From untouched tropical islands to ancient cities, nature havens and glittering metropolises. These are the world’s most unknown travel destinations that offer unforgettable adventures without the tourists.
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This tropical paradise is made up of over 500 islands. A good place to start is Koror, the largest town which is home to just over 11,000 people. You’ll experience true serenity here. Palau is known to be one of the best locations for diving in the whole world, if you want to explore the world underwater then this is the place for you.
Surrounded by a crystalline, turquoise ocean are the Rock Islands. A view like no other, these islands truly are something for the bucket list. With lots of marine life, these islands are a world-class location for diving and snorkelling. Mostly untouched by humans, the Rock Islands are a fantasy like no other.
For those who love exotic islands and history, visit the island of Angaur. This island is the most unknown travel destination on this list, it has been visited by very few people. Only reachable by boat, on this island you won’t find restaurants, fancy hotels or large shops – just a local community. You’ll see the ghosts of the past as shipwrecks linger in the waters. The Battle of Angaur took place here during WW2 in 1944 and some marks still remain.
Not to be confused with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Republic of Congo is DRC’s unlucky neighbour. This jungle of forests and wildlife is becoming one of Africa’s greatest ecotourism spots. If you’re after epic safaris or bush camping, Congo is the place for you. You’ll get a true African adventure in this untamed nature haven.
Waiting to be explored is the Odzala-Kokoua National Park. As well as the tropical rainforest, you’ll be able to see lowland gorillas and elephants up close as they roam in this green wilderness. It really is an experience like no other.
Although Congo is great for nature, it doesn’t end there. If you’re looking for something different to do after your safari, take a trip to the Basilique St Anne. This beautiful church with its unusual green roof is a great place to see a different side of Congo.
Georgia is one of the world’s most beautiful secrets. A hidden gem featuring magnificent mountains, vast vineyards and even a cave city. Georgia claims to be the birthplace of wine, so expect to find the best. The colourful capital, Tbilisi, features old cobblestoned roads and diverse architecture however it remains unseen by most travellers.
Your first stop in Georgia should be the charming city of Tbilisi. This picturesque city is bejewelled with old, colourful buildings. Here you’ll find churches, mosques and synagogues as well as the ruins of Atashgah, a Zoroastrian fire temple. How do you get the most out of Tbilisi? Get lost in this city and let it’s secrets find you!
Explore the caves of Vardzia for a magical experience. This astonishing cave will fascinate you with its hidden tunnels and halls. It once consisted of 13 levels, over 6,000 apartments, a throne room and a church but a devastating earthquake in 1283 ripped it apart, leaving what is left. The cave, which is carved into the side of the Erusheli mountain, is preserved by a group of monks.
From enormous volcanoes, to exotic beaches, Nicaragua has it all. You’ll be windswept by the diverse offerings of this central American country that so many travellers haven’t seen yet.
Granada is a great place to start. This old Nicaraguan town features photogenic churches, cobblestone roads and Volcán Mombacho – an incredible volcano that dominates Granada’s skyline. This volcano often has a crown of cloud floating above it as it is an active volcano, however, it has not erupted in over 400 years. Just southeast of the city are the Islets of Granada. Consisting of 365 small islands, this cluster of islands is great to explore by kayak, motorboat or even on a paddle board!
Everyone loves a tropical beach getaway and Nicaragua offers one of the best. Little Corn Island is one of Nicaragua’s best kept secrets! This untouched paradise has a real community feel – the locals are the friendliest people you will ever meet. On top of that, the tranquil ocean and sandy beaches will keep you mesmerised. Plus, no cars are allowed on the island giving it that old world feel, so just let the turquoise waters, breezy air and coconut filled trees embrace you for a holiday you’ll never forget.
Rich with heritage, Oman offers grand mosques, palaces and castles. It’s also abundant with natural beauty, you’ll find sandy deserts, spectacular mountains and a truly mesmerising coastline.
The capital, Muscat, sits surrounded by deserts and mountains. One of its most famous sites is the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque. This is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful mosques that you’ll ever see. Standing tall, it glistens at night, and in the day, it is just magnificent. Inside, it features the second-largest single-piece carpet in the world – it took 4 years to weave by hand. You’ll be in awe at its prestige and beauty.
For something truly original, take a trip to Sharqiya Sands. Take a glimpse at a nomadic Omani way of life whilst you can, as it is rapidly disappearing. The Bedouin people (nomads of the desert) are friendly and always willing to help. Do something different and stay in a desert camp to witness sunset and sunrise amongst the sand dunes, a truly unforgettable experience.
This northern European beauty is one of the cheapest travel options on this list (if you’re travelling from the UK). This country is filled with lakes, forests and open, green spaces. Set on the Baltic Sea, its capital, Riga, is the only cosmopolitan area. It’s bustling and sits just waiting to be explored.
Riga is filled with history and art. This timeless city features the gothic Old Town, immense Art Nouveau collections and a vast Central Market that tickles everybody’s taste buds. One of the best sites for Art Nouveau architectural beauty is Albert Street. This street is filled with marvellous masterpieces. Almost like a painting, this street has a charm to it that will keep you mesmerised for hours.
