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Plates of paella, sunset shots of the Eiffel Tower and pouty selfies snapped from a sun lounger – these are all familiar images on Instagram, so clichéd they blur into one swift scroll.

But what about a fuzzy photo of a sea serpent emerging from a loch, or a shadowy monster heaving itself across the Himalayan plateaus? You can bet – almost 100% – no-one has a photo of that.

According to online travel booking platform HolidayPirates, an appetite for cryptid-tourism is on the rise, fuelled mainly by a desire to get one up on other Instagrammers by posting a picture guaranteed to boost followers in a flash.

What’s more, they see it as a solution to the topical problem of overtourism, by encouraging travellers to venture off-track and explore new, unusual destinations.

So what is cryptid-tourism and should we all be giving it a go?

Cryptid-tourism – the basic story

“Essentially, cryptids are creatures whose existence is yet to be scientifically proven,” says Niamh Walsh, chief UK editor of HolidayPirates.

“They live, for humans, through reported sightings and the folklore which builds around them, with a huge industry of experts, tour guides, and museums helping visitors flock towards their habitats in the name of cryptid-tourism.”

It’s an official science – honestly!

More than just filler for fairy tales, cryptids are considered a serious business and there’s even an International Cryptozoology Museum, in Portland, Maine, USA, claiming to be the world’s leading authority on cryptids. It features several fossils, life-size models and claims to have hair samples from Bigfoot and fecal matter from a small Yeti.

You can even buy your own Bigfoot bandages and lunch boxes in the gift store.

There’s money to be made

Ok, so it sounds like a joke but cryptid-tourism can be worth a great deal to local economies.

Loren Coleman, director of the International Cryptozoology Society (linked to the museum), estimates that Bigfoot’s touristic draw is worth $140 million to the US.

According to Visit Scotland, the value of the Loch Ness Monster to the country’s economy is estimated to be £60 million annually.

Can you really capture a cryptid on camera?

In partnership with the International Cryptozoology Museum, HolidayPirates is providing travel deals to locations across the world which are reportedly home to mysterious and elusive creatures.

Anyone who goes on a trip and successfully photographs a cryptid could win a full refund on the price of their holiday. But even if you are unsuccessful, the real joy lies in the looking.

“The cryptid-tourism trend is about the thrill of the chance of spotting an ape-like silhouette through the snow, or the movement of a scaled neck just above the water,” says Walsh. “And even without that, there’s always the spirit of discovery along the way.”

3 cryptid trips to try…

1. See the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland

Nessie supposedly inhabits this deep lake.

2. Track Bigfoot in North America

Also known as Sasquatch, this hairy, ape-like creature apparently roams wilderness areas in the north west.

3. Find the Yeren in Central China

These reddish ‘wildmen’ have reportedly been seen ambling along rural roads.

– Press Association

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