Like a motorist complaining about the traffic, the modern traveller goes to great lengths to avoid fellow tourists. Authenticity has been the backpacker’s buzzword for some years, and there’s a high premium placed on getting in somewhere before the crowds.
Unfortunately, when everyone is off the beaten track, it quite often means that no-one is.
Here’s our pick of some of the up-and-coming tourist destinations to see before everyone does. Many of them are little-known, but they’re unlikely to remain so.
1. Coron, Philippines
No prizes for guessing the appeal here – Coron is a fully fledged tropical utopia replete with glistening sands, clear-blue shallows, and the just-as-good-as-it-sounds Twin Lagoon. Beneath the waves you’ll find the expected assortment of tropical fish, as well as a host of World War Two shipwrecks perfect for divers to explore.
The nearby El Nido is seeing a similar surge in interest, and between them they’re turning the province of Palawan into the Koh Samui of the South China Sea.
2. Nusa Lembongan, Indonesia
We’re already sensing a theme here. Lembongan Island lies just offshore from the long-established island paradise of Bali. Surf, snorkel, or scuba your way around the coastline, or stroll the clifftops in search of the sort of sunset only the tropics can provide.
We all like sun, sand, and sea – who knew?
3. Ella, Sri Lanka
Though still every inch an island paradise, our next entry does at least shake things up by heading inland. The tiny village of Ella lies at the heart of Sri Lanka’s hill country, surrounded by temples and tea plantations coated with a thick layer of tropical fauna.
It’s perhaps best known for lying at the end of one of the most scenic railway lines in the world: the seven-hour Kandy-Ella train chugs merrily past plummeting waterfalls, soaring precipices, and outrageously lush mountainsides.
4. Isla Holbox, Mexico
A classical beach paradise with a twist, Holbox has supplemented its idyllic coastline by completely forgoing cars. The pastel-coloured streets are filled instead with bicycles and buzzing golf carts, that make for a bustling if not always peaceful beach break.
Whale sharks at sea, pelicans and flamingos on the shore, and between them green-tinged tides sifting sun-soaked sand – Holbox has all the trimmings you could expect from a Caribbean cay.
5. Panglao, Philippines
Also known as the jewel of the Bohol Sea.
Panglao is a famous tourist destination known for its white sand beaches and world-class diving sites. Panglao is very accessible to other natural wonders of Bohol such as the Chocolate Hills, the countless springs, rivers, falls and caves and the ever-cute tarsier, the smallest primate in the world.
Come for the nightlife, but stay for the sea life. Dolphins, manta rays and whale sharks prowl the surface waters, while kaleidoscopic corals dot the ocean floor.
6. St. Julian’s, Malta
A mecca for European sun-seekers, visitors to this tiny Mediterranean nation are never more than half an hour from the beach.
St. Julian’s is a symbol of its transformation: once a sleepy fishing village, fashionable restaurants and bars now adorn every street corner, while the waterfront is studded with resort hotels. Most of them have swimming pools, as well as access to the clear blue waters of the Med.
Read more: Local tours for local tourists
7. Kaikoura, New Zealand
The peninsula of Kaikoura has been a staple of New Zealand tourism for some years.
Lying just offshore, the deep Kaikoura Canyon and its currents draw all sorts of sea life to the area – you’ll find whales, dolphins, New Zealand fur seals, albatross, and more year-round in Kaikoura. Along with going whale watching, you can also swim with wild dolphins and get up close with fur seals.
8. Ninh Binh, Vietnam
Often called Vietnam’s ‘hidden gem’, this historic northern town is seemingly hidden no more.
Limestone cliffs dotted with rice fields flank the slow-moving River Đáy, forming a typically beautiful slice of Vietnamese countryside. Nearby sights include the nation’s biggest pagoda, and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Trang An Grottoes.
9. Tbilisi, Georgia
A large capital city in the crux of the Caucasus, we can’t quite see what it is about this metropolis that elevates it above the rest. There’s a 4th century fort looming above the city, which yields great views over the valley, and the golden artefacts at the National Museum of Georgia are splendid.
There’s modern architecture too – such as the undulating glass and steel Peace Bridge – and the art scene is supposed to be very up and coming. And now you mention it, the food is thoroughly cosmopolitan, and wine is one of Georgia’s cultural cornerstones …
We stand corrected – we can 100 per cent see it.
10. Valladolid, Spain
A former Spanish capital, cradle of the Castilian language and gateway to northern Spain, visitors to this medieval Spanish fort town can enjoy a range of museums, and vibrant nightlife boosted by the city’s large population of students.
Do you prefer to venture off the beaten path? Where’s your favourite non-touristy destination?
Read more: The new Maldives hotspot
– With PA
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