The Best Off The Beaten Path Travel Activities Around The World
According to 27 Travel Bloggers
What happens when you survey 27 travel bloggers and ask them to name their favorite hidden travel gems? This ultimate list of off the beaten path travel destinations – that’s what happens!
My favorite part about traveling is when I go off the beaten track, which is why I collaborated with other bloggers to compile an epic list. Whether you like going to popular cities, like Barcelona, or countries with fewer tourists, like Pakistan, this off the beaten path travel guide shares secret destinations from all different types of places.
My goal for you is that by the end of this post, you will find a place you never heard of and are inspired to go there!
Warning: I know, “off the beaten path travel” is an overused phrase. By no means do I think going on off the beaten track holidays is the only way to be a “real traveler.” There’s nothing wrong about going to touristic destinations – there’s a reason they are popular! Kesi To and Fro focuses on traveling to off the beaten track destinations so that readers can: 1) learn about new destinations, 2) increase tourism in certain countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, and 3) spend money with unknown local tour operators!
Table of Contents – Off The Beaten Path Travel
(Trust me, this is a long post – you’ll be happy this is here)
- 1. Off The Beaten Path Africa
- 2. Off The Beaten Path Asia & Middle East
- 3. Off The Beaten Path Central & South America
- 4. Off The Beaten Path Europe
- 4.1. Spain – Cycling Around Girona
- 4.2. Croatia – Abandoned Hotels
- 4.3. Italy – Exploring Vicoli in Naples
- 4.4. Ireland – Hiking outside Dublin
- 4.5. Berlin – Abandoned Children’s Hospital
- 4.6. Lithuania – Hill of Witches
- 4.7. Italy – Truffle Hunting
- 4.8. Romania – Underground Theme Park
- 4.9. Poland – Dwarf Hunting
- 5. Off The Beaten Path Oceania
Let’s Go Off The Beaten Path!
Off The Beaten Path Africa
Africa! I hold this continent near and dear to my heart. Maybe it’s because I have ancestry here, or perhaps it’s because traveling East Africa has been my favorite backpacking experience. Nonetheless, I am happy to begin this off the beaten path travel list with the motherland.
Africa is famous for its diverse wildlife, Victoria Falls, Egyptian Pyramids, and more. People visit one country in Africa (most likely either South Africa, Egypt, or Morocco), and then tick the continent off their bucket list. Africa has 54 countries! There is so much to explore. Don’t just come to the continent once and feel satisfied. I strongly encourage everyone to visit the continent and to spend money there!
Without further ado, let’s dive into some off the beaten path destinations!
To find more off the beaten path travel destinations, I recommend purchasing guides from Lonely Planet, since they have sections dedicated to getting off the tourist trail. Buy a new travel book today from Lonely Planet!
Mauritania is a true country of the Sahara. The desert infiltrates every city and village, ready to swallow it back up if humans ever decide to leave.
So how does a country like this end up with hundreds of shipwrecks?
Simple answer: Corruption
The previous government allowed corporations to dump their unwanted ships on Mauritania’s Atlantic shore near Nouadhibou, for a certain fee, of course.
This has created a unique opportunity. It’s very possible to go and view the rusted and disintegrating shipwrecks, getting pretty close. You’ll need a local guide that knows something about them. As there isn’t much tourist structure in Mauritania, you’ll do best just asking around. Start with your hotel/auberge.
Important Tip: Whether your guide mentions it, or not, insist on going at low tide – otherwise you’ll be viewing the shipwrecks from a distance.
Limited Time: The downside of the corruption and all those ships on the beach is that the deteriorating hulks have created an environmental mess. The current government is working on cleaning them up (we were there in November 2018), and it’s unknown how long the shipwrecks will remain, how many are left, or where they will be. Salvage crews can only work so fast, but if you have a desire to see them, make it soon.
Why it’s Cool: Come on, how often do you get to see shipwrecks up close – no diving required? And if you love deconstruction, abandoned places or things falling apart, there’ nothing better.
Getting There: If you’re coming overland from Western Sahara, Nouadhibou is a natural stop not too far from the border. If you’re flying in, you’ll be taking a 5-6 hour minivan ride from Nouakchott*. There are several bus companies to choose from, but Varess did right by us.
*Note: There are at least 7 security checkpoints between Nouakchott and Nouadhibou, so make sure you have enough photocopies of your passport, or travel fiches. Don’t worry about the checkpoints, they’re there for your protection.
Have you ever seen a lava lake? It’s the coolest thing I’ve seen in nature. To witness the largest lava lake in the world, you have to go to a country most people fear – The Democratic Republic of Congo. Although this country suffers from internal conflict, adventurous travelers, who love finding hidden places in the world, must visit. The Nyiragongo volcano trek is an overnight hike, with the best reward at the summit. It’s possible to get a seven-day visa to visit the DRC.
