The popularity of offbeat travel is on the rise. Whilst most people will share some of their must-visit countries with thousands of others, there will be plenty of places that offer an authentic experience that appeals to them, but not always the masses. That’s great news for you.
If you want to get off the beaten track and get involved with local life, you’ll be rewarded with an experience unlike a typical tourist. That’s how some of the best travel memories are made, when we throw ourselves into the unknown rather than sticking to the same places. To get such an opportunity, try visiting these four countries:
If you like adventurous travel, then Mongolia is for you. It’s a huge country, full of pristine landscapes, and home to nomadic people whose lives have barely changed in the modern day. Their survival depends on the wide-open spaces, untouched wilderness and fresh water supplies – all of the things that make Mongolia such an amazing place.
Nadaam in Mongolia // bernd_thaller
Head to Mongolia’s best-known national park, Terelj. Here, The Secret Traveller says, you’ll be able to spend a night in a traditional yurt, watch demonstrations of archery and horse riding, and hike through some of the most spectacular scenery the world has to offer. What better way to experience local life? It’s no beach holiday, but that’s exactly why it’s great. You can get actively involved.
Europe has a lot to offer keen travellers, but we love Poland because of its friendly population of hospitable people that are welcoming and genuine. The country boasts UNESCO World Heritage sites, including the popular Krakow’s Old Town, amazing food, an abundance of castles, and a musical heritage they’re proud of to this day.
You can easily find concerts for jazz to medieval to opera music – particularly impressive in the warmer months when they’re held outdoors in parks and squares.
According to Go East Europe, one of the best things about Poland is how each city in Poland has a distinct feel and social culture. From Warsaw’s urban pulse to Krakow’s historic pride, to Wroclaw’s whimsy, to Gdansk’s stately maritime heritage, each city has its own appeal. You’ll probably want to head to more than one.
Unless you live under a rock, you’ll know Brazil throws the best party in the world – the Rio de Janeiro Carnival. Full of colour and energy, it’s best described as an explosion of culture – but you’ve got to experience it for yourself. Whether you’re looking for a party experience or some relaxation, Brazilis a great place to visit. In this list of 100 reasons to visit Brazil (yes – 100), they point out it’s in the culture to greet everyone as if they were great friends.
Rio De Janeiro // photographingtravis
So find a spot on one of the over 2,000 beaches along Brazil’s shoreline, and relax with great company, as well as a cocktail and some amazing fresh seafood. You could even watch the sea turtle hatching season in the village of Praia do Forte between October and March each year – such an experience is a once-in-a-lifetime sight, so don’t miss out.
The UK’s capital city, London, might be the most popular spot for tourists – but it’s not the best place to go for an authentic experience. We promise you not everyone in the UK is as grumpy as those in London, who are constantly in a rush to get somewhere else. Nor is everywhere in the UK full of the same tacky souvenirs you’ll find on Oxford Street.
Brighton // ben124
Stay out of the busy commuters’ way by heading into the countryside. Here, the UK really excels and people tend to be much friendlier. Amongst the suggestions for an authentic English experience is a trip to the Pantomime at Christmas time, a hike along the South Downs way, a visit to Brighton for some fish and chips or just heading to a traditional pub for a pint.
What countries have you recently visited? Share your suggestions for an authentic, offbeat travel experience.
Jaipur, also known as the Pink City, is a superb piece of architecture. This city was built in perfect Nine Squares and wide roads were designed to intersect each segment. The segments were also linked internally by small roads. The city is a perfect example of how well the architectural concept was developed at that time. The old city, which is sometimes refered to as the Walled City, is uniformly painted in pink color and thus earned its nickname.
The city attracts a lots of tourists as it has many historic monuments that have architectural value, such as Amber Fort, Hawa Mahal, Jantar Matar, City Palace, the Water Palace, and many more.
Jaipur is also famous for its arts and crafts, specially the blue pottery, Bandhej work, and Sanganeri print linen. All in all Jaipur is a must see place. October to March is the best suitable time for visiting this lovely city.
