With summer on our doorstep, you most likely ask one crucial question more frequently: “Where should I travel next?” It’s not like this world lacks fantastic vacation spots, but you will see people around you and strangers alike repeatedly go to the same five places. Still, you want to experience something new and lesser-known travel destinations.
Of course, everyone has their idea of what makes the best vacation destination, and even for one person, this may vary depending on many circumstances. The best vacation spots can become dull and mundane if everyone keeps doing the same thing. The trick here is to find secret places and things to do. Even the most run-of-the-mill tourist destination is full of those — you have to keep looking.
Another good solution is finding places that seem less explored or popular. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be on the other side of the world. You’ll be surprised to discover how many hidden gems exist next door.
If you are in search of some fresh vacation ideas, scroll down to look at unexplored or lesser-known travel destinations to put on your list. Have you already been to any of these places? Tell us about your impressions in the comments. And, of course, don’t forget to share this with your friends so that you can discuss your experiences when you are back from vacation. (H/T)
01. Bray, Ireland
Located only twelve miles from Dublin, Bray rose in popularity when it became part of the railway network in the 1850s. Over the years, it saw a considerable decline but recently developed a vibrant restaurant and cafe scene. With the harbor and panoramic views from the Bray Head as beautiful as ever, Bray is worth a visit.
Mongolia perfectly combines modern progress in its capital city and untouched wilderness in the steppes. You can spend a night (or two) under the stars in the Gorkhi Terelj National Park, sleep in a yurt like a nomadic herder, and enjoy the fresh mountain air.
03. Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico
Cabo Rojo has everything you would expect from a Caribbean destination, and yet, it is relatively quiet and devoid of large resorts and hotels. You have numerous beaches on the white sand for a day and a picturesque sunset in the evening.
04. Symi, Greece
Greece has been at the top of many travel lists, but the small island of Symi is still somewhat unknown to the broader public. With one of the most beautiful harbors in the country, neoclassical houses scattered around the island, and uncluttered beaches, it will show you Greece as none of the standard tours have. Another tip that applies to the entire country is to visit it in the off-season. You will be surprised how different yet charming it is.
05. Morocco’s Ancient Sites
Once you’ve seen the more mainstream places in Morocco, take your chance to feel like a true Roman soldier and travel to Lixus. One of the oldest settlements in Morocco, Lixus still displays the remaining traces of the Roman Empire. This is also the place where according to the myth, Hercules completed one of his twelve labors.
06. Gippsland, Australia
Alpine roads, fertile farmlands, and beaches with white sand and no people in sight — that’s Gippsland for you. Though it suffered greatly during the summer bushfires in 2019-2020, it has steadily recovered. The local gastronomy scene has seen considerable development that also empowers local produce.
You might have heard about Morocco’s beauty and its natural and architectural sites to visit. You may have even seen its numerous vibrant bazaars and shops that offer handcrafted local goods. But did you know you can now buy souvenirs and help the community by shopping in places that sell goods produced by socially or financially vulnerable women? Please learn about the organizations that work with them, and plan your next trip to Morocco.
08. Hidden Falls In Switzerland
The Lauterbrunnen Valley offers its visitors 72 waterfalls, but more is not on display. The Trümmelbach Falls roar inside the mountain, but all ten of them are easily visible from viewing platforms which can be reached through an old tunnel funicular and lift.
09. Essex, UK
It is beyond comprehension because Essex mainly lies outside the usual tourist routes of England. To find yourself in a typical classical-English-novel landscape, visit the marshes and woodlands that run along the Thames. The coastlines are heaven for bird watchers.
10. Cape Wrath, Scotland, UK
The Cape Wrath lighthouse lives up to its true purpose of being a light of help to travelers. Even if that light of support is some hot food after a long day of hiking. The cafe in the lighthouse of Scotland’s northernmost point stays open around the clock and is worth a visit.
11. Plymouth, England, UK
Plymouth is a great place to discover if you are into art and architecture. Its renovated Market Hall and gallery, The Box, which is all about local artists, will give you a new perspective. If you are a gin fan, you’ll be interested in visiting England’s oldest distillery, located right in the historic center of the town.
12. Hsinbyume Pagoda, Myanmar
Myanmar (previously known as Burma) is known for its majestic temples, but Hsinbyume Pagoda remains yet to be discovered by most travelers. Its second name, Mya Thein Tan, translates as 100,000 emeralds, and that’s apt to describe its beauty. The all-white temple will welcome you whether you explore the architecture and look for secret statues in hidden niches or spend a quiet afternoon meditating on one of the seven terraces.
