Discovering Hidden Gems: Off-the-Beaten-Path Destinations Worth Exploring
When it comes to travel, many people flock to well-known tourist destinations like Paris, London, and New York City. However, there’s a whole world of hidden gems waiting to be explored, free from the crowds and full of unique experiences. This article reveals some of the best off-the-beaten-path destinations from around the world that are perfect for travelers who crave adventure, cultural immersion, and an escape from the ordinary.
1. Explore the Ancient City of Petra, Jordan
Petra, the ancient city carved into the red sandstone cliffs of southern Jordan, is not only a UNESCO World Heritage site but also one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. While it’s not exactly undiscovered, the majority of tourists only visit for a few hours, leaving plenty of opportunities to explore the site without the crowds.
Take your time to wander through the ancient ruins and marvel at the intricacy of the rock carvings. Hike up to the Monastery for breathtaking views or try an off-the-beaten-path trek through lesser-known parts of the ruins for a true sense of discovery. The nearby town of Wadi Musa offers accommodations and restaurants for travelers wanting to spend a few days exploring Petra.
2. Discover the Remote and Magical Faroe Islands
Situated halfway between Iceland and Norway, the Faroe Islands are an archipelago of 18 volcanic islands that feel like they’re straight out of a fairy tale. With dramatic cliffs, waterfalls, and vibrant green rolling hills dotted with charming villages and sheep, the Faroe Islands are a nature lover’s paradise.
While there, be sure to visit some of the islands’ iconic sites, such as the village of Gásadalur and its postcard-worthy waterfall, or the vertiginous cliffs of Trælanípan, offering stunning views of Lake Sørvágsvatn. Self-drive tours or guided trips ensure you can discover these remote islands’ wonders at your own pace.
3. Step Back in Time in Cuba’s Trinidad
Cuba is often synonymous with bustling Havana or beach resorts like Varadero. However, the colorful colonial town of Trinidad, a UNESCO World Heritage site, stands out for its preserved cobblestone streets, historic architecture, and vibrant arts scene.
Here, you can stroll through the Plaza Mayor, Trinidad’s central square surrounded by museums and historic buildings, or discover the local art scene at the numerous galleries hidden in picturesque courtyard houses. Dance to live music at a local venue at night, and don’t forget to take a short drive to the Ancon Beach for some sun and relaxation.
4. Unwind in Slovenia’s Breathtaking Lake Bled
While Lake Bled may not be entirely unknown, it still offers a peaceful escape from Europe’s major tourist magnets. The crystal-clear lake at the foot of the Julian Alps is known for its serene beauty, with the Bled Castle perched atop a hill and a small church nestled on a tiny island accessible by traditional wooden boats.
To fully immerse yourself in the tranquil surroundings, go for a leisurely walk or bike ride around the lake, hike to the nearby Vintgar Gorge, or indulge in a slice of the local Bled cream cake.
5. Get Lost in Morocco’s Chefchaouen
Nicknamed the “Blue Pearl of Morocco”, Chefchaouen is a small city nestled in the Rif Mountains that captivates travelers with its blue-painted medina (old town) and relaxed atmosphere. It feels worlds away from the bustling alleys of Marrakech and Fes but offers just as much charm and authenticity.
Take your time to stroll through the blue-hued streets, shop the local artisan products, or relax at a café with a cup of Moroccan mint tea. Hike to the Spanish Mosque for majestic views or go on a day trip to the nearby Akchour waterfalls. The colors and atmosphere at Chefchaouen make it impossible not to leave inspired.
6. Experience the Magic of Palawan, Philippines
Palawan is an island province in the Philippines that’s gaining popularity for its white-sand beaches, turquoise waters, and pristine coral reefs. However, it’s still a very off-the-beaten-path destination compared to popular islands like Boracay and Cebu.
Palawan is ideal for nature enthusiasts and beach lovers. Don’t miss visiting the small and dreamy town of El Nido, which offers boat tours to the idyllic nearby islands and lagoons. Coron, further north, is also a must-see, with its dreamy landscapes and world-class diving spots. Finally, explore the Underwater River, a UNESCO World Heritage site, in Puerto Princesa.
7. Escape to the Alentejo Region, Portugal
Often overshadowed by the popular Algarve region, the Alentejo in southern Portugal invites you to unwind amidst its rolling hills, vineyards, and charming whitewashed villages. For history buffs, a visit to Évora, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and its Temple of Diana is a must.
If you’re more into spending a day at the beach, head to the wild Vicentine Coast and its pristine, golden sands. In the evening, treat yourself to a taste of Alentejo’s delicious wine and hearty traditional cuisine.
8. Embrace Simplicity on Scotland’s Outer Hebrides
The Outer Hebrides, a chain of islands off the northwest coast of mainland Scotland, offer rugged landscapes, ancient archaeological sites, and unspoiled sandy beaches. This remote destination is perfect for those wanting to escape the hustle and bustle and live life at a slower pace.
Visit the mystical Callanish Stones on the Isle of Lewis, or explore the golden beaches and turquoise waters of the Isle of Harris. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, the Outer Hebrides are perfect for hiking, biking, and spotting wildlife like seals or even eagles.
9. Dive into Mexico’s Diverse Oaxaca Region
Oaxaca, located in southern Mexico, is famed for its rich culture, traditional crafts, and outstanding cuisine. The vibrant city of Oaxaca is a great starting point, with its grand colonial architecture, bustling markets, and lively street food scene.
From there, venture out to explore the Zapotec ruins at Monte Albán, or visit one of the nearby pueblos, like the arts and crafts mecca of San Martin Tilcajete or the rug-weaving town of Teotitlán del Valle. Food lovers can take cooking classes or mezcal tastings for a taste of Oaxaca’s culinary heritage.
The world is full of hidden gems waiting to be discovered by adventurous travelers, and these off-the-beaten-path destinations are just a start. As you explore these unique places, you’ll not only avoid the crowds but also create lasting memories and truly connect with the culture and its people.
So why not start planning your next adventure to one of these magical destinations and see what secrets you might uncover. There’s never been a better time to step off the beaten path and explore the hidden wonders of our diverse and beautiful planet.