12 Under-the-Radar Travel Destinations Ideas
The internet tells us we need to have a bucket list and check things off like the wonders of the world, the most famous cities and the destinations where we ‘need to get a photo,’ but is this the way we should be traveling?
To enjoy your next trip, lose the bucket list. Take a step into the wild side and go somewhere you’ve never heard of before.
Members of our community responded to the question, “What’s a place you’ve been to that the world has not heard of, but should know about?”
As you’ll see in their answers, the greatest joys come from discovering somewhere new that’s a bit off the beaten track. In fact, these are the places where you’ll find the most surprises.
We hope to someday take the recommendations below and see these places in real life!
Vilnius, Lithuania - by Patrícia Teixeira Pinto
I knew about the existence of Lithuania before, but not of the city Vilnius. Vilnius is the capital city of Lithuania, which was the first country to become independent from Soviet Union. It’s one of the three Baltic States.
The first time I went there I was marvelous. Everything was so different from my home in sunny Portugal, and I felt instantly in love with the city and the country.
For me, Vilnius is the right size for a city - not too small, not too big. I think one week is perfect for becoming familiar with it and getting to know the villages around it. It’s really easy to spend hours walking on the streets of Vilnius. On every corner you look, there’s something to see.
Inside the city itself, there are LOTS of churches (Catholic and Orthodox), museums and palaces to see. Most of the monuments have free entrance, but the ones that you have to pay for are really cheap. For example, you can go to both the ballet and to the opera for 10-20 EUR.
Visiting Trakai, Lithuania
Around Vilnius, there are small villages and lots of lakes that are also worth a visit. The one I recommend is Trakai, 30 km away from Vilnius, and you can get there by bus or train if you don’t have a car.
Trakai is a small village surrounded by lakes that get frozen during winter. The houses there have a traditional style, made out of wood and in different colors. In the middle of one of the lakes, there’s a small island with a castle. During warm weather, you can rent a boat.
I recommend Vilnius and the surrounding area because it’s perfect for someone who wants to do a winter vacation without spending all the time in the mountains. There’s lots of culture around, you can enjoy the city as well the nature, there’s great food and great beer and ultimately, you’re going to discover a country that’s reconstructing itself after years of occupation.
Refugio Frey, Bariloche, Argentine Patagonia - by Alex from Duo Life
Internationally, an often overlooked spot is Refugio Frey near Bariloche in Argentina’s Patagonia region.
Refugio Frey is a Swiss-style chalet sitting in a dramatically-stunning basin surrounded by the jaggedly-sharp granite peaks that are so characteristic of Patagonia. The only way to get to Refugio Frey is by walking, skiing or biking, but once you arrive, you’ll be welcomed by the kitchen’s deliciously cheesy pizza and a 40-person bunk room packed with travelers from around the world.
Doha, Qatar - by Rita Maciel
We were planning a trip to Maldives and the best flight we found had a connection in Doha, Qatar. I had read a little bit about Doha, and decided to extend our connection in order to have the possibility of visiting one more city without spending too much money.
At the time, Doha was encouraging stopovers so that people could visit the city. We found that Qatar is highly promoting tourism right now, because the country is going to host the next World Cup in 2022.
For someone living in Brazil, visiting an Islamic country is something very unique, especially during Ramadan, like it was in our case. We found Doha to be an enchanting place because it’s a mix of high-tech buildings with ancient customs that were cultivated by people (business district versus souqs). Qatar is also a very safe country, with a beautiful natural landscape.
People could consider Qatar for future traveling in order to be in touch with a very different culture (for non-Muslims, at least). It’s so wonderful to walk in the alleys of Waqif Souk and to be in touch with a lot of unique items from Qatari culture, or even to see the falcon shops. These types of things are not anything that we can regularly see in a street market at home.
Mount Hermon, Golan Heights, Israel - by Simmi Lipshatz
My friends and I sporadically decided to go to Mount Hermon when we were staying in a nearby region up in the north of Israel. It felt like a waste to be so close and not experience visiting this mountain region.
Beyond simply going and seeing it, my boyfriend, a bunch of our other friends (most of whom had never skied or snowboarded before) and I decided to spend the day skiing at Mount Hermon. It was truly unforgettable.
Essentially, Hermon Mountain is the highest mountain in Israel, and it gets covered with snow in the winter, making it a skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing and chairlift attraction. In the summer, the view from the peak is unlike any other in Israel, making it a worthwhile place to go, all year round.
The special thing about Mount Hermon is that at any time of the year you can go, and you’re guaranteed to enjoy yourself. Mount Hermon caters for all, from those with an adventurous side, to those who enjoy long walks and gorgeous views.
Ukraine - by Denis Born
Ukraine is a country in Europe that many people overlook because they associate it with crisis. Today, Ukraine is a pretty safe place, and it’s a very big country. Travelers can explore a lot of Ukraine and see some of the best places Ukraine has to offer.
Ukraine does not yet have tourism in mass, so it’s different from other places in Europe because of this. People find Ukraine to be affordable, such that they do not have to spend a lot to have quality accommodation, food and sightseeing.
The following places are a few “musts” for visitors to Ukraine:
Kyiv (Kiev), Ukraine
Kiev is one of the most overlooked capitals in Europe, with still so much to discover in all its culture and UNESCO World Heritage sites.
Lviv has splendid architecture and an old town. It’s popular all year round with visitors from Ukraine and beyond.
This destination in Ukraine is known for its fortress, and now also for its street art.
Toubacouta, Senegal, West Africa - by Megan Wannarka
I was in Senegal from 2012 till 2014 as a Peace Corps volunteer working in agriculture. I was lucky enough to be placed in the Fatick region and about 12 km east of Toubacouta.
