We all see in magazines and blogs all sorts of famous destinations like Paris, Tokyo, and Rio de Janeiro, sharing iconic sights and giving us their must-do tips.
But what about lesser-known destinations that have stayed under the radar from mass tourism yet still offer a unique experience and iconic sights?
Here I’ll share with you six destinations you may not have heard of, but that you must visit at least once in your life.
Kotor is a fortified town on Montenegro’s Adriatic coast, characterized by winding labyrinth-like streets, old squares, and Romanesque churches. Its walls, which were built between the 9th and 18th centuries, arch steeply up the green slopes behind this dramatically beautiful town that still preserves most of its original architecture. At night, the wall and the town’s main buildings are spectacularly lit; making the city feel like something you must admire both from inside and outside – like a museum piece.
Maybe Dubrovnik is no longer a "not heard of" destination thanks to Game of Thrones, but even before the hit series, this medieval city had made a name for itself as one of the most charming cities in Europe that had yet to be "discovered" by mass tourism. Now, thanks to the series, it is an "it" place for fans looking to experience a bit of Westeros in real life.
Located along the Adriatic Sea in Croatia, Dubrovnik developed through maritime trade, a side of its history easily perceived when you walk along its cobblestone streets and fortified walls.
Dubrovnik also has the oldest arboretum in the world, dating back to before 1492; and the third oldest European pharmacy (yet oldest still in operation), which dates back to 1317.
Matmata is one of the most surreal villages I’ve visited so far. Most houses, called troglodyte homes, are built underground in huge, round, earth pits that open to the sky and are interconnected by tunnels. When you see the village from above, it looks like a giant whack-a-mole game in the desert.
Each pit has several small openings that serve as the entrance to various rooms or individual houses. Don’t miss staying in one of the troglodyte homes or hotels there. The experience is unique since you’re sleeping under the earth.
Ouarzazate –nicknamed "The Door of the Desert"– might be a small town today, but centuries ago it was a crossing point for African traders on their way to northern Morocco and Europe. It was also a base for desert safaris and expeditions.
Ouarzazate is located strategically within reach of some of the finest ksour (fortified towns) and oases in the south of Morocco, including the beautiful Ksar Ait Ben Haddou and the Fint Oasis. You may recognize Air Ben Haddou when you see it – it’s been used as a filming location for several Hollywood films, including Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Gladiator (2000).
Koh Nang Yuan, while considered to be one island, is a set of three islands connected by two strips of coralline white sand that serve as a beach during low tide, but which disappear under the clear water when it rises.
While it looks like a real-life paradise secluded in the middle of nowhere, Koh Nang Yuan is located just 15 minutes away by boat from Koh Tao, a very popular destination in Thailand. The best thing about this island is that it only has one resort on it, and non-guests must leave the island by 5 pm. So, if you want to enjoy the island almost like a secluded destination for you and the other resort guests, then make sure to stay there overnight.
Rotorua is famous for its geothermal activity, geysers, hot mud pools and plumes of smoke and steam that pop out throughout the city streets and backyards. The city has an ever-present smell of sulfur, which sometimes can be confused for the smell of rotten eggs, but this is part of what makes this city so special.
While there’s enough thermal activity in the city, you must visit two geothermal parks in its vicinity: Waimangu Volcanic Valley and Wai-o-Tapu Geothermal Wonderland. These are places where Mother Nature expressed her hippy side with no inhibitions and painted everything with a palette of psychedelic hues not usually found in nature. A fluorescent green natural pool, a thermal pool with an orange rim and turquoise water, yellow patches of earth, and more, are just some of the ways that nature bends its normal laws here and gets more creative than usual.
What do you think? Do you know of any other unheard place that should be added to this list?
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Norbert Figueroa is an architect who hit the pause button on his career in 2011 to do a round the world trip. He's been blogging for over three years at globotreks.com, where he shares his travel experiences, budget travel tips, and a good dose of world architecture. From hiking Mount Kilimanjaro to diving with great white sharks, he is always on the search of adrenaline and adventure. Norbert is originally from Puerto Rico and he is currently based in Milan, Italy... when not roaming around the world, that is. He has traveled to more than 80 countries in 5 continents and his goal is to travel to all 193 U.N. recognized countries. Follow Norbert on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google Plus.
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