Sometimes it can get a bit tedious visiting all the usual destinations; fighting through the crowds of tourists wherever you go, whatever you do. So how about finding something a little more hidden. The idea of ‘second city’ travel is beginning to evolve and becoming increasingly popular as tourists feel the necessity to swap out the well-known cities and regions for a lesser-known alternative.
Whether you’re looking to get off the beaten track, or to venture outside the tourist traps where you’re surrounded by different cultures, welcoming locals, untouched landscapes and crowdless opportunities to capture an unmissable photo, discover our top selection of some of the finest hidden gems in the world to visit.
Have you ever asked yourself whether it was possible to visit a place that only exists in fairy tales?
As if it had been taken out of a storybook and set down inside central Turkey, you’ll feel like you’ve just landed on a completely different planet in the awe-inspiring region of Cappadocia. Known for its spectacular bronze rock formations, honeycombed hills, mysterious caves and of course, the collection of colourful hot air balloons in the sky, this hidden gem is an absolute must-visit!
When it comes to things to do in Cappadocia, hiking is obligatory. From the Rose Valley to the Red Valley hiking trails, indulge in the deep, vibrant red hues that reflect off the sharp sandstone ridges during sunset. Discover the underground cities of Kaymakli, be in awe of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Goreme open air museum, indulge in some delicious Turkish food and of course, don’t forget to take a hot air balloon into the sky and breathe in the atmosphere of the fantastic bronze city that surrounds you.
Once a monastery, now a charming hotel with ancient tunnels and terraces, argos in Cappadocia is the perfect unique experience to tick off your bucket list. Nestled in gorgeous rock formations located in Uçhisar, the highest point in Cappadocia, stay in one of the cave rooms or suites, take a dip in a cave pool, cosy up by the stone fireplace and take in the soaring views from the foothills of Uçhisar Fortress to Güvercinlik Valley from your private balcony.
Nestled in the heel of Italy’s boot, lies a pure breath of fresh air — the charming southern region of Puglia. Regarded for its awe-inspiring Mediterranean coastlines, ancient hilltop whitewashed towns, gorgeously green farmlands and stunning cultures, this gorgeous Italian region provides the perfect setting for utter relaxation.
Situated well away from all the typical Italian tourist traps, this hidden gem is the perfect destination to get lost in. From the charming fishing villages in Gargano and the fairytale UNESCO World Heritage town of Alberobello to the capital’s region of Bari and the magnificent city of Lecce, there’s so many hidden gems to visit in Italy’s dazzling heel.
Explore the natural beauty through the Itria Valley by bike, get lost within the narrow streets of Alberobello whilst you indulge in the gorgeous iconic round homes with conical roofs of the Trulli houses, wander through the picturesque olive groves in Ostuni and dive into the refreshing waters of Torre Sant'Andrea from the rugged rock formations. Whatever you choose to do in the charming hidden gem of Puglia, you’re never far away from something spectacular.
Between the whitewashed old town of Ostuni and the Adriatic Sea, discover a minimalist serenity. Hidden away in acres of beautiful olive groves lies the refreshing boutique of Masseria Dagilupi. Formed of just three beautifully decorated rooms and suites, the pops of colour within the whitewashed walls and vaulted ceilings create a true sense of ultra cool. Rejuvenate your body with some morning yoga amongst the groves, reconnect with the natural surroundings and feel a sense of calm in this tranquil abode.
"In these hills, Nature’s hospitality eclipses all that man can ever do. The enchanting beauty of the Himalayas, their bracing climate and the soothing green that envelops you, leave nothing more to be desired. I wonder whether the scenery of these hills and the climate are to be surpassed, if equalled, by any of the beauty spots of the world. After having been for nearly three weeks in the Almora hills, I am more than ever amazed why our people need to go to Europe in search of health." - Mahatma M.K. Gandhi
Away from all the hustle and bustle, Almora has plenty in store for curious travellers. Located in the northern state of India’s Uttarakhand, this ancient market town is cradled in the wilderness of the Himalayan ranges and is the perfect hidden destination.
Known for its rich culture, luscious cuisine, awe-inspiring landscapes and esteemed history of attracting artists and poets, escape to Almora and absorb every enchanting gift it has to offer. Wander through the central market strip and discover in some unique handicrafts, take a challenging hike up to the waterfalls as you pass quaint local villages, make your way to the glistening Kosi River to enjoy a relaxing picnic and a swim, and explore the Kasar Devi Temple located at the top of Cranks Ridge, where many legends have travelled, including the likes of Bob Dylan, Timothy Leary, DH Lawrence. If you’re looking to venture out a little further, visit the spectacular Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary, a haven of ancient temples and abundant wildlife.
Nestled within the treetops near the historic town of Almora, discover the minimalist splendour of The Kumaon. A place with views that are just out of this world, this mountain marvel is a hidden paradise. With 10 luxurious suites overlooking the surreal mountain peaks and forest landscapes, a sky-high restaurant, calming library and relaxing sun lounge, no matter where you escape to in The Kumaon, every space and corner in this architectural beauty will place you amid pure serenity and bliss.
Nestled between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, this charming little town is backed by a series of rugged mountains and is one of Brazil’s best hidden gems. A visit to the historical centre of Paraty is an absolute must due to its enchanting coastal and mountain scenery, well preserved Portuguese colonial architecture, gorgeous beaches and so much more.
