Top Off The Beaten Path Destinations for 2017

View of Mount Ararat in Armenia, an off the beaten path destination you shouldn't miss!

We are already one month into the new year and, if you’re anything like me, you’ve already given up on half (or all) of your resolutions. However, here are some more resolutions that include more travel and, more specifically, new travel! Here we highlight some of the best and most underrated destinations for the coming year.

Thank you to the amazing bloggers who gave me their top off the beaten path destinations for 2017 and I hope you find some ideas for unique vacation spots!

Don’t forget to check out our round-up for the Top 10 off the beaten path destinations for 2016!

For slow travel and mountains…

Chi Phat is a region situated in one of the few remaining protected areas of Cambodia, the Cardamom Mountains. What’s special about this off the beaten path destination that lies near the Thai/Cambodia border is that it is a community-based ecotourism region, where all tourist dollars go directly into the local community. 

Before tourism came to this magical place many of the locals would resort to means of income that were harming the environment such as logging and poaching. Nowadays tourism brings an alternative income and you can have the opportunity to take guided treks through the forest, stay in traditional Cambodian homestays or even get the chance to support a wildlife rehabilitation centre. 

Chi Phat is a place where time moves slowly. You are surrounded by nature and really go back-to-basics in this eco-friendly community which can only be reached by a dirt road and a floating barge. If you’re after luxury then maybe this isn’t the place for you, but if you want to immerse yourself in the beauty of the Cardamom Mountains then I’d certainly put Chi Phat on your bucket list. 

Bianca from The Altruistic Traveller

Visiting Chi Phat in Cambodia, a unique and off the beaten path travel destination in Southeast Asia

If you are thinking of visiting Cambodia, don’t forget to pick up a copy of Lonely Planet Cambodia (Travel Guide)!

For empty beaches lined with lush jungle…

Costa Rica may be becoming one of the top travel destinations for backpackers, millennials and families alike, and it’s no wonder due to the vast jungles and warm emerald water of the ocean. To skip out on the crowds of the popular tourist areas, such as Jaco or La Fortuna, head down the West Coast to Uvita, Costa Rica situated only twenty minutes from Dominical and three hours from San Jose Airport. With only two main streets in the area, this small town has maintained it’s foreign-paradise appeal and nurtures the off-the-beaten-path feel that so many of us strive to find in tourist overrun countries like Costa Rica.

The beaches of Uvita are housed under Parque Nacional Marino Bahia Ballena and offer calm waters for snorkeling or learning how to surf, deserted sands dotted with purple and pink seashells and unbeatable sunsets that light the sky on fire. Known for the famous Whale’s Tail, beachgoers can walk along a sand bank that extends out into the ocean with waves crashing on either side.

If jungle exploration is in your plans, Uvita offers waterfalls, thickly forested paths, and the sounds of howler monkeys to guide you along a wild journey. Whether you’re traveling on a budget or looking for a luxurious trip to this tropical country in Central America, Uvita offers both affordable and extravagant options so you can fully appreciate the town’s beauty.

Ava from Kicking Asana

Selva Armonia in Uvita, Costa Rica, has an amazing view! Find out exactly why Ava thought that Uvita was the perfect off the beaten path destination for a yoga retreat...

 

For snow, Santa, and sledding…

Rovaniemi in Finland is known as home of Santa Claus. Each year, thousands of visitors come here with their children around Christmas time. However, visiting the old man is not the only activity that you can be part of. Located in Finnish Lapland, it’s an ideal place to experience the real winter! There is no shortage in fun activities, starting from dog or reindeer sledding, snowmobiling and ice fishing to watching the Northern Lights under the clear skies.

The town is quite touristy nowadays and offers many lodging opportunities for any budget. If you are looking for a more unique stay, consider ice igloos at the Arctic Snow hotel. It’s a fantastic, easy way to enjoy the Northern lights without freezing in the cold. The hotel offers snow sauna – an astonishing combination of thick steam with intimate snow walls!

