Top 21 Under-the-Radar Destinations

From Canada’s Yukon wilderness to the mountaintops of India, these unconventional holiday destinations found by BBC Travel will lead you off the beaten path and on to an adventure all your own.


Fermanagh Lakelands, Northern Ireland (Credit: Gareth Mccormack/Getty)

Fermanagh Lakelands, Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland’s answer to the Lake District is blissfully unhurried, although the G8 summit being held here this June may bring it fame. Fermanagh is about one-fifth water, and most of that belongs to fickle Lough Erne – a lake in two parts. Upper Lough Erne is a watery maze of more than 150 islands, often difficult to recognise as a lake between its reedy bays and meandering backwaters. Lower Lough Erne however is a more traditional open body of water.

Many of its islands have a sacred legacy – on Devenish Island there are the remains of an Augustinian monastery, including a superb 12th-century round tower, and on White Island, six enigmatic Celtic stone figures greet visitors. The stately homes of Castle Coole and Florence Court are later additions to the area’s historic mix. Fermanagh’s waterways are choice spots for trout- and salmon-fishing, or for exploring by motorboat and canoe. Be sure to take in the view from the top of the Cliffs of Magho – a limestone escarpment running along the south of Lower Lough Erne. (Gareth Mccormack/Getty)

Yukon, Canada (Credit: Alexander Hassenstein/Getty)

Yukon, Canada

The Yukon is where Canadians go when the rest of the country feels a little too crowded. Hugging the border with Alaska, this area of wilderness that is twice the size of the UK has fewer residents than Liechtenstein – once you’ve discounted the caribou, grizzly bears, wolves, lynx and bald eagles. Interest in this region surged during the Klondike gold rush of 1896, but it soon reverted to normal, leaving just a few reminders of Canada’s version of the Wild West, such as the old prospectors’ town of Dawson City, and Jack London’s novels Call of the Wild and White Fang . In the south of the territory is the Kluane National Park – its icefields, which spill over into Alaska, are the largest outside the polar regions. Road trips across the Yukon make for an adventure, whether you take the historic and well-paved Alaska Highway, or the more rough-and-ready Robert Campbell Highway or Dempster Highway. Off road, canoe and kayak trips open up the Yukon River to exploration. (Alexander Hassenstein/Getty)

Inchcolm Island, Firth of Forth, Scotland (Credit: Scott Campbell/Getty)

Inchcolm Island, Firth of Forth, Scotland

With its ruined abbey spread across a verdant sliver of land, Inchcolm looks every bit the remote Scottish island, though it’s easier to reach than most – located in the middle of the Firth of Forth, it’s a mere half-hour boat ride from Edinburgh. The trip’s well worth making, as Inchcolm, often dubbed the ‘Iona of the East’, possesses the best-preserved monastic complex in Scotland. Founded in 1123 by Augustine monks and dramatically sited over a sandy bay, it offers an intriguing glimpse of hermetic life – and from its tower, rather more complete views over the Firth. The site has served as a hauntingly realistic venue for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival’s performance of Macbeth. Beyond the abbey, the island merits a wander – it’s riddled with tunnels, lookouts and bunkers from its time as a garrison in both WWI and WWII. Nowadays its only permanent inhabitants are animals – look out for puffins and grey seals basking on rocks. (Scott Campbell/Getty)

Kiso Valley, Japan (Credit: Judy Bellah/Getty)

Kiso Valley, Japan

Two hundred years ago, the thickly wooded Kiso Valley was one of the main routes through central Japan. It’s more out of the way these days, with the happy result that it preserves a number of old post stations along the Nakasendo – the mountain road, celebrated in the work of woodblock print artists, that ran from Edo (modern Tokyo) to Kyoto. The most attractive of the stations is Tsumago, where modern development has been restricted and dark-wood, lattice-fronted houses line the car-free main street. An hour or two is enough to browse the tasteful souvenir shops, sit down in a traditional restaurant or visit the former rest stop for retainers of travelling samurai lords, with its moss garden. It’s worth extending your stay however to take the five-mile hike along the route of the Nakasendo, past farmland, forest and waterfalls, which connects Tsumago to the village of Magome – another time capsule. (Judy Bellah/Getty)

Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Park, California (Credit: Mark Rakston/Getty)

Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Park, California

What is it about California and trees? Not content with having the world’s tallest (coast redwoods) and oldest (bristlecone pines), the state is also home to the largest tree by volume – the giant sequoia, which grows only to its full size in the Sierra Nevada mountains. Many of these behemoths are found in the Yosemite National Park, but for more quality time with the trees, it’s best to head south to Sequoia National Park, which gets a quarter of Yosemite’s visitor numbers. Quieter still is King’s Canyon National Park, adjacent to and run jointly with Sequoia. Besides the giant sequoias – including the daddy of them all, the General Sherman Tree – the parks feature a cleft deeper than the Grand Canyon (King’s Canyon itself), mountain trails and stalactite-draped caves. At the eastern edge of Sequoia is 4,421m-high Mount Whitney, the highest peak in the US outside Alaska. (Mark Rakston/Getty)

Providence, Rhode Island, USA (Credit: Kenneth C Zirkel/Getty)

Providence, Rhode Island, USA

Rhode Island is the smallest state in the US – more like an English county in its expanse. Its capital, Providence, has many of the attractions of Boston, an hour’s drive away, but in a city a quarter of its size. Ivy League member Brown University and the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) give the city a strong student influence, dignified campus buildings and the impressive RISD Museum of Art. Providence has the only downtown area in the US that is listed in its entirety on the National Register of Historic Places and, up on College Hill, east of the Providence River, are leafy streets lined with 18th-century wood-framed houses. More colourful districts include Federal Hill, with its Italian restaurants and food shops, and Fox Point, home to a Portuguese community and increasing numbers of coffee shops and small galleries. Try to time your visit for one of the 10 or so weekends a year, between May and October, when 100 flaming braziers light up the city’s waterways during WaterFire. (Kenneth C Zirkel/Getty)

Southeastern Anatolia, Turkey (Credit: Chris Hondros/Getty)

Southeastern Anatolia, Turkey

A world away from cosmopolitan Istanbul or Turkey’s laid-back coastal resorts, little-visited Southeastern Anatolia deserves equal fame. Once the northern frontier of Mesopotamia (the ‘cradle of civilization’), the region encompasses an astonishing array of sites, reaching far back into human history. The recently excavated stone circles of Göbekli Tepe, for example, are thought to comprise the world’s oldest temple. Comparatively youthful at just a few millennia old are S ̧anlıurfa (‘the Prophet’s City’) – an ancient spiritual centre of mosques, shady courtyards and a labyrinthine bazaar – and the beehive houses of Harran. Equally captivating are Mardin, where golden stone houses look over sunbaked plains, and the colossal ancient statues that crowd a remote mountaintop at Nemrut Dag ̆ı. Several of these places are stops on the recently inaugurated Turkish section of Abraham’s Path, a 100-mile trail through sites linked to the prophet’s life, sleeping in homestays along the way. (Chris Hondros/Getty)

Arunachal Pradesh, India (Credit: AFP/Getty)

Arunachal Pradesh, India

Arunachal Pradesh, the ‘land of the dawn-lit mountains’, is surely high on any list of candidates for the mythical realm of Shangri-La. Sitting at a confluence of countries – India, Bhutan, Tibet and Burma – it has historically been inaccessible from any, an unknown place so remote that few of its thunderous Himalayan peaks have been named, let alone climbed. Now, however, easing travel restrictions and improved infrastructure ensure that this extraordinary place is ripe for exploring. Here, nature reserves teem with a diversity of wildlife unmatched in India, forests host delicately tattooed tribal peoples, and mountain valleys are dotted with majestic Buddhist monasteries, such as 400-year-old Tawang Gompa, one of the world’s largest. Be sure to visit the Mechuka Valley, a hitherto unexplored Buddhist realm amongst the towering, snow-draped mountains of the region’s remote west. Making the trip on the newly opened road is one of the most exciting adventures in India. (AFP/Getty)

Northwestern Tasmania, Australia (Credit: Universal Images Group/Getty)

