Ten secret travel locations for your list (part 4)


A trend that has become evident in the last few years is adventure travellers wanting to get off the beaten track. Perhaps it is because so many of us have been to many places, perhaps there is a need for bragging rights involved or perhaps it is because people want to get away from the tried and true. Perhaps it is a little of all three.

Our fourth part in a series, here are ten more destinations to look at for you next trip.

Ukraine: Odesa

On my most recent trip to Ukraine I attended the opera in Odesa, a city on the Black Sea. I took a taxi from the hotel, and as we entered downtown we rounded a corner, only to stumble on the scene pictured above. It was love at first sight. Beautiful pastel-coloured neoclassical buildings lining leafy streets and avenues augment a cosmopolitan feel, with people truly enjoying life outdoors. If it hasn't been dubbed the Paris of the East already, then let me be the first. Visit Odesa with Intrepid or Exodus.

Greece: Hiking the North

Unknown to most of the world, both beautiful and unspoiled, the Zagori area is one of the best walking regions in Greece. Learn more about the myths and stories of the area, observe the unique flora and fauna and taste the delicious local cuisine. Walk amongst traditional stone made villages, arch stone bridges, gorges, mountains and pristine natural landscapes in Vikos-Aoos National Park. Follow this with the chance to visit the UNESCO Worldwide Heritage Site of Meteora, exploring the trails of the ancient monks and clifftop monasteries. Walk the north of Greece with Exodus.

Portugal, an alternative Camino

The Caminho Portugués is considered by many as the most spiritually connected pilgrimage route to Santiago. Following the path St James' body took to its resting place at the site of Santiago de Compostela in Spain, the often overlooked, and hence much quieter, Portuguese path offers a wealth of history and delightful landscapes to discover. Visually stunning in parts, starting in Lisbon, you will explore the Templar town of Tomar, the Roman ruins of Conimbriga, World Heritage listed Coimbra, the exciting town of Porto and finally, the famed cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. Walk the Portuguese Camino with us.

Transnistria

Also on my most recent trip I spent some time in Transnistria. Yes, that is one place few people have heard about. When the Soviet Union fell apart, Moldova became one of Europe's newest countries and wanting to be done with its Soviet past, made Moldovan the official language. The Russian and Ukrainians living along the banks of the Dniester wanted nothing to do with that and fought a brief war for independence. Recognized only by similar entities within the former USSR, the "de-facto" independent region is frozen in time, upholding Soviet values. This is a place where around one corner it’s the present day, around another it feels like 20 or 30 years in the past. Visit Transnistria with Intrepid or Exodus.

Kyrgyzstan: World Nomad Games at Lake Issyk-Kul

At 170 km long and 70 km wide, Issyk-Kul is the second largest alpine lake in the world after Lake Titicaca. Despite its altitude of 1600 m, the water here never freezes in winter owing to its depth, its slight salinity and its thermal source water. With the Ala-Too mountains in the background and some beautiful natural sights just off shore, it's no wonder this is such a popular holiday spot for both locals and visitors. Swim, hike to waterfalls, stay in a homestay and take in the sunset from the lakeshore. This is also the setting for the World Nomad Games, featuring storytelling competitions and cultural performances, hunting and archery events, Kok-Boru ('goat polo') and mas-wrestling, a kind of tug of war with a stick. Visit Lake Issyk Kul or the World Nomad Games with us

Central Asia: Pamir Highway

Winding across remote mountain pastures from Khorog in Tajikistan to Osh in Kyrgyzstan, The Pamir Highway is the sceond highest highway in the world and certainly one of the most spectacular. Travel along the Afghan border and through the Wakhan Corridor where there are amazing views of the Pamirs and the Hindu Kush. Long travel days not withstanding, this is about as remote a journey as you can get. Journey along the Pamir Highway with us.

Philippines: Ifugao rice terraces

Banaue, north of Manila, is a region famed for its 2000 year-old rice terraces. Built by the Ifugao tribes and stretching as far as the eye can see, the emerald green terraces were carved out by generations of traditional farmers and remain one of Asia’s most spectacular sights. Referred to by some as an ‘Eighth Wonder of the World’, the stunning rice terraces stretch like stepping stones towards the sky, some reaching an altitude of 1,500 metres. Travel with us to the Ifugao rice terraces.

Vietnam: Phu Quoc Island

Although changed from its former sleepy island backwater self, Phu Quoc is still the best island resort to visit in Vietnam. Kayaking, diving, exploring by motorbike or just finding some R&R on the beach, complete with massages, you can do worse than parking yourself for a few days at the end of your trip.

Papua New Guinea: Sepik river

One of the great rivers in the world, the Sepik meanders from the Papua New Guinea highlands through tropical rain forests and swamps to the ocean. The river is a repository of complex cultures which has fostered great traditional artists. Explore the river by Zodiac in search of the rich birdlife and wildlife or spend time with villagers hearing about rituals, warfare,initiation ceremonies and ancestral beliefs. Sail the Sepik River with us.

USA: John Muir Trail

The John Muir Trail is one of the finest hikes in North America, climbing Mount Whitney and continuing some two hundred miles to Yosemite. Along the way the trail climbs over 4000m passes, wanders beneath high alpine peaks and traverses beautiful meadows and forested river valleys. This is truly a trip of a lifetime to be remembered for years to come. Trek the John Muir Trail with us.

#offthebeatentrack

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