Top 10 hidden gems and destinations around the worldReading Time: 5 minutes
When looking for your next holiday destination, there are sure to be plenty of beaches or city breaks to choose from.
But if you’re after something a little different, there are some truly breath-taking – and even life-changing – experiences to be had off the beaten track.
Here are the top 10 hidden gems and destinations to consider for your next holiday.
1) Paricutin’s lava fields, Mexico
You won’t find too many places in the world where you can ride across lava fields to discover the sole remains of a village buried by a volcanic eruption. But that is what San Juan Parangaricutiro, 270 kilometres south-east of Guadalajara, in Mexico has to offer. When Parícutin – the world’s youngest volcano – erupted in 1943, it engulfed two villages in its shadow and, while the lava took a year to reach the San Juan Parangaricutiro church, it did eventually envelop the graves and bottom half of the church’s walls, leaving the altar and church tower untouched. These last remnants of the village can be reached on horseback – creating a stunning trip from nearby Angahuan. If you visit Guadalajara between October and December, temperatures are cooler and there are plenty of festivals to enjoy too.
2) Ladakh, India
When you think of India, many will picture Mumbai or New Delhi and, of course, the famous Taj Mahal. But Ladakh is about as far from the hustle and bustle and noise of Indian city life as you can get. And it’s stunning. Nestled in the Himalayas, Ladakh is surrounded by four mountain ranges, which not only adds to its breath-taking beauty but also means it remains virtually untouched by tourism. The Buddhist heritage and pure mountain air make it the perfect place for reflection and relaxation, while home-stays, tours of the area and meeting local monks all tick the culture box.
3) Lauterbrunnen Valley, Switzerland
Closer to home, the Lauterbrunnen Valley in the Swiss Alps is home to a whopping 72 waterfalls. And at just 70 kilometres south of Bern and 20 minutes on the train from Interlaken, it’s a very accessible place to visit. Trummelbach Falls is a hidden gem and shouldn’t be missed. A tunnel funicular and lift will take you to the 10 falls thundering down inside the mountain, which can be marvelled at from multiple viewing platforms. Aside from the falls, the whole area is awash with jaw-dropping scenery, which changes dramatically with the seasons. The summer season is a particularly good time to visit as you can enjoy the walking routes in the region too.
4) Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
A well-known day trip from nearby Cancun due to popular tourist destination Chichen Itza, the Yucatan Peninsula’s hidden gems shouldn’t be overlooked – the cenotes. Formed when rain erodes the limestone bedrock, causing it to cave in and creating a deep hole in the earth which then, over many decades, fills with water, the Yucatan region is particularly well-suited to the development of these fantastic geographical features. Treated by the ancient Mayans as sacred wells, the cenotes are now a beautiful place to visit and even take a swim in. The most famous, Ik-Kil, is located close to Chichen Itza, but the others are more off the beaten track.
5) Jiuzhaigou National Park, China
It’s little wonder the Jiuzhaigou National Park has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with its stunning blue crystalline lakes, waterfalls and views of the surrounding Min Mountains. A quick look on Google Images may be all you need to convince you to jet off tomorrow. The Nuorilang Waterfall is perhaps the most famous in the park, while there are almost too many breath-taking lakes to mention. The Zharu Monastery, a place for the Tibetan villagers to worship, is well worth a visit too. Many consider autumn the best time to visit for the park’s beautiful array of colours, but there’s really no bad time. Each season brings different wonders to the landscape.
6) Apostle Islands, Wisconsin, USA
In a country the size of the USA, there are bound to be a few hidden gems left to uncover, and the Apostle Islands in Wisconsin certainly tick this box. A group of 22 islands located just off the coast of the Bayfield Peninsula in Lake Superior, the Apostle Islands not only boast more than 800 plant species – including rare and endangered species – but also stunning sandstone sea caves which are just begging to be explored. These are beautiful all year round, but some winters, if the lake freezes over, visitors will be allowed to walk across Lake Superior from Meyers Beach to see the caves, where frozen waterfalls and chambers filled with icicles will take your breath away. In warmer weather, kayaking around the caves is also an option.
7) Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, Brazil
Located close to Barreirinhas in the North-East of Brazil, Lençóis Maranhenses National Park truly provides a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The lagoons and sand dunes have to be seen to be believed, as no postcard or guidebook snap will ever do them justice. Tours can be enjoyed by both boat and 4×4 from Barreirinhas, which itself is a three-hour drive from Sao Luis, the capital of the state of Maranhão. The lagoons are best visited between July and September when they are at their fullest and most picturesque.
8) Cuenca, Spain
Cuenca, situated in central Spain between Madrid and Valencia, is best known for the Casas Colgadas – the precarious Hanging Houses overlooking the Huecar River. But in fact, the whole town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Home to Spain’s first ever Gothic Cathedral, the walled town beautifully blends into the stunning rural surroundings which it towers above. The best time to visit is June or September, where temperatures are slightly cooler than in the height of summer, and with lower rainfall than spring and autumn.
9) Kabalebo Nature Resort, Suriname
The South American country Suriname, which borders Brazil, French Guiana and Guyana, isn’t necessarily the first place that springs to mind when planning a holiday. But that by no means should allow it to be overlooked, especially when hunting for a hidden gem. Suriname’s Kabalebo Nature Resort is situated in the west of the country, not far from the Guyana border, and really packs a punch when it comes to jaw-dropping experiences. Oh, and did we mention it’s part of the Amazon Rainforest? Wildlife spotting is obviously front-and-centre of any trip, but a really amazing experience can also be had by kayaking on the perfectly still, untouched rivers, surrounded by the sights and sounds of the jungle. Pure serenity.
10) Outer Hebrides, Scotland
The Outer Hebrides in Scotland are located beyond the more popular Inner Hebrides, and comprise more than 60 islands including Lewis, St Kilda, Harris, a handful of other inhabited islands, plus 50 or so uninhabited ones too. Perfect for nature lovers and outdoor adventurers, this is the place to come to truly escape modern life and take things a little slower. Kitesurfing, kayaking, bird watching, hiking and cycling are just some of the activities on the agenda, while Harris is also blessed with beautiful beaches, including Seilebost and Luskentyre.