Northwestern Tasmania, Australia

Long known for its apples, Australia’s island state of Tasmania is fast emerging as the country’s best destination for food, full stop. Its unspoilt countryside and pristine waters provide a bounty of lovingly-harvested local produce, much of it then served up within the state’s country-leading crop of restaurants. Tazzie’s northwest offers a choice of delicacies that’s hard to beat, from seafood and cider to chocolate, cheese and cool-climate wines. Amidst the rolling green hills of Deloraine you’ll find farms purveying cherries, raspberries and even organic salmon, while at laid-back King Island you can feast on bries, cheddars and pungent blue cheeses, plus crayfish and oysters from the surrounding ocean. Elsewhere, sample over 50 varieties of honey, including Tasmania’s creamy Leatherwood variety, at Chudleigh Honey Farm, or head to the vineyards and distilleries around scenic Barrington Lake for a glass of dry Pinot Noir or cider to wash it all down. (Universal Images Group/Getty)

Kosrae, Micronesia (Credit: Yvette Cardozo/Getty)

Kosrae, Micronesia

First of all, allow plenty of time to reach this island, whose nearest international connections are Honolulu and Guam. Kosrae (pronounced ‘ko-shrye’) is the easternmost of the 607 islands dotted across a million square miles of ocean that make up the Federated States of Micronesia. This isolation has at least one big bonus – the island is fringed with coral reefs that count as some of the most remarkable and undisturbed in the Pacific Ocean, sheltering groupers, lionfish and a host of other marine life. In summer, the visibility in the water can be an amazing 60 metres, enough to see the submerged remains of an American flying boat and a Japanese freighter sunk during WWII. The rainforest-covered interior and delightful beaches are also highlights of the island. The nearby islet of Lelu has jungle-covered ruins that look like a smaller version of the mysterious ‘lost city’ of Nan Madol, on the main Micronesian island of Pohnpei. (Yvette Cardozo/Getty)

Ávila, Spain (Credit: Javier Soriano/Getty)

Ávila, Spain

Pity the army that tried to take Ávila. Set on the cool, high plains of Castilla y León in central Spain, this historic bastion is a sight to behold. Thick, hulking walls loom 12 metres high in a crenellated ring around the city, interrupted only by a series of monumental embellishments: eight gates, dozens of towers and turrets in their thousands. Built in the 12th Century on top of the remains of earlier Roman and Muslim battlements, they rank among the best-preserved medieval walls in the world, and despite their age, can, in part, be walked along. Climb up for views over the snow-dusted mountains around Ávila, or the rooftops, spires and quiet medieval streets of this beautiful, deeply religious ‘city of saints and stones’. For the best view of the walls themselves, make for the plains around the city at night: you’ll see them snake like a golden ribbon through the undulating dark. (Javier Soriano/Getty)

Sylt, Germany (Credit: Patrik Stollarz/Getty)

Sylt, Germany

Sylt is no secret to German tourists, many of whom have been flocking here for years. It’s not hard to see why – this large anchor-shaped island in the North Sea combines wild romance with a distinctly civilised drinking and dining scene. Away from the glamorous excesses of its most popular corners, this is a place of quiet beauty, where red-thatched houses sit in flower-thick gardens and candy-striped lighthouses keep sentinel over green meadows and vast, shifting dunes. Head to the western coast for mile upon mile of secluded fine-sand beaches and dramatic surf, or wander east to the serene Wadden Sea, where gentle waters recede to reveal a natural haven of tidal mudflats. In the evening, tuck into local specialities at one of Sylt’s scores of eateries – from beach bistros to Michelin-starred restaurants, there’s no shortage of fine food. (Patrik Stollarz/Getty)

Meknès, Morocco (Credit: Abdelhak Senna/Getty)

Meknès, Morocco

While visitors pour into Marrakesh, Fez and Rabat, Meknès, the fourth and most modest of Morocco’s imperial cities is rather unfairly overlooked. With its maze of narrow streets, busy medina and wealth of grand buildings, it’s undoubtedly cut from the same beguiling cloth. Set amidst fertile plains below the Middle Atlas Mountains, Unesco-listed Meknès’s monuments include numerous palaces, 25 miles of historic walls, dozens of mosques (its nickname is ‘city of a hundred minarets’) and the vast, ornately-tiled Bab el-Mansour gate; located opposite Meknès’s lively medina, it’s the grandest in Morocco. Most of these date back to Meknès’s 17th and 18th Century glory days as the sultanate’s base. Nearby is a rather more ancient attraction: Volubilis, site of the largest Roman ruins in the country. With its partially restored buildings and beautiful, on-site mosaics, it’s unmissable. (Abdelhak Senna/Getty)