Secret places in the world to visit can be hard to find, but once you discover one, it makes the moment even more special. Visiting a Maasai village in the middle of nowhere in Tanzania is a highlight in my four years of traveling. This experience was culturally enlightening and completely immersive.
Many safari agencies in Tanzania add on a Maasai village tour to their packages. These tours often feel like a human zoo. To have an authentic Maasai village visit, I recommend contacting someone who lives in a Maasai village directly. I found a Maasai host, named Tobico, on the website Couchsurfing.com. Tobico offers the best off the beaten path tours. I highly recommend booking a homestay experience with Tobico and his family because it’s a chance to learn how the Maasai live. There are no fake shows put on to entertain tourists. It’s an experience where you get to see the everyday life of a Maasai, and an excellent opportunity to ask questions and learn from one another.
I wrote about my full experience, so click to read more about my Maasai village visit.
Golden Monkey Trek in Rwanda
Contributor: Wendy Lee | Empty Nesters Hit The Road
If planning to visit Rwanda, a golden monkey trek should be a part of anyone’s itinerary. In the Northwest of Rwanda, bordering the Democratic Republic of Congo, is the oldest conservation area in Africa, Volcanoes National Park. This park is best known for mountain gorilla trekking, but there’s also a rare species of primate located here that is well worth seeing, the golden monkey. The trek to these smaller animals is easier and far less expensive than that to the gorillas, making this a nice option for visitors looking for a less physical challenge or on budget. I had the opportunity earlier this year to see the golden monkeys and highly recommend the experience.
We met our guide in a small village outside the national park where he gave us an overview of the trek and what to expect. Then we walked at a leisurely pace for about thirty minutes into the park. Soon the trackers announced that they spotted the monkeys. As we wandered through a dense forest of bamboo, we began to see the monkeys. They are quick and agile and swung easily through the trees. Eventually, they moved to the nearby potato fields, which gave our group even better viewing.
We watched as dozens of golden monkeys played chase and wrestled, sometimes coming within inches of our legs. Baby monkeys clung to their mother’s backs, while the oldest ones simply sat in place nibbling bamboo leaves.
After an hour of viewing our guide asked us to begin the walk back to the village. While the monkeys are habituated and comfortable with humans, each group’s time is limited to minimize stress on the animals.
The cost of a golden monkey trekking permit is currently $100 and can be purchased online, or through a tour company. The minimum age to participate is 12. The total time of our trek was three hours, but the length can vary according to the weather and location of the monkeys.
Off The Beaten Path Asia & Middle East
Plain of Jars in Laos
Contributor: Nikki & Michelle | Cheeky Passports
Laos is one of the more popular destinations in Southeast Asia, included on many backpacking trails, but few travelers make it to the curious and unique Plain of Jars, in the Xiangkhouang Province.
The mysterious massive stone jars, which lie scattered across the plains close to the town of Phonsavan, are thought to be relics from ancient funeral rites or burials, although there is still some mystery surrounding this.
You can visit several of the sites on which the jars are still standing (or lying), some whole and some half-broken, while others are hidden in the surrounding vegetation. For those traveling on a backpacker’s budget, getting to Phonsavan involves making the 8-hour bus journey from the popular Luang Prabang. You can also hop on a flight, which, however, tends to be rather pricey.
The Plain of Jars can be visited on tour or independently, most conveniently by renting a scooter from Phonsavan and driving to the three major sites which are not far off from town. There’s still some UXO (unexploded ordinance) around the area, so it is imperative to stay within the marked paths and routes when traveling around the zones and visiting the sites.
We recommend making the detour to Phonsavan to take a look at the mysterious stone jars, reminders of a past about which little is known!
Pygmy Elephant River Safari in Borneo
Contributor: James | Travel Collecting
It’s not that easy to get to the Kinabatangan River in Sabah, in Malaysian Borneo, but you’ll be well-rewarded for your efforts. The main airport in Sabah is Kota Kinabalu, but you will need to go deeper into Borneo to the smaller airport of Sandakan. From there, you will transfer to a small speedboat, in which you will cross a large bay before turning and heading up the Kinabatangan River.
The river is a deep brown and slow moving, heavy with silt. Surrounded by jungle on both sides, it really feels like you are trekking deep into the heart of Borneo. A rain squall drenched us; we were dry minutes later. Three hours upriver, there are several lodges accessible by boat only. The lodges arrange daily trips on the river in small boats with an expert guide who is skilled at spotting wildlife.