We had a day in Hanoi before departing for Halong Bay, a spectacular UNESCO World Heritage site. The bay features thousands of limestone karsts and isles in various sizes and shapes. Ha Long Bay is a center of a larger zone which includes Bái Tử Long bay to the northeast, and Cát Bà islands to the southwest. A community of around 1,600 people live on Hạ Long Bay in four fishing villages: Cửa Vạn, Ba Hang, Cống Tàu and Vông Viêng in Hùng Thắng commune, Hạ Long city. They live on floating houses and are sustained through fishing and marine aquaculture
We spent 24 hours on the Halong Ginger cruising around the bay stopping off at some of the main sites, this was an experience never to be forgotten. The service on board was exceptional, the food was delicious, and its hard to express in words just how wonderful this part of the trip was. Our evening meal was a barbeque on the deck, obviously it goes with out saying that the food was wonderful. However it was the setting that made this meal perhaps the most special of our honeymoon. It's hard to describe just how incredible it was to be sitting on deck, on a wonderful evening as dusk descended watching the islands go by, it really was the perfect romantic setting and one we'll both never forget.
It's hard to describe just how wonderful Halong Bay is, here are a few more photos which will give you an idea, to be honest the only way to really understand is to experience it for yourself:
Few people are lucky enough in life to get to see this for themselves. It is not on the beaten path, not somewhere that you can bop down to for the weekend. It is a journey to get to, that is for sure. And actually, I think that is one of the things that makes it so incredibly amazing. It is not cheapened by convenience. Nestled deep in the mountains of a country steeped in ancient culture an tradition, the journey to the top of this sacred mountain is as incredible as the space itself.
I visited Machu Picchu in 2009, while on an archaeological dig during college (I did not excavate there, I was working in a small town called Pucara). I was with my family for a few weeks before the dig, my mom, dad, and little sister. It was actually by the grace and stubbornness of my mother's gypsy spirit that we made it there in the first place: it was on her bucket list. I should mention that this same wanderlust has already taken her around the world and back numerous times.
My sister and I were crassly awoken by our alarm at around 4 am on the morning of our ascension. You have to get to the bus station EARLY if you want to get your butt on a bus and make it up to the top by sunrise. Rubbing our eyes, we stumbled out onto the tiny cobbled streets of Aguas Calientes, a city with plenty of alpacas but not a single car (unless you count the busses that shuttle masses back and forth to the top of the mountain).
The stories were true. Even this early, the lines were crazy long. But we were on a mission. And if you know my father, you know that he has a (not so) mysterious way of moving through crowds. It is not unusual to get left behind if you get distracted for even a moment. A few elbows thrown here and there and voila! We were on our way. The bus driver (like ALL other drivers in Peru) threw caution to the wind as a rule. The bus careened wildly up a series of impossibly tight switchbacks, and, if we weren't awake before the drive, we certainly were now. Nothing like fear for your life to perk you right up. After we surprisingly reached the upper parking lot in one piece, we were herded off of the bus, and hustled up to scout a viewing area. We didn't have long to wait. The light was getting brighter, and the sun was only minutes away. I was practically pushing people out of the way of my camera's viewfinder...I knew this was something that I did NOT want to miss, and I certainly didn't want my visual memories of the experience to include large German tourists.
In the end, the sunrise was so awe inspiring that I forgot the supposed importance of digital memories and just took the moment for myself. It was the feeling of knowing that you are witnessing something truly special, that few others get to see, and that you will only experience this one time in your life. There is nothing like that feeling. It was the most beautiful morning, the sun came up quickly as wisps of fog crowded through the high mountain jungle and across the dramatic green peaks. Pictures of Machu Picchu are incredible, but unless you are there in person there is no way to describe the scale of these mountains, and the drop offs that await you on all sides of this ancient getaway. I live for moments like these, I relish them, and I hold on to them to examine later when things get boring.
