Best-Kept Secret Travel Destinations in the World from Best-Kept Secret Travel Destinations in the World

Best-Kept Secret Travel Destinations in the World

Full Story
iStock / borchee

Best-Kept Secret Travel Destinations in the World

If you have been to the Caribbean islands more than once, and visited Europe in the summer, you are probably now starting to look for a lesser-known island or adventure destination that only true explorers know about.

Plan a vacation to an under-the-radar destination and still see the majestic Northern Lights, hike a volcano, scuba dive, and indulge in world-class chocolate and tasty local delicacies.

Many spots, even those closer to home in the U.S. are overlooked. But they are worthy of another look and tourist are slowly beginning to realize why. Famous bucket list cities are certainly deserving, but wanderers will never be satisfied with popular vacation spots that have been overexposed.

Shutterstock

Western Brook Pond, Canada

Go on a 2-hour boat tour with live interpretation. This is considered a Canadian Signiture Experience, according to Parks Canada. Ride between massive billion-year-old cliffs, see waterfalls that cascade into the park’s largest lake from ponds atop the plateau. The trail, currently closed due to consultation, is inside the Gros Morne National Park Moose Management Area.

Shutterstock

Skane, Sweden

Sweden is a famous Northern Lights sightseeing and skiing destination. Many people overlook the off the beaten path southernmost county of the country, Skane. Bike through meadows and mystical forests; explore more than 600 miles of hiking trails and 150 incredible castles. Visit some of the city’s 200 museums, some of which are outdoor, and learn about the Vikings. Skane is also an up-and-coming hot spot for unique Nordic food.

Shutterstock

Ostuni, Puglia, Italy

It’s called the White City because of the many white-washed buildings perched on top of a hill. They offer seemingly never-ending views of gorgeous olive trees in the Valle d’Itria countryside. The Adriatic Sea is only about 5 miles away. Italians know about Ostuni, but it’s not as famous as Polignano a Mare or Alberobello which most people know for its cone-shaped Truli houses.

Shutterstock

Sark, Channel Islands

The region off the French coast of Normandy is marvelous in the spring. Visitors are enchanted by the charming and quaint cottages and extensive island vistas. Spring is the time to go the Sark Island in time for the Wild Flower Fortnight festival in late April through early May and go on a wildflower walk. Take another walk below the sea cliffs along the unspoiled coastline. Cars are not allowed on the island, which only adds to its charm.

Shutterstock

Lummi Island, Washington

If you are looking to spend some quiet time with your family, or go on a romantic and relaxing trip with your loved one, Lummi Island, which is accessible near Bellingham, should be on your list. The island has a vibrant artist community, too. Make sure you take the time to see and capture the gorgeous panoramas of the Salish Sea.

Shutterstock

Bale Mountains National Park, Ethiopia

Ethiopia has long lived in the shadows of neighboring Kenya even though it has as much to offer – glorious mountains, mysteries, food, and Gelada Baboons. It’s ranked as one of the most dangerous vacation destinations. Petty theft and mugging is common and on the rise. If people go to Ethiopia, few make it to the Bale Mountains, which will soon be a World Heritage site. The park is known for its abundant wildlife, dramatic landscapes, glacial lakes and volcanic ridges.

Shutterstock

Cienfuegos, Cuba

The colonial town of Cienfuegos was founded in 1819 and it became a trading place for sugar cane, tobacco and coffee, according to UNESCO. The town, a world heritage site, first developed in the neoclassical style. It later became more eclectic but retained a harmonious overall townscape. Cienfuegos is the first architectural ensemble “representing the new ideas of modernity, hygiene and order in urban planning as developed in Latin America from the 19th century.”

Shutterstock

Gozo, Malta

Gozo is a place people should visit for a nice and serene change of scenery. The charm of Malta's sister Island is its green vast landscapes, secluded beaches and rich culture. Gozo is thought to be the legendary Calypso's isle of Homer's Odyssey - a peaceful, mystical backwater, according to Visit Malta. This is where you’d find some of the Mediterranean's best dive sites.

Shutterstock

Mljet Island, Dalmatia, Croatia

This wild island, Croatia’s greenest, in fact, is a true paradise for adventurers who prefer a getaway away from any resemblance to a chaotic city life. Half of the island is actually an unspoiled national park. Only a few people live on Mljet, and forget about any big cities or roads. The island is known for its white and red wine, olives and goat's cheese. More active tourists will have endless opportunities for hiking, swimming, and biking.

Shutterstock

Gili Meno Island, Indonesia

It is only about half a mile from the popular Gili Trawangan. Locals call it the real Robinson Crusoe experience of the Gilis. The tiny island is about 1.2 miles long and a little more than a mile wide. It is largely underdeveloped, which is always a plus for tourists. The waters around Gili Meno boast rich tropical marine biodiversity.