Early morning and late afternoon are prime times for spying animals like proboscis monkeys, macaques, and hornbills. However, if you want a chance at seeing pygmy elephants, you’ll need to head further upriver. Pygmy elephants are the smallest elephants in the world and are indigenous to Borneo and a few parts of Sumatra. They migrate throughout the year, and in May they can often be found in the late afternoon coming down to the Kinabatangan River’s banks to drink and eat. Seeing them is an incredible experience, and one of the most off the beaten track destinations.
Hai Van Pass in Vietnam
Contributor: Darja|DeeGees Travel
Often getting out of your comfort zone, just a little bit is what it takes to experience something more unique. Driving a scooter in Southeast Asia may require some skills, a lot of focus and a ton of bravery (at least in the beginning), but the opportunities you unveil as a result are worth the challenge. One of those is renting a bike and crossing the gorgeous Hai Van Pass between Da Nang (or Hoi An) and Hue, Vietnam.
The mountain road goes along the coast and offers spectacular views of Da Nang Bay and Son Tra peninsula. Once there, you understand why many consider Hai Van Pass one of the most scenic passes not only in Vietnam but also in the entire world. The natural beauty is simply breath-taking!
The reason why this “Ocean Cloud Pass” is not as popular as one would expect is the driving difficulty. Although the road itself is in excellent condition, drivers must pay extra attention due to sharp turns and reduced visibility — however, no need to worry. If you stay focused and drive slowly, you will be fine. It is worth it!
You can start your trip from either city, but make sure you leave early in the morning to make your Hai Van Pass crossing a whole day trip. On the way you can do a little hike in the Bach Ma National Park, swim in the Elephant Springs and have a delicious fresh seafood lunch at the picturesque Lang Co beach. The whole trip, including the aforementioned stops, requires 4-5 hours of driving. Don’t forget your sunscreen and a long-sleeve jacket for the pass!
Al Ain is about 75min drive from Dubai, and it was the first UNESCO listed site in the whole of the UAE. The site consists of a fort, Bronze Age archaeological remains as well as a working oasis made up of thousands of palm trees that can be explored on foot or on a bike.
Most people think of the UAE, and of Dubai in particular, as a glitzy and new place, and it mostly is, but the Al Ain oasis, part of Abu Dhabi, is a refreshingly green escape from the otherwise deserted Emirates. While visiting, it can be completely empty – I only saw a family and another tourist during the two hours that I spent there.
As soon as you get to the oasis gates, you will get a map showing the paths inside the oasis and a couple of other sites within the complex. There is a museum that talks about the history of the oasis and of Al Ain and then a fort that can be visited. The oasis is a working farm where dates and palm trees are farmed. There are paved paths that can be explored on foot or you can rent bikes for four or six people to pedal around the plantation. This is one of the most unique things to do around Dubai and makes for a great day excursion.
Al Ain is also where the Ruler of Abu Dhabi grew up and where you can find the largest percentage of Emiratis among the residents, although they are still outnumbered by expats. After the oasis, you can explore the city and the fort where the Ruler grew up.
Riding the Karakoram Highway in Pakistan
Contributor: Marco Ferrarese | Monkey Rock World
Few trips are both more scenic and safe than riding a motorbike on the Karakoram Highway in North Pakistan. The highest motorable road in the world, the Karakoram Highway is 1300km long and connects Pakistan’s capital Islamabad with Kashgar in Xinjiang Province, China.
Because of red tape regarding traveling with your own vehicle in China, it’s best to stick to the Pakistani side, which also offers the best scenery. Beside the Khunjerab Pass (the highest border crossing in the world, separating the two countries), other highlights along this route are the Passu Cones — huge rock formations that look like a dragon’s fangs jutting out of high altitude desert — and the Hunza Valley, encased by a series of 7000-odd-meters-high peaks, including stunning Rakaposhi and Nanga Parbat. You can see them all from the top of Eagle’s Nest, the highest hotel in the valley scenically set above Karimabad and its two UNESCO-listed forts, Altit and Baltit.
You can easily strike off by yourself from Gilgit, the main center of the Gilgit-Baltistan region, where it’s possible to find traveler-oriented accommodation and rent motorbikes. Karakoram Bikers is a very recommended Australian-Pakistan tour operator. Getting visas to Pakistan has also become more accessible since 2019 when a new e-visa system became operational. And with a security situation that has largely improved, you have no more excuses not to go.
Arasan Baths in Almaty, Kazakhstan
Contributor: Ellis Veen | Backpack Adventures
Almaty in Kazakhstan is already an off the beaten track travel destination in Asia, but since visa regulations have eased, it is quickly becoming a new center for outdoor activities. With the Tien Shan mountains at your doorstep that is no surprise.
