The more one travels, it seems, the more one yearns to discover even more obscure, remote and mysterious destinations. Sure, the Eiffel Tower and Grand Canyon are without doubt sights one should see during his or her lifetime. But sometimes, the more unknown a destination is, the more thrilling the adventure will be. Not to mention, these destinations are usually less crowded and untainted by tourism (at least for now).
There’s just something about going to a place and having this sense that it’s your own in some strange way; that you have this little secret you don’t want to tell anyone else that provides you an inexorable sense of autonomy and freedom. Listed below are 10 destinations you’ve probably never thought to travel, but absolutely should. From natural phenomena and lost cities to tucked away waterfalls and everything in between, these untouched, off-the-beaten-path locations may make you want to go off the grid for good.
But hey, there’s nothing wrong with that, right?
1. Golden Bridge, Ba Na Hills, Vietnam
Though this wonder has been gaining popularity since its grand opening in June, Golden Bridge in Ba Na Hills, Vietnam is sure to blow your mind. This 150-meter pedestrian footbridge was included in TIME’s 2018 list of the “World’s 100 Greatest Places,” with its main appeal being the two enormous stone hands bursting from below with the optical illusion of holding the bridge in place.
Soaring 3,280 ft. above sea level, the bridge’s main purpose is to connect a cable-car station to popular nearby gardens. Designed by TA Landscape Architecture, the bridge is said to represent the “giant hands of Gods,” according to TIME. If wishing to visit this brand new tourist attraction, be sure to go before it becomes just that…too touristy!
2. Giant’s Causeway, Bushmills, Northern Ireland
The remains of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption, Giant’s Causeway in Bushmills, Northern Ireland comprises approximately 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, resulting in a stunning natural phenomenon that is considered the UK’s fourth greatest natural wonder. It was deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.
Legend has it that the columns are the remains of a causeway built by a giant named Fionn mac Cumhaill from Irish mythology. Many of the structures in the area are named after the said giant, including Giant’s Boot, Giant’s Eyes and Giant’s Harp.
3. Lost City of Petra, Jordan
If exploring rugged desert canyons on camelback sounds like your cup of tea, head to the Lost City of Petra in Jordan. Hundreds of years ago, this prehistoric city was considered “lost” to the Occident, but before this, it was a flourishing trading center and the capital of the Nabataean empire between 400 BC and 106 AD, according to National Geographic.
Today, travelers can visit this ancient city and marvel at its rose-colored sandstone buildings, the most prominent being Al-Khazneh (The Treasury). UNESCO has even claimed the site as “one of the most precious cultural properties of man’s cultural heritage.”
4. Thor’s Well, Yachats, Oregon, USA
A notorious ‘sinkhole’ on the Oregon Coast, Thor’s Well in Yachats, Oregon is a seemingly bottomless pit. If you’re not careful when you’re near it, it seems like you could get sucked into a black abyss shooting deep into the sea.
During high tide, Thor’s Well, also referred to as the drainpipe of the Pacific, can be seen continuously swallowing and subsequently purging the earth’s ocean waters. Though a mesmerizing phenomenon, those wishing to take photos of this natural phenomenon should be extremely cautious when maneuvering around its rocky formations.
5. Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang, Laos
Nestled along the Mekong River in north central Laos, Luang Prabang, translating to “Royal Buddha Image,” is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to some of the world’s most breathtaking waterfalls — Kuang Si Falls.
Getting to the falls is best done on a motorbike, which can be rented for as little as $10 per day. The winding, 19-mile drive weaves through some of the region’s most stunning mountain ranges and foothills. Once arriving at the falls, visitors can take the daring plunge into the two lower levels of waterfalls. The main attraction, though, is the third level waterfall pictured below. Prohibited for swimming due to the fall’s overpowering plunge pool, this waterfall boasts a 200-foot drop.
6. Rize, Turkey
Significantly resembling the scene from The Sound of Music where a twirling Julie Andrews sings sweetly atop a hill in Salzburg, Austria, Rize, Turkey is a stunning and unique destination that’s practically unheard of.
Idyllically situated in the eastern part of the Black Sea, Rize is characterized by its popular tea gardens and vast green landscapes. Turkey drinks more tea than any other country in the world, much of which is produced in Rize. Teeming with unparalleled landscapes, Rize’s abundance of national parks and natural activities makes visitors want to spend all of their time outdoors.
7. Nazca Lines, Nazca Desert, Peru
The Nazca Lines in Peru are a series of large ancient geoglyphs in the Nazca Desert, some figures reaching up to 1,200 ft. long. Animal figures and geometric shapes make up these obscure works of art, thought to have been created by the Nazca culture between 500 BC and 500 AD.
Deemed a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994, the Nazca Lines remain one of South America’s greatest mysteries.
8. Timisoara, Romania
Particularly charming during the Christmas season, Timisoara, Romania has an intriguing history, pleasant outdoor plazas perfect for people watching, and is familiar particularly for its Secessionist architecture.
If you’re visiting during winter, the city’s Christmas markets have an overwhelming selection of mouthwatering grilled meats and freshly baked pastries. Piata Victoriei, the city’s central square, is encompassed by the Metropolitan Orthodox Cathedral and baroque buildings throughout.
9. Bagan, Myanmar (Burma)
Though the country’s military has recently been accused of genocide in the western Rakhine State by various United Nations agencies, you’d never know it visiting here — though, of course, it shouldn’t be ignored.
A personal bucket list destination of mine for several years, Bagan is in Myanmar, generally still referred to as Burma. It is becoming a more popular tourist hub for backpackers traveling Southeast Asia.
Hot air balloons majestically kissing the ancient horizon each morning from early October to mid-April have now become symbolic of the region. Entrenched by dusty dirt roads, Bagan’s thousands of Buddhist temples and pagodas are nearly impossible to navigate without renting a moped or motorbike.
10. Tian Shan, Kyrgyzstan
Translating to the “Mountains of Heaven” or “Heavenly Mountain,” the Tian Shan in Kyrgyzstan is a system of mountain ranges extending throughout Central Asia. This lesser-known destination is a trekker’s haven, with several hikes at various difficulty levels.
If you’re wondering where specifically to go in the Tian Shan, popular regions include the Issyk-Ata Valley, Fergana Range and Ala-Köl. Check out this nifty Lonely Planet article for a detailed guide on trekking the Tian Shan in Kyrgyzstan.
We hope this article sparks curiosity among travelers and makes them feel like they’ve been bitten by the travel bug all over again. After all, it’s never a bad thing to keep adding destinations to your bucket list! Happy trails.