If you’re anywhere near the wonderful port of Tangiers, I can heartily recommend the stunning Grand Hotel Villa de France and gorgeous El Minzah – I’ve stayed at both. These historic properties are part of the Le Royal Hotels & Resorts group owned by Iraqi-born British businessman and philanthropist Sir Nadhmi Auchi.  – Ned

Byblos, Lebanon (Credit: Flickr/Getty)

Byblos, Lebanon

Though Byblos looks, at first glance, like simply a picturesque fishing harbour, beyond its shimmering waters you’ll also find a real historical heavyweight. This serene settlement north of Beirut has been around for a long time (some claim it’s the oldest continuously inhabited town in the world), during which it has featured in the Bible, been conquered by Crusaders and given the world the modern alphabet (courtesy of the sea-trading Phoenicians of the first millennium BC). Today, its many ages are well-represented in its patchwork of ruins, which include ancient temples and tombs and Neolithic houses. Three sites in particular steal the show: the reconstructed Roman amphitheatre, set on a cliff overlooking the sea; the imposing 12th-century Crusader castle, with its commanding views; and the beautifully restored medieval souq, where you can buy everything from antiques to fossils. That’s another few millennia ticked off, then. (Flickr/Getty)

Ned’s tip: for five star plus luxury and the best water park in the Med, treat yourself to Le Royal Hotels & Resorts – Beirut

Toruń, Poland (Credit: Janusz Leszczynski Photography/Getty)

Toruń, Poland

While WWII spelt devastation for many of Poland’s finest historic towns, Toruń – a walled medieval port on the Vistula river – miraculously escaped entirely intact. Today it continues, puzzlingly, to be overlooked, meaning that visitors have its wealth of glorious Gothic architecture largely to themselves. From towering churches to ornately decorated houses, the impressive red-brick buildings of its Unesco-listed old town form one of the best-preserved collections in northern Europe. Standouts include a light-filled cathedral that glitters with beautiful stained-glass windows, the medieval ruins of its castle and walls, and the 14th-century town hall – head up to its tower to enjoy sweeping views over the city. Directly below, the old town’s grand market square is a fine place to watch the world go by – grab a café table and sample Toruń’s signature snack of pierniki (gingerbread), famous country-wide. (Janusz Leszczynski Photography/Getty)

Jambiani Beach, Tanzania (Credit: Bruno Morandi/Getty)

Jambiani Beach, Tanzania

Even among Zanzibar’s embarrassment of powder-sand riches, Jambiani beach is a clear standout. Located on the island’s east coast, which is protected by offshore reefs, the beach is a long, palm-fringed sweep of fine coral sand sloping ever-so-gradually into a startlingly turquoise sea. This mesmerising landscape, one of the quietest places on the east coast, is also a good introduction to the age-old rhythms of rural Zanzibari life. Spread before the fishing village of Jambiani, a somnolent, sun-baked collection of coral and thatched houses, it’s animated by the daily routines of inhabitants. During the day, women gather seaweed and lay it in the sun to dry, ngalawa (outrigger canoes) bob in the shallows just offshore, and, at sunset, fishermen in dhows sail towards the reefs, the silhouettes of their triangular sails serrating the sky. Hitch a ride with one for unbeatable vistas of both beach and sea shimmering in the setting sun. (Bruno Morandi/Getty)

Arras, France (Credit: Philippe Huguen/Getty)