One of my favorite things to do in Almaty, besides nature, is a visit to the old Soviet spa. The Arasan Baths are the perfect place to relax your muscles after a hard trek or to simply unwind and recharge your battery. In cold winters and on rainy days there is no better place to be in Almaty.
A soviet spa is probably quite different from what you are used to at home. It might be more basic and don’t expect anything fancy, but it does the trick just as well. Based on Russian bathing rituals, the spa consists of several sauna’s and pools that you can use.
At the Arasan baths, you can also get a massage or get yourself a beating with the oak leaves as the locals do. Apparently, it helps to circulate the blood. After two hours of heating up in the sauna and cooling down in one of the pools, you will feel as new.
Take some time to appreciate the architecture of the building as well. It was built in Soviet times and is one of the largest bathhouses in central Asia. Saunas are quite common in Almaty, but Arasan baths is one of the most iconic in the city. It is recommended to bring your own towel, slippers, and shampoo, although in the worst case you can buy or rent those at the entrance as well.
Off The Beaten Path Central & South America
Craters in Guanajuato, Mexico
Contributor: Natalie | Blissmersion
Las Siete Luminarias (or the 7 Luminaries) are a series of seven craters within a 56-mile radius in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico. My research says there are actually sixteen craters, but only seven are famous. Of those seven, only one is really set up for some tourism: Rincón de Parangueo. This difficult to find crater is worth including in your Guanajuato itinerary. Once you find it, you can pay to park in someone’s driveway and walk to the tunnel (look for the Las Siete Luminarias signs). Bring a flashlight or make sure your phone battery is fully charged. The tunnel into the crater doesn’t have any lighting and it’s fairly long.
This crater was once a volcano. It’s massive, deceptively so. Once you’re through the tunnel, you come to a clearing and there are some food stalls set up. From there, you can climb down into the ashy white crater interior. It isn’t too difficult and most fitness levels will be able to climb down and back up the crater walls without any issues.
Once inside Rincón de Parangueo, it feels like you’re on a different planet. The ground is reminiscent of dry, white, flaky mud. There is a body of water inside the crater and the water is pinkish around the edges. Be careful, the mud will try to claim the shoes of any who get too close.
The crater is one of those places that quietly steals your heart when you visit. It’s magical and it isn’t overrun with tourists. It’s also a far different landscape than you’ll find anywhere in Mexico.
Sierra Negra Volcano in Galapagos
Contributor: Fiona from Passport and Piano | Travel Beyond the Ordinary
There are 13 main islands in the Galapagos, and everyone except Isabella was formed from a single volcano. Isabella was created from 6 volcanos, several of which are still active today.
Sierra Negra is one of these active volcanos and the only one that you can climb on the island. The hike can only be taken with a National Park guide, and a reasonable level of fitness is required. The 16km round trip takes approximately 6 hours to complete, and you can expect to see some spectacular scenery along the way. The climate also changes at various levels from damp and humid in the lower section to dry and warm nearer the top.
The first section is a steep climb, and the path is both rocky and slippery, so a good pair of hiking boots is essential. However, you’re rewarded with a fantastic view of the crater after approximately 5km.
The volcano last erupted in 2005, and the next section of the walk takes you through where the lava flowed. The ground here is hard to negotiate as it’s not flat and the mineral soil crumbles under your foot, so it’s easy to slip.
In this section, there’s two distinct trails of rock, a red one from the eruption in 2005 and one which is entirely black from the lava flows of 1979. On the black side, an occasional fern is now growing, but the landscape feels ultimately baron, and you feel like you’re on another planet.
From here there’s one final climb to reach the top. The view is impressive, and it’s surreal to think you’re standing above a volcanic crater that’s still active below.
It’s not the first place that springs to mind when you think of wine tasting, but there are some seriously interesting wines to taste in Bolivia. These include a couple of vineyards and wineries that almost make you feel as though you’re in Napa Valley, California!
You’ll find the majority of the wine region in Bolivia centered about the town of Tarija – famous also for its connections to Butch Cassidey and the Sundance Kid. (they died near here). The town is also very close to the Argentinean border and as such sports a rather spectacular steak house.
The Bolivian palate prefers a sweet wine, regardless of whether its red or white and the many hundreds of mom and pop style wineries cater extensively for this. However, it’s the wineries of Aranjuez and Kohlberg that are quite stunning in their range of wines – incredible tannats, merlots, and a superb Syrah.
This isn’t a place where you can just hop on a local bus or rent a bike and make your own way around wineries, but wine tours are cheap and plentiful, pretty much like the wine! A tour of 3 wineries with associated tastings run to 100 Bolivianos ($15 USD). Tours leave the main square in Tarija mornings and afternoons.
