One of the wonders of travel is the feeling of discovering somewhere new. This can be especially true when venturing off the beaten track and witnessing the beauty of a place most people have never visited.
From remote mountains to unspoilt beaches, the planet is packed with untapped destinations where you can feel like an intrepid explorer – and, luckily, many of these gems are more accessible than you think.
So, to get you inspired and stir up your wanderlust, here are eight hidden gem holiday destinations around the world that you might want to think about exploring.
1. Amhara Region, Ethiopia
There’s no doubt that Ethiopia is one of Africa’s most beautiful, fascinating, and culturally captivating countries, but it’s only recently that travellers have begun to wake up to its astonishing diversity. This misunderstood nation might be the most populated landlocked country on Earth, but it’s bursting with secrets.
While many people imagine dry, featureless deserts when they picture Ethiopia, it’s actually home to verdant meadows, gleaming lakes, tropical forests, and soaring peaks – as well as the otherworldly Danakil Depression, one of the hottest and lowest spots in the world.
But, it’s Ethiopia’s Amhara Region, in the north of the country, that’s most dazzling – in particular, Simien Mountains National Park. Studded with deep ravines and jagged pinnacles, this is a land of primeval forests, thundering waterfalls, alien-like plants, and exotic wildlife. The views here will take your breath away.
Ethiopia is also home to the most UNESCO world heritage sites of any African country, and the most impressive is located in the Amhara Region. Explore the fortress city of Fasil Ghebbi, marvel at the 12th-century rock-cut churches of Lalibela, and admire the ancient monasteries of Lake Tana.
2. Carpathian Mountains, Romania
While Romania’s charms are becoming more widely known, it’s still a pretty under-the-radar travel destination – but it won’t be long before it becomes one of Europe’s newest must-visit hotspots. So, if you want to discover the beauty and romance of this fabulous country, now’s the time to go.
The most famous region of Romania is Transylvania, a land synonymous with gothic castles, turreted towns, mist-wrapped mountains, and dark fairytales. Transylvania is so much more than the fabled home of Count Dracula though, as it’s also the site of Romania’s rugged, rooftop – the Carpathian Mountains.
This vast mountain chain runs right down the centre of the country, and the best way to experience its staggering natural beauty is by trekking. Hike over mountain plateaus, through ancient forests, along rocky canyons, and across wildflower-adorned meadows. Just keep an eye out for brown bears, black chamois, lynxes, and wolves!
Culture and history enthusiasts will be equally spoilt, as the towns of the Carpathian Mountains are endlessly fascinating. Lose yourself in the winding alleyways and medieval squares of Brasov and Pestera; visit the mysterious Bran Castle; learn about the infamous Vlad the Impaler; and discover the genuine warmth of the locals.
3. Pointe Sarene, Senegal
Senegal might still seem relatively uncharted when it comes to mass tourism, but this country – billed as the next must-visit African holiday destination – won’t stay on the down-low for long. Already home to some spectacular beach resorts, this captivating country defies expectations.
The capital city of Dakar is lively, colourful, and exhilarating, yet other places are gloriously remote and tranquil. If you’re looking for a beach break where you can kick back on white sand and swim in warm, turquoise waters, then head to the idyllic Pointe Sarene, which is just two hours south of Dakar.
Widely considered Senegal’s best resort, it wasn’t long ago that this six-mile-long stretch of coast was only home to a sleepy fishing village. Today, however, its five-star hotels and luxury villas back onto the beach, allowing you to enjoy a Caribbean-style beach break at a fraction of the price.
Despite the new tourism investment, Pointe Sarane still feels wonderfully quiet, so it’s ideal if you want to relax and escape the throngs of tourists. Watch the sunset over drinks from sea-view bars, stroll among the shady palm trees, and sample traditional Senegalese street food in the village.
4. Lake Titicaca, Peru
Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and the world’s largest high-altitude body of water. It’s difficult to convey just how awe-inspiring this mirror-like blue lake is. With an area of more than 8,300 square kilometres, it’s 15 times larger than Switzerland’s Lake Geneva.
No wonder the Incas believed that Titicaca was the birthplace of the sun, and today this huge lake is just as enthralling. Bright sunny days give way to bitterly cold nights, and the deep sapphire waters reflect the sky back on itself. Here, you’ll feel as though you’re on top of the world.
The beauty of visiting Titicaca isn’t just witnessing the majesty and power of the lake itself – it’s that there’s so much history and culture to explore here too. The whole land around you is steeped in the old ways of the ancient highlands, so if you feel like getting away from it all, this is the right place.
There are many islands dotted around the lake, but if you’re looking for a hidden gem, Isla Amantaní is the least visited. With a population of just 4,000, and no roads or vehicles, visiting is like stepping back in time. If you want to really experience the local way of life, you can even arrange an overnight homestay with islanders!
5. Annapurna, Nepal
If you’re drawn to mountainous regions and are passionate about trekking, there’s a good chance you might’ve already had a few daydreams about Nepal.
