We always hear about large cities and popular destinations, but there are a lot of amazing off the beaten path places around the world that we don’t hear about very much. I have teamed up with some fantastic writers to share their experiences with Off the Beaten Path destinations.
Jaén which is pronounced ‘Hi-en’ is probably the least known of the eight Andalusian cities in Spain and as such makes it even more special and a lot less touristy. The city is surrounded by olive groves which stretch as far as the eye can see and the best viewpoint is the huge white monumental cross above the city. This spot marks the point where the Moors surrendered the city to the Catholic Kings.
This is the place to stay too, high above the city! Be a princess for the night at the castle/hotel Parador de Santa Catalina. The city is a great place to explore with prize-winning Arab Baths, an enormous cathedral, narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter, an Iberian arts museum, great shopping, and free tapas. What more could a girl want?
It also happens to be my nearest city, and I may be a little biased! I love my neighboring bigger cities too – Granada, Cordoba, and Sevilla but Jaen is their little sister, smaller and cuter. Give me a shout and I’ll show you around!
Written by Rachel Webb. Read more of her articles at Luxury Spain Travel
Kaiserswerth is a small town with a big history, in Germany, that has been incorporated into the Dusseldorf city limits, making it sort of a suburb. I had never heard of the town, but it was the first place our Dusseldorf hosts thought we should visit.
The city’s history begins with two very significant landmarks. The Kaiserpfalz was originally built under the direction of Emperor Heinrich III in the 10th century, as the emperor’s palace, as he was the emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. It was Barbosa who later expanded the Kaiserpfalz and moved the Rheintor to this location. River transport was the primary means of trading goods, and the Rheintor was a tollgate on ships coming into Germany. The ruins of these sites still stand in Kaiserwerth.
Another feature of the intriguing history of the Kaiserswerth is the Diakonie. This is known as the original women’s nursing school around the world, which revolutionized medical care at that time. Perhaps its most famed graduate was Florence Nightingale, whose heroism in the Crimean War saved thousands of lives, and who became a role model for nurses around the world.
Today, Kaiserswerth is a lovely town on the Rhine. The picturesque streets are lined with homes constructed centuries ago. Dusseldorf locals come to get out of the mainstream and relax. Visitors can explore the ruins of the Kaiserpfalz, the expanded complex of the Diakonie, including the museum, or the triple-naved 12th-century basilica that contains the relic of St. Suitbertus.
Non-history lovers may still enjoy walking the charming streets and riverfront. Perhaps a stop for freshly made ice cream at Lido Eiscafe, or a beer at Galerie Burghof is in order. For something more sophisticated, try the area’s only Michelin starred restaurant, Enzo im Schiffchen.
Written by Roxanna Keyes. Read more about Kiaserswerth here.
In central Sweden, about 200 km west of Stockholm, you can find the small town Örebro. With only 150,000 inhabitants, it’s quite a contrast to the capital or even other larger Scandinavian cities such as Gothenburg or Copenhagen.
The center of Örebro is built up around the 800-year old castle. It’s an amazing place and the perfect starting point for the day. Why not have lunch in one of the restaurants along the river Startån that flows through the city? After that, you could take a walk along that same river to the lake Hjälmaren.
You can easily travel to Örebro for one day by train from Stockholm. The two-hour trip will not only take you to a less-visited part of Sweden, but you will also have the chance to see the beautiful countryside from your train window.
Written by Per Brogevik.
The capital of Poland still doesn’t get enough attention as a tourism destination! When we visited for the first time, we didn’t actually do it as tourists ourselves. We moved to Warsaw for a study abroad semester, without ever visiting before, and our city choice was purely based on the fact that we needed a destination that was available for both of us. Once we knew where we were going, we did a lot of research, but nothing could prepare us for the fact that we fell completely head over heels in love with the city.
We arrived at the end of the Summer and were welcomed by a bright, colorful, and incredibly charming city. We were surprised by the number of things to do, the tourist places to visit, the hidden gems, and the amazing food scene, including both delicious Polish food and international cuisine. A special mention also goes to the amazing parks you can find all around the city.
There are many factors that make Warsaw such a unique destination! The history of the city is something you can see everywhere you go. On the same street, you will find a grey communist building, a royal palace, and a modern skyscraper. The city is bustling and changing rapidly, looking towards the future without ever forgetting its past.
As the seasons changed, our love for Warsaw only grew. The Winters are harsh, but the city is very well prepared, and it gets even more charming when covered in snow and picturesque Christmas markets!
Written by Maria & Rui. Read more about Two Find A Way here.
