Nicole Smoot

Have you already crossed the popular hotspots off your list? If you’re looking for more advanced and off the beaten path destinations then this is the list for you. Here are 10 of the most beautiful, yet underrated destinations around.

Tajikistan

Where the mountains meet the sky and lakes mirror the roof of the world - this is Tajikistan. World class trekking is almost as bountiful as the number of warm-hearted people that will offer you glass after glass of hot chai as you pass by. But Tajikistan’s past hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows. In 1991, the country gained independence from the Soviet Union only to fall into one of the bloodiest civil wars battled after the fall of the USSR.

The dust is clearing and Tajikistan is becoming easier and easier to venture to as the days pass. With the introduction of an e-visa last year for many western countries and tourism starting to slowly nudge back to pre-1990’s numbers, Tajikistan is a rising star.

khafrazdara lake in the bartang valley tajikistan

Alaska

Are you craving endless adventure without the crowds that the rest of the USA sees? Then visit Alaska - it is as wild as it gets. From the highest peak in North America, endless glaciers and abundant wildlife, to the famed northern lights and nearly 24-hour daylight in the summertime, Alaska has nearly got it all. But don’t worry, Alaska isn’t all high adrenaline adventure. From outstanding restaurants that serve up locally caught seafood to a surge in microbreweries, Alaska will cater to the full spectrum.

eagle and symphony lakes hike in alaska

Cyprus

Take off to the right parts and desolate beaches, wild donkeys and warm locals await. The rocky coastline around Paphos and the sandy beaches of the Karpaz Peninsula are a great start.

Cyprus is more than just a pretty face – it is a foodie paradise! Haloumi is the national cheese of Cyprus and it is divine, squeaks when you bite into it and doesn’t melt when you cook it. Cities like Nicosia, Limassol, Paphos and Kyrenia are peppered with amazing restaurants. A personal favourite of mine is 7 St. George’s Tavern just outside Paphos. Family ran, growing all their own produce and raising their own livestock will make for one of the best meals you will ever eat. You know it’s going to be good when there’s not even a menu.

cyprus

Afghanistan

Yes, many parts of the country are a no-go due to the ongoing war. However, with the right precautions there are pockets of the country that are mind-blowingly beautiful and worth a visit. The Wakhan Corridor off northeast Afghanistan is a thin and narrow valley that separates Pakistan from China and Tajikistan, and is one of those very places worth a trip. The corridor has remained peaceful over the years and it’s pretty far off the beaten path, so roughing it is a reality here. Big rewards come to those who travel deep enough in though. You can find some of the most hospitable people on Earth, nomads living in the most traditional ways and some people so cut off from the world that they have never even heard of the Taliban.

wakhan corridor afghanistan

Antarctica

The last continent is about as off the beaten track as it possibly gets. Zodiac cruising between behemoth icebergs, getting up close with adorable penguin colonies and the chance to step foot in places that only a small handful of people have ever visited are just a few of the highlights of Antarctica.

seal and adelie penguins Antarctica

Republic of Artsakh

Formerly the Nagorno-Karabakh until earlier this year, the Republic of Artsakh is a landlocked and unrecognised republic in the Southern Caucasus. The majority of people are Armenian with Azerbaijan laying claim to the lands, which leaves this disputed territory in limbo. A cease-fire was reached in 1994 after a bloody war, and since then the territory has remained relatively safe.

Artsakh is very mountainous with an average altitude of over 1,000 metres. There are endless trekking opportunities to be had here with beautiful canyons and stunning waterfalls and better yet there aren’t any crowds. Of course, you should only trek on known trails as not all landmines have been cleared.

zontik waterfall republic of artsakh

Kyrgyzstan

You have made it to Central Asia, so congrats on already stepping away from the usual tourists hotspots like Thailand or Indonesia. Giant snow-capped peaks, turquoise waters, yurts and Kyrgyz hospitality are just a few of the highlights here. Don’t forget to try a traditional Dungan meal when you make it out to Karakol. Dungans are Muslim practicing people of Chinese origin and their cuisine is a product of their diverse background.

kyrgyz cemetery in kyrgyzstan

Southern Morocco

With the Atlantic ocean lapping at the base of the Antiatlas Mountains and a unique culture much more laid back than it’s northern cousins, Southern Morocco is a welcome change from the bustle and chaos further north. Some of the best places to head are Sidi Ifni for it’s beautiful blue-and-white Kasbahs along with the stunning nearby Legzira beach and the mountain town of Tafroute, surrounded by jagged orange rock formations and endless trekking opportunities on offer. Better yet, rent a car and see where the roads take you. There are countless scenic stops to be made as you drive down the South Atlantic coast and one adorable village after another in the Antiatlas. For those interested in a real adventure continue further south into the Western Sahara - this truly is the wild wild west.

legzira arch morocco

Moldova

The little landlocked country sandwiched between Romania and the Ukraine, mention its name and most people will shrug and say ‘never heard of it’. Moldova has plenty to offer for its modest size, yet small enough that you can hit the major sites in a short span of time and it’s easy on the pocketbook.

To get a real sense of Moldova, you need to get under it. The country boasts two of the world’s largest underground wine cellars - Milesti Mici and Cricova. The country’s number one tourist site, Orheiul Vechi, is home to a cave monastery.

For those looking to get off the beaten path even further when you are already off it, you can make the visit to the separatist region of Transnistria just over the river. Check out Tiraspol, the de-facto capital where the Soviet Union still reigns supreme and there’s even a Lenin Statue to boot.

arc de triumph moldova

Oman

Mountains of sand dunes await you in the Wahiba Sands. Pristine beaches dot the near desolate coastline and the Grand Canyon of Arabia offers thrill seekers heart-stopping views. Not to mention hospitality knows no limits here and crumbling fortresses and intricate mosques are all packed into this amazing country.

Oman is a great introduction to the Middle East for first-timers. It has remained extremely peaceful with the chaos and war the stifles many of its neighbours. The harassment of women is almost nonexistent and crime is almost at zero. The culture is vibrant, the cities dazzling and the nature sublime.

bimmah sinkhole oman

So if you’ve decided that destinations packed with tourists are no longer as appealing as they use to be, venture to any of these places off the beaten path and you won’t be disappointed. There is so much of the world that deserves exploring so it is time to start now. 

 

Nicole Smoot is an adventure travel blogger and photographer that spends much of her time, when she isn't at home exploring in Alaska, venturing to some of the most inaccessible corners of the planet. From trekking with Wakhi nomads in Afghanistan, to floating by ice floes teaming with Adelie penguins and leopard seals in Antarctica, to camping under the stars with the Arabian Sea lapping at her toes in Socotra - Nicole is always looking for the next wild escapade. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook and on her Blog.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by the author and those providing comments are theirs alone, and are meant as travel inspiration only. They do not reflect the opinions of Cover-More Insurance. You should always read the Policy Documents available from your travel insurance provider to understand the limits, exclusions and conditions of your policy and to ensure any activities you undertake are covered by your policy.