Later that day my mom witnessed tourists being stampeded by llamas. (How's that for a closing note?)
Taj Mahal, the beautiful palace that symbolises love and romance, is one of the monuments that every traveler to India should visit with their special someone. It has withstood the test of time as a magnet of love and when you walk in with your second half that feeling of romance comes alive even stronger. I believe it is Mumtaz and Shahjahan's soul that inculcates the feel of love and romance in this place and attracts thousands of visitors daily...although some do surely come for the grandeous architecture. Otherwise people like me would never ever turn up on what is technically a funeral site.
But its not just the two lovers who are buried here. The Taj is a great monument in and of itself. The sheer size, architecture, and fine craftsmanship of the marble make it a mandatory bucket list requirement for every traveler. It exudes a feeling that you cannot translate to text...and that is why people flock in such great numbers to visit the Taj Mahal everyday.
Kumbhalgarh Fort, also known as the Great Wall of India, is a new up-and-coming off the beaten path destination in Rajasthan that is starting to become more well known. However the leap in the numbers of visitors over recent years definitely makes it a worthy destination to visit when in Rajasthan for those who like getting off the tourist trail.
Located near Udaipur, this wonderful fort has a glimpse of history, war and tales of patriotism. If you love to hear history and visualize the fell then this is the must visit for you. The broad and wide walls depict the era of war and conquer, fights and patriotism, and tell the story of how strong the Sisodia dynasty were to safeguard their people.
Khumbhalgarh can be approached via Udaipur through Dabog airport / Udaipur Junction. But to reach you have to take the road Journey via Nathdwara. It is approximately 90km from Udaipur. The road though is not very good but is a state highway and the government is trying to upgrade so as to increase the travel volume of the state. The road journey is also pleasing as you pass by the country side of the Udaipur district. With it you will get a glimse of true rural India and many beautiful lakes and villages around them. Its good to see the nature and humans mingling with each other.
The fort of Kumbhalgarh is built on a hilltop and the walls of the fort has a peripheral of 36kms. It is the second largest wall in Asia after the famous Great Wall of China. The fort is said to be the most difficult to be won and had lost only once when the combined forces of Mughal Emperor Akbar, Raja Man Singh of Amber, Raja Udai Singh of Marwar and the Sultan of Gujarat breached the wall due to a shortage of drinking water. The walls as said early are huge and unbreachable and this can be gauged by the their overwhelming thickness -- 15 feet!
Kumbhalgarh has become a favourite destination among many travelers, both domestic and international. Plenty of resorts down the hill from 5-star luxury to budget resorts, even camping sites. We stayed in Club Mahindra Resort and really enjoyed the hospitality of the group. NOT TO MISS the light and sound show organised in the fort which narrates you the entire history of the place from its built to its conquer.
Kumbhalgarh is a destination less travelled but if you have time while visiting Rajasthan it is highly recommended that you swing by and experience Kumbhalgarh Fort and the majesty of the Great Wall of India with your own eyes.
Formerly known as Southern Rhodesia, Zimbabwe is renowned as one of Africa’s most beautiful countries. Sadly it has been neglected by tourists for many years, since the introduction of President Mugabe’s Land Reform programme in 2000. The country’s tourism industry and economy suffered terribly as a result but lately the country is staging a comeback.
