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Top 10 OFF THE BEATEN PATH Destinations

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For off the beaten path travelers, the thought of all inclusive resort or being surrounded by thousands of other tourists scrambling to take that gram-worthy selfie is literal torture. 

Traveling off the beaten path is for those who want to go beyond the touristy areas. They want to have an authentic experience while being surrounded by culture and locals that are unspoiled by mass tourism. 

Every year, new hidden gems are discovered and start gaining the attention of savvy travelers. It doesn't take long before these destinations become overrun with tourists and lose their authenticity. For 2019 we asked veteran travelers, travel bloggers and travel experts for their favorite off the beaten path travel destinations! 

Top 10 Off The Beaten Path Destinations

10. Plovdiv, Bulgaria

Off The Beaten Path Plovdiv, Bulgaria
Plovdiv, Bulgaria (Credit: Bulgaria Travel)
Plovdiv is an easily overlooked, but gem of a city in central Bulgaria. As one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in Europe, the rich history is evident everywhere you look. With Roman amphitheaters, Thracian ruins, and the aptly named “Trap” art district, the city quickly lives up to its title as the 2019 European Cultural Capital.
Navit Reid from Wanda Maps says there are easy day trips from the city that take you to wineries, centuries old monasteries and fortifications carved into cliffs. Days in the city can be spent with epic 360 views from the Thracian ruins on Nebet Tepe overlooking the city, exploring the infinite cafes and local art shops packed into the crooked streets of The Trap. One of the highlights is to attend a show at the Ancient Theater, just as residents of Plovdiv did 2,000 years ago.
Travel Difficulty & Daily Life: Easy 

9. Kelowna, Canada

Travel Off the beaten path in Kelowna
(Credit: Tourism Kelowna)

Canadians absolutely LOVE Kelowna but it has remained relatively untouched by international visitors. Nicknamed “Kelownafornia” the small city of 120,000 is known for being the “‘California' of Canada. With dozens of wineries, hot summers and one of the mildest winters in Canada, the lakefront town has endless experiences for the outdoor enthusiast. 

A beautiful lakefront boardwalk wraps around the downtown bustling core. Enjoy local wineries and distilleries, or dine on one of the many patios that serve fresh local ingredients. Kelowna beaches are immaculately clean where visitors can relax and enjoy endless water sports including wakeboarding, water skiing, and parasailing. Golf your way through 19 courses or enjoy the endless wilderness surrounding the city on the historic Myra Canyon Trestles. 

Although Kelowna is a bustling tourist destination for Western Canadians, it remains unknown to international visitors. 

Travel Difficulty & Daily Life: Easy 

8. Iquitos, Peru

Travel to Iquitos, Peru
(Credit: Future Challenges)
Iquitos is the world's largest isolated city. In the depths of the Amazon jungle, it is not connected by road to the rest of Peru, and so it's only possible to reach it by air or river. Although the city does have some tourism as a gateway to exploring the jungle, it is far less touristy than other destinations in Peru.
Alex and his wife from Career Gappers visited Iquitos during their travel career break, and found it to be one of the most authentic South American cities they experienced. They found the local culture was affected little by the influx of international visitors. It is a place of dusty streets, tropical heat, vibrant hustle and bustle, and huge, sprawling markets (including the largest floating market in the Amazon, Belen Market).

Travel Difficulty & Daily Life: Hard

7. Providencia, Colombia

This Colombian island sits in the Caribbean Sea, closer to Nicaragua than Colombia itself. The easiest way to get there is by flying to the island of San Andrés, then catching a smaller plane to this tiny island. While few travelers to Colombia actually make it here, those that do will be rewarded with the “sea of 7 colors”. And it's true – “you can literally see all sorts of shades of blue and turquoise in the ocean waters!” Katie from Two Wandering Soles gushed.
Travel Difficulty & Daily Life: Medium

6. Muang Ngoy, Laos

Muang Ngoy, a sleepy town in northern Laos is usually overlooked by the vast majority of visitors to the Southeast Asian country. This is NOT an easy town to get to. The fast flowing Nam Ou River reaches Muang Ngoy after 3 long hours on a long tail boat from Muang Khua. 

For the adventurer the long boat ride is worth it. Off the beaten path travelers will be rewarded with hikes through green rice terraces, local villages and wild jungle. One main dusty road holds almost all of the buildings. An intersecting road leads to hiking adventures, surrounded by mountains and rice paddies. 
Ben from Horizon Unknown says this rural authentic experience in Laos is recommended for experienced travelers who enjoy beautiful scenery, traditional farmers and even kids fishing with homemade spears and baskets. Three traditional Laos towns are within a two hour trek and offer small restaurants where you can get lunch, tea or beers.
Travel Difficulty & Daily Life: Hard

5. Malang, Indonesia

Off the Beaten Path in Malang Indonesia

Malang is well known to Indonesian travelers but has yet to gain international attention. This is the one city we visited where the locals are truly grateful to have visitors from out of the country. There were always friendly hellos and we were never “sold to” once during our time there. Most locals wanted to take photos with us or even to just ask questions about why we were visiting. It was truly refreshing to be welcomed without being treated as a walking ATM like many places in Southeast Asia.  

