If you’re a seasoned traveler, visiting tourist spots will likely be the last thing on your mind. After all, who would want to go to a place where the enjoyment factor seems like a fraction of what it costs, only to contend with competing herds of tourists?
A lot of the magic typically happens off the beaten path. Below are nine non-touristy travel ideas for either experienced or unconventional travelers who are excited to find hidden gems and untold stories.
1) Immerse in Local Festivals
Instead of merely observing the culture in a country you’re traveling to, immerse yourself in it. Attend local festivals that often go unnoticed by the average tourist, and participate in the festivities.
Whether it’s the mesmerizing Bali Kite Festival in Indonesia or the spirited La Tomatina Festival in Spain, aspire to attend a celebration that offers a glimpse into the heart and soul of a nation.
At events like these, you’ll be able to forge connections with locals and create indelible memories of your time there.
2) Trek Through Untamed Wilderness
Trade the well-worn tourist trails for untamed wilderness and get a workout as a bonus. Don a pair of comfortable leggings and hiking boots, and get ready to venture into the unknown. Next, dare to tread where the rustle of leaves and the chirping of birds are your only companions.
From the dense rainforests of Costa Rica to the rugged terrains of Iceland, you’ll be able to find a lesser-known trail that promises breathtaking views and encounters with rare wildlife.
Best of all, these hikes can fill an appetite for adventure that would be impossible to placate with typical tourist offerings. Just make sure to choose a trail that matches your level of experience and follow the trail’s rules on observing your safety and protecting your surrounding environment.
3) Stay in Quaint Homestays
Who says that you always have to stay at hotels, hostels, or resorts when you travel? You can also choose to house yourself off the beaten path by opting to stay in homestays with local families. These hidden retreats offer an authentic experience that may be both warmer and more exciting than mundane tourist accommodations.
To live like the English, escape to the charming countryside and live for a while in a rustic house, sharing home-cooked meals and other preciously ordinary moments with your host family. The same experiences can be had in Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Find a destination where homestays are a viable option, and live like a local in the truest sense of the term.
4) Navigate the Local Transportation System
Get to know the pulse of a country by navigating its public transportation system. Swap tour buses for local transport options, like tuk-tuks in Thailand. Instead of riding taxis or hailing private transportation on an app, jump on a train or a minibus and see what happens.
Not only will you be able to add an element of adventure to your journey; but you’ll also be able to save a lot of money and free up your travel budget for other items.
5) Connect Through Volunteer Experiences
Travel can become a transformative experience when you have the chance to give back to the communities you visit. That’s why you should consider engaging in volunteer opportunities that align with your passions, whether they involve teaching English to local children or participating in environmental conservation efforts.
These interactions may help you forge meaningful connections with locals and fellow volunteers and leave a positive impact on a community long after you’ve departed.
6) Indulge in Culinary Adventures
The heart of a culture can often be found in its food. One effective way to experience the best of local cuisine is to skip the touristy restaurants and instead dive into the bustling local food markets and street stalls. In these places, you can savor dishes that locals hold dear to their hearts (and their stomachs).
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for recommendations from fellow food enthusiasts. Indeed, the tales behind their recommendations may be as enriching as the flavors themselves.
7) Delve into a Country’s Spiritual and Religious Traditions
For the “eat-pray-love” crowd, explore the spiritual and religious culture of a country by seeking out its lesser-known temples, monasteries, and sacred sites. If you are invited to do so, take part in local rituals, ceremonies, and practices to gain a profound understanding of the beliefs that shape a culture. These encounters often lead to meaningful personal reflections and a deeper connection to the country you’re exploring.
8) Chase Hidden Watering Holes
Are you traveling to a tropical country? If so, escape the heat and beat the crowds by seeking out hidden watering holes that remain tucked away from the tourist radar. Discover secluded waterfalls, natural pools, and serene lakes where you can unwind and reconnect with nature. These hidden oases will serve as the perfect sanctuary for relaxation and rejuvenation.
9) Seek Out Underrated Islands and Regions
While tourist hotspots have their allure, there’s a world of wonder waiting to be discovered on lesser-known islands and regions. Visit Madagascar’s Nosy Be, an untouched island located along the country’s northwestern coast, or Portugal’s Azores, an underrated region in the country that features dramatic landscapes and UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Pico Vineyards. These off-the-radar destinations will promise a more intimate and authentic travel experience, far removed from the crowds.
There are countless beautiful sites in the world that aren’t as celebrated as famous tourist spots. Try the somewhat unconventional ideas listed above, and you’ll likely stumble upon the best experiences you’ll ever have away from home!
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