Vilnius, Lithuania might not be on your ever-growing wishlist of places to visit, but it should be. Sure, many European destinations have a rich history, magnificent architecture, and great walkability, but Vilnius sets itself apart from the rest with its family-friendly, safe atmosphere and creativity used to reinvent and reinvigorate important aspects of Lithuanian culture. And the food is a huge part of its rich culture. Walking along Vilnius’ cobblestone streets, you’ll come across restaurants incorporating local and foraged produce to create extraordinary dishes and others serving elevated historic cuisine made using recipes from the 15th century.
Creating handicrafts, such as woodcarving, linen crafts, and pottery, is another rich aspect of Lithuanian culture. But makers in Vilnius have reinvented these classic handicrafts while still using local materials to create amazing hand-carved wooden home decor, a unique wooden and linen coffee maker, fashionable women’s clothing made from linen, pottery in the shape of mystical animals, and countless other goods. Several times per year, makers from around the country gather at pop-up designer festivals and fairs in which visitors and locals alike stock up on one-of-a-kind items.
Written by Elizabeth Georgian.
Kildare is a village about 30 minutes southwest of Dublin, and the seat of County Kildare. The name Kildare literally translates as the “church of the oak,” and the town was built around the monastery and cathedral started by Ireland’s second Patron Saint, St. Brigid. It is not a place that a lot of outsiders know about, or that a lot of travel writers document. We visited by chance and fell in love!
Kildare has a typical charming town square, with a heritage center in the midst. The heritage center provides visitors with information about the village and the county. The surrounding streets are lined with pubs and shops. Just off the square is St. Brigid’s Cathedral, with one of the highest round towers in the country. Visitors can climb the tower from May 1st to September 1st. On the other side of the square, is Silken Thomas, a perfect place to lodge, built around a Norman castle.
On the outskirts of town is National Stud. This is the breeding and training grounds of Ireland’s greatest championship steeds. Visitors can tour the grounds, which is a particular delight in spring when the foals are young. There are also two incredible gardens on the site, a Japanese Garden and a Spiritual Garden, a museum, and a children’s playground. Races are held at the nearby Curragh.
There are plenty of other attractions, including Kildare Village, an upscale shopping outlet. The surrounding county has castles, monasteries, and even Grand Canal cruises. However, one of the highlights of our trip was a visit to the Silver Screen Museum in the neighboring city of Naas. Kildare is a perfect base to explore the area, and there are several days worth of sites.
Written by Roxanna Keyes. Read more about Ireland from Gypsy With a Day Job here.
The small town of Cafayate, located in the Salta province of northern Argentina, is often missed out in favor of better-known destinations in South America. However, this little backpacking gem really shouldn’t be neglected. The town is one of the most important tourist centers for exploring Salta’s famous Calchaquíes valleys, home to Argentina’s spectacular La Garganta del Diablo (The Throat of The Devil).
The enormous (naturally formed) amphitheater, cut deep into the mountain, often sees locals come to play music in offering to Pachamama. The red rock gorge has walls 160 feet high and serves as a reminder of just how small (and young) we are, on the grand scale of our planet.
Cafayate is also famous for the large number of vineyards surrounding the area. For only 150 pesos ($7.75 USD) per person, you can usually just turn up without pre-booking and ask for a private tour, inclusive of a tasting of 5 wines. The Piattelli Vineyard takes a little bit more work to find (be ready to navigate a few dirt roads), but it’s one of the most popular amongst the locals.
Looking for something a little light-hearted? This quirky little community also plays host to its very own llama house … and who doesn’t want to see a house shaped like a llama?
Written by Sarah Mackenzie. Read more about Cafayate here by My Veggie Travels.
Don’t Leave Copenhagen Without Visiting Christiania.
If you visit Copenhagen, Denmark without making a stop in Freetown, Christania, you’re making a mistake. Founded in 1971 by anti-government anarchists who squatted in abandoned government barracks demanding cheaper housing and more parks, this village of 850 residents is the longest-running hippie commune in the world. Originally, drifters moved in and then artists, intellectuals, teachers, and others followed. Now, people of all income levels live there.
Residents have clashed with the Danish government for over 40 years, sometimes violently. But in the end, the Danish government gave in and officially recognized Christiania in 2011. The village has its own council and they decide who can move in.
Christiania has a lovely hill where people can picnic over the lake, wonderful restaurants, trendy food trucks, museums, bars, and live music venues. But it’s perhaps best known for Pusher Street in the Green Light District, an open-air cannabis market in a country where marijuana is still illegal despite overwhelming public support.
