We all know about the most popular vacation spots, the ones that include phrases like “all-inclusive” and usually consist of seeing no more than the hotel and other tourists. But what about the hidden gems? The places that aren’t even in all the travel magazines? What about experiences with different communities and meeting interesting people?
Unique destinations that are off the beaten path are some of the most incredible places in the world to experience, but when they’re so elusive, where do you even begin to find them? The answer: Through networking and recommendations.
6 Unique Destinations You Won’t Find on Your Own
Shameless plug, but Discover Corps focuses on finding destinations that aren’t on every travel company’s list, as well as some research centers where the public typically don’t get access. Whether you travel with a group like Discover Corps or not, here are 6 unique destinations we’ve found and highly recommend:
Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
In the Guatemalan Highlands of the Sierra Madre mountain range, just Northwest of Antigua, is where you’ll find Lake Atitlan. The lake is surrounded by steep volcanic peaks and Mayan villages, where many artists sell handmade textiles. This unique destination is a favorite because of its awe-inspiring views and culturally rich communities. Amidst all of the well-known Guatemala hotspots, Lake Atitlan is a peaceful escape into nature. See our trip here.
A quaint village just outside of Cusco, Andahuyalillas is a true escape. With views of the indescribable Andes Mountains and hidden gems like the Iglesia de San Pedro, a church referred to as “the Sistine Chapel of the Americas.” This unique destination is perfect for the traveler who loves the outdoors and destinations rich in history. See our trip here.
North Stradbroke Island, Australia
Just off the coast of Brisbane, Australia, North Stradbroke (Straddie) is an beachside paradise that balances the modern surfer vibes of Aussies with the millenia-old Aboriginal culture. This Australian destination has activities for everyone: surfing, snorkeling, diving, kangaroo spotting, whale watching, and of course, soaking up some sunshine on the beach is always an option. This location has only recently made it onto the radar of Australians, so it’s an amazing place to experience what it’s like to be a local of the area. See our trip here.
Somkhanda Reserve, South Africa
This is a community-owned Game Reserve that is committed to biodiversity conservation and supported by the WWF “Black Rhino Range Expansion Project”. Not only does this reserve have the Big 5 safari animals, they also have an extraordinary amount of both Black Rhinos and White Rhinos. Somkhanda’s community-grounded foundations make this experience one for the ages. See our trip here.
La Selva Biológica Station, Costa Rica
Recognized internationally as one of the most effective field stations in the world for tropical forest research, this station is not usually open to the public. If you can gain access with a tour company, this place offers an incredible experience and look into wildlife conservation and the research being done in the rainforest. Costa Rica hosts more biodiversity than North American and Europe combined, so this is the place where the most famous conservationists gather to create change. Eat amongst the students who study there and imitate a scientist for a day. See our trip here.
If you can make it to Cuba, Trinidad is a must-visit. Like most of Cuba, Trinidad’s colonial heritage brings the streets alive with vibrant colored buildings and quaint cobblestone streets. The UNESCO heritage site is brought to life with a thriving art scene. While Cuba restrictions have been placed on U.S. travel by the Trump administration, American’s can still travel with an authorized tour group – illustrating friendship between our two nation’s despite the political landscape. See our Cuba trips here.
Nambitia, South Africa
Another Game Reserve in South Africa, Nambitia is privately owned. Less than four hours from Johannesburg, Nambitia is owned and run by people with a deep passion, love, and respect for conservation and the local community. While many opt for larger or more famous safari options in Western Africa, we highly recommend checking out this option due to its unique positioning as a conservation center first and a tourist destination second. See our trip here.
While there are countless unique destinations around the world, these are a just a few examples of culturally rich, naturally beautiful, paths less-traveled to get you started. If you’re inspired to experience some of these places firsthand, Vacations with Purpose is what we do. Visit here for more information on our destinations.
What would you add to the list? Have you visited any hidden gems that you’re willing to recommend? Let us know in the comment section below!