Death Road in La Paz, Bolivia
Contributor: Julie Sand | Why Not Ju
About 2 hours outside the capital of Bolivia, La Paz lies Death Road, also going by the name Camino de la Muerte. Does the name sound thrilling to you? It’s definitely worth a visit. Not only can you visit Death Road, but you can also ride down 52 km of it, on a bike. Yungas Road is the official name of the road. It stretches from La Paz to Coroico in the north and Chulumani in the south. The road was made in the 1930s by Paraguayans kept prisoners during the Chaco War. The finished death road is over 100 km long, with winding paths along cliffs surrounded by beautiful landscapes. It’s said that it’s one of the most dangerous roads in the world with an estimated 200-300 deaths each year.
These days though, the road isn’t as frequented as before, and it’s closed off for normal traffic. There are new, safer roads constructed replacing them. If you ever consider visiting Bolivia, don’t miss out of this experience of a lifetime. The price of biking down death road ranges from 50-120 dollars depending on the company and bike you choose. You get picked up in La Paz in the morning, get your gear and drive to the start point for your ride at 4,650 meters above the ocean. You don’t have to do a lot of pedaling during the day as you end up in Corico as 1,200 meters above the ocean. In addition to being a thrilling ride, you get to hear stories about the road, enjoy the views and experience the climate change as you ride down the road.
Getting to San Cipriano via Las Brujitas in Colombia
Contributor: Daniel James | Layer Culture
When looking for off the beaten path travel activities around the world, make sure Colombia is on your list. One thing to do that will ensure you’re off the regular tourist trail, is to head out to San Cipriano – a natural reserve which is home to various nature walks and leisure activities. However, to be able to arrive at San Cipriano you must take an unexpected ride on an adapted mode of transportation. The name in Spanish is Las Brujitas. This is the name given to the motorbike equipped with a make-shift wooden carriage that cruises along an abandoned train track through the jungle.
Not only are ‘Las Brujitas’ the most effective mode of transport. They will give you the most exhilarating 20 minutes you’ll have taken and the ride costs less than $3USD. It’s worth noting that there’s not much space on the Brujitas so avoid carrying too much. Carrying any type of personal item bag that can hold a few essentials will be sufficient. There are no seatbelts or harness on these adapted vehicles, so be sure to hold on tight and don’t let go. When you get to the other side, you’ll arrive at the San Cipriano Natural reserve. From there, you’ll be met by a river where you can find some of the most crystalline waters in the world.
In the tiny town of Cabuya in Costa Rica, near Montezuma, there is a cemetery located on an “island.” I say it this way because you are actually able to walk out to the cemetery during low tide.
I visited this cemetery with my husband on the day after Tropical Storm Nate hit Costa Rica. When we arrived, I worried that we had interrupted a funeral. About 20 people were standing on the land next to the path to the cemetery. All of them had worried looks on their faces as they stared out at the ocean.
The cemetery was filled with creative gravestones including full sculptures of people’s heads. After about thirty minutes of exploring, we headed back to our car. The whole village was still standing there looking out at the ocean as we left.
Typically you will not have such a melancholy experience at this cemetery. From pictures, it looks very beautiful during the day. There is a reef next to the cemetery that is supposed to be an amazing snorkel spot as well.
If you opt to visit watch out for the tides. You need to get out here just before the lowest tide and get back to your car before the tide comes in again. Otherwise, you will be stuck out on the island until the next low tide.
Sacred Valley Hike Outside of Cusco, Peru
Contributor: Tales From The Lens
Cusco and its region attract more than 3.5 million visitors per year which makes it hard to do something without being surrounded by tour buses and the crowds that go with it. As Machu Picchu and the many treks such as the Inca Trail and Salkantay draw lines of hikers daily, the towns of Ollantaytambo and Urubamba have become popular stops to acclimatise to the high altitude prior the hikes or to rest in luxury resorts.
If you head this way, make sure to also visit the nearby sites of Maras Salt Mines and Moray. While the first one is still in use by local families who collect salt from colorful ponds, the second is an archaeological site of 4 stair-like terraces dug in the Earth that once were used as an agricultural laboratory by the Incas to study conditions of crops growth!
Most tourists who visit these places join day-tours from Cusco, but few know about the possibility to hike and discover the breathtaking Peruvian countryside offering unique sights of the Andean cordillera. Hiking the Sacred Valley of the Incas can take a day or two depending on the itinerary chosen. We recommend allowing a couple of days from Media Luna to Moray via the village of Maras where you can stay overnight. Fortunately for off the beaten path travel seekers, there aren’t many companies offering guided hikes between Maras and Moray, which makes the adventure a truly unique experience far from the tourist hustle and bustle of the Cusco region.