The Himalayas stretch across Nepal, India, Bhutan, Pakistan, and China, and are the world’s most iconic mountain range. The sheer majesty of these jagged, snow-capped peaks will leave you speechless.
While climbing Everest may be an unattainable goal for most of us, the spellbinding Annapurna foothills are more accessible and can offer an invigorating experience without taking you to too high an altitude. Not only is this region home to Nepal’s most majestic mountains, from fish-tailed Machhapuchhare to towering Annapurna itself, but it also boasts the richest culture.
Rest weary feet in mountain teahouses, chat with locals in rural communities, and experience the magic of watching the sunrise over Annapurna.
Trekking through this jaw-dropping landscape over several days will allow you to access Annapurna’s most fascinating hidden gems – from remote mountain villages and idyllic forests, to gleaming glaciers and tranquil lowland pastures. If you’re looking to be awed by the power of nature, then Nepal is for you.
6. Wadi Shab, Oman
While Dubai is easily the most popular destination in the Middle East, it’s definitely not a hidden gem. If you want to explore the modern face of Arabia while still experiencing its ancient soul, head to Oman instead – and in particular, to Wadi Shab.
Home to glorious mountains, wind-blown deserts, and a dazzling coastline, Oman is remarkably beautiful. The landscape here is known for its ‘vertical deserts’ known locally as ‘wadis’ – soaring limestone cliffs that are cut through with canyons – and it’s Wadi Shab that’s most impressive.
Trekking along this terrain will take you past gleaming turquoise pools, terraced plantations, sunken caves, and cascading waterfalls. If you think that desert scenery will be drab, think again, as the land here is adorned with vibrant wildflowers and colourful kingfishers.
Plus, just half an hour away is the capital city of Muscat, which is scenically sprawled between the mountains and ocean. This lovely city is packed with culture and ancient history, and you can stroll through flower-filled parks, browse spice-filled markets, and visit ornate mosques and temples.
7. Pyrenees, Andorra
Sandwiched between Spain and France, in the midst of the Pyrenees mountains, Andorra may be small, but it’s undeniably spectacular. If you love skiing or hiking in magnificent mountain scenery, heading to Andorra will give you access to the Pyrenees’ very best slopes and resort facilities.
Home to 470 square kilometres of soaring peaks, tumbling valleys, medieval villages, Romanesque churches, and pristine lakes, this intriguing independent principality boasts all the scenery a hiker could wish for. And unlike other European mountain ranges, it often feels blissfully tranquil.
The capital is Andorra la Vella, which is located in a green valley just beyond Spain’s Catalonian border. Here, there’s a lovely cobbled old quarter to explore and sweeping valley panoramas to admire, although, for most visitors, the city is really the gateway to the majesty of the Andorran Pyrenees.
Once you’re in the mountains there are so many trails it’ll be a challenge to pick which ones you most want to hike. The highest mountain is Coma Pedrosa, which stands at a lofty 2,943 metres, and the paths weave past isolated refuges, picturesque villages, and soaring mountain passes.
8. The Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden
Stockholm is known for its iconic colourful houses, imposing Royal Palace, charming quayside, and historic old town which, with its narrow cobblestone streets and elegant architecture, looks like it’s straight out of a storybook. While the Swedish capital itself isn’t exactly a hidden gem, a certain part of it is.
Located just east of Stockholm, the Stockholm Archipelago is the largest archipelago in Sweden and the second-largest in the Baltic Sea, and is home to nearly 30,000 islands and islets. Known locally as Skärgården, this discrete spot is popular with well-heeled locals, yet it remains delightfully untouched by international travellers.
The best way to explore this hidden Swedish gem is by boat. You can cruise the scenic waters and enjoy easy access to Stockholm’s best sandy beaches. You’ll also be able to admire sensational views of fairytale villages, historic castles, dense forests, and the craggy coastline.
You can visit the tiny village of Landsort on the island of Öja, where you can admire the oldest lighthouse in Sweden. Then, explore uninhabited wooded islets and hike over rocky cliffs and along sandy beaches – you’ll feel like you’re the only person in the world.
The world is big, beautiful, and staggeringly diverse, and there are still vast areas that are virtually untouched by tourism.
While the eight destinations in this list aren’t exactly uncharted, they’re all pretty off-the-radar when it comes to popular tourism. So if you’re looking to escape the crowds and venture off the beaten track, we hope this article has been helpful.
From magnificent Andean lakes and Senegalese beaches to Ethiopian mountains and Middle Eastern oases, these destinations all offer something different – but what they have in common is that they’ll offer you a truly unique holiday experience.
Plus, because they don’t come with the usual holiday crowds, they also don’t come with the hefty price tags!
If you’re looking for more travel inspiration, why not head over to the travel section of our website? Here, you’ll find articles like 10 otherworldly travel destinations for the ultimate escape and 11 travel bucket list ideas.
Have you been to any of these destinations – or are you tempted to visit? Do you have any other suggestions for hidden gem holiday destinations? We’d love to hear about your travel experiences in the comments below!