Prized by the Dutch for its mild highland climate, the city retains some of its colonial architecture. Grand mansions line the main street, Jalan Besar Ijen. North of the city, the Buddhist-Hindu Singosari Temple ruins are a remnant of a medieval kingdom. The amazing rainbow village of Jodipan within the city was a slum area on the verge of eviction two years ago. That was until students from Muhammadiyah University of Malang painted the village with bright colors. The rise of tourism in this village has spurred local economy so more people can make ends meet by selling goods and foods to tourists.

Travel Difficulty & Daily Life: Medium

4. Asilah, Morocco

(Credit: Walk About Gormet)
Asilah is a small town on Morocco’s Atlantic coast, south of the city of Tangier. Its old town is enclosed by well-preserved 15th-century walls and gates, built by colonial Portuguese. 
Sam WIlliamson from We Swap considers most of Morocco to be worth a visit but he'd recommend to visit off the beaten path destination of Asilah to experience what he describes as ‘pure tranquility'. Away from the noise of Tangier but still only a few hours away on a train, Asilah is such a hidden gem on the coast of Morocco and a great place to visit. It's a small town, with only a handful of restaurants and hotels, and the noise of the sea gently lapping against the walls of the surrounding buildings.
Travel Difficulty & Daily Life: Medium

3.Puerto Cayo, Ecuador

Puerto Cayo, Ecuador

If it's a unspoiled beach you're looking for, explore no further than the sleepy town of Puerto Cayo, Ecuador. This off the beaten path town gets very few tourists and has a small community of expats keeping the secret all to themselves. We spent 6 months in the rural beachfront town and it was by far one of the most peaceful places we've been. You'll have the beach all to yourself for surfing, laying out in the sun and beachcombing. It's the perfect place to escape from it all and experience the true Ecuadorian lifestyle and culture. 

Travel Difficulty & Daily Life: Medium

2. Holbox Island, Mexico

Holbox Island

Located to the north of Cancun, Mexico – Holbox Island is just 42 km long, but packs a pretty punch. Holbox is separated from the mainland coast of Mexico by a shallow turquoise lagoon which is home to thousands of flamingos, exotic birds and creatures. Pristine white sand beaches line the island that is completely unspoiled by mass tourism. Holbox is considered a virgin tourist destination for now but definitely won't stay that way for long. 

Rumor has it the town where fisherman still walk around with their catch of the day on roads made of white sand and very few cars, has doubled in tourism in the last year. Get there while it's still affordable and not ruined by the ‘Cancun crowd'. 

Travel Difficulty & Daily Life: Easy

1.Yap, The Federated States of Micronesia

Yap is one of the LEAST visited places on Earth and lands in our number one spot for the most off the beaten path destination. The island is lined with pristine white sand beaches and is located 850 miles east of the Philippines in the Pacific Ocean. It’s ringed by coral reefs that are home to manta rays and sharks.

The island has rich culture steeped in tradition.  Yap currency is one of a kind in the world and uses large stone discs called ‘Rai' carved out of limestone, some of which weigh more than a car.  The island is currently going through change as the mix of traditional culture and modern life collide. 

Travel Difficulty & Daily Life: Medium

Top 10 Off the Beaten Path Destinations

  1. Yap, Federated States of Micronesia
  2. Holbox Island, Mexico
  3. Puerto Cayo, Ecuador
  4. Asilah, Morocco
  5. Malang, Indonesa
  6. Muang Ngoy, Laos
  7. Providencia, Colombia
  8. Iquitos, Peru
  9. Kelowna, Canada
  10. Plovdiv, Bulgaria


Curious what cities you should avoid due to mass tourism?

The World's MOST Visited Cities 

Here are the top Mass Tourism Cities in the world by number of yearly visitors.

1. Bangkok, Thailand: 22 Million Visitors 

2. London, UK: 20 million

3. Paris, France: 18 million

4. Dubai, UAE: 17 million

5.  Singapore: 15 million


If you're looking for a similar experience to the world's most visited cities, here are some great alternatives on where you can go instead

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Thursday 27th of June 2019

So manny interesting destinations! Haven't been to any 😅 YET! Thanks for these recommendations 😍


Thursday 27th of June 2019

It’s official. I’ve never heard of Holbox before now but I’m ready to book a trip!


Thursday 27th of June 2019

I love off the beaten path destinations!! This gave me a few more to add to my bucket list so thank you :)


Thursday 27th of June 2019

Fantastic - some great places! Most of these could probably use the tourism $$ too :D