Paraty is perfect for both culture and nature seekers. Once a gold port back in the 1600s, this charming paradise is possibly one of the most beautiful natural wonders in South America. Despite its postcard-perfect landscapes, you’re never short of anything to do. Wander through the ankle-twisting, winding cobbled streets and enjoy the whitewashed buildings with splashes of bright colours in the historic centre, escape from the crowds and discover the secluded beach, Praia do Jabaquara, do some island hopping around Paraty Bay and watch the charming little fishermen boats surround you, kayak through some gorgeous mangroves and be inspired by the incredible culture.
If you’re looking for the perfect stay, discover the charming boutique of Casa Turquesa Maison D´Hôtes. This gorgeous boutique offers you the perfect warm and welcoming environment. Formed of just nine beautifully decorated suites, this relaxing retreat offers each and every one of its guests the most personalised and intimate stay. Take a dip in the pool, enjoy a glass of wine or two at the bar and indulge in the vibrant blue colour scheme.
From hilltop towers and endless horizons, to gorgeous vineyards and small cobblestoned towns, Languedoc-Roussillon is one of Southern France’s best alternative destinations. Known for its spectacular wines and glistening sprawling beaches across the Mediterannean coastlines, this charming region stretches from the endless lands of lavender fields of Provence to the magnificent mountain range of the Pyrenees and is an absolute must-visit!
Explore the medieval citadel of Cité de Carcassonne, weave yourself across the Gardon River by the Pont du Gard, discover the labour of love in the the nineteenth-century botanist Eugène Mazel, take a steam train made in the 1800s between Anduze and Saint-Jean-du-Gard… the list goes on. However, if there’s one place in this enchanting region you need to visit, it’s Uzès. A quaint little town that feels like it’s just been pulled out of a storybook and well hidden from all the tourist traps. It’s renowned for its Renaissance architecture, cultural heritage and a magnificent place to dine.
Behind some magical old-fashioned, wooden-style doors, discover your perfect secret hideaway. This seriously decadent sixteenth-century townhouse of L’Albiousse welcomes its inquisitive travellers with a gorgeous cobbled courtyard, traditional French large windows, high ceilings, and elegant dining room and a complete noble charm. It’s also formed of just five beautifully decorated suites — you couldn’t be placed in a more relaxing and elegant space if you tried.
Nestled within the Tepozteco Mountains just south of Mexico City, discover the colonial city centre of Cuernavaca. Known as one of the ‘Chilangos’ favourite places to be, this charming capital of the Morelos state is known as the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ due to its gorgeous climate almost all year round and flowering landscapes. If there’s one place in Mexico to spend a long and relaxing (or adventurous) weekend, it’s here.
Cuernavaca boasts something for everyone; from the tranquility of your surroundings with colourful landscapes of magical African tulips, jacarandas, bugambilia, lillies and more to the many awe-inspiring mountains, rivers and volcanoes to explore. It’s a place brimming with history, pre-Hispanic temples, charming museums, local restaurants and many, many pools.
Las Casas B+B Hotel is located right in the centre of this historical city — you couldn’t be more central if you tried. With a rustic yet stylish atmosphere, the sophisticated and minimalist spaces with Mexican touches will leave you feeling relaxed and completely at home. Housing just 11 elegantly-designed rooms, every space in this blissful boutique is both romantic and trendy.
Be sure to tantalise your taste buds in their delicious HOUSE restaurant, argued to be one of the best in the city! Offering a delightful selection of Mexican, Italian and Mediterannean dishes, relax with some alfresco dining and watch the restaurant turn into some sort of secret hideaway garden. From a dip in the pool to the delicious crafty cocktails, there’s always something happening at Las Casas B+B and there’s no better place to be than here!
Although Thessaloniki is Greece’s second largest city, its vibrant energy and historical significance makes it all the more inviting and it’s certainly a contender to Athens. Situated on the northern fringe of the Thermaic Gulf, this magical city is brimming with multicultural history, outstanding architecture, stunning coastlines and delicious cuisine. The cosmopolitan character through these ancient streets are only just the beginning.
From the chaotic history to the economical crisis, Thessaloniki still remains full of life and vibrancy, and is one of the most beautiful places to visit in Greece — even if it wasn’t the first place to pop into mind. Explore the different neighbourhoods such as the colourful Ano Poli and the historical Ladadika, wander through the stone-paved alleys and indulge in the charming Macedonian and Balkan architecture, get to know the locals through their delicious mezzes in hidden taverns, go up to the famous White Tower and take in the panoramic views of the Gulf and just indulge in this vibrant and energetic city that has morphed into what it is today.
Characterful, colourful and unique. If a rustic yet refreshing stay filled with aesthetic brilliance is what you’re looking for, look no further than The Trilogy House. A converted 1920s townhouse, this gorgeous boutique was completely inspired by the magically dynamic nature of the surrounding city itself, and couldn’t have achieved it more.
Formed of ten authentically decorated rooms and two apartments, every space in this hotel is filled with rich furnishings, peachy hues, high ceilings and elegant character. It’s also nestled on one of the most HIP streets in the city; bustling with a great selection of cafes, bars, shops and restaurants. You couldn’t find a better place to stay if you tried.
If you’re planning a getaway this year, certainly give a second-city or alternative destination a go! Sometimes the most unlikely places have many surprises in store and may just become one of your new favourite destinations.
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