As a tourist destination Zimbabwe boasts many great reasons to pay a visit, whether it’s to experience one of the world’s best climates, the diverse wildlife and scenery or to delve into the country’s ancient history, Zimbabwe has a lot to give. To discover more about what the country has to offer we have created a list of the most interesting and beautiful places in Zimbabwe:
One of Zimbabwe’s most famous features is the thundering Victoria Falls; the largest curtain of falling water on the planet. With so much to do in the surrounding area you’ll be hard pressed to find yourself bored. Bungee jump from the Victoria Falls Bridge or get an even closer look at the raging Zambezi River with a spot of white water rafting; tackling the grade 5 rapids. For easier pursuits there are microlight and helicopter rides high above the spray or, if you are staying nearby during a full moon, watch out for a moonbow: a rainbow at night. You could also hop across to the Zambian side of the Falls and experience the Devil’s Pool. The pool is naturally formed and sits at the very edge of the Falls allowing you to look down into the smoky abyss below.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site is marked by history. Zimbabwe is littered with numerous ruins of ancient civilisations, however, those known as The Great Zimbabwe Ruins are the most prominent among them. Built in a unique and distinctive dry stone style these ruins were once the royal palace for the monarchs of the day and would have been home to around 18,000 people. The city flourished for over 300 years thanks to trade with those sailing down the Mozambique coast. The high stone walls are perhaps the ruins’ most distinctive feature, stretching over 5 metres high. The ruins can be found in Masvingo with a nearby museum displaying recovered artefacts.
Experience wildlife like never before and find yourself up close to elephants, hippos and crocodiles as well as a range of other animals. The word ‘Mana’ means four in Shona and is used in the Park’s title to allude to the four main pools found along this stretch of the Zambezi River: Main, Chine, Long and Chisambuk. They are remnants of channels that stopped flowing long ago. You can explore these water ways on the Mana Canoe Trail. Glide downriver and drink in a mixture of floodplains, grassland and the mountains of the Rift Valley as well as Africa’s largest population of hippo.
The Matobo Hills are a great place for those wishing to combine a love of nature and history. The fascinating granite rock formations found here have been formed over millions of years and range from balancing rock formations to spires to domes. Also found in the area is the highest concentration of rock art found in Southern Africa and dates back as far as 13,000 years. If you’re interested in uncovering the day to day in the lives of these ancient people, a picture speaks a thousand words and the paintings allow you access to a world now long since passed.
To discover the best wildlife viewing Zimbabwe has to offer Hwange National Park delivers the goods. It is the country’s largest national park and possesses 100’s of different mammal species and almost 400 species of bird, including the southern carmine bee-eater in the summer months and the Kori Bustard. The park is also home to an incredibly strong elephant and buffalo population, with huge herds roaming across the Kalahari sandveld that comprises the majority of the park. The diverse abundance of wildlife is reflected in the varied scenery with grasslands, saltpans and mopane woodlands adding to the overall beauty of the park.
Packed to the brim with so much to explore, Zimbabwe lays waiting to be discovered. To learn more about the country and how to make a trip a reality, check out Mahlatini Luxury Travel for details or follow them on Twitter for more Africa travel information.
Rajasthan's royal forts, palaces, and havelis have marked itself high on the tourist trail. The luxury of the kings and queens, the princely state and the comforts of the royals have now open to the world. Lots of old forts and palaces are opened to the guest for their comfort stay as well as royal treatment and luxury. Some of the royal ones are listed here with a brief description of what makes them unique and worth visiting.
Built by Rana Kymbha, this fortress has only been conquered once in all of history -- due to shortage of water. It was fighting against the joint forces of Akbar, Raja Man Singh of Amber, Raja Udai Singh of Marwar, and the Sultan of Gujarat. The wall of this fort is the second largest continuous wall in the world (after the Great Wall of China) and stretches around 36km. (That's over 20 miles!) Kumbhalgarh Fort Photo Gallery
Also known Amer Fort, this ancient fortress is huge. It was constructed by Raja Man Singh I but the history of this city goes back far past this. Amber was ruled by Meena rulers prior to the Rajputs. The fort is known for its rich culture and art. The best part of it are Sheesh Mahal, Diwan-e-Khas, Diwan-e-Aam, and Sukh Niwas. More Amber Fort Photos
via Milo & Silvia
Chittorgarh is the epitome of Chattri Rajput (an Indian Warrior caste) pride, romance and spirit, for people of Chittor always chose death before surrendering against anyone. Vijay Stambh and Rani Padmini's sacrifice in the great and extended fort of Chittorh are the best part. Meera bai, a famous follower or lord Krishna also relates to the history of Chittorgarh.