To read more about how to hike between Maras and Moray without a guide, check Tales From The Lens’ self-guided itinerary.
Off The Beaten Path Europe
Cycling Around Girona by Barcelona, Spain
Contributor: Clare Dewey | Epic Road Rides
Girona is a stunning city, about an hour north of Barcelona in Spain. The reason it’s so popular is that it’s got a fantastically well preserved medieval old town full of winding alleyways, cobbled squares and towering architectural masterpieces, such as the cathedral that played a central role in Cersei’s walk of shame in Season 6 of Game of Thrones!
Most people that visit Girona walk around the old town and then go home.
What we love to do is to get up early and hire a bike from one of the top quality road bike shops in the old town. Then, as the city is only just waking up, we weave our way through Girona’s streets and out into the countryside. Not only do you feel like a local as you ride through the city streets in the quiet of the early morning, but you also get some beautiful perspectives of the city that you might not get if you were on two feet. A bike can take you much further much more quickly, so you see things you’d never get around to if you were just walking.
Once out of the city, exploring by bike opens up a whole host of opportunities to get off the beaten trail. You can head inland and find famous hills to test yourself (like the notorious Rocacorba or Mare de Deu del Mont) or you could head out to the coast and ride the incredible coast road past tiny craggy coves and golden beaches.
Cycling in and around Girona is quite simply the best way to see this well-known city and the countryside around it.
When you hear about Dubrovnik, probably the beautiful Croatian seaside, the iconic Old town and the popular TV series, Game of Thrones, come to your mind first. Not many know only 10 kilometers from the city, there is a small town, Kupari, which has a very different face: a spectacular bay filled with abandoned hotels.
The area used to serve as a holiday resort for the Yugoslavian Army. During the war, a few bombs hit several of the buildings, and they never been restored afterward. They are left to decay slowly until a new investor comes and takes advantage of this spectacular and secluded bay.
You can walk among the hotels and restaurant, check the garden, and with proper precautions also peek inside and explore these once upon a time prestigious places. Compared to many abandoned buildings, these are in decent shape and worth exploring. We met with several tourists taking photos and locals walking their dogs along the shore.
If you travel to Dubrovnik and are interested in abandoned places, make sure you check them out. Their future is uncertain, so better hurry.
Exploring the Narrow Vicoli in Naples, Italy
Contributor: Danila Caputo | Travelling Dany
Naples, in the South of Italy, is one of those cities that people tend to only use as a base to go to the Amalfi Coast or to Pompeii. If you are planning to visit Italy, add a few more days to your itinerary to explore the narrow vicoli in Napoli: you won’t regret it!
As locals, we’re used to the scent of food, but people who visit Naples for the first time always wonder why the vicoli always make you hungry. The reason is very simple: they are very narrow, enclosed among tall buildings, so when someone cooks, the scent will spread throughout the vicoli.
The oldest part of Naples, in the Decumani area, is full of narrow vicoli which hide delicious treats. Pizzerias selling Pizza Margherita for 1.50€ (the lowest price you’ll find in Italy), old men roasting chestnuts, and even tiny shops selling homemade bread bowls filled with Neapolitan meatballs and ragu sauce: to die for!
The vicoli in Naples are where you can see how the locals used to live: nothing has really changed in ages. Our city is still a place where people share so much: you either love or hate Naples, there’s no in-between. Bonds between neighbors are very strong when you live in the vicoli, so close to someone else, and wherever you go, you’ll hear people laughing, chatting, or even hanging the laundry outside, on ropes tied from one balcony to the other.
What if you get lost? While not every Neapolitan speaks English, we’re always very happy to help the tourists, so don’t ever be afraid to ask for help. We’ll find a way to show you to the closest subway station: always with a smile, of course!
Dublin, Ireland is famous and very popular with tourists. It is possible to get off the beaten track though if you know where to look. Take the local DART train from Dublin City Centre to Dalkey for a relaxing day out. Home to U2’s Bono and frequented by A-list actors like Pierce Brosnan, Dalkey is easy to love. Stroll through Dalkey Village stopping for a bite to eat or a cup of coffee at cozy places like the Corner Note Cafe. The most memorable and fun thing to do in Dalkey is pay a visit to Dalkey Castle and Heritage Center (9.95 EUR per adult). Hammy actors in period garb lead the tours and point out features like the ‘murder hole’ and the medieval toilet. The different characters recount the history of Dalkey Castle from different perspectives. The actors really turn what could be a boring house tour into an afternoon of entertainment. If you are more outdoorsy, take a hike featuring stunning sea views from Sorrento Park up toward Killiney Hill (about a 45-minute walk on paved trails). An obelisk marks the apex where you’ll enjoy 360-degree panoramas. Stop for a pint of Irish Craft Beer at the Magpie Inn in Dalkey or go for a more traditional Irish pub experience at Finnegan’s of Dalkey to round out your off the beaten path travel adventure in Dublin.
