The art of letter-writing seems somehow as remote as the days of Jane Austen, taken over first by the convenience of email, then the brevity of text, Twitter and Facebook, and finally the graphic nature of Instagram. But for the traveller there is still a little magic in sending a missive from a far-flung land, even if but a postcard; and the foreign stamp of an exotic locale can still instil a little thrill in the recipient. In honour of this age-old art, here are some unusual post boxes around the world.
Under the Sea, Japan
You’ll need a special underwater stamp, waterproof card, oil-based paint marker, waterproof bag and diving kit to post a letter in Susami Bay, Japan. This underwater post box sits 10 metres below the surface in the waters off Susami, a fishing town in Wakayama Prefecture. It was conceived in 1999 by the then postmaster, and gained a Guinness Book of World Records gong in 2002 for being the deepest post box.
On a Volcano, Vanuatu
This post box gives new meaning to the idea of a ‘steamy letter’. Write a hasty missive metres from lava, and post it on the fiery rim of Vanuatu’s Mt Yasur volcano. It is an official mailbox and you can even buy dedicated stamps for the experience. Mt Yasur, on the island of Tanna, is said to erupt 10 to 20 times an hour, as the ground rumbles and shakes. Vanuatu also has an underwater post office in the Hideaway Island marine sanctuary in about three metres of water. And yes, it is staffed.
On a Lake, India
The floating post office of Dal Lake is a houseboat on the western edge of this lake in Srinagar in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India. The post office, which is also a museum, has links back to British colonial times. You can stay on an intricately carved houseboat on the lake, then row over to the post office to send a letter back home. Also keep an eye out for colourful shikaras (boats), as well as the floating market, which takes places every day from 4am to 6am.
Up a Mountain, Tibet
At an elevation of 5,000 metres, the China Post Office at Everest Base Camp reaches new heights of letter posting. Mt Everest attracts tens of thousands of travellers from all over the world each year. The post office, which is in a tent, lets you send a letter to mark the feat of reaching base camp, but weather conditions mean it is open only between April and August. It is said to be the world’s highest post office.
In the Coolest Spot, Antarctica
A seasonal post office in British Antarctica Territory handles 80,000 postcards and letters during its November to March operating hours. Dubbed the Penguin Post Office, it’s part of a shop, post office and museum at Port Lockroy on tiny Goudier Island, which receives about 18,000 cruise ship passengers each season. Meet the locals while you’re there – a colony of 2,000 penguins, not to mention the visiting humpback whales and other stunning wildlife.
On an Island, Ecuador
On Floreana Island, in Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, sits Post Office Bay. In the days of the whaling ships, this bay served as a makeshift post box for the whalers. They would leave their letters at the bay, and ships passing on their way home would deliver them. The system is still in place today – every year thousands of visitors drop off letters and postcards, and other visitors who live near the addressee will take the letters home and hand deliver them.
In the Christmas Spirit, Finland
It’s not exactly the North Pole, but it is in the Arctic Circle – it’s Santa Claus’ Main Post Office at Santa Claus Village just outside Rovaniemi, Finland. Here it is Christmas every day, and the merry postal elves will welcome you in seven different languages. Sit by the fire and write your letter, then post it in the Christmas mailbox, which will be delivered just before Christmas with a special Arctic Circle postmark. You can order a letter from Santa, too!
The World’s Largest, USA
Step inside the world’s largest mailbox in the small US town of Casey, Illinois. Guinness World Records recognised the creation of Jim Bolin in 2015, and it is a fully functioning mailbox. There is a hidden stairway in the post stand and visitors can climb up into the box. The flag on the side even works, and will indicate when mail is dropped into the slot. Casey also boasts the largest pitchfork, largest golf tee, largest wind chime, largest rocking chair, and largest crochet hook and knitting needles.