If you’re looking to explore some of the world’s hidden wonders, then these best-kept travel destination secrets are for you. Choose any one of these travel destinations and get ready to embark on an extraordinary journey to a lesser-known gem, tucked away from the tourist masses.
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From enchanting villages amid misty mountains to secluded islands with untouched shores, these destinations promise unforgettable experiences, fewer crowds, breathtaking sights, and interesting history.
We’ve compiled some of the best destinations that have mostly remained off the radar—until now. So grab your passports and get ready to explore the unexplored.
Often overshadowed by other European capitals, Ljubljana is a charming city with a picturesque old town, a lively café culture, and stunning architecture. The city’s relaxed atmosphere and proximity to natural wonders like Lake Bled and the Julian Alps make it an excellent alternative to other crowded European destinations.
Ljubljana holds the prestigious title of being Europe’s Green Capital for 2016. The city takes great pride in its commitment to sustainability, boasting an abundance of green spaces, pedestrian-friendly zones, and an efficient waste-management system.
Ljubljana is home to the Dragon Bridge, adorned with dragon statues on each end. Legend has it that Jason of the Argonauts founded the city of Ljubljana and that the bridge stands where they slayed a dragon, hence the name “dragon bridge.” If you’re looking for some good fortune, rumor has it that rubbing the dragon’s statue brings good luck.
Dominating the city’s skyline is Ljubljana Castle. The castle’s origins date back to the 11th century, and it has served as a fortress, a residence, and even a prison over the centuries.
This small Balkan country offers breathtaking views of the Adriatic coastlines and rugged mountain landscapes. Explore the charming towns of Kotor and Budva, go hiking in Durmitor National Park, and discover the beauty of Lake Skadar, all without the tourist crowds of some neighboring countries.
Montenegro translates to “Black Mountain”—a name alluding to the dark and thick forests characteristic of the island.
The country’s diverse geography includes not only mountains but also beautiful Adriatic coastlines, dense forests, and deep canyons—a paradise for outdoor lovers.
Despite being a relatively small country, Montenegro is home to the Bay of Kotor, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as several scenic islands, including Our Lady of the Rocks, a man-made island. According to legends, the islet was made by local seamen to keep an ancient oath after finding the icon of Madonna and Child on the rock in the sea in 1452.
Often overshadowed by its more popular neighbors, Laos boasts stunning natural beauty, including the Mekong River, limestone caves, and cascading waterfalls. Discover the tranquility of Luang Prabang and explore the ancient temples of Vientiane in this gem of southeast Asia.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Luang Prabang is the former capital of Laos and a captivating town nestled amid lush mountains. Explore the ancient temples of Wat Xieng Thong, witness the daily almsgiving ritual of saffron-robed monks, and indulge in the vibrant night market.
Venture from Luang Prabang to Kuang Si Waterfall, a breathtaking natural wonder unlike anything you’ve ever seen, surrounded by lush jungle with cascading turquoise pools and multi-tiered falls.
Next, head down south to Vang Vieng and take in stunning limestone karst landscapes. Explore the Tham Chang caves, kayak along the Nam Song River, and hike to unforgettable views you won’t soon forget.
The Land of the Thunder Dragon, Bhutan, is a secluded Himalayan kingdom renowned for its preserved culture, ancient monasteries, and breathtaking landscapes. The country’s commitment to Gross National Happiness over GDP sets it apart, offering a unique perspective on life and travel. Trekking through the pristine mountains and experiencing traditional festivals are just a few of the extraordinary experiences Bhutan has to offer.
One of Bhutan’s most iconic landmarks, the Tiger’s Nest Monastery (Paro Taktsang), clings dramatically to a cliffside at an altitude of 10,240 feet. This sacred Buddhist site is believed to be where Guru Rinpoche, the patron saint of Bhutan, meditated in a cave for three years. You’ll have to hike to reach the monastery through the lush mountains, passing picturesque waterfalls and rhododendron forests along the way.
Known as the Palace of Great Happiness, the magic fortress of Punakha Dzong is not to be missed. Characterized by exquisite Bhutanese architecture, intricate woodwork, and beautiful murals, the fortress played a significant role in Bhutan’s history and remains an active religious center.
Located in the Horn of Africa, Djibouti is a small country with a unique landscape decorated by volcanic formations, salt lakes, and hot springs. Experience vibrant markets and incredible diving and snorkeling in the Red Sea.
Djibouti is home to Lake Assal, one of the saltiest bodies of water on Earth. Situated at 509 feet below sea level, it’s the lowest point on the African continent. The lake’s striking turquoise waters and vast salt flats create a surreal and otherworldly landscape, making it a must-visit destination.
A land of stark contrasts, Namibia boasts the world’s oldest desert, the Namib Desert, and the iconic red sand dunes of Sossusvlei. Travel northeast and you encounter the wildlife-rich Etosha National Park, then head back to the water to gaze on the unusual Skeleton Coast.
The Namib Desert is one of the oldest and most awe-inspiring deserts in the world. Explore the mesmerizing red sand dunes of Sossusvlei, including the iconic Dune 45, and watch a breathtaking sunrise to write home about. A photographer’s paradise, this destination will inspire you to capture the hauntingly beautiful landscapes.
Then head to Etosha National Park, one of Africa’s premier wildlife reserves, known for its vast salt pan and diverse wildlife. Try your hand at spotting elephants, lions, giraffes, and rhinos gathering around the waterholes—a better-than-any-zoo experience in the wild.
From navigating the vibrant streets of Cartagena, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, to trekking in the Andes Mountains, to encountering wildlife in the Amazon Rainforest, Colombia has so much to discover. Colombia’s warm cultural hospitality, beautiful landscapes, and rich cultural heritage make it an enchanting destination to explore.
Colombia has gotten a reputation for danger over the years, but as long as you keep your wits about you, it holds incredible treasures to uncover.
Bolivia is known for its diverse landscapes, from the high-altitude Altiplano to the lush Amazon Rainforest. The Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat, is one of Bolivia’s most iconic attractions. Venture to the historic city of Sucre, the vibrant markets of La Paz, and the ancient ruins of Tiwanaku to enjoy a wonderful blend of history, culture, and natural beauty.
Why go where everyone else is going, when you could venture to one of these lesser-known destinations? Next time you plan a trip, find a place to immerse yourself in authentic cultures while exploring some of the world’s natural wonders without the crowds.