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London. Paris. New York. Tokyo. The world’s most iconic destinations sure have a lot to offer the budding traveller, but visiting them for the first time can also feel a little anti-climactic – you’ve seen it all before on TV or your Facebook feed. For a truly unique adventure, why not take a leap down the road less travelled?
Here are 10 up-and-coming destinations around the globe that offer up truly life-changing experiences (hordes of tourists not included).
While the throngs bustle down the streets of old Havana, give yourself over to a different side of Cuba. Smack bang in Cuba’s heart is Santa Clara: the country’s fifth largest city, perhaps best known for its revolutionary mores – as well as a giant bronze statue of Che Guevara, Santa Clara is also home to the Guevara mausoleum and the fascinating Museo Histórico de la Revolución. Politics aside, Santa Clara yields a decidedly more relaxed vibe – the perfect spot to chill and take in the colourful rhythms of Cuban life.
Some have called it ‘the greatest city you never thought to visit’, and it’s not hard to understand why. Situated on the Göta älv river on the Swedish west coast, Gothenburg does an excellent job of flying under the radar, which, given its incredible array of selling points, is an effort in itself. From the iconic Älvsborg bridge, to the endless bars and nightlife of the Långgatorna, to the city’s eclectic arts program and street culture scene, Gothenburg is just aching to be visited. Add to the list a brilliant foodie and coffee scene, delectable seafood, awesome live music (all of it a little cheaper next to the capital), and you’re in for plentiful good times.
Though it wasn’t long ago that Rwanda’s fortunes were marred by strife and turmoil, today the nation carries a burst of fresh optimism. Landlocked in the heart of the continent, this lush ‘land of a thousand hills’ remains one of Africa’s most unique travel experiences. The 4,507m-tall Mt Karisimbi and the mountain gorillas and golden monkeys of Volcanoes National Park, as well as the elephants and hippos of Akagera National Park, are guaranteed to change the way you see the world. Welcome to the African adventure of a lifetime.
Beachside restaurants? Cheap waterside bungalow shacks? Tropical island paradise? If a little taste of the secluded tropics is what your soul craves then make a beeline for Rabbit Island, aka Koh Tonsay, perched just south of the Cambodian coast in the Gulf of Thailand. While parts of the mainland might feel rudimentary enough as it is, Rabbit Island takes minimalism to the next level: here, the modus operandi is to do very little, and do it slowly. Relax by the beach, enjoy the delicious waters of the Gulf, and laze under hot sun over tantalising local fare – the perfect little place to get away from it all.
For one of Turkey’s most idyllic seaside getaways, local’s choice Alacati gets the nod. Located on the edge of the eastern Cesme peninsula, Alacati’s stunning turquoise waters, stone houses and delicious regional wines make for a magical escape – from the hordes of Bodrum’s summer easyJetters, as well as the rest of the world.
A laid-back port city on Morocco’s eastern coast, Essaouira is the perfect antidote to the frenzied pace of Marrakech, Tangier and Casablanca. ‘Enchanting,’ and ‘hip’ are synonyms frequently thrown Essaouira’s way, if not for the fact that Jimi Hendrix allegedly penned Castles Made of Sand here back in the day, then for its grassroots surf culture, its eclectic mix of locals and foreigners, and its breezy, coastal pace.
Fjords in the middle of the desert? Yes folks, Oman is a nation of many surprises – as well as the incongruous Musandam Fjords, Wadi Ghul (aka the Omani Grand Canyon) the abandoned villages of Al Hajar Mountains, and the incredible dunes of the Wahiba Sands are also guaranteed to make your jaw drop. Sure, it might dwell in the shadows of Abu Dhabi and Dubai, but those in the know are detouring for Oman unexpected charm.
Samuel Wynn & Co wines are born of exploration. Find out more here.
Cam Hassard is an international penman, sax-wielder and rogue wayfarer who writes for Junkee, Carryology, Huckberry, Caddie, Fairfax Media, Carryology, Intrepid, Peregrine Adventures and Europe Up Close. He’s eaten ant salad in Laos, hauled trucks from NYC to Vegas, and destroyed himself on the Camino de Santiago. Originally from Melbourne, he currently calls Berlin home.