13. My Son Temples In Vietnam
If you are fascinated by ancient civilizations, visit the My Son Sanctuary. Located off the usual tourist route, it presents an ensemble of temples built by the Champa civilization between the 4th and 13th centuries. While not much is known about Champa, the breathtaking architecture they left behind remains one of Vietnam’s most exciting places to visit.
14. Holkham Beach In North Norfolk, UK
When an award-winning beach is also one where you can stay away from the crowd, you feel like you’ve found the best possible deal. Be it the beach itself or the adjacent pine forest, often the only company you’ll find are some birds or a single seal.
15. Hôtel-Dieu, Paris, France
You would think anything near the Notre Dame Cathedral has been explored and became mainstream long ago. Yet, just a few steps away, you will find a place few people know about. The Hôtel-Dieu complex is Paris’ oldest working hospital, with a piano in the courtyard.
16. Suriname, South America
Those who’ve ventured to Suriname describe it as a true adventure similar to those in your favorite childhood books. The country’s area is primarily forested, while its rivers offer excellent kayaking opportunities. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can take a guided trip to the inner parts of the country.
17. Lençóis Maranhenses National Park In Brazil
If you reach the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park in the northeast, you will discover a completely different Brazil. From crystal lakes to dunes, the three-hour journey from São Luís to the municipality of Barreirinhas near the park is worth it. Visit from July to September to experience the lagoons at their fullest.
18. Turku, Finland
Turku may have given up its title as the capital of Finland in 1812, but it retained all its charm. With a vibrant cafe culture and the mystery of a medieval castle and cathedral, there is a reason why it is often referred to as the Paris of Finland. If you want to tour the Aura River, take an electric boat offering a tasting time.
19. Lombok, Indonesia
Indonesia has over 17,000 islands, yet most tourists exclusively visit Bali, which is not the largest. But if you want to escape the crowded beaches and mainstream attractions, take a short trip to the island of Lombok to discover a quiet paradise with beaches, rainforests, and waterfalls.
20. Srebrenik, Bosnia, And Herzegovina
Srebrenik, often called King’s Town, has many fascinating history to offer. Its 12th-century fortress is the best-preserved medieval construction in the country, and it’s full of local legends. Outside the town, you will find the peak of the Majevica mountains and Lake Ingram, all accompanied by delicious local food and a vibrant atmosphere.
21. Kings Weston Estate In Bristol, UK
A couple of centuries ago, Kings Weston Estate was a famous destination among European nobility. Jane Austen is known to have greatly admired the place. Today, it holds historical and architectural significance and is an incredibly picturesque place to wander around.
22. Secret Gardens In Horta, Barcelona, Spain
If you are looking for a quiet place with a touch of mystery but want to stay close to the bustle of a big city, the Labyrinth Park of Horta is just the place for you. Wander in the maze, and discover flower gardens, sleepy ponds, or pavilions with statues of Greek gods while feeling like you’ve found your way into a fairy tale. The cherry on top is that only 750 people are allowed inside at any time, so it never gets crowded.
23. Poznan, Poland
Those who have been to the Polish city of Poznan say that its charm lies in the outskirts and unexplored corners. Take a tram ride to embrace the local vibe and rich culture fully.
24. Lake Bacalar, Mexico
Another overlooked part of Yucatan, Lake Bacalar, is the Lagoon of Seven Colors. Its stunning beauty lives up to the name, with white sand beaches, turquoise waters, and eco-hotels. Top it off with a few people and get a perfect spot.
25. Karpathos, Greece
Take a leaf out of the Greeks’ book, and instead of going to the mainstream seaside resorts, visit the tiny island of Karpathos. It is almost deserted beaches, and untouched waters combine with local taverns and the charm of a place frozen in time.
26. Córdoba, Argentina
While it is well-known among the people of Argentina, international tourists are still to put the province of Córdoba and its eponymous capital on the global map. Catering to all types of travelers, it offers a variety of activities. A well-developed restaurant scene combined with colonial-era architecture and outdoor activity enthusiasts can go horse riding in Sierras de Córdoba or birdwatching on the shores of Mar Chiquita, one of the largest lakes in South America.