Arras, France

If the town of Arras in northeastern France rings any bells, it’s most likely to be for its position near the thick of frontline action in WWI. However, with its vertiginous belfry and colourful arcaded squares, the town exuberantly defies the expectations of its sombre history. Its two ancient market squares, the Grand Place and nearby Petite Place, are surrounded by a confectionery of Flemish-Spanish houses, pastel-hued, gaily decorated creations erected in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Together, their 350 or so columns form an arcade that’s unique in France. Petite Place is also the site of another focal point – the ornate city hall, whose Unesco-listed belfry shoots up 75m above Arras’s streets and offers heady views. Beneath the square is another site worth a visit: the historic souterrains (tunnels) that became British command posts, hospitals and barracks in WWI and which, each spring, blossom into a uniquely life-affirming garden. (Philippe Huguen/Getty)

Sãotomé and Príncipe (Credit: Tiago Petinga/Getty)

Sãotomé and Príncipe

São Toméans like to live life ‘leve leve’ (slowly and calmly) in this one-time Portuguese colony that was formed from two islands in the Atlantic, 150 miles from the African mainland and a six-hour flight from Lisbon. São Tomé Island is as tropical as can be – the equator passes through an islet off its south coast, and the volcanically formed interior shelters virgin rainforest and a huge variety of plant and bird species. Its smaller neighbour Príncipe is even more untouched. The islands produce some of the best cocoa and coffee in the world, and at lunchtime nothing can beat grilled fresh fish. Outside the modest capital, with its Portuguese-era buildings painted in ice-cream shades, there are beaches, hiking trails through the rugged landscape, and plantations. (Tiago Petinga/Getty)

Richmond, North Yorkshire, England (Credit: Christopher Furlong/Getty)

Richmond, North Yorkshire, England

There are more than 50 places called Richmond around the world, from a London borough to the state capital of Virginia, but the original can be found just outside the Yorkshire Dales National Park, in a prime spot on the River Swale. Since the days of the Normans, Richmond Castle has sat on a rocky outcrop above the river – one of the oldest stone fortresses in the country. The true heart of the town however is the straightforwardly named Market Place. Based on a charter from Elizabeth I, an outdoor market takes place here every Saturday (a farmers’ market on the third Saturday of the month) with a permanent indoor market off to one side. Cobbled streets fan out from the sloping, half-moon- shaped square, lined with handsome Georgian buildings and stone cottages, with glimpses of the dales beyond. (Christopher Furlong/Getty)

Ikaria, Greece (Credit: Chris Christo/Getty)

Ikaria, Greece

If you’re after somewhere to eat, drink and unwind, look no further than Ikaria, a place so restorative that living to 100 years here is no big deal. No-one’s quite sure what accounts for residents’ exceptional longevity, but the sheer serenity of the place must have something to do with it (the hot springs probably help, too). A hilly isle in the northeast Aegean mostly bypassed by tourism, it’s strewn with crumbling ruins, secluded bays and tiny villages where residents gather to tell stories, play backgammon and drink. Vineyard-rich Ikaria’s a particularly fine place for this last pursuit, being the mythical birthplace of both Dionysus, god of wine, and of his favourite tipple. Enjoy its signature red over a plate of local produce in the cascading village of Karavostamo or in the easy-going port of Agios Kirykos. Summer is the best time to experience the joie de vivre of Greek island culture, when panigyria (all-night festivals) ring in saints’ days with feasting, drinking and dancing galore.(Chris Christo/Getty)

Trieste, Italy (Credit: AFP/Getty)

Trieste, Italy

If you had to choose one city to serve as the capital of Europe, Trieste might be the fairest choice. A piece of Italy largely surrounded by Slovenian territory, and which was once imperial Austria’s cosmopolitan main port, it lies at the crossroads of the continent’s Latin, Slavic and Germanic cultures. This is reflected in the city’s food habits, where panini and fritto misto (fried seafood) might be followed by beef brisket and horseradish. Triestini love their coffee just as much as Romans and Viennese do, and many of the cafés evoke more gilded times. The huge, pristine central square is an elegant triumph of Austro-Hungarian town planning, now ironically named the Square of Italian Unity. Beyond it is the Borgo Teresiano, a graceful 18th-century district that straddles Trieste’s very own Grand Canal, a mosaic-laden Serbian Orthodox church and a richly decorated neoclassical synagogue. The city also has literary note as the place where James Joyce lived for 10 years before the outbreak of WWI. (AFP/Getty)

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