Toubacouta is a road town and had a population of about 6,000 people at the time. It happens to be on the mangroves, an estuary for 200-400 birds that migrate through. There happens to also be a quite nice resort there named Les Paltruviers (“the mangroves,” in French), run by a wonderful Belgium woman named Karoline.
This place is a wonderful mix of small city and village life in Senegal. In the town, you can be a tourist and shop the local crafts of custom wax and embroidered clothing, shoes and even leather bags. I was thankful and very lucky to live close enough to enjoy this place when I had the time.
It’s SAFE! Senegal is known as being one of the most peaceful countries in Africa. If you know French or are willing to learn some local Wolof, the locals will take care of you like no other. The country is known for its food and hospitality.
Niš, Serbia - by Ayelén Libertchuk
We wrote to our friend Iki, a journalist living in Serbia, and he told us that the city where he was living was Niš. This is a place that, until that moment, was completely unknown to us. Iki offered us to stay one night in his apartment, so we decided to go.
We arrived at Niš in the morning and were greeted by Iki, who told us many stories about the city. We walked along the river and in the evening we had dinner in a lively place where they served beef wrapped in pork.
The next day Iki took us on one of his free walking tours around the city. We were joined by a group of Serbs, who discussed everything he said and generated quite funny situations. On the tour, we could see that the war is very recent history for Serbia, and everyone has very recent memories of war. Iki told us about the bombings and one of the locals told us his own experience.
Niš is one of the largest cities in Serbia, and in terms of sightseeing, you can see chapels, memorials, fortresses and even experience the local spas. This is a unique place to try, so give Serbia a shot!
Tehran, Iran - by Michelle von Ehr
Tehran as a city on its own is great. It is huge – its people range from rich to poor (so do most cities), but it still has a lot of nature as well.
I especially loved the Tabiat Bridge, which was surrounded by a lot of green and gave me a view of all different kinds of perspectives. Looking over one end, you can see the country’s highest mountain, Mount Damawand, ranging over the horizon. I was there during one of the hottest months and even though I was sweating, I saw snow surrounding the top parts of the mountains. In front of the mountain, you can see the city, which in comparison, looked tiny!
Another attraction I loved visiting was a place called Darakeh. It is a neighborhood outside Tehran where a lot of hiking trails lead up the mountains. At the bottom and during the first 20-30 minutes of walking up, there are shops on both sides of a river. Vendors sell special snacks, and you can also find a lot of shisha bars.
I also visited different mosques, and the art everywhere is so detailed and amazing. Specifically, the Imam Khomeini mosque caught my heart.
I was in Tehran during Ramadan and cannot give many recommendations about food or restaurants to visit because this long holiday involves fasting, if you are Muslim. As a side note, it is okay to drink water in public if you are a tourist, although it is always better to do it less publicly. When I did get to enjoy the local foods, I really loved the Iranian Dish called “Dizi”or “Abgoosht.” I can highly recommend that everyone try this!
Iran in general is a warm and welcoming country. The people are thoughtful and happy about tourists, and they invite you to their homes to cook you dinner or just ask you to have a tea with them. They don’t want anything in exchange except some nice conversation. Most of the older people cannot speak English well, so they will send their children to communicate and invite foreigners.
Gruene, Texas Hill Country, USA - by Ryan from Duo Life
One of our favorite “secret” gems is Gruene, in Texas Hill Country, not far from Austin. It’s a small town with a lot of character!
There’s a little downtown area with stellar restaurants and boutique shops, and there’s Gruene Hall, Texas’s oldest music and dance hall. In this tiny spot, operating since the 1800s, many now-famous songwriters had their beginnings — from Willie Nelson to Garth Brooks!
Himachal Pradesh, India - by Kaushik Dhawan
I recommended a place called Bir Billing in Himachal Pradesh, India. This is a small hilltop in Himachal Pradesh, famous throughout the world for paragliding.
People from all over the world come here to practice paragliding. Did you know that the world cup of paragliding was hosted here?
The town is very small and serene, so it’s like a quiet chilled-out village. Many homestays and cafes have popped up in recent years. A few kilometers away from this place is Barot Valley. It is a beautiful valley with a very small population.
Giverny, France - by Claire Hamilton
Giverny is located about one and a half hours outside Paris. The town is so beautiful and it’s as if you are transported into a different time when you get there.
The famous painter Monet’s house is located in Giverny, so there is lots to see and do! The town is super colorful with bright vibrant colors on every building. It is a beautiful place to stroll and see all the French shoppes and delicatessens.
The gardens at Monet’s house are spectacular as well. There are so many things to see and enjoy. People should consider going to Giverny because it’s an escape away from the busy city into a small Parisian-style town with lots of character and pizzazz.
Sarajevo, Bosnia & Herzegovina - by TungHan Wu
I’ve been to Sarajevo twice, with the first time being in December 2017. Due to having come in winter, it was low season, and not too many tourists were there.
Tourists are quite rare in Bosnia. I went to a cafe, and I ordered a Bosnian coffee. Then the staff offered me a Turkish tea (on the house) and started a conversation with me. They asked where I came from and why I wanted to visit Sarajevo. We talked about Bosnia, from World War I to the Siege of Sarajevo (between 1992-1995), and we talked about the Bosnian government.
I went back to Sarajevo again in 2018, and I went to the same coffee shop. When I arrived, the staff looked at me, and asked if I had come the winter before. I said yes, and realized that this is truly the connection between locals and travelers. That was exactly what I wanted to be - a traveler.
Bosnian people are just so welcoming and helpful. I definitely want to go back there again and again, and I’d like to get to Albania as well, as it seems like a secret pearl.
I’ve learned a few Bosnian greeting words: “dobry dan” for good morning, “dobar dan” for good afternoon and “hvala” for thank you. When you go, do not forget to try the typical Balkan foods of chavapi and burek!