When you’re a globetrotter, there’s no settling for an ordinary vacation. You want to go farther, explore more, and blaze a trail beyond the tourist crowds. You want to venture off the beaten path, which will lead you to some of the world’s most astounding destinations. To inspire your future travels, we’re highlighting six great off the beaten path destinations to explore later this year and beyond.
We talked to our expert staff including Product Manager Reesa Avelino and Senior VP Carolyn Weppler, who shared their advice and suggested some vacations to delve into these specific destinations. They also shared some recommendations about unique places to go and things to do in each spot. Not all of our suggested trips include every single place and experience we describe, but they do capture the wonder of these destinations. These off the beaten path destinations showcase the authentic experiences that make a life of travel so rewarding.
What are some great off the beaten path destinations?
Good luck trying to follow the beaten path to Antarctica—there isn’t one! This is as remote as places come, located at the South Pole and on the world’s only uninhabited continent (if you aren’t counting penguins). But that emptiness and the hold it has over the human imagination is what draws us to this southern edge of the world. Join an expedition team and venture across the tempestuous Drake Passage to reach the Antarctic Peninsula, an almost mythical landscape of towering icebergs, frigid waters, and whiteness as far as the eye can see. Embark on daily zodiac excursions to spot endemic animals such as emperor penguins as well migrating humpback whales and leopard seals. Follow in the footsteps of explorers like Ernest Shackleton, and experience the enormity of the natural world in one of its most extreme environments. Bucket list destinations don’t get any more memorable than Antarctica.
Unique things to do in Antarctica
Head to Deception Island in the South Shetlands, which is blessed with a relatively safe natural harbor (considering the region). Deception Island used to be a whaling hub. Now it’s one of the most popular (relatively speaking) tourist spots in Antarctica, a place to photograph stunning landscapes, unwind in hot springs, and unlock stories of the past at abandoned whaling stations. Once you’re on the peninsula proper, cruise the Lemaire Channel, a narrow passage between towering glaciers. The waters are usually dotted with icebergs, necessitating a slow and steady passage of the strait. It’s known as the Kodak Gap due to the clarity of the water and the majesty of the icy surroundings, making it the perfect place to snap some photos.
Bhutan is one of a kind and traditional, but by no means outdated. In fact, this Buddhist kingdom in the Himalayas is a model nation in terms of environmental conservation and cultural preservation. It’s a country that measures Gross Domestic Happiness instead of Gross Domestic Product, so you know Bhutanese priorities are in order. It’s also a country that restricts its tourist numbers to protect the natural environment and ensure an authentic experience for those travelers lucky enough to visit. When you head to Bhutan, you’ll experience a veritable Shangri-La. You’ll hike forested valleys in between snow-capped mountain peaks, visit Buddhist monasteries hugging cliff sides, such as the iconic Paro Taktsang, known as the Tiger’s Nest, in the Paro valley, and meet some of the most down-to-earth people on the whole planet. Travel doesn’t get more authentic than a trip to Bhutan.
Unique things to do in Bhutan
Explore the Gangtey Valley, a serene and picturesque valley that seems frozen in time. Hike nature trails, visit Gangteng Monastery, and spot endangered species, including the black-necked cranes, which fly around Gangteng Monastery three times on either end of their winter migratory journeys. Once you’ve spotted the wildlife of Gangtey, tour Bumthang, one of Bhutan’s 20 dzongkhag (districts). The district is best known for its ancient temples, traditional festivals, and scenic landscapes, including the sacred Burning Lake
Maybe we’re stretching the definition of off-the-beaten-path a bit by including Chile here, but this South American nation never gets the proper attention it deserves. This long and thin land hugging the west coast of South America offers a startling natural variety within its borders. In the north lie the barren reaches of the Atacama Desert, a haunting and otherworldly landscape of red rock that’s the driest on earth (outside of Antarctica). In the south stretches the mountains, steppes, and glaciers of Patagonia, the hiking destination crowned by the iconic three towers of Torres del Paine. In between lies the capital, Santiago, blessed with its stunning mountain backdrop and a vital food and culture scene, and the Lake District, a slice of alpine romance in the midst of wine country. And don’t forget Rapa Nui/Easter Island, the most easterly island of Polynesia, which continues to enchant travelers with its tales of the moai, the enigmatic rock statues that dot its landscape.
