A village in the Alentejo, Portugal, one of this month's travel secrets.
In a world becoming increasingly crowded we long to get off the beaten track, where we can experience the true essence of a country.
We know the secret travel locations our planet has to offer. Here are another handful for your bucket list.
Covering a third of Portugal's land mass but with just 4% of its population, the Alentejo is an area of wild beauty, where tourists rarely visit despite endless beaches and authentic fishing villages. Inland you will find golden plains and rolling hillsides with a sprinkling of traditional whitewashed villages, Roman ruins, Visigoth churches and Moorish castles.
Spain: La Mezquita, Cordoba,
Nothing can prepare you for the breathtaking Mezquita, the Grand Mosque of Córdoba, one of the most beautiful buildings in the world. Once the capital of Islamic Spain, and Western Europe's largest and most cultured city, the narrow streets surrounding the Mezquita are a delight to discover. Visit La Mezquita on the Essence of Spain.
Picture Prague before tourism arrived and you get a sense of what Unesco-listed Lviv is all about. Rattling trams ply cobble-stoned streets, cozy coffee houses line alleys while magnificent churches adorn the town's squares. The least Soviet and arguably the most patriotic town in Ukraine, Lviv is proud to be Ukranian and firmly part of Central Europe.
Live it up in Lviv on the Highlights of Ukraine.
Russia: Baikal Amur Railway
Every bit as rewarding as its famous Trans-Siberian counterpart, this lesser-known Russian rail route follows the Baikal-Amur Mainline and ventures from Russia's Far East, across Eastern Siberia and north of Lake Baikal, where it’s even more stunning than in the south. Learn the traditions of the indigenous Nanai and Evenki people, visit the astounding rock formations of Stolby National Park, soak up the rich history of Vladivostok and Moscow, and learn the hard facts of Russia’s Soviet past in places that saw unspeakable drama and revolution. With the Trans-Siberian Railway so well known, the Baikal-Amur Railway is your ticket off the beaten track and into next-level expedition travel in Russia.
Oman: Musandam Peninsula
The Musandam region of Oman is characterised by rugged, inhospitable mountains dropping steeply into the sea. Development here is well behind that of the fancy, bling-filled cities next door. Witness dolphins and spectacular marine life on a dhow journey, see fishermen cast nets below the cliffs and get a sense of how unique this wild part of Arabia really is.
Visit the Musandam Peninsula.
Zimbabwe: Matobo Hills
Matobo Hills is famous for its giant boulders precariously balanced on top of each other. Walk over granite ridges and domes to caves with San Bushmen art, spot Black and White rhinos along with leopard and enjoy spectacular sunsets from places such as World’s View.
Laos: Si Phan Don
Si Phan Don, or the Four Thousand Islands, is where the mighty Mekong thunders over a set of waterfalls before entering Cambodia. This is Laos' sleepy corner and an area little visited by travellers. Yet those who do often find themselves staying longer than they had planned. Explore typical village life or take a sunset boat cruise through this archipelago of islands where time moves slowly and postcard-worthy views are around every bend.
Discover Laos' spirit on The Spirit of Laos.
Hard up against the Guatemalan border, the ruins of this once-mighty Mayan city lie covered by thick jungle. It's enormous scale is hard to fathom: forty miles of causeways stretch from the centre to outlying plazas and residential areas.
Costa Rica: Corcovado National Park
When National Geographic describes an area as ‘the most biologically intense place on earth’ it has to be worthy of investigation! Corcovado National Park is Costa Rica's most secluded and tranquil regionand the country's largest national park. Encompassing 13 major ecosystems, with montane forest, cloud forest, freshwater and mangrove swamps just some of those, scientists have recorded half of all of the species in Costa Rica on this peninsula alone. Travel to this gem of Costa Rica's Coastal Secrets
Kuélap, home to the Chachapoyas “Cloud Warriors" is one of the most important archaeological sites of the Amazonian Andes, boasting a great artificial platform that sits on a crest of rock. Constructed between AD 900 and 1100 the platform extends for 600 metres and has a perimeter wall that in some points reaches 20 metres in height.
Visit Kuélap on Explore Northern Peru and Machu Picchu