LMspencer/Shutterstock.com

Puerto Escondido, Mexico

Surfers are going to love this town. The beach’s nickname is the “Mexican Pipeline.” The surf is seasonal, and it ranges from small to medium in size between November and April, the dry season, and from small to big beginning in early May. Puerto Escondido started out as a small fishing village and has grown to be known for some of the biggest surfing competitions in the country. Some of these include the ESPN X Games and the MexPipe Challenge.

Shutterstock

Islas del Rosario, Colombia

The Rosary Islands are 27 islands located on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. They are a paradise-like must-see spot if you are going to the quite famous city of Cartagena. The islands, each only a boat ride away, will take your breath away with stunning natural landscapes, crystal clear waters and unique coral formations.

Dreamstime

Middleburg, Virginia

Middleburg was a popular destination for foxhunting and steeplechasing, earning it a reputation as the “Nation’s Horse and Hunt Capital.” The city is home to more than 160 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It is now known for its natural beauty, historic charm, and Southern hospitality. You’ll fine exciting adventures, romantic escapades and plenty of family-friendly activities. Explore local wineries and zoom down zip lines.

Shutterstock

Setenil de las Bodegas, Spain

This may be one of the most unique places you will ever visit. The 3,000 local residents live literally under a rock. The tiny town grew out of a network of caves in the cliffs above the rio Trejo, north-west of Ronda. The blinding white houses look like they emerge from the rocks, and some have rock roofs and even olive groves on their roofs.

Shutterstock

Durmitor National Park, Montenegro

This park is approximately 39,000 acres large. It was formed by glaciers and is traversed by rivers and underground streams, according to UNESCO. It contains 23 mountain tops over 2,300 meters of altitude. Glacial lakes cover the landscape, making for a spectacular scenic view. It’s also a great park for wildlife and plant viewing – there are more than 1,600 vascular plants found in the park and approximately 130 recorded birds.

Shutterstock

Garajonay National Park, Canary Islands

About 70 percent of the park is covered by rare laurel forests. The presence of springs and numerous streams assures lush vegetation resembling that of the Tertiary, which, due to climatic changes, has largely disappeared from southern Europe, according to UNESCO.

Shutterstock

Amman, Jordan

Though it’s nestled between Israel, Iraq and Syria, places of intense instability and unrest, Jordan is considered an oasis for travelers. On top of visiting famous archaeological sites such as Petra and natural wonders such as the Dead Sea, visitors to Jordan can camp out in the Wadi Rum desert with Bedouins or tackle hiking the Jordan Trail.

Shutterstock

Huacachina, Peru

Heading to Machu Picchu from Lima? Visiting Huacachina, which is only about five hours away from the capital, should be on your list. This amazing oasis in the desert is a must-see because of an odd but astonishing adventure tour - the dune buggy and sandboarding.

kirill_makarov/Shutterstock.com

Omodos Village, Cyprus

Who says the French are the best wine makers in Europe? This small village ranks pretty high, too. Omodos is also famous for the Arkatena Bread, made with a chickpea starter. Of all places in Cypris, this is the most traditional one, with its cobbled square, old stone-built houses, and a Medieval wine press.

Shutterstock

Lofoten Islands, Norway

This increasingly popular group of islands within the Arctic Circle is a postcard-perfect fisherman’s little paradise on Earth. Reine, for example, is one of the most isolated small communities in Europe. The beautiful village will take your breath away with its natural splendor. Camping under the stars on beaches is another favorite activity. The transition period from fall into winter from mid-October to early January is not a good time to go because the weather is bad. It’s cold, dark, rainy, icy, and windy.

Manono Island, Samoa

This laid-back and traditional tiny island is not very easy to get to bit all obstacles are worth the time and effort. The island is basically four fishing villages that have no cars or dogs, which are not allowed, according to Samoa Travel. The loudest noise will most likely be those of waves.

Shutterstock

Flores Island, Azores

Some call it a “small Ireland.” You don’t need much time to see why – the lavish green hills, untouched lagoons and hundreds of streams and small waterfalls cascading into lakes make it hard to leave the island. The natural beauty of Flores Island is absolutely breathtaking.

Shutterstock

Rabbit Island, Cambodia

If you’re traveling to Cambodia, you’re probably visiting the ancient city of Angkor Thom. But if you want to see another side of the country –such as beautiful untouched beaches and perfect scuba diving and snorkeling spots – consider the Rabbit Island. Development is underway, so go there now. You won’t be able to stay at a hotel (there are none yet), but you’ll get a chance to sleep in beachside bungalows.

Shutterstock

Madagascar

The island nation is coming back after several recent years of diplomatic and financial isolation. Plus, discoveries of new lemur species excite wildlife enthusiasts, who hope to see the rare and adorable primates up close. The isolated island country is home to spectacular biodiversity—many of the plant and animal species that live there can’t be found anywhere else on the planet.