Abandoned Children’s Hospital in Berlin
Contributor: Sander Van Den Broecke
I visited an abandoned children’s hospital in Berlin when I was traveling solo in February 2019. When I was researching what I was going to visit on this trip, I came across an article about an abandoned children’s hospital called Kinderkrankenhaus Weißensee. Today, the hospital has turned into a place where street art and graffiti are present all over the area. Naturally, with my adventurer genes, I wanted to see this place for myself.
And so, when I was in Berlin, I took the tram from my hostel in the city center to the outskirts, where the building was located. The trouble started when I needed to find a way in. The main entrance had been blocked off by wooden plates, so I had to go around back and climb over an iron fence. I ripped my jeans on this fence when I was leaving, by the way.
When I took the first step inside the hospital building, I was immediately in awe at the contrast between the modern graffiti art and the decaying building it was sprayed on. Plants were growing through the cracks in the floor, and everything looked like it was ready to collapse.
Strictly speaking, I don’t think it was 100% legal to enter this building, but nobody stopped me, and I didn’t get into any trouble.
If you ever get the chance to visit Weißensee, I highly recommend you do so. But if you do: be careful when you’re visiting, because everything you do here has the potential to have disastrous consequences. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.
The Hill of Witches in Lithuania
Contributor: Dagney | Cultura Obscura
As soon as I read about the Hill of Witches, I knew I wanted to visit. This interactive outdoor sculpture park is located on the Curonian Spit, just off the coast of mainland Lithuania. It is home to approximately 80 wooden sculptures, all of which depict figures in Lithuanian folklore and legends, including demons and, of course, the eponymous witches.
However, the most frequently depicted folk hero is Neringa. She is a giantess who protected Lithuanian from a raging storm by transporting sand in her dress and piling it against the coast, eventually forming the Curonian Spit.
You are beckoned into the park by a wooden carving of a witch pointing visitors up a hill leading into the forest. Once inside, you are greeted by playful wooden statues, many of which can be climbed or sat upon.
As you walk through the park, it shifts from cheerful figures to more sinister ones. The reason is that the Hill of Witches is divided into two halves: Light and Dark. In the Light section lives Neringa and other Lithuanian folk heroes such as Egle the Queen of Grass-snakes and Laumė.
In the Dark section, are creepy demons and witches. There is even a sculpture of Lucifer standing before the Gate to Hell.
The Hill of Witches is an easy hike, but makes for a wonderful afternoon activity as you can interact with the sculptures, enjoy the forest and even picnic with folk heroes!
Entrance to the park is free, and it is open year-round.
Truffle Hunting in Bologna, Italy
Contributor: Amber Hoffman | Bologna Living
In Europe, truffles are found by following truffle dogs as they hunt for the delicacy. In the area around Bologna, truffle hunters use dogs which can recognize the smell of truffles underneath the surface dirt. The best place to experience truffle hunting is in the tiny town of Savigno, the Città del Tartufo or City of Truffles, just outside of Bologna. Truffle hunting experiences generally leave from Savigno. The truffle hunter will take you into the moist and dense forest in the nearby countryside. The key to truffle hunting success is a well-trained dog and a good relationship between the truffle-hunting dog and the truffle hunter, or, tartufaio. The dogs are rewarded for good behavior when they find a truffle. For this reason, dogs are trained to dig into the ground wherever they sense an odor, and they willingly exchange their truffle-treasure for a piece of bread and a pat on the head. Not a bad trade for the truffle hunter! During a day of truffle hunting, it’s possible to experience the exchange between a real tartufaio and his dog, which is an incredibly special sight. It is only after you’ve spent a few hours in a forest chasing a dog around that you can truly appreciate why truffles are as expensive as they are. There are tour companies that can arrange a truffle hunting tour to follow a truffle hunter and his dog for a few hours, generally accompanied by lunch at a local agriturismo in the Bologna Hills.
Underground Theme Park in Romania
Contributor: Daniel Arreola| Pro Blorger
Located just 30 minutes from Cluj-Napoca (Romania’s 2nd biggest city), is Salina Turda: The underground amusement park. Salina Turda was converted from a decommissioned salt mine. It’s an amazing journey going many levels underground to see such a sight.
On the way down to the underground amusement park, you’ll pass through exhibits of the old salt-mining equipment. The salt was extracted by hand with pickaxes and carts. The chunks of salt are massive!
