Atlas Obscura

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Atlas Obscura
Atlas Obscura logo.png
Type of site
Online Magazine
Available inEnglish
Created byJoshua Foer and Dylan Thuras
OCLC number960889351

Atlas Obscura is an online magazine and travel company.[1][2][3][4] It was founded in 2009 by author Joshua Foer and documentary filmmaker/author Dylan Thuras.[5][4] It catalogs unusual and obscure travel destinations via user-generated content.[6] The articles on the website cover a number of topics including history, science, food, and obscure places.[7]


Co-founder Dylan Thuras at BookCon in June 2019.

Thuras and Foer met in 2007, and soon discussed ideas for a different kind of atlas, featuring places not commonly found in guidebooks. [8] They hired a web designer in 2008 and launched Atlas Obscura in 2009.[8] In 2010, they organized the first of the international events known as Obscura Day.[9] According to Thuras, one of Atlas Obscura'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."[8] Atlas Obscura has since originated Atlas Obscura Societies organizing local experiences in seven cities: New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, and Seattle.[9]

In 2014, Atlas Obscura hired journalist David Plotz as its CEO.[5] 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.[6] In September 2016, the company published its first book titled Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders written by co-founders Foer and Thuras, and Ella Morton under Workman Publishing Company.[10][11]

In 2016, the company expanded into travel with its first two guided trips. Since 2019, Atlas Obscura leads unusual trips to places like Mexico to witness the Monarch butterfly migration[12] or Lisbon to learn how to make pasteis de nata.[13]

Co-founder Joshua Foer in 2013.

In late 2017, following another funding boost of $7.5M, the site launched Gastro Obscura, a food section covering "the distinctive food locations of the world."[14]

Samir Patel, formerly of Archaeology magazine became the Editorial Director in 2020. Prior to Patel, Sommer Mathis, formerly of The Atlantic's CityLab, was editor-in-chief for three years.

In March 2020, Altas Obscura announced new CEO Warren Webster, former president and CEO of Coveteur and co-founder of Patch, almost five months after former CEO David Plotz announced his departure.[15]

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.”[16]

Further reading[edit]

  • Children's book, The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid, Workman Publishing Company, 2018[17]
  • Original book, Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders, Workman Publishing Company, 2016[18]


  1. ^ Lessley, Sara. "You'll find eclectic L.A. tours like these only at offbeat Atlas Obscura". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ "Nine of Canada's most curious sights, courtesy of Atlas Obscura". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  4. ^ a b "About Us - Atlas Obscura". Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  5. ^ a b Kaufman, Leslie (November 23, 2014). "Slate's Former Top Editor Takes Helm at Travel Site". The New York Times. Retrieved June 16, 2016.
  6. ^ a b Sawers, Paul (February 27, 2015). "Atlas Obscura raises $2M to become a National Geographic for millennials". VentureBeat. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  7. ^ Bloom, Laura. "Dream Job Alert! These Positions Will Pay You To Travel The World".
  8. ^ a b c Cooper, Arnie (July 24, 2013). "Celebrating Obscurity". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  9. ^ a b Glusa, Elaine (April 10, 2016). "A Day to Explore, Above Ground and Below". The New York Times. Retrieved October 3, 2017.
  10. ^ "'Atlas Obscura' Offers a Reference Book for Wonder Seekers". Boston. Retrieved 30 November 2016.
  11. ^ Atlas Obscura: An Explorer's Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders. Workman Publishing Company. 2016. ISBN 978-0761169086.
  12. ^ Collins, Bob. "Against the odds, a butterfly from Northfield survives a flight to Mexico".
  13. ^ Levine, Irene. "Holiday Gift Guide 2018: The Best European Cooking Vacations".
  14. ^ "Atlas Obscura to Expand in Video After Funding Round Led by A+E Networks". WSJ. Retrieved 2017-11-26.
  15. ^ "Warren Webster Will Lead Atlas Obscura". Retrieved 2020-03-03.
  16. ^ "Finding Wonder in Challenging Times". Atlas Obscura Trips Blog. Retrieved 2020-03-23.
  17. ^ "Reviewed by Cindy Helms in New York Journal of Books". 2018-09-18. Retrieved 2018-12-12.
  18. ^ "Reviewed by Andrew Liptak in The Verge". 2016-09-21. Retrieved 2019-05-16.

External links[edit]