While visiting Rovaniemi, make sure to check out some restaurants with local cuisine. I also recommend dried reindeer meat – you can buy it at any supermarket and bring home as a souvenir. Although it’s quite expensive (reindeer are not bred for meat), it tastes great! Among other popular souvenirs are key holders and cutlery made from reindeer horns.

The best way to get here is to fly in from Helsinki (Finnish capital). Norwegian Air has daily flights with rates starting from 45€ one way. It’s an easy 1,5 hour flight and you can rent a car from the airport or use the hotel shuttle.

Maria from Tigrest Travel Blog

Seeing the Northern Lights in Rovaniemi, Lapland (Finland) - a truly off the beaten path travel destination!

When you fly via Helsinki, why not stop and enjoy the capital too? We recommend the Hop On Hop Off City Sightseeing Tour to get the best bang for your buck!

For coffee and people watching…

Brasov, Romania is an amazing destination for 2017, or for any year! Although tourism gets busy in the summer months, compared with other European hot spots, this Transylvanian city is still somewhat of a “secret.” But the word is spreading and more and more visitors are flocking to Brasov. And with good reason!

Tucked against a protective mountainside, Brasov is a bustling city that has it all. Art and culture are here as well as old world charm, nature, and things for couples, families, and backpackers. Trains can take you to fascinating castles in under an hour, but within Brasov’s old town, there’s tons of history and architecture to swoon over. Park yourself in the Piata Sfatului (Council Square) and enjoy some delicious coffee and people watching. Then, go for a wander, discovering winding streets with pastel-colored houses, and unexpected views from every high point in town. Ride the cable car to the top of Tampa Mountain for a view that stretches miles. Cap off your day with some traditional Romanian food—Brasov is bursting with fantastic restaurants and cafes.

Amy from Two Drifters

Brasov, in the Transylvanian region of Romania, is a truly off the beaten path vacation spot!

 

For fascinating culture and desert lifestyle…

Jordan is the country to put on your bucket list in 2017. Despite being the filming locations for many Hollywood blockbusters, including the Martian, Jordan remains a beautiful paradise with few tourists. With incredible history, beautiful landscapes, delicious food, and a fascinating culture, it is a destination not to miss in 2017.

Flying into Amman? Don’t miss Carpe Diem Our Way’s great round-up of things to do in Amman!

If you come to Jordan, you cannot miss Petra. This famous city is not just one wall, but an entire sprawling ancient city that takes 2-3 days to see properly. Despite being so famous, Petra is not crowded, which makes the walk through a narrow valley to reach the Treasury even more impressive.
Additionally, the incredible nature of the Wadi Rum desert combined with the Bedouin lifestyle gives travellers a unique opportunity to experience the beauty of the Jordanian desert overnight. Although there are many desert camps that welcome visitors, many families will welcome visitors day-time for a meal with sweet black tea and fresh bread. Be sure to bring a gift, such as dates, to thank your hosts.

You can fly directly to Amman or fly to Tel Aviv prior to crossing the border in Jerusalem.

Karen from WanderlustingK

 

Visit Petra in Jordan, a rewarding off the beaten track destination

 

For beaches, beer and spectacular architecture…

Located in the heart of one of the most turbulent regions in the world, today, the Levantine country of Lebanon brags about being one of the safest countries in the Middle East. With the quick rise of the middle class and amazing economic growth, Lebanon is considered one of the most tolerant and Westernized cities in the region.

From Mediterranean beaches to high altitude mountains, from a strong wine culture to a world class capital, Lebanon is a country adaptable to any kind of traveler and budget. The capital of Lebanon is Beirut, a city of less than 400,000 inhabitants but famous for its deep, rich and contrasting history. It’s composed of several neighborhoods that differ so much from each other: Hezbollah areas like Bourj al Barajneh, the modern and bohemian district of Gemmayzeh, the Armenian area of Bourj Hammoud, several Christians districts, the student neighborhood of Hamra, Palestinian refugee cmaps and much, much more! Beirut is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world!

Besides, Lebanon holds the best parties in the Middle East. Did you know that 40% of the population are Christians? Surprised? Beer is widely available, and you know the best of it? Drinking in the street is allowed!