One of the largest forts in the world, Jaisalmer Fortress was built by the Bhati Rajput ruler Rawal Jaisal, from where both the town and fort derives their names. The fort stands proudly amidst the golden stretches of the great Thar Desert, on a hill overlooking the city around it, and has been the scene of many battles. Its massive yellow sandstone walls are of yellow color during the day, fading to honey-gold as the sun sets. For this reason, it is also known as the "Golden Fort".
Jal Mahal, the Water Palace also located in Jaipur is another popular destination. There is an open promenade (where this photo was taken from) where locals always gather and enjoy the view -- as do the tourists!
Raj Mahal Palace, also known as Jaisalmer Palace for an obvious reason, is another beautiful of ancient architecture that is now a museum. (Jaisalmer may be located far from everything but do not skip it!)
Rajasthan has achieved great importance that has withstood the test of time and now attracts more tourists than invading empries. From a travel point of view its rich and royal forts, palaces, and havelis make Rajasthan a "must visit" destination for most visitors to India. Experience the royal treatment of past kings and queens and walk where they walked, enjoy the same elegant destinations and views. It is truly a step back in time!
Nearly everyone on this planet, traveler or not, has at least an idea of roughly what Machu Picchu is so I'll just summarize the basics. Built and occupied by the Incas from the early 1400s to the late 1500s, this lost city is arguably the crowning achievement of the Inca civilization. Totally unbeknownst to Spain during their conquests, Machu Picchu sat undisturbed until it was discovered in the early 1900s.
The iconic Machu Picchu shot ;)
Since that time many of the ruins have been reconstructed and the place has become a tourist sensation known worldwide, seeing an average of 75,000 visitors a year. The entire 125-sq-mile national park is known as the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary, which includes South America's most famous hiking trail, the Inca Trail, within its borders.
If you have not yet hiked the Inca Trail, I'm going to take a wild guess and say it is on your bucket list. It is on the HoliDaze Ultimate Travel Blogger's Bucket List (TBBL for short) -- but then again with 366 items, you have to have some stereotypical things on there. Well have no worries my friend, there are a good 150 different tour companies and groups offering excursions to Machu Picchu, most of them located in Cusco.
But along with that many tour companies come tourists, most of which book during the dry season (June-September). If that's when you will be going plan on booking a couple months in advance, as the trail and Machu Picchu can see the majority of its yearly visitors during these peak months. Additionally, due to the extreme elevation differences of Peru and the lack of oxygen at such high altitudes, you should spend at least a day or two in Cusco upon initial arrival -- if not three or four -- before attempting to move on to the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary.
If you choose to go all in for the authentic Inca Trail hike then you will have two choices: the 2 day / 1 night package, or the 4 day / 3 night package. Which one you choose really depends on 1) how much you love the mountains; 2) whether or not you are a photographer (the landscape shots offered on the larger trek are phenomenal!); and 3) how tight your wallet / schedule is strapped.
Prices can vary significantly from place to place, but remember that you always get what you pay for -- especially in foreign countries. You can expect to spend around $100/day for an adult participating in the group tours (less for kids I'd assume but I don't have any info) after ticket, fees, tips, etc. Additionally, they also have private tours available for a more hefty fee.
In closing, I will leave you with a video taken from Machu Picchu. It is a short clip from the first season of An Idiot Abroad and if you have never heard of that show, I suggest you look it up. Anyone who loves travel will get a kick out of it....And at the same time probably be a tiny li'l bit envious that it is not you on the all-expenses-paid journey but rather this strange funny little man named Karl Pilkington who is laughably out of place and wants nothing to do with foreign travel...or everything anything out of his British tea-time comfort zone for that matter.
Have you ever hiked the Inca Trail or is it still on your bucket list? Share comments below!