Like the typical Dubai resident making a lengthy detour to avoid rush-hour traffic, the modern-day traveler goes to great lengths to avoid fellow tourists. Authenticity has been the buzzword for years now, and there’s (rightfully) a high premium placed on exploring a travel destination before the crowds get to it. Unfortunately, when everyone is off the beaten track, it quite often means that no one is, but there are still places that remain relatively unknown – but are unlikely to remain so. Translation: add them to your travel bucket list circa now.
No prizes for guessing the appeal here – Coron is a fully-fledged tropical utopia replete with glistening sands, clear-blue shallows, and the just-as-good-as-it-sounds Twin Lagoon. Beneath the waves, you’ll find the expected assortment of tropical fish, as well as a host of World War II shipwrecks perfect for divers to explore. The nearby El Nido municipality is seeing a similar surge in interest and, between them, they’re turning the province of Palawan into the Koh Samui of the South China Sea.
We’re already sensing a theme here. Lembongan Island lies just offshore from the long-established island paradise of Bali. Surf, snorkel, or scuba your way around the coastline, or stroll the clifftops in search of the sort of sunset only the tropics can provide. We all like sun, sand, and sea – who knew?
Though still every inch an island paradise, our next entry does at least shake things up by heading inland. The tiny village of Ella lies at the heart of Sri Lanka’s hill country, surrounded by temples and tea plantations coated with a thick layer of tropical fauna.
It’s perhaps best known for lying at the end of one of the most scenic railway lines in the world: the seven hour Kandy-Ella train chugs merrily past plummeting waterfalls, soaring precipices, and outrageously lush mountainsides.
A classical beach paradise with a twist, Holbox has supplemented its idyllic coastline by completely forgoing cars. Instead, the pastel-colored streets are filled with bicycles and buzzing golf carts that make for a bustling (if not always peaceful) beach break.
Whale sharks at sea, pelicans and flamingos on the shore, and between them green-tinged tides sifting sun-soaked sand – Holbox has all the trimmings you could expect from a Caribbean cay.
We’re not sure why the Philippines has chosen this precise moment to explode in popularity, but it is deservedly in the spotlight, with many of the visitors to this Southeast Asian archipelago flocking to the beaches of Panglao Island, a jewel of the Bohol Sea. Come for the nightlife, but stay for the sea life. Dolphins, manta rays, and whale sharks prowl the surface waters, while kaleidoscopic corals dot the ocean floor.
Another breakout destination and a veritable hub for European sun-seekers, the Mediterranean nation of Malta is tiny, which means visitors are never more than half an hour from the beach – and St. Julian’s is a symbol of its transformation. Once a sleepy fishing village, it now boasts fashionable cafés and restaurants on every street corner, while the waterfront is studded with resort hotels. Most of them have swimming pools, as well as access to the clear-blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea.
The peninsula of Kaikoura has been a staple of New Zealand tourism for some years, and we reckon its sudden spike in visitors is more recovery than epiphany. In 2016, a magnitude 7.8 earthquake tore through the town so ferociously that the entire coastline was wrenched a meter out of the sea. That sort of thing can put off would-be holidaymakers, but tourists are now returning in droves, ready again to enjoy the town’s traditional menu of whale-watching, dolphin-spotting, and seal-swimming.
Often called Vietnam’s “hidden gem”, this historic northern town is seemingly hidden no more. Limestone cliffs dotted with rice fields flank the slow-moving Day River, forming a typically beautiful slice of Vietnamese countryside. Nearby sights include the nation’s biggest pagoda and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Trang An Grottoes.
A large capital city in the crux of the Caucasus, we can’t quite see what it is about this metropolis that elevates it above the rest. There’s a 4th century fort looming above the city that yields great views over the valley, and the golden artefacts at the Georgian National Museum are splendid.
There’s modern architecture too – like the undulating glass and steel Bridge of Peace – and the art scene is supposed to be very up-and-coming. And now that you mention it, the food is thoroughly cosmopolitan, owing to influences from other Caucasian, Eastern European, and nearby Middle Eastern culinary traditions. We stand corrected – we can 100% see it.
A former Spanish capital, the cradle of the Castilian language, and a gateway to northern Spain, visitors to this medieval Spanish fort town can enjoy a range a museums, contrasted perfectly by the vibrant nightlife boosted by the city’s large population of students. Win-win.