Joan from Against the Compass

A church and a mosque built side by side which summarizes the multiculturality in Lebanon pretty well! How to travel safely in the Middle East - off the beaten track destinations for 2017!

A church and a mosque built side by side which summarizes the multiculturality in Lebanon pretty well!

 

For warm hospitality, delicious food and incredible scenery…

Armenia may not be many travellers’ first destination of choice, but everyone I know who has visited has returned singing its praises. From the delicious food, such as dolma (grape leaves stuffed with mince meat) and lavash (Armenian national pitta bread that is included on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage list) to the amazing scenery, including the stunning Lake Sevan, located high in the mountains and the largest lake in the Caucasus, and the truly breathtaking Mount Ararat.

Not many people know that Armenia was the first country to adopt Christianity as the state religion (301 AD) and the first Christian cathedral still stands today in Echmiadzin. Armenia is also known as ‘land of the churches’, with over 4,000 churches, cathedrals and monasteries throughout the country.

Finally, it should not be left out that the Armenian people are incredibly hospitable, and Alex of Lost With Purpose describes them as ‘some of the friendliest in the world’. To add icing to the cake, it’s an incredibly cheap country to visit, with intercity buses costing around €2-6 and food only around €8 for an entire day’s worth of meals!

View of Mount Ararat in Armenia, an off the beaten path destination you shouldn't miss!

Mount Ararat // Araratour.com

If you are thinking of visiting Armenia, don’t forget to pick up a copy of Armenia and Karabakh: The Stone Garden Travel Guide!

 

For traditional cuisine and the Eurasian border…

The biggest country in the world is so often overlooked in travel itineraries of both new and seasoned travelers. Whether it is because of the language barrier, political reasons or a more complicated visa process, Russia is often left out, and if a traveler is brave enough to visit, it would most likely be to Moscow or Saint Petersburg. But a country that takes up 1/6 of land in the world has so much more to show!

Technically speaking, any other city, apart from Saint Petersburg and Moscow, will be off the beaten path, but I would like to introduce you to Ekaterinburg. One of the largest and most fast-growing cities in Russia, Ekaterinburg is very creative, energetic and multi-faceted to say the least. It’s deeply intertwined with some of the major historic events like the assassination of the royal family after the Russian revolution. The temple built on the place of assassination is a popular destination for pilgrims.

On a brighter note, Ekaterinburg is a city located on the border between Europe and Asia. A lot of people visit Istanbul to see Bosphorus dividing the two parts of the world, but very few know that you can visit a place like that in Russia. Just 20-minute drive from the city you can find a monument with a line dividing Europe from Asia. Although it’s not the precise border, this monument makes for awesome pictures: one foot in Europe, another in Asia.

Ekaterinburg is famously known for street art and creative graffiti as well as for its food. In recent years local chefs are making an effort to revive traditional Ural cuisine, introducing familiar dishes made with a twist and using local produce.

Yulia from The Foodie Miles

Ekaterinburg is a true off the beaten path destination, located in Russia in the Ural Mountains. Check out Yulia's local tips!

 

For wave-battered cliffs, green pastures and thundering waterfalls…

I noticed the Faroe Islands on a map one day, nestled between Scotland and Iceland – both countries that I really loved visiting. After a little bit of research, I realised the Islands weren’t all that difficult to get to. You could fly direct via Atlantic Airways (the country’s own airline) from either Edinburgh or Copenhagen. Living in London at the time, I couldn’t see any reason why I shouldn’t go!

The Faroes are ethereally beautiful (and have a particularly high concentration of waterfalls, which we’ll all agree are aesthetically pleasing). I stayed there for four days, driving from island to island and taking in the sights. I had a pretty loose itinerary, but managed to fill my days up pretty easily – going for walks, bird watching or wandering around the capital Tórshavn.

You could easily spend a lot of money in the Faroes – at the very least, I recommend eating at local restaurant KOKS, which has so far proved to be a top ten meal of my life. Those on a budget, or nature lovers, may enjoy spending their time there hiking. There’s a plenty of trails available to suit a range of fitness levels – from “I can’t walk up the London Tube escalators without winding myself”, to properly fit action adventurers!