Unique things to do in Chile
Spot Magellanic penguins on Isla Magdalena, a tiny island about 22 mi/35 km from Punta Arenas in the south. The island is home to a robust colony of over 100,000 penguins, which thrive on the rocky landscape and are surprisingly comfortable around human visitors. In the polar opposite part of Chile, delve into the Valle de la Luna in the Atacama Desert, a landscape of jagged rocks and windswept sand that resembles (you guessed it) the surface of the moon.
Ghana is a rising star in the world of travel, but that doesn’t mean it’s become a regular fixture on the tourist trail. That’s going to change over time, but right now it’s a perfect off the beaten path destination. This West African nation boasts a safe and stable infrastructure, historical landmarks that shed light on the slave trade and medieval African kingdoms, and some easy-to-access and shockingly affordable safari parks. Dig into the food scene in the capital Accra, learn about the formidable Ashanti Kingdom in Kusami, follow the Cape Coast to reflect on the dour history of the slave trade and hit up some gorgeous beaches, and search for elephants and exotic birds in Mole and Kakum National Parks. You can also easily pair Ghana with Togo and Benin for an eye-opening journey through West Africa.
Unique things to do in Ghana
Venture to the Wli Waterfalls in the Agumatsa Wildlife Sanctuary. The drop waterfall is the tallest in all of West Africa. When you’re done gazing upon the rushing waters, explore the rest of the park, which is home to rare wildlife, including abundant monkey and bird species. In the country’s west, cruise to the stilt village of Nzulezu. The name of the village means “surface of water,” which is fitting as all the homes of this village sit on stilts over the waters of Amansuri Lake.
Papua New Guinea
It doesn’t get much more remote than this island destination in Melanesia. Papua New Guinea is often considered the world’s last frontier, and it won’t take you long to realize why. The landscape is covered by rainforests and smoky volcanoes. Outside the main centers such as the capital Port Moresby, villages dot the countryside, most having little contact with the outside world. This relative isolation has led to the country’s linguistic diversity, with over 800 distinct languages spoken within its borders. The landscape is gorgeous, and there are some of the most beautiful animals in the world in its rainforests—including the elusive birds of paradise!
Unique things to do in Papua New Guinea
Hike the Kokoda Track, a challenging, but rewarding trek through rugged terrain of the Owen Stanley Range. The track is 60 mi/96 km long and cuts through jungles, over mountains, and includes visits to World War II battlefields and remote villages. An equally rewarding option is to explore the Sepik River, a remote region with some of the most spectacular scenery in the world. As you pass through the dense rainforest and along the winding river, you’ll learn about ancient traditions and take in mystical scenery. You’ll also have a great chance to spot exotic wildlife, including bandicoots, crocodiles, and some of the most colorful birds in the world—as well as the fascinating, yet terrifying cassowary, a cousin of the emu with razor-sharp talons.
If you watch basketball, you might recognize Slovenia as the home of NBA superstar Luka Dončić, but this European nation is far more than a surprising basketball hotbed. It’s a gorgeous country with crystalline lakes, red-roofed cities, and some of the world’s largest cave systems. Lake Bled beguiles visitors with its mirror-like waters and the steepled church that lies on the small island in its center. The capital Ljubljana defines Adriatic sophistication with its outdoor cafe culture amidst baroque architecture, collection of world-class museums and galleries, and the imposing castle overlooking the city from the central hilltop. The Postojna Caves are arguably the most appealing destination in the nation. Ride an underground open-carriage train through the cave, which winds 12.5 mi/20 km underground and abounds with stalactites, stalagmites, and unique animal life that is adapted to the subterranean environment.
Unique things to do in Slovenia
Explore the Soča Valley, a stunning alpine river valley that abounds with clear waters, coursing waterfalls, and scenic hiking trails. This is an ideal place to escape the city for a few days and experience Slovenia’s breathtaking natural landscape. If you’re looking for adventures underground, delve into the Škocjan Caves. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the largest underground canyons in the world. Tours showcase the dramatic limestone formations and underground rivers that cut through the subterranean rock.
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