By Tobias Handke
When it comes to travel advice, Lonely Planet is king.
Having published travel-related books for almost five decades, it’s safe to say they know what they’re talking about, so it’s always exciting when they release their yearly list of must-visit destinations.
That said, this year’s list is a little disappointing. The travel gurus have chosen a number of safe, stock-standard holiday spots like Cairo, Vancouver and Dubai. Don’t get me wrong, these are all fantastic places, but they’re by no means new and exciting. Why visit a bunch of regular-ass, tourist-flooded cities when you can experience so many other under-the-radar spots like the ones I’ve listed for you below?
El Chalten, Argentina: There’s much more to South America than cheap coke and the Inca Trail. Take Argentina for instance. Widely known for the tango, its incredible food and soccer superstars Diego Maradona and Lionel Messi, the country is also one of the world’s most picturesque destinations and part of the Patagonia region. The village of El Chalten is the prime location for anyone who loves natures and is interested in trekking. The small mountainous village is the gateway to many of the best hiking trails in the country and the Patagonia area. This is one for those who want to get off the grid and truly explore nature in solitude, with poor WiFi accessibility meaning you’ll have to wait until your back in civilisation to post your pics.
Mokpop, South Korea: With Japan hosting the 2020 Olympics, much of Asia will be tourist-free, making Mokpop in South Korea the perfect place to experience an Asian getaway. The coastal city is still relatively poor in comparison to Seoul and Busan, but what it lacks in cash money it makes up for in beauty. Off the coast of the port city, there are over 1,430 islands, many of which can be visited by boat. The Modern History and Maritime Museum are amazing, while a trek up Yudalsan Mountain offers breathtaking views of the city.
Ruhengeri, Rwanda: The site of one of the world’s most horrific atrocities, the 1994 Rwandan genocide, Rwanda is now one of Africa’s most accessible countries ideal for animal lovers. Spend a few days in the capital Kigali before making the trek to the city of Ruhengeri in the northwest. Close to the scenic Volcanoes National Park, you can dine on local cuisine, purchase handcrafted wares or visit the bat-filled Musanze Caves. Ruhengeri is also one of the few places where you can see mountain gorillas up close and personal in the wild. While permits aren’t cheap for the experience, all the money goes towards protecting these incredible animals and making sure the surrounding areas are preserved.
Genoa, Italy: Italy’s best kept coastal secret is slowly becoming a must-visit spot on the Italian Riviera. The perfect base for anyone wanting to explore Cinque Terre, the port city boasts a maze of caruggi (narrow streets) that work their way through the old town where you can chow down on pesto, focaccia and gelato while admiring the Renaissance architecture. As with any Italian city, there are a plethora of churches and museums to visit, with the black and white Cattedrale di San Lorenzo and Museo del mare maritime museum a must. A boat trip to Portofino is also well worth your time.
Roseau, Dominica: The lesser-known Caribbean island of Dominica is a mountain paradise of leafy jungle and black sandy beaches. The port city of Roseau is a vibrant former slave auction site that has the charm of other Caribbean cities without the crowds. Canyoning, scuba diving and hiking are big with visitors, while day trips allow you to explore the natural scenery of Middleham Falls, Ti’tou Gorge and the Emerald Pool Nature Trail. The hot spas are also spectacular.
Puebla, Mexico: The fourth-largest city in Mexico is also one steeped in tradition. The bustling city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site, which is easy to see when admiring the incredible architecture and colourful churches that appear on almost every corner, with locals believing there are 365 in the city—one for each day. History boffins will love the International Museum of the Baroque and the 17th-century book collection at Biblioteca Palafoxiana, Mexico’s first public library; while foodies will be in heaven with the selection of dishes available. Puebla is home to many iconic dishes, such as tacos arabes (meat and cheese wrapped in pita bread) and mole poblano, a spicy chocolate sauce that will have you drooling.
Kotor, Montenegro: Often overlooked by travellers, Montenegro is an undiscovered Mediterranean gem rivalling Croatia. Great for those who love the outdoors (hiking is huge here), the fortified town of Kotor has the best of everything the country has to offer in one spot. Resembling something out of Game Of Thrones, the medieval town is home to a number of ancient churches and museums. Wander the cobbled streets and marvel at the centuries-old buildings while indulging in fresh seafood at the many tasty restaurants. Spend a day cruising the crystal clear bay or enjoy hiking the picturesque Lovcen Mountain with views for days.
The Azores, Portugal: The Azores remain one of Europe’s undiscovered gems. Overshadowed by the bustling cities of Lisbon and Comporta, this island area off the coast of Portugal features extinct volcanos, lush forests and wet wetlands. There are over 30 beaches—many being secret surf spots—thermal springs and some amazing hikes, including Mt Pico, Portugal’s highest mountain. Whale watching, diving and sailing are high on the list of things to do, and eco-conscious hotels offer simple yet comfortable accommodation in one of the most stunning locations on the earth.