LC from Birdgehls

Lighthouse on the edge of a cliff in the Faroe Islands, a truly unique vacation spot

If you are thinking of visiting the Faroe Islands, don’t forget to pick up a copy of Faroe Islands (Bradt Travel Guide)!

 

For ancient culture and history…

I spent six months in Africa travelling from Cairo to Cape Town. One of my favourite countries I visited was Ethiopia. Ethiopia has something for everyone from culture to history to food and wildlife. I visited Lalibela, Ethiopia to see the UNESCO World Heritage site of the Rock Churches which is like nowhere else in the world.

King Lalibela set out to construct a ‘new Jerusalem’ here. The church of St George is one of eleven rock churches found in Lalibela dating back to the 12th century. Hewn out of solid rock the church is perfectly symmetric and in the shape of a cross. The church was then chiselled out from the inside to create windows and doors for worshippers to attend ceremonies there. These churches have been the focus for pilgrimage for Coptic Christians since the 12th century.

Lalibela is one of the most important sites in Ethiopia, as well as Aksum, where the ruins of an ancient city with obelisks, tombs and castles still stand. Ethiopia is also considered to be the site of emergence of modern humans (Homo sapiens) around 200,000 years ago.

Nicole from Travelgalnicole

Lalibela in Ethiopia - a true testament to why you should go off the beaten track when you travel!

 

For sustainable tourism and ancient monasteries…

Bhutan is the most unique destination in the world and there are certain rules that have to be followed to be able to even enter the country. Christian of Unusual Traveler visited Bhutan last year, the remote and landlocked kingdom situated in the Himalayas.

Bhutan is a truly unique country in the way it approaches tourism – all tourism is sustainable and in line with the country’s philosophy of measuring wealth by way of happiness. Bhutan is carbon neutral and, by law, 60% of the country must remain forested for future generations – environmental protection and cultural preservation are vital for this small kingdom.

Visitors must obtain a visa prior to arriving in Bhutan and only citizens of India, The Maldives and Bangladesh are allowed to enter Bhutan without being part of a pre-arranged tour. MyBhutan is one such company that offers incredible trips to this fascinating country.

Famously, there is a daily fee that you have to pay in order to visit Bhutan – 250 USD in high season (March to November) and 200 USD in low season, plus a 40 USD surcharge if you are travelling alone. While this sounds incredibly expensive, this does include 3* (or higher) accommodation, all meals, a licensed tour guide, all land transportation within Bhutan and all entrance fees to attractions/sights.

There is only one international airport in Bhutan and only 8 pilots are certified to take-off and land there, since it is nestled within the sharp peaks of the Himalayas (up to 18,000ft!). However, it is truly worth it with sights such as the Tiger’s Nest Monastery and Punakha Dzong.

Bhutan is one of the few remaining truly authentic destinations in Asia (and possibly the world) and should be on any traveller’s bucket list!

If you are thinking of visiting Bhutan, don’t forget to pick up a copy of Lonely Planet Bhutan (Travel Guide).

The famous Tiger's Nest Monastery in Bhutan, an incredible and remote kingdom located in the Himalayas

The famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Bhutan

 

 

Thank you to all the amazing bloggers who gave me content for this round-up of off the beaten path destinations for 2017! We hope it’s given you some inspiration for the coming year… Have you visited any of these countries before? 

Don’t forget to pin this post if you enjoyed it!

Wondering where to go in 2017? Want to escape the tourist crowds? Head to these off the beaten path travel destinations for unique trips and adventure!

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20 Comments

  • Reply
    LC
    February 5, 2017 at 1:55 am

    Great round up Penelope! Thanks for the inclusion. 🙂
    LC recently posted… What to Wear in Svalbard – An Illustrated GuideMy Profile

    • Reply
      Penelope
      February 5, 2017 at 3:07 am

      You’re very welcome!

  • Reply
    Travelgal Nicole
    February 5, 2017 at 2:36 am

    Thanks for the inclusion. Some great places on the list!

    • Reply
      Penelope
      February 5, 2017 at 3:06 am

      You’re very welcome! Thanks so much for writing for me! I loved Ethiopia – wish I had more time there (it was a long layover) as I only saw a few things in Addis!

