We all love to travel and of course, there’s a great deal to be said for ticking those major world cities and tourist routes off the list. Any serious world traveller wants to visit the likes of London, Paris and New York, and we might feel we would be missing out if we hadn’t, at least if only to see for ourselves what all the fuss is about.
Having said all that, it makes a great deal of sense to occasionally wander off the beaten path and visit some lesser-known destinations.
There is a lot to be said for experiencing new travel destinations and it’s not just about places being less crowded either. In many ways, the more undiluted a place is by the tourist industry, the purer and more representative of its country and culture it is.
Yes it’s great to travel to those famous beaches and big skyscrapers, but sometimes travel should be about seeing somewhere that’s totally different to home.
Here are 4 of our top picks for places away from the well-trodden tourist trail.
SalinUrfa – Turkey
Often referred to as Urfa, this historic city lies in the Anatolia in South Eastern Turkey. Urfa is littered with many religious sites of tremendous importance to Islam and legend has it that it is the birthplace of Abraham; hence thousands of pilgrims flock here to visit the Cave of Abraham on an annual basis.
Here you can see classic examples of Muslim architecture and important historic sites such as the Fish Pool, which is believed by Muslims to be the place where Abraham was thrown into the fire by Nimrod and is today filled with carp fish that are considered sacred.
Other attractions include the atmospheric and charming bazar, the old town, the ancient castle dating back to 814 AD and Gobekli Tepe, thought to be one of the oldest temples in Islam.
Okinawa – Japan
Referred to by some as Japan’s forgotten paradise, Okinawa is located some 1,000km south of Tokyo.
The prefecture was independent before becoming part of Japan in 1879. The architecture food and culture are an eclectic mix of China, Korea and South East Asia, making it quite unlike anywhere else in Japan.
The archipelago has been somewhat forgotten by the Japanese tourist industry but it truly has plenty to offer. Snorkelling or scuba diving is an absolute must-do in order to catch a glimpse of the terrific marine life, which includes whale sharks.
There are fantastic beaches including Emerald Beach on the main island and excellent cultural attractions, such as Shurijo Castle, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Peace Memorial Park is a stark reminder of the bitter fighting that raged on Okinawa during the Second World War.
Bosnia And Herzegovina
Emerging from the ashes of the Yugoslav war that tore the region apart in the 1990s, Bosnia is an interesting mix of East meets West and sports stunning mountain scenery and national parks.
While much of the country is still somewhat deprived and fractured, with Bosnia being one of Europe’s poorest countries, its main city, Sarajevo is an example of a bustling and cosmopolitan European capital.
Here you will see the Ottoman mosques and cafes of the old town sitting side by side with the trendy Austria-Hungarian quarter built during the late 19th century.
Bosnia’s second city is Mostar, where tourism is also taking off. The city’s 16th century Ottoman bridge, which was destroyed during the war has been painstakingly reconstructed, and became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2005.
Squeezed between the two Latin American hulks of Brazil and Argentina, nestles the somewhat liberal, laid back country of Uruguay.
Uruguay is a small country but punches well above its weight in terms of activities to get up to and places to see. The coastline has plenty of dunes, lagoons and tourist beaches, but visitors can also take excursions to see penguins, whales and sea lions.
The capital Montevideo is a buzzing, hip city and is known as the most gay friendly city in South America. It is a refreshing mix of sandy beaches and colonial promenades as well as being home to the world’s longest carnival, lasting a whopping six weeks!
If you’re a meat lover, you should definitely set aside some time to enjoy a proper Uruguayan steak at one of the city’s many restaurants.
Another fantastic town to visit is Colonia del Sacramento which is located on the banks of the Rio de la Plata, opposite the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires.
With its 18th century Portuguese architecture and leafy plazas, Colonia di Sacramento is incredibly laid back.
It is however put into the shade by Cabo Polonio, an eco-resort founded by hippies and fishermen which will transport you far away from the stresses and strains of modern living.