27. Dive Into The Amazon
The Amazon is known as one of the most dangerous rivers due to its wildlife, but if you reach one of its southern sub-tributaries, then make your way through the lush vegetation into a small channel, you will find yourself in front of a clear pool with a breathtaking landscape. While electric eels populate the pond, it’s easy to avoid them, as the clear water gives you an excellent overview.
28. Tupiza, Bolivia
Surrounded by surreal red rock formations and desert landscapes, Tupiza is an excellent place for cycling and trekking. If you continue your journey to the north, on your way to the Uyuni Salt Flats, you will encounter old mining towns, hot springs, and lakes whose waters range from blue to green to red and black.
29. Adventure Down The Amazon On A Public Riverboat
Always wanted to go on a cruise down the Amazon but couldn’t afford it? How about a public ferry? Traveling the extended distance from Belem to Manaus, you get to experience all the beauties of the great river and get to know local passengers, and it is much cheaper than a cruise ship.
30. Maya Nord In The Republic Of Congo
Maya Nord is a must if you prefer adventures to lying on the beach. The journey itself feels straight out of an Indiana Jones movie — you will have to take a flight, ride a car, swim in a dugout canoe, and do some hiking in the jungle once you are there. You will find yourself in the middle of a bai (i.e., an open clearing in the forest) in the Odzala-Kokoua National Park. From then on, enjoy the unbelievable diversity of the African jungle’s animal kingdom.
31. Go Skiing In Tehran, Iran
Skiing is not exactly an activity that comes to mind when considering the Middle East. But if you are tired of the crowded lifts and slopes of the well-known resorts, visit the capital of Iran, Tehran. From there, only a few hour’s rides to the mountains in the north offers several skiing opportunities.
32. Rurrenabaque Pampas, Bolivia
The boat tour along the Yacuma River through the Rurrenabaque pampas starts at Santa Rosa. On your journey along the slow-moving waters, you will encounter all the residents of the pampas, many of whom you won’t even know the names of.
33. Cuenca, Ecuador
While many tourists overlook Cuenca in favor of other places in Ecuador, there must be a reason why so many artists and artisans choose to live in Cuenca. The city’s historical center was announced as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1999. Ecuador is also the place where the famous Panama hat (also known as Montecristi) originated. You can visit one of the workshops in Cuenca to see how they are made.
34. São Tomé And Príncipe
Africa’s second-smallest country, the São Tomé and Príncipe islands, were declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Not only will you find its unmatched beauty of nature and wildlife, but the history and culture of the country are also an exciting exploration. If you want to fully embrace the local vibe of the world’s largest cacao producer, spend a night in a traditional Roça.
35. Towpath Café In East London, UK
Having a meal in non-touristy eateries gives you a whole different experience of a place. If you happen to be in London from spring to late autumn, plan a lunch at Towpath Café. Located along the Regent’s Canal, it offers exceptional seasonal food and a captivating view of the wildlife and light on the water.
36. Burlington, Vermont, USA
Burlington may be a university city, but that doesn’t mean that campuses and student pubs are its only attractions. Located on the shores of Lake Champlain, the town is a charming place that has developed an award-winning gastronomy scene in recent years.
37. Cameron Highlands, Malaysia
As a hiking fan, you have to visit the Cameron Highlands. Not only is it an exceptional trek, but with enough luck, you may stumble upon rafflesia, a parasitic plant with the largest bloom in the world. As it only blooms three to five days a year, you must carefully plan to arrive on time. Other than that, you are in for some unbelievable encounters with wildlife.
38. Paricutín’s Lava Fields, Mexico
In 1943 an eruption of the Paricutín volcano occurred near the village of San Juan Parangaricutiro, during which almost the entire town was destroyed by lava. Today only the top part of the local church can be seen hovering above black fields of volcanic deposits. While the village was later rebuilt (with the addition of the word “nuevo,” or “new” to its name), a visit to the black lava fields is a one-of-a-kind experience.
39. Rome, Italy
This may sound borderline unbelievable, but things in one of the most visited cities on earth are still unknown to the broader public. For example, see the Roman Forum, which is as enjoyable as any other historical building but also usually less crowded.
40. Caves In The Yucatan, Mexico
Yucatan may be one of Mexico’s most popular tourist destinations, but its underwater caves, also known as the cenotes, are still mostly a secret. Step away from the crowded beaches to discover where you will be alone with nature.
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