Nonetheless, if you walk down Pusher Street, (marked off by colored flags and signs warning not to take photos), you can buy any edible or cannabis product you want despite the occasional raids and drone surveillance. You’re warned not to run for any reason because it could cause panic if people think there’s a raid. Locals and tourists alike visit with their children, and you won’t feel in any danger.
Even if you have no interest in seeing Pusher Street, it’s worth it to see this 84-acre village, which is like no other place in the world. Homes are covered in colorful murals, there’s a skatepark that attracts world-class skateboarders, and visitors can hear live music at the bandshell or at other venues.
Finally, although the government recognizes Christiania and the residents pay taxes, they still consider themselves somewhat separate from the Danish people. In fact, when you leave Christiania, you will go through a gate stating that you are now entering the EU. Too bad you can’t get your passport stamped!
Written by Marcia Weldon. Read more from Nomads4Life here.
While on a pilgrimage trip to Puri in Odisha, we decided to explore the rest of Odisha. It was then we decided to include the nearby Konark in a day trip from Puri. Konark is a historical city with the thirteenth century Sun temple here and a beautiful & serene beach. The temple is for the “God of Sun” – built like a chariot, installed on massive wheels with the entrance guarded by lions. The Sun temple also has various inscriptions on the exterior walls including erotica aka “Kamasutra”. Parents in India usually don’t take their children to visit the Sun temple, as sex is still taboo here. Although the inscriptions are just a small part of the temple.
The temple is said to be destroyed in the 15th century and various stories go around for its demolition, none verified. The entry to the temple is not allowed for restoration and only the external premises are allowed for tourists. For history lovers, the Sun Temple is the perfect place to spend at least 3-4 hours. Odisha is a hot & humid place, so for those who’d like to visit, I recommend starting at 6:00 in the morning.
Konark is also blessed with a tremendous beach which I found better than Puri’s Golden sea beach. Puri’s Sea beach attracts hundreds of tourists daily, and the Konark’s Chandrabhaga beach receives only a handful. The coastline of Chandrabhaga beach appealed to me the most. The quietness, the golden sand shining in the sun, and the trees at the end of the coastline makes up for an admirable sight. I highly recommend including Konark for those planning a trip to India.
Written by Shivani. Read more about Konark here.
After a demanding 2 hours hike to the bottom of the Colca Canyon in Peru, we were surprised to find a tropical oasis full of pool lodges, palms, and avocado trees. In this small village called Sangalle, or sometimes Oasis de Sangalle, one can enjoy a cold beer, vegetarian lunch, and relaxing time by the pool. Enjoy the sound of birds and the rushing water from the bottom of the canyon. Take advantage of this time because you need to get back up the canyon. The 4-3 hour demanding hike entails climbing a 1,200 m steep hill at the altitude of almost 3,000 m, – definitely not a job for the weak-hearted. Though there is a way around it. Ask at your lodge to rent a Mulla, which will reliably carry you back up. Not a fan of riding animals? There is one more option – just across the river, only one hour walk away, is a small village called Malata. Buses run twice a day back to the top of the canyon. Yes, you can enjoy this oasis and avoid the demanding hike back up.
Written by Tereza Letalova. Read more from Czick On The Road here.
Chilika Lake, India
Approximately 2 hours from Puri lies Asia’s largest brackish water lake, merging into the Bay of Bengal is Chilika Lake. On my Odisha quest, I knew I had to see the lake from the moment I read about it. The unique lake surprisingly is still not touristy. Various birds from Russia, Siberia, and nearby areas migrate & make Chilika Lake their home during Indian winters.
Sadly, the lake had fewer facilities for refreshments and restrooms. Even the road reaching up to the Lake was bad, with just one restaurant in line. For those who would like to eat there, you must place the order while going to Chilika Lake and eat while on the way out. It is not ideal but that is how things are here.
The lake boat tour coverers various islands, and the Irrawaddy Dolphins spotting. The boats are ancient, noisy, and extremely uncomfortable, but the views make the ride totally worth it. The first part of the tour, the island hopping is a nice way to connect with the locals and see red crabs and pearls. But, don’t fall prey to them as we did, and I advise you not to purchase anything from them no matter how genuine it seems. It is also recommended that you carry some snacks and water because it is a long ride until the dolphin spotting tour.
As we approached the dolphin area the tour guides shut down the boisterous boat engine so as not to scare off the dolphins. They are spotted easily, but tremendously difficult to capture in camera as they come out only for a few seconds. Watching dolphins in their natural habitat was the best part of the tour. I would suggest visiting the lake during Nov-Jan, for catching the migratory birds in action too.
Written by Shivani. Read more about Chilika Lake here.
I hope you enjoyed reading about these Off the Beaten Path places. Please check out the blogs and other writings from these wonderful contributors.
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