Atlas Obscura is an American-based online magazine and travel company. It was founded in 2009 by author Joshua Foer and documentary filmmaker/author Dylan Thuras. It catalogs unusual and obscure travel destinations via user-generated content. The articles on the website cover a number of topics including history, science, food, and obscure places.
Type of site
|Created by||Joshua Foer |
Thuras and Foer met in 2007, and soon discussed ideas for a different kind of atlas, featuring places not commonly found in guidebooks. They hired a web designer in 2008 and launched Atlas Obscura in 2009.
Sommer Mathis (formerly of The Atlantic's CityLab) was the site's Editor in Chief from 2017 to 2020. She was succeeded by Samir Patel, formerly of Archaeology magazine, who became the site's Editorial Director in 2020 and Editor in Chief in 2021.
David Plotz remained as the site's CEO for five years (October 2014 — November 2019). Warren Webster, former president and CEO of digital publisher Coveteur, and co-founder of website Patch, assumed the position in March 2020.
In 2010, the site organized the first of the international events known as Obscura Day. Thuras has stated that one of the site's main goals is "Creating a real-world community who are engaging with us, each other and these places and getting away from their computers to actually see them." As of 2021, Atlas Obscura has originated Atlas Obscura Societies organizing local experiences in nine cities, including New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, and Seattle.
In October 2014, Atlas Obscura hired journalist David Plotz as its CEO. In 2015, Atlas Obscura raised its first round of major funding, securing $2M from a range of investors and angels including The New York Times. In September 2016, the company published its first book, Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders written by Foer, Thuras, and Ella Morton under Workman Publishing Company.
In 2016, the company expanded into travel, offering two guided trips. Since 2019, Atlas Obscura has been leading unusual trips to places like Mexico to witness the Monarch butterfly migration or Lisbon to learn how to make pasteis de nata.
Atlas Obscura's General Manager of Trips, Mike Parker, received praise for his division's vocal reassurance of travelers displaced by the COVID-19 pandemic. Parker explained to customers via email/blog:
"When you join one of our trips, we want you to have peace of mind. We want you to know that, if circumstances change, we’ve got your back. If you join a 2020 departure and ultimately decide that it’s not the right time or place to travel, we’ll help you update your plans by transferring your reservation to a future date, or to another trip, without cancellation penalties. In the unlikely event we need to cancel a departure, we’ll refund everything you’ve paid us for it.”
Following a second fundraising effort that netted $7.5M, in late 2017 the site launched Gastro Obscura, a food section covering "the distinctive food locations of the world."
Daily podcast (COVID-19)Edit
As the COVID-19 quarantine continued to threaten travel plans worldwide, Atlas Obscura determined to bring the sites to their audience (in place of encouraging people to visit the sites in person). To this end they launched a short (12-20 minutes) four-times-per-week podcast. "The Atlas Obscura Podcast" was introduced on 26 February 2021. The first full-length podcast (14 March), "The Gates of Hell" (0:13:02), described a long-burning underground fire in Turkmenistan.
- Lessley, Sara. "You'll find eclectic L.A. tours like these only at offbeat Atlas Obscura". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
- Foer, Extracted from Atlas Obscura by Joshua; Thuras, Dylan; Morton, Ella (19 September 2016). "10 of the world's most unusual wonders – chosen by Atlas Obscura". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
- "Nine of Canada's most curious sights, courtesy of Atlas Obscura". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
- "About Us - Atlas Obscura". atlasobscura.com. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
- Kaufman, Leslie (23 November 2014). "Slate's Former Top Editor Takes Helm at Travel Site". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 June 2016.
- Sawers, Paul (27 February 2015). "Atlas Obscura raises $2M to become a National Geographic for millennials". VentureBeat. Retrieved 3 October 2017.
- Bloom, Laura. "Dream Job Alert! These Positions Will Pay You To Travel The World".
- Cooper, Arnie (24 July 2013). "Celebrating Obscurity". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 3 October 2017.
- "Warren Webster Will Lead Atlas Obscura". www.adweek.com. Retrieved 3 March 2020.
- Glusa, Elaine (10 April 2016). "A Day to Explore, Above Ground and Below". The New York Times. Retrieved 3 October 2017.
- "We Host Local Experiences". Retrieved 19 August 2021 – via Atlas Obscura/About Us.
- "'Atlas Obscura' Offers a Reference Book for Wonder Seekers". Boston. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
- Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders. Workman Publishing Company. 2016. ISBN 978-0761169086.
- Collins, Bob. "Against the odds, a butterfly from Northfield survives a flight to Mexico".
- Levine, Irene. "Holiday Gift Guide 2018: The Best European Cooking Vacations".
- "Finding Wonder in Challenging Times". Atlas Obscura Trips Blog. Retrieved 23 March 2020.
- "Atlas Obscura to Expand in Video After Funding Round Led by A+E Networks". WSJ. Retrieved 26 November 2017.
- Dylan Thuras. "The Atlas Obscura Podcast". Retrieved 19 August 2021.
- "Reviewed by Cindy Helms in New York Journal of Books". 18 September 2018. Retrieved 12 December 2018.
- "Reviewed by Andrew Liptak in The Verge". 21 September 2016. Retrieved 16 May 2019.