For something you’ve never seen before, head to Cape Kolka. The meeting point of 2 seas – the waves of the Baltic Sea collide with the waves of the Gulf of Riga. This private paradise is a perfect sunset spot; sunrise is pretty spectacular too. You’ll feel like you’re stood on the edge of the world as you enjoy the serenity of this Cape. Be sure to check out the lighthouse (a local sailor will be sure to take you!) and the Cape Kolka Pine trail where you can climb up high to the observation deck for extraordinary views.
A country once at the heart of the Silk Road now lies forgotten. Uzbekistan boasts an abundance of mosques and mausoleums with beautiful architecture that still remains unseen by most of the world’s tourists.
For a flash of blue, see the exquisite tomb-containing Gur-e-Amir in Samarkand. This unmistakable mausoleum with a dome made of azure and covered by beautiful tile work acted as a model for the world-famous Taj Mahal in India. It is decorated with intricate carved bricks and delicate mosaics and is certainly an unmissable site.
Registan is a jewel found right in the heart of the ancient city of Samarkand. A public square surrounded by madrassah, it embodies the charm of Islamic architecture leaving you lost for words. And that’s not even the best part. As Uzbekistan remains unknown to most tourists, you’ll often find this square completely empty meaning you can take in its charm without being rushed.
A country that is often missed out of that stereotypical South-East Asia ‘gap yah’. It’s great for the nature enthusiasts and those that want to see a traditional, authentic culture. Lose yourself in the jungle, adventure down a river cave and discover exotic animals. Explore your spiritual side at the ancient temples and eat your way through the country with their spice-infused food.
Take a glimpse of Laos in its capital, Vientiane. It is a stunning mix of French-colonial buildings and Buddhist temples. A must-see site is Pha That Luang – a gold-covered Buddhist temple. This magnificent monument acts as a symbol of the city, it is truly remarkable. You can also visit That Dam, an ancient bell-shaped monument in the city that was once thought to be protected by a 7-headed serpent.
If you’re a nature lover, head up north of Vientiane to Vang Vieng. This small town is surrounded by limestone mountains and caves. The blueish-green lagoon of Tham Poukham, along with its cave and reclining Buddha is a great place to become an explorer. If you love caves, there’s plenty more – some are deep underground, some have springs pouring out of them and some have elephant statues! Vang Vieng is perfect for adventures.
An enchanting tropical island paradise that isn’t the Maldives or Bora Bora. Get away from the tourists and visit Tonga, it is pure, unnoticed bliss. For a glimpse of untouched beaches, wild mountainsides and underwater havens, give Tonga a go.
The main island of Tongatapu is a tropical wonderland. Let’s start with Anahulu Cave. This cave doubles up as an underwater swimming pool! Take a swim in this hidden bath for a unique experience that you’ll never forget. Next, of course, you’ll want to relax on a tropical beach – Tonga does not disappoint. Ha’atafu Beach looks like it came straight out of a dream – untouched utopia. The turquoise ocean glistens in the sunlight which beats down from the pure, blue sky. The sand is golden, and the gentle breeze causes the palm trees to swish from side to side. You’ll never want to leave.
The forgotten island of ‘Eua is a hidden gem, very few tourists make the journey to this island. With only a handful of guesthouses, you definitely won’t be battling the crowds here. ‘Eua is a great place for whale watching – you can watch from the island or, if you like, you can swim with them! This beautiful island is filled with nature and adventure – you’ll get a real authentic experience here.
Liechtenstein is Europe’s best-kept secret. This fairy-tale country sits between the mountains of the Alps, where it hides its turreted castles and medieval beauty. It is one of the smallest countries in the world, with a population of just over 37,000 people.
Vaduz, the capital, is the typical city you’d find in a fairytale. Overlooking the city, is a castle which clings to the side of a mountain. It’s where the royals live so be sure to make a visit.
For the best views, head up to Treisenberg-Malbun where you can overlook the medieval city and relax. If you’re there in winter, you can enjoy the ski slopes. In the summer, there’s lots of space to take part in sporting activities like mountain biking, tennis and archery.
You may have heard of this one if you’re a fan of the Eurovision Song Contest (as they hosted it in 2012) but apart from this claim to fame, Azerbaijan remains a relatively unknown travel destination to many tourists. The capital, Baku, is the greatest mix of both Europe and Asia.
The ancient heart of Baku is known as the Old City. Surrounded by walls, the Old City boasts some unmissable historical sites, including the Palace of the Shirvanshahs and the Maiden Tower. The narrow streets and old city walls will captivate you with its history and architecture.
There has been an explosion of modern buildings that rise high above the city and surround the inner ancient core. The Flame Towers are a masterpiece of art, this trio of skyscrapers illuminate the skyline at night. The mix of new and old in this city makes it a truly unique travel destination.
And that completes the list! The top 11 most unknown travel destinations that you need to visit that you probably haven’t heard of. Let me know if you’ve been to any of these places and if you liked them!