, the area’s former agricultural industry has been replaced by disaster tourism: Sidoarjo villagers give tours to curious visitors from all around the world, and sell videos of the disaster that robbed them of their livelihoods and provided a new one.

Tourists walk on dried mud at the Lapindo mud field in Sidoarjo.
Tourists walk on dried mud at the Lapindo mud field in Sidoarjo. (Reuters/Beawiharta)
A man takes a picture of his family.
A man takes a picture of his family. (Reuters/Beawiharta)
A woman holds her child over the dried mud.
A woman holds her child over the dried mud. (Reuters/Beawiharta)
A cyclist takes a picture of himself at the Lapindo mud field.
A cyclist takes a picture of himself at the Lapindo mud field. (Reuters/Beawiharta)
A ruined factory building.
A ruined factory building. (Reuters/Beawiharta)
Motorcycle carry visitors around the mud field.
Motorcycle carry visitors around the mud field. (Reuters/Beawiharta)
Abandoned water hoses.
Abandoned water hoses. (Reuters/Beawiharta)
A villager sells videos explaining the disaster to tourists.
A villager sells videos explaining the disaster to tourists. (Reuters/Beawiharta)
Watching the Lapindo mud field.
Watching the Lapindo mud field. (Reuters/Beawiharta)
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