  • Reply
    Kerry B
    February 5, 2017 at 3:39 am

    I am extremely offended and astonished that you would recommend the Faroe Islands. How could you not be aware of the hideous, despicable,barbaric,and illegal slaughter of hundreds of pilot whales and other cetaceans which goes on every year in this nasty place? Boycott the Car or Islands. How can you “not think of any reason” not to go there?

    • Reply
      LC
      February 5, 2017 at 5:10 am

      Hi Kerry.
      My comment refers to the ease of getting to the islands, when put in the right context.
      Whaling in the Faroe Islands is an ancient tradition (known as the Grind) that I definitely don’t agree with. However, many countries around the world have practices that outsiders will not understand and that the countrymen themselves may not actually agree with. So, yes I think it is important to travel to places like the Faroe Islands, particularly those that have been closed off to the rest of the world until very recently, in order to promote cultural understanding. In any case – we’re slowly poisoning our oceans WORLDWIDE through our use of plastic and other pollutants, which I find to be a truly horrifying and more pressing issue.
      LC recently posted… What to Wear in Svalbard – An Illustrated GuideMy Profile

  • Reply
    Boris
    February 5, 2017 at 6:13 am

    Thanks! You are great blogger. I like very much Rovaniemi , and also Yerevan.

    • Reply
      Penelope
      February 5, 2017 at 6:17 am

      Thank you!

  • Reply
    Alex
    February 5, 2017 at 8:45 am

    As long as my resolutions are travel-related, I always stick to them 😉 These are all great suggestions for destinations! I dream of going to Finnish Lapland, and so many people keep recommending Romania that it must be awesome! Hope your travels this year will lead you several places on this list 🙂

    • Reply
      Penelope
      February 5, 2017 at 4:03 pm

      Haha I think they are the only resolutions I ever keep! oops… I would love to go to Finnish Lapland and Romania is INCREDIBLE! I was there for a week last January and I fell in love!!

      Thanks so much and thank you for the amazing Armenia post!

  • Reply
    Susanna
    February 5, 2017 at 9:51 am

    These are all great destinations! I definitely have Armenia and Romania on my list this year. I’m always hoping to find new destinations for off-the-beaten-path since I can’t stand fighting my way through crowds in over-touristy areas.
    Susanna recently posted… Day Trip from Munich to Dachau MemorialMy Profile

    • Reply
      Penelope
      February 5, 2017 at 4:04 pm

      Romania is incredible – you’ll love it! I’m exactly the same with not liking the tourist traps and wanting to head somewhere different – I can’t stand big tourist crowds (Paris/Rome etc are not my thing, haha).

  • Reply
    Rimsha
    February 6, 2017 at 9:06 am

    I had so much fun reading this post! I’d love to add these destinations to my bucket list. Bookmarking this post for when I next make travel plans 😀

    • Reply
      Penelope
      February 6, 2017 at 5:54 pm

      I’m so glad you enjoyed the round up! Any particular favourites on this list?

  • Reply
    Fee
    February 6, 2017 at 10:02 am

    Great destinations on here, I’d definitely love to visit Jordan (for Petra!) and Lebanon one day.

    • Reply
      Penelope
      February 6, 2017 at 5:55 pm

      Me too! they look absolutely incredible.

  • Reply
    Felicia
    February 7, 2017 at 1:55 am

    Ooh I love this! I haven’t heard of many of these places and those are usually the best ones that aren’t super popular yet! Thanks for sharing these gems 🙂

  • Reply
    457 Australian Visa
    February 13, 2017 at 1:20 am

    Lovely read! after reading your article some of it has been added on my bucket list this year. Thanks for sharing.

  • Reply
    Robert
    June 23, 2017 at 2:00 pm

    So many beautiful places, so little time! Still yet to visit Costa Rica. Definitely on my “Must Travel To” List. Great post and travel inspiration! 🙂

    • Reply
      Penelope
      July 16, 2017 at 7:10 pm

      Thank you! I hope you get the chance to visit soon!

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