Shutterstock

Bukchon Village in Seoul, South Korea

South Korea is becoming a more popular tourist destination after the Winter Olympic Games. Go beyond the usual sightseeing sites. Bukchon Hanok Village is home to hundreds of traditional houses, called hanok, that date back to the Joseon Dynasty, according to Visit Korea. Many of them operate as cultural centers, guesthouses, restaurants and tea houses. This is where visitors can experience, learn and immerse themselves in traditional Korean culture.

Shutterstock

Corfu Island, Greece

Mykonos and Santorini are stunning islands but they also attract lots of crowds. Corfu’s rich multi-cultural heritage, historic monuments, stunning natural landscape, and crystal clear seas, make it one of the most cosmopolitan Mediterranean destinations luring more and more visitors, according to Visit Greece.

Shutterstock

Umbria

“People go to Italy for lots of reasons but most end up in Tuscany,” Andrew Tolentino from Dish Our Town says. “I and my family love Umbria because of the topography – we have never see anything more beautiful. It’s ideal for very active people as well, and it 30 percent less expensive than Tuscany,” he adds. Umbria is one awe-inspiring place travel bloggers say you should visit.

Shutterstock

Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, Vietnam

The world’s largest cave wasn’t discovered until 1990 and didn’t open to the public until 2013. It’s a must-visit for adventure travelers who want the chance to marvel at Mother Nature’s creation. In fact, more people have stood at the summit of Mt. Everest than experienced this natural wonder. Soon Doong Cave, which is in Vietnam’s Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park, can only be reached on a five-day expedition. It is so large it has its own weather system, including clouds, inside.

Shutterstock

Azerbaijan

This post-Soviet Central Asian is an up and coming escape destination. It used to connect ancient historical empires, now famous for its cosmopolitan capital, Baku, with astounding 21st-century architecture. If you have time, visit one of the most spectacular pink lakes in the world – Masazir Lake. You won’t travel too long to see a semidesert, mud volcanoes, pastoral villages, and rising Great Caucasus mountains.

Dreamstime

Scrub Island, British Virgin Islands

This is a Caribbean paradise you go to so you can escape the crowds. Relaxation, wellness and watersport activities are endless. Go on a private helicopter tour of the British Virgin Islands’ 60 islands. Spend your evening enjoying dinner surrounded by the cool Caribbean breeze upon the stern private yacht. Most of the island is uninhabited, which means you can explore its beauty undisturbed.

Shutterstock

Liège, Belgium

Belgium is best known for chocolate, beer and European politics. Go past Brussel and Bruges. In Liege, which is just an hour away by train from the capital, you’ll find unbelievable art museums, wild festivals, amazing local food, and no crowds. Liege, which is where Emperor Charlemagne was born, is now a university city. The area is especially popular for cycling.

iStock

Salt Spring Island, B.C., Canada

Of all British Columbia's Gulf Islands, this is probably the most well-known. Life here is for people who want to slow down and enjoy every day without the hustle and bustle of a big, chaotic and overly developed city. Hike the many forested trails, relax on stunning beaches and see incredible vistas while swimming, cycling or kayaking.

iStock

Wales

Wales' protected wild areas are really impressive. If you're looking for a less-traveled path and stunning views, Wales' national parks are excellent bets. Snowdonia National Park, which is 827 square miles, boasts the highest mountain (Snowdon) in England and Wales, and the largest natural lake in the country (Llyn Tegid). Also, all 1,000-plus miles of Wales' dramatic coastline are accessible to hikers and equestrians.

Dreamstime

Colonsay, Scotland

The jewel of the Hebrides is tiny – just 10 by two miles big. But don’t let the size fool you; there are plenty of adventurous things to do, especially if you enjoy wildlife and being outdoors. Visit the many beaches, go on boat trips, see the House Gardens, play golf, take flying tours, and learn how to make honey during a beekeeping course.

Shutterstock

Semuc Champey, Guatemala

This is a collection of pools on top of a natural limestone bridge in the jungle. What attract tourists are the clear turquoise lakes and stunningly lush greenery. The fact that it takes time and considerable effort to reach Semuc Champey is also part of its charm. Swimming in the water, though, is totally worth it.

Tirimbina Rainforest Reserve, Costa Rica

This is a tropical rainforest. Exploring the trails, discovering its flora and fauna, walking on the suspension bridges, and learning about its secrets is a unique experience. Go on a night walk, bird watching, join a bat program, and absolutely go to a traditional cacao plantation to taste the cacao bean at different stages before it’s chocolate.

Shutterstock

Gribbell Island, Canada

The island on the North Coast of British Columbia is deep in the Great Bear Rainforest. You may have to wait a while to see a “spirit” bear, but it’ll be worth it. This is a rare Kermode bear that lives on the island and just a few other places. Explore the forest by boat to see other wildlife such as grizzly bears, orcas, humpback whales and sea lions.