It’s pretty moist cold on the way underground. You’ll definitely be hit by drops of saltwater along the way. Bring a jacket and expect it to get a little dirty.
Once you make it to the amusement park, you’ll find a Ferris wheel, mini-golf, billiards, bowling, table tennis, a sports field, and an amphitheater! At one level below that, there’s a small lake where you can rent boats and row around.
Best of all, it’s the cheapest underground amusement park you could visit at only 30RON ($7.50 USD). The prices for the activities are also very affordable and range from $1-3 USD.
Not only can you spend a few hours having fun here, but there are also health benefits from breathing salty air. Since salt is a natural disinfectant, the dry salty air helps respiratory conditions.
Additionally, they have a pool and health spa (nearby, not underground).
Dwarf Hunting in Wroclaw, Poland
Contributor: Karolina Klesta | Lazy Travel Blog
Dwarf hunting in Wroclaw is an activity that you should put on your bucket list. Whether you are planning a trip with your friends or your family, one of your things to do in Wroclaw should be breaking the record in finding the highest number of dwarfs as you walk around the beautiful city. That is if you are not distracted by the exquisite architecture that fills Wroclaw.
Of course, these aren’t real gnomes. Rather, these are sculptures made by the citizens of Wroclaw as a protest against communism when they were still under Russian rule. The dwarfs come in all shapes and sizes. From classical bakers and friars to more modern versions that include a dwarf on a skateboard and a rocker dwarf decked in leather jacket and t-shirt. Head to the Tourist Information Centre to get a map or rise to the challenge and find as many dwarves as you can in 2 hours by booking with Get Your Guide and meeting your guide at the Aleksander Fredro Monument.
Not far from more popular destinations like Krakow and Warsaw, it will take around 3 to 3.5 hours from either location by bus, train, or car. A train ride, however, would be far more comfortable than a cramped bus if you 12USD.
Off The Beaten Path Oceania
Hunting for Trace Fossils in Kalbarri, Western Australia
Contributor: Suzanne Jones | Keeping Up With Little Joneses
A family hiking and outdoor adventure blog focussed on teaching through experiences, conservation and enjoying natural wonders Mother Nature has to offer.
Kalbarri National Park in Western Australia is best known for its spectacular red sandstone gorges and dramatic coastal cliffs towering over the Indian Ocean. Hiking along one of the many trails will take you past rock pools, wildflowers, and the occasional emu.
However, the most fascinating feature of this national park is one that most visitors fail to notice. If you look down at the exposed rock you are walking on, you may just spot two parallel sets of impressions resembling tyre tracks in the mud. These faint and unassuming marks are thought to be the footprints of ancient creatures called Eurypterids. Just over 400 million years ago, these scorpion-like animals were probably the first life to crawl out of the oceans and on to dry land. This marked a pivotal point in the evolution of life on our planet. At this time, not even plant life had established itself in the land.
You can place your fingers in these fossil footprints knowing you are tracing the steps of one of the most critical events in Earth’s history, yet most people wander by unaware.
You can read more about their Fossil Hunting expedition in Kalbarri National Park on their website.
The Sepik River in PNG is home to a rich culture featuring incredible woodwork, traditional performances, and village life that has changed little over the centuries. The Sepik River takes you through the extraordinary traditions like kids playing and women washing in the river, fishermen on their dugout canoes, colorful dances at the beats of the drums, and men carving masks,
The best way to approach the Sepik River is to reach Wewak first before heading to Pagwi along the river. Traveling in the river is done by canoes, passing by the villages. Each village is home to different dances, from the Crocodile dance, the Cassowary dance, and the Mask dance. Each performance unique, with stunning costumes.
While it’s challenging to travel to the Sepik River, the welcome, the traditions, and the history are worth every second. And because it’s challenging, very few people go there, which is why PNG is still one of the best off the beaten path vacations. Do avoid the rainy season as villages will be under muddy water for a while. And bring enough repellant as mosquitoes are numerous and fierce.
Off The Beaten Path Travel Conclusion
Whoa! That is one comprehensive list of cool activities! Off the beaten path travel is fun because it’s a chance to discover a place that not many know about. You can come back home and talk about this unique experience. I hope this list comprised by fellow travel bloggers inspires you to go off and explore and made you realize there are many things to find off the tourist trail.
Now that you have gone through this epic list, which is your favorite hidden gem? Travel is amazing! Leave a comment to let me know which activity interests you the most!
Are you interested in learning about more off the beaten path travel destinations? I recommend purchasing a Lonely Planet guidebook because they always add a section about activities off the tourist track.
Click on the Lonely Planet picture below for the current deal going on.