Been there, done that, now what?
I wouldn’t class myself as a jaded traveller. I still get excited as I pack my wheelie and I even still love dragging myself out of bed in the pitch black to make an early flight. But there are places that I’ve tired of, places where I find myself wondering why they’re so hyped. If I never got to go to Paris or Amsterdam again, I wouldn’t be concerned. (But let’s not include New York in there because I’d be gutted to think I could ever be done with that incredible city.)
Increasingly, though, I’m keen to seek out places without crowds, not so much out of some kind of snobbish one upmanship but more out of a desire to be completely unsociable. We introverts need our space, you know. So which alternative destinations do I recommend if you’re looking for an off the beaten track experience?
Been there: Cusco and the Sacred Valley
Now what: Chachapoyas
The wealth of Inca sites in and around the Peruvian city of Cusco makes the area one of the country’s most visited. From Sacsayhuaman to Machu Picchu, this splendid heritage makes for fascinating viewing, but year on year visitor numbers have soared and you’ll be hard pushed to find space for quiet reflection unless you seek out some of the lesser-known places like Poroy and Chinchero.
Trailblazers should ditch the crowds and fly north from the Peruvian capital Lima instead of south. Basing yourself in the charming town of Chachapoyas, you’ll be well placed to visit the intriguing hilltop fortress of Kuelap as well as the sarcophagi at Karajia. Find out everything you need to know about arranging your trip here:
Been there: Dominican Republic
Now what: Haiti
Not for the faint hearted, a trip to Haiti’s going to require you to keep your wits about you. Compared to its Hispaniolan neighbour, the Dominican Republic, package tourism is in its infancy and largely confined to Labadee in the north of the island. Instead of all-inclusives and the hard sell at the end of a rum factory tour, head over the border and make for the sleepy beach at Port Salut.
You won’t find a bustling resort, rowdy beach bars or pestering hawkers who won’t leave you alone until they’ve made a sale. At weekends, a steady stream of ex-pat aid workers from Port au Prince gives the place some life, but if all you want is pristine white sand, crystal clear turquoise waters and a cold beer, then come on a weekday and you’ll have the place to yourself. See why I liked it here:
Been there: Andalusia
Now what: Extremadura
I’m a big fan of Andalusia, from the tranquil elegance of the Mezquita in Cordoba to the bustling alleyways of the Jewish quarter in Seville. The delightfully atmospheric hamman in Jerez offered welcome respite from scorching afternoon sun and the towers of Cadiz offered a glimpse into that city’s fascinating maritime past. This year, though, for the first time, I dragged myself away from Andalusia’s comforting familiarity and ventured north to Extremadura.
This overlooked region still has its pueblos blancos, like Zafra. It offers the gourmand such a choice in unmissable foodie experiences that stay too long and you’ll need to pay for an extra seat on the plane to accommodate a vastly enlarged belly. And the scenery, both natural and built, is as transfixing as its more popular neighbour. My favourites? Monfragüe National Park’s showstopping scenery and Trujillo’s atmospheric back street bakeries selling yummy yemas. Find out what else you shouldn’t miss here:
Been there: Vienna, Budapest and Prague
Now what: Lviv
Given the political situation in parts of Ukraine, you could be forgiven for thinking I’ve lost my mind in recommending one of its cities instead of the other gems of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. But Lviv was annexed by Austria in 1772 and, known as Lemburg, had more in common with west than east. Belle Epoque mansions and public buildings built in Viennese style still characterise today’s Lviv. It’s a very rewarding place to explore on foot, safe and not at all what you’d expect from an ex-Soviet bloc city. I’ll have my coffee and cake here, thanks.
Any other suggestions?
Of course, there’s a good reason why some parts of the planet attract so many of us. But if you venture off on your own, the rewards are limitless. Where have you been that improves upon one of the world’s top rated destinations?