Technology advancements, social media, and globalization have made the world feel small. It makes us feel that we have discovered everything worthwhile. But there are always new places to discover and rediscover. More cultures to experience, more cuisines to try out, and beautiful sights to see and of course meet wonderful people along the way.
There are certain tourist destinations that are thronged by travelers each year. Friends and family always expect travelers to go see the Eiffel tower in Paris or The Vatican in Rome, or Hawaii!
Not interested in the beaten? This year, how about destinations, not on the well-trodden path? There are plenty of places around the globe waiting to be discovered that are brimming with beauty, rich cultural heritage, and historical significance or simply offering divine food you’ve never tasted before. These are the 7 must see under-the-radar destinations awaiting the die-hard travel enthusiasts out there!
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Jebel Akhdar, Oman
A two-hour drive from Muscat, in the rocky contours of Oman’s Al-Hajar Mountains, is Jebel Akhdar, an area beloved for its astounding views, rock-bound valleys, and natural terraces. During spring, the hills of this scenic valley are carpeted with pink rose blossoms whose scent engulfs the senses of its visitors. Rosewater potions distilled from these roses are famous in the area for use in spa treatments and local cuisine.
In order to experience Jebel Akhdar in the best possible way, head to some astounding hotels in the area such as the Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar and the Alila Jabal Akhdar. Both have canyon-view infinity pools and post-hike pampering treatments, luxury suites, restaurants with mouth-watering local cuisines and amenities like a cliff-side private meal.
A 2½ hours bullet train trip from Tokyo, Kanazawa is a hidden gem of Japan. Go for the old wooden teahouses of the Higashi Chayagai district, the beautiful samurai residence in Nagamachi, and the contemporary art museum. It is a sushi lover’s heaven, much cheaper and better than that found in Tokyo. Try it at Sentori, Kagayasuke, or Omi-cho Market—a favorite of sushi master Masa. In the Noto Peninsula, tourists can stay in a traditional Japanese farmhouse, forage for wild mountain greens and mushrooms or dine by an indoor fire pit to truly experience the Kanazawian Japanese lifestyle!
Whenever we think Netherlands, we think Amsterdam. But Rotterdam, the second-largest city in the Netherlands, is slowly coming to the fore thanks to its burgeoning culinary and design scenes. Eye-popping architectural stunners are the heartthrob of this city. Art is everywhere in this city—more than a thousand pieces, including sculptures by Picasso and Rodin, are scattered throughout Rotterdam. The world’s largest artwork, the Horn of Plenty by Arno Coenen, spanning over 13,000 square yards is situated on the ceiling of the Markthal. The Markthal is a mural-covered hall where vendors hawk gourmet goods. The newest piece of art is the Bobbing Forest, a surrealist installation of floating elm trees by art collective Mothership. The innovative, fun-loving spirit of the city is best embodied by its upcoming artificial wave park where surfers will be able to show off their skills in the Steigersgracht Canal.
A half-hour from Shanghai by bullet train, Suzhou has a rich 2,500-year-old history. It is often dubbed as the ‘East Venice of the World’ because of its canal-filled old town with traditional white-washed buildings. The city’s nine classical gardens are UNESCO-designated and have been celebrated in Chinese art and poetry for centuries. The more modern part of the city, the high-rise-filled Suzhou Industrial Park was built in partnership with the Singaporean government and has lured many Fortune 500 companies. It has a shopping and entertainment district named Times Square, a London Eye–like Ferris wheel, multiple Western and Asian restaurants, bars, theaters, and a concert hall. The colorful musical fountains on Jinji Lake are a great attraction of the city, especially at night.
Tamuda Bay, Morocco
A beach lover’s delight, this string of seaside towns on Morocco’s Mediterranean coast have a unique European touch. More recently, upscale openings have turned the area into a bona fide resort destination. Apart from just sun and surf, it also has several museums in the nearby port city of Tétouan. Moroccan cuisine is absolutely delectable and the local handicraft, art, and architecture is a treat for the eyes. Tamuda Bay won’t stay under the radar for long and will soon emerge as the holiday destination of choice.
Hunza Valley, Pakistan
Hunza is a remote mountainous valley in the north-east of Pakistan. This valley is strewn with majestic snow-capped mountains, green fertile valleys, large glaciers and unadulterated natural beauty. It is situated at a height of 8,500 feet above sea level and is surrounded by mountain peaks as high as 25,550 feet. The spellbinding beauty of the valley and its magnificent mountain peaks has made Hunza a favorite spot for tourists all over the world. It is considered the ‘Switzerland of Pakistan’ because of its snow-covered peaks.
Hunza is a mountaineer’s, a nature lover’s and a photographer’s dream. The people of this region are known for their longevity. The region is also famous for its supreme quality apricots, grown locally, which are a staple food for the local population.
The valley is popularly believed to be the inspiration for the mythical valley of Shangri-La in James Hilton’s 1933 novel ‘Lost Horizon’.
The major attractions of Hunza valley are the Altit and Baltit forts. The magnificent Baltit fort is almost 700 years old whereas the Altit fort is almost a century older than the Baltit. Both forts were the residence of the ancient rulers of this valley. Baltit Fort has been on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative list since 2004.
Munich, Stuttgart, Frankfurt are undoubtedly the top destinations in Germany. But has anyone heard of Rothenburg?
An old-fashioned, picturesque city situated in Bavaria, Rothenburg is as pretty as a picture. In fact, it looks like something directly taken out of a fairy-tale. It is home to many museums including a doll and toy museum and boasts a collection of very fine old architecture. Its parks and gardens are worth visiting. It is one of the best preserved medieval towns in Europe. Many cafes and restaurants are available in town to experience the delicious German cuisine and some local delicacies but the best way to experience Rothenburg’s charm is to take a good long walk along the many stone pavements of the city and just take in the sights.