A tenner of places you’d never thought to travel, but you should…
*This post is featured on Youtravel.co.nz
Once upon a time, before you could even start thinking about traveling, you’d need a separate saving account, a 12-month budget, and the willingness to eat toast for breakfast, lunch and dinner for at least six of those months to scrape together enough funds for a plane ticket. Now, a few weeks without that daily soy latte and you’ve got yourself a $700 plane ticket halfway across the world. Traveling the world has never been so accessible. And traveling to the distant corners of the globe, so far untouched by the high rises and the keychain-wielding touts, has never been so easy. For that reason, it’s high time you forgo the crowded streets of the Romes, the Barcelonas and the Londons – and check these places out before everyone else does.
1. The Albanian Riviera, Albania.
Ever heard of it? No? Didn’t think so. But there’s many reasons why you should find out. The golden sands squished between the better-known stretches of coastline, Montengro and Greece, have long been forgotten for the brighter lights of the resorts in neighbouring countries. And that’s exactly why they should be visited – its every bit as beautiful, with acres more space and barely a single tourist in sight. Running along the Ionian Sea, the Albanian Riveira – traditionally the coastline in the very south, running from Vlore County to the Greek border – the mountains topple into warm, crystal-clear water, framed by golden beaches. Plus, from Sarande, the Riviera’s most well-known resort, you can practically wave to the hordes on the beaches in Greece and Corfu – paying five times the price for the same scenery.
Long plagued by its dark history of humanitarian crises and genocide, Kosovo is entering a new era. Recognised as a country by most of the rest of the world – just don’t ask Serbia – Kosovo is attempting to harness its tourism potential as one of the world’s newest countries. Its capital, Pristina, is an eclectic hub absolutely brimming with national pride and optimism, and right in it’s heart is a great place to be – alongside throngs of trendy young Kosovans soaking up the sunshine with a cup of coffee. The towns of Peja and Prizren allow a look at simpler life in the breathtaking countryside. The best part? The country is so tiny it barely takes an hour to cross in any direction.
3. Mendoza, Argentina.
Forget the budget-crippling wine tours of France and Italy, head south instead and try the best wine you probably never knew existed. Set against the jaw-dropping landscape of the Argentinean Andes, Mendoza accounts for two-thirds of the country’s wine industry, and for good reason. The dry climate allows for lip smacking Malbecs, Tempranillos and Cabernet Sauvignons. The best part about Mendoza is the ability to make your own wine tour. Locals will point you in the direction of a bike rental shop, hand you a map and bid you adieu with a toothy grin. The trip over the Andes is bloody spectacular too, if you’re keen to continue on to Chile.
Often left out because of it’s more famous South American brothers and sisters, Uruguay is where you should be heading for great food, beach time and relaxing. While it is a small country. what Uruguay lacks in size, it makes up for in beauty and diversity. The tiny, accessible only by four-wheel-drive village of Cabo Polonio is an absolute cracker of a destination to wallow away the days on the beach, and the sunset from the roof of one of its kitschy shacks is one for the ages. Also – if you forget to exchange money before you get there, you can also pick mussels and cook bland pasta to live off until you can get back to an ATM. Yes we did that. No, Gordon Ramsay would certainly not have approved. Uruguay’s capital Montevideo is as lively as Buenos Aires or La Paz, and up north the unassuming town of Colonia Del Sacramento is a laid-back and beautiful town just waiting to be explored. Weed is also legal there so, there’s that.
5. Krakatoa, Indonesia.
Remember that violent volcano that sits just off the coast in Indonesia you learned about in school? That one that blew its top in 1883, unleashing monstrous tsunamis, causing widespread devastation and destroying almost all of the island it sat on? Yeah, that one. Well these days, as it sits steaming away just off the coast of Java, its a tropical haven for swimming, snorkelling and lazing around on the beach. Take a guided tour out to its brooding shores, swim among some of the most abundant and diverse marine life in the Pacific, and sleep on the beach for a truly otherworldly experience.
6. Ko Phu, Thailand
In a country so overcome with tourists seeking the cerulean waters and golden sands made famous by The Beach, it’s hard to believe there’s a square metre left not chocka full of half naked foreigners, selfie sticks and touts. Luckily, Ko Phu exists and is as close to you might get to the relaxing, authentic Thai island you envisaged when you booked your plane tickets to this side of the world. The island is situated in the middle of the tourist meccas of Koh Lanta and Krabi, yet is relatively unblemished by their influence. Some parts don’t have electricity. The island is home to three small villages and 1500 friendly locals, and one of the highlights of a stay here is traversing it on motorbike and seeing how the locals live. Otherwise, relax in a hammock by the beach without the hooting larrakins next-door on Koh Lanta.
7. Barrie, Canada.
Hoping to avoid the onslaught of foreigners for the Canadian ski season? Whistler too mainstream? Then forgo the traditional Canadian tourist hotspots of Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto, and instead head for somewhere quieter. About an hour north of Toronto sits Barrie, an unassuming city in one heck of a location. The hills around it are teeming with ski fields for the active, Lake Simcoe is dazzling on a good day, and in the summer the hiking trails and surrounding lakes make for a perfect day out.
8. Hyams Beach, Australia.
Heading to Aussie? Why not avoid the elbow-to-elbow bikini-clad beauties on Bondi and instead head south – the world’s whitest sand beach, for example. Hyams Beach, located about 180km south of Sydney in Jervis Bay, doesn’t just claim that title – the Guinness Book of World Records confirmed it. And when the sun’s out, nothing can beat squeaking along the (almost blinding) sand, and taking a dip in the warm seas.
9. The High Tatras, Slovakia or Poland.
The craggy peaks rising in the distance, the never-ending fields of wildflowers and the crystal-clear streams toppling from pristine mountain lakes, the High Tatras are an Eastern European adventuregoer’s dreamland. Straddling the border of the two countries, hikers can head in from either Zakopane in Poland or around Poprad in Slovakia, and spend as long as you want exploring the tiny mountain villages and awe-inspiring scenery. Stay in a mountain hut and experience local cuisine for an even more amazing experience.
Beaches? Tick, Safari possiblities? Tick. Bustling metropolises? Tick. Tick. While Africa is not usually top of people’s travel lists, it should be – and Kenya should be one of the first stops. With the white sand beaches and turquoise waters of Diani Beach, the lively capital of Nairobi, and the Maasai Mara National Reserve, teeming with vast populations of “The Big Five”, the African jewel really has it all.