Shutterstock

Shirakawa-go, Japan

This is the place to go if you want to see an authentic part of Japan, one you’ll never be exposed to if you just go to Osaka or Tokyo. Declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995, the Shirakawa-go and neighboring Gokayama are famous for their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old, according to Japan Guide. Staying overnight at one of them is the best way to experience the town.

Shutterstock

Tuvalu

This is the least visited country in the world. Tuvalu, a group of islands in the Pacific Ocean, is currently at risk due to rising sea levels. Tuvalu had 2,000 foreign visitors in 2016. This is a bit surprising considering the tiny nation spread across several atolls in the South Pacific has stunning beaches, spectacular turquoise waters, and outstanding lagoons.

Shutterstock

Mali

This is a land of many cultures. The Sahara and the Sahel-desert cover cover most of the country’s territory, which is why drought is often a problem. See the Mosques of Timbuktu before you run out of chances. Although continuously restored, the monuments are under threat from desertification.

Shutterstock

The Dongchuan Red Land, China

The concentrated and unique red land covers about 150 square miles. Photographers and backpackers love it, and locals refer to it as "God's palette.” Dongchuan has been healed “the museum of debris flows,” according to China Highlights. The best time to go is in May or June after ploughing and before the crops grow.

Shutterstock

Batumi, Georgia

Safety concerns in Ukraine have forced many cruise lines to reroute their ships to Georgia, more specifically in Batumi, a beautiful Black Sea resort and port city. Its 108-hecatre botanical garden, which has been open since 1912, is one of the one the largest and richest in the world. The flow of tourists is leading to major hotel brands settling there. For a more authentic experience, now is the time to go.

Shutterstock

Isfahan, Iran

Isfahan is often referred to as a highlight of Persia or the unknown pearl of the Middle East. It was once one of the largest and most important cities in Central Asia. The city is renowned for its beauty, which has given rise to the Iranian saying that “Isfahan is half the world,” according to UNESCO.

Shutterstock

KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

This coastal South African province is famous among adventurers for its beautiful beaches, lush mountains and savannah. People will never be bored. When you're not playing golf, fishing or lying on the beach, you can visit a crocodile farm, a nature reserve or follow an arts and crafts trail, according to SA-Venues.

Shutterstock

Meck-Pomm, Germany

Can you pronounce Mecklenburg-Vorpommern? That’s why most people call it Meck-Pomm, or even M-V. About 1,180 miles of coastline, lined with Baltic seaside resorts and white-sandy beaches. See UNESCO World Heritage towns and splendid natural scenery. Just an hour's drive from the Baltic Sea is the start of the largest unbroken region of rivers and lakes in central Europe, according to Germany Travel.

Shutterstock

Siberia

Siberia is an underrated adventure destination because people often think of it as too remote, too cold, too icy and too far. Few people go and even fewer take the train there. This is an amazing summer trip adventure that is about 6,000 miles and will take a week, if not longer. Stop in several cities, such as the beautiful 1,000-year-old city of Kazan or Irkutsk, to see Lake Baikal, the deepest lake in the world. Outdoor adventures in Siberia include water sports, volcanos, wildlife spotting, and trekking.

Shutterstock

Second Valley, Australia

Located on the Fleurieu Peninsula, this is a place for having lots fun without big crowds. The best time to go is in February. Enjoy the rolling hills and relax on a beach surrounded by sharp cliffs. You must stop by the valley, especially if you’re headed to Kangaroo Islands; it’s on the way.

Shutterstock

Palau, Micronesia

An archipelago made up of hundreds of small islands, Palau receives only around 150,000 visitors per year. It is already recognized as a wonderful snorkeling and scuba-diving spot with many incredible sites to choose from. Palau is the place to go to see a broad range of marine life, with the waters there teeming with sharks, dolphins, turtles, hundreds of species of fish, dugongs, and more. Go sailing, kayaking, or hiking around the nation’s limestone and volcanic islands, or tropical and mangrove forests.

Shutterstock

Pico, Portugal

The island is often referred to as the Mountain Island. It is home to Portugal’s highest mountain, also called Pico, at 7,713 feet above sea level. The volcanic cone of Pico Mountain is the third largest volcano in the Atlantic, according to Visit Portugal. The extensive lava fields that dot the island’s landscape, which the local population calls "cookie lands" are breathtaking. Pico is a land with a strong whaling tradition.

Shutterstock

Green Lake, Austria

Technically speaking, this hiker-and-scuba-diver's dream is not really a lake in the winter. Go there in the spring and you won’t regret it. What happens is that everything that is along the pond's edge becomes submerged underwater. Also, the snowmelt runoff this season makes the water clean and clear, and also a bit cold.