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Eight off the beaten path travel destinations

Every country has its iconic attractions, from Iceland’s Blue Lagoon to the Gondolas in Venice. Yet, there is a price for popularity, and it’s not necessarily about the amount that trickles out of your bank account so much as it is about making the most of your travels.

Overtourism in cities like Venice and Dubrovnik is calling for tourists to stretch their imaginations and to look further afield. In doing so, you'll make plenty of impactful memories in new places minus the crowds.

Here are some off the beaten path travel options to use as inspiration for your next trip.

Raja Ampat, Indonesia

From surfers and digital nomads to partygoers and honeymooners, Bali attracts a diverse international crowd each year in search of their slice of paradise. However, Raja Ampat, otherwise known as the Archipelago of the Four Kings, is Indonesia’s unspoiled hotspot for discovery.

Comprising 1,500 islands, the area is at the heart of the Coral Triangle, which means that snorkelers and divers are in for a treat. The tropical waters here are home to an impressive variety of turtles, coral reef fishes and coral species. And, as the holy grail for deep sea lovers you’ll also find pygmy seahorses, manta rays and wobbegongs gliding past you.

Make the most of this precious underwater sanctuary onboard the Aqua Blu luxury cruise expedition, which will transport you to the best snorkel and dive sites.

How to get there:

While Raja Ampat might not be the most convenient location to visit, the logistics of planning your trip have become easier in recent years. Once you’ve reached Jakarta, Makassar, Ambon or Manado simply fly to Sorong and then catch a public ferry or private speed boat to the capital, Waisai.

Nyungwe National Park, Rwanda

Whether you’ve come to meet face-to-face with chimpanzees, colobus monkeys or to hike among the treetops, Nyungwe National Park leaves an indelible impression on travelers. The scenery is not only breathtaking from different vantage points, but rich in biodiversity.

With Majestic Whale Encounters’ Gorillas in Rwanda Luxury Tour, you’ll be able to visit this and other majestic landscapes where you can spend time with gorillas and chimpanzees to your heart’s delight.

How to get there:

Kigali International Airport, which connects Rwanda’s capital to the rest of the world has four airlines based in Kigali: RwandAir, Akagera Aviation, Tempus Jet and Nexus Aero.

Nakasendo, Japan

The Nakasendo, which translates to ‘the road through the mountains’, connected Japan’s ancient capital of Kyoto to bustling Tokyo during the Edo period (1603-1867). Historically, it was a trade route that attracted samurai, merchants and pilgrims. While the 69 post towns along the trail have been modernized, there are still some striking examples of the old Japan and strips of countryside that transport you back in time.

Kiso Valley offers the most well-preserved historic towns. Japan’s Nakasendo Way tour is an 11-day fully guided tour that provides a lens into rural Japan via traditional and modern inns that always ends with hearty farmhouse cuisine.

The tours take place between March and June as well as from September to November each year, and accommodate up to 12 people.

How to get there:

Kyoto where the tour starts is accessible by Shinkansen from Tokyo. This will take you under two-and-a-half hours and is the most convenient way to reach this destination.

Naples, Italy

As one of Europe’s most popular yet fragile tourist destinations, mass tourism and climate change are threatening Venice’s foundations and its chance of surviving over the long-term.

While Naples isn’t part of the popular trifecta of Venice, Florence and Rome and in fact has a reputation for petty theft, this southern seaside metropolis should be on your itinerary as you make your way to Pompeii, the Amalfi Coast or Rome.

If you appreciate authenticity and crossing paths with locals rather than tourists, Naples satisfies both. The UNESCO World Heritage declared historic center has been well-preserved, showcasing more than 2,000 years of history and plenty of narrow alleyways to explore on foot.

Along the way be sure to try Neapolitan specialties: cuoppo, mozzarella di bufala and pizza margherita. To learn more about the historical origins of pizza and a food culture based on small fried foods you may want to take part in the Secret Food Tour of Naples.

How to get there:

There are several modes of transport you can take to reach Naples. The most common ones are via a high-speed FrecciaRossa train, a cruise ship or biplane. Naples International Airport welcomes many international tourists each year thanks to airlines such as Ryanair, EasyJet and TUI offering competitive prices.

Bora Bora, French Polynesia

The Nordics aren’t the only destination on the globe for an unforgettable after-dark experience of a lifetime. Whether you choose a seaside or desert escape, gazing up at a starry night sky in a lounge chair or hot tub is a rare encounter.

Protected from light pollution, the Polynesian night sky provides the ideal conditions for stargazing in a peaceful setting. Most of the tours offer a combination of legend-telling experiences paired with drinks and telescope viewing to get a glimpse of the Milky Way and the Southern Cross. Bora Bora Explorer, Marama Tours and Lagoon Service are just a handful of tours making the most of dark sky tourism.

Or, for a more intimate experience, book yourself into an overwater bungalow at the Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora.

How to get there:

The most convenient route to Bora Bora is to take a plane to Faa’a International Airport in Tahiti and thereafter a charter flight, helicopter or scheduled flight to Bora Bora.

Córdoba, Spain

The city of Córdoba, tucked away in Spain’s southernmost region of Andalusia, showcases a visually stunning combination of historic Christian and Islamic architecture. Visit the Medina Azahara and the Mosque–Cathedral of Córdoba to see two of the city’s finest examples. 

Compact and charming, the narrow maze of quaint cobblestone streets are a tempting invitation for exploration. It’s where you'll find hidden taverns and courtyards that inspire celebration.

In fact there’s an annual festival each May – La Fiesta de Los Patios – where the locals open their doors to the public specially to show off their colorful flower pots. Luckily the festival is held before the scorching hot temperatures set in during summer and the city becomes unpleasant to explore on foot during the day.

Unlike Seville, Granada and Barcelona, you’ll be surprised by the sheer number of local treasures at every corner. Even if it’s just a glass of wine with tapas or an open air flamenco show, in Córdoba these moments aren’t tainted by masses of tourists.

If you’re really serious about delving into Andalusian culture, consider the Best of Andalusia, an eight-day tour that will have you seated in the Arabic teahouses of Granada on one day and soaking up the sun and artistic feats of Pablo Picasso on another.

How to get there:

Whether you’re planning to stay for a few nights or a week, Córdoba shouldn’t be overlooked, particularly if you’re already visiting Madrid and Seville. You can easily take a Spanish high-speed train, AVE, which connects Córdoba to both cities. If you are planning to drive, keep in mind that the historic center is difficult to traverse by car and parking isn’t straightforward.

Myvatn Nature Baths, Iceland

With its close proximity to an international airport and year-round accessibility, Blue Lagoon has a lot going for it beyond its luxury accomodation and subterranean spa. The issue is that many people know this, which makes for a great social experience, but not necessarily a peaceful one.

Tucked away in the north-east corner of Iceland is the Myvatn Nature Baths, also known as the Blue Lagoon of the North. A six-hour drive from the capital of Reykjavik, the baths are situated in a remote location with views of the volcanic landscapes of North Iceland.

If you’re traveling by car you could easily unwind here as you tick off the major attractions within the Iceland Diamond Circle. While the baths aren’t equipped with the luxurious offerings that the Blue Lagoon is famous for, a swim-up bar and steam baths are available.

Between October and April the baths are open longer for those hoping to capture a glimpse of the Aurora Borealis without having to put up with the cold. Consider finding a day tour that showcases northern Iceland’s natural wonders, including the Mývatn Nature Baths.

How to get there:

While Myvatn Nature Baths are open year-round, the road conditions can become unsafe during the winter months (October to May). This requires the right vehicle for the unpredictable weather conditions.

Lake Annecy, France

With its reputation for opulence and historic villas, Lake Como has long been a playground reserved for the elite. But, fortunately it’s not the only destination in Europe with picturesque scenery and architectural marvels.

The French equivalent, Lake Annecy and its charming medieval town has long been admired by domestic travelers for its Venice-like charms. For one thing, Annecy is comprised of a network of canals and cobblestone streets that are perfect for an evening stroll.

During summer you can spot paragliders circling the sky, however the Fête du Lac is the highlight of the year as one of the most significant firework displays in Europe. Everywhere you turn there is something to marvel at, from castles to majestic peaks and nature reserves, all centered around the turquoise waters of the lake.

For an indulgent, five-star waterfront chalet experience, book yourself into Yoann Conte.

How to get there:

With direct trains and buses from Lyon and Paris, Annecy is accessible from these cities, but requires a bit more planning if you are traveling from other French cities.

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