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10 Hidden Places the World Doesn’t Know About

SmarterTravel

Need to get away from it all—including other tourists? I got the inside scoop on 10 hidden destinations from Joe Yogerst, one of the authors of National Geographic‘s Secret Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Best Hidden Travel Gems. His picks will give even the most seasoned traveler new ideas.

Best Hidden Destination Within the United States: North Dakota

American bison crossing the Scenic Drive in Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota
Bram Reusen/Shutterstock

“My newest ‘find’ is North Dakota, which I discovered last fall. Wide open spaces, very few people, and lots of things to do, too, [like] Wild West towns and old Norwegian pioneer settlements, [Theodore] Roosevelt National Park and the Northern Badlands, [and] The Lewis and Clark Trail of forts and museums along the Missouri River. [Plus, there’s a] surprisingly sophisticated food and bar scene in Bismarck.”

Book it: Get prices for Hampton Inn & Suites Bismarck Northwest and other area hotels

Best Hidden Destination for History Lovers: Leptis Magna

The amphitheater in the roman African colonial city of Leptis Magna in Libya
Plamen Galabov/Shutterstock

“One thing that didn’t come out during 2011’s blanket press coverage of the Libya revolution was the fact that the North African nation has the absolute best Roman ruins anywhere, outside of Rome itself. The place is called Leptis Magna, [and it’s] on the coast 75 miles east of Tripoli. [You’ll find] stunning architecture that hardly anyone has visited in modern times.”

Book it: Stay at Thobacts Hotel in Tripoli and take a day trip to Leptis Magna

Editor’s note: Leptis Magna remains difficult to visit due to threats of violence and destruction. Read more about efforts to protect these sites, and the risks they face, here

Best Hidden Destination for Snorkeling: Tuamotu Islands

Tropical island above and underwater with coral below sea surface, atoll of Tikehau, Tuamotu archipelago, French Polynesia, Pacific ocean
Damsea/Shutterstock

“The Tuamotu Islands of French Polynesia, about an hour’s flight north of Papeete, are unspoiled, uncrowded, and unpolluted. You can snorkel with tropical fish or big things (sharks and manta rays) in the coral atolls with lagoons in the middle or ‘drift snorkel’ through the lagoon passages on the turn of the tides.”

Book it: Get prices for Va’a i te Moana and other area hotels

Best Hidden Destination for Family Travel: Galapagos Islands

Steve Allen/Shutterstock

“Not hidden per se, but it’s not the most obvious family vacation and it’s the one spot on the entire planet I would take my kids back [to] again and again. Children love it, especially if you tour the islands by boat. In addition to getting up close and personal with millions of animals who show no fear of humans, kids can also dive into lots of different watersports like snorkeling, sea kayaking, Zodiac [boats], etc.”

Book it: Get prices for La Casa de Marita and other area hotels

Best Hidden Destination for Mountain Lovers: The Pyrenees

Gabor Kovacs Photography/Shutterstock

“The Pyrenees in southern France and northern Spain [are] everything people crave about the Alps with a fraction of the people. [They have so much to offer, including] incredible high-country national parks in Gavarnie, Ordesa, and Aiguestortes; hearty regional cuisine; the running of the bulls in Pamplona—and even duty-free shopping in tiny Andorra.”

Book it: Get prices for Escapades Lointaines and other area hotels

Best Hidden Destination for Romance: Sri Lanka

Lighthouse from Galle Town in Sri Lanka in 15.09.2018 in Ceylon. Village pictures of the old Galle fort in Southwest.
Timo Gotz/Shutterstock

“Sri Lanka’s southern coast, [especially on] either side of the old city of Galle, has everything you need for a romantic getaway—including chic boutique hotels, uncrowded beaches, wildlife sanctuaries (wild elephants and leopards), ancient temples, and great food.”

Book it: Get prices for The Bartizan Galle Fort and other area hotels

Best Hidden Destination for Beaches: Mauritius

Balate Dorin/Shutterstock

“It’s a long haul from North America or Europe, but Mauritius is well worth the 24-hour trip for the palm-fringed beaches alone. Great hotels, marvelous mixed-bag cuisine (Indian, Chinese, African, French) that reflects the island’s diverse cultural heritage, adventurous volcanic mountains, quirky history, and very nice people who enjoy having visitors come to their tiny speck of land in the middle of nowhere.”

Book it: Get prices for LUX* Grand Gaube and other area hotels

Best Hidden Destination For Culinary Travel: Tokyo

Merchants sale seafood in Tsukiji fish market on July 27, 2013 in Tsukiji, Japan. Tsukiji fish market is one of biggest fish market in the world
gjee/Shutterstock

“A lot of people wouldn’t touch ‘street food’ in Asia, but in super-clean Japan you have nothing to worry about. Especially good are the early-morning eateries of Tsukiji Fish Market, where you can breakfast on fresh-off-the-boat sashimi and premium sake, and the ‘Yakitori Alley’ beneath the old brick railroad arches near the Ginza district.”

Book it: Get prices for Keio Plaza Hotel Tokyo and other area hotels

Best Hidden Destination for Adventure Travel: Wrangell-Kluane Wilderness, Alaska and the Yukon

Aerial view of turquoise glacier lake in Kluane Nationalpark
Lucas T. Jahn/Shutterstock

“This is the world’s largest, single protected area (50 million square miles), and [it] boasts the biggest concentration of super-high mountains and glaciers in North America. In addition to copious wildlife (bear, moose, caribou, mountain goats, whales, and timber wolves), the vast park offers all sorts of adventure possibilities—backcountry hiking, mountain climbing, whitewater rafting [on] huge inland rivers, or kayaking saltwater fjords. And best of all: adrenaline-pumping bush plane flights.”

Book it: Get prices for Waterfront Bed and Breakfast and other area hotels

Best Hidden Destination For Wildlife: Pantanal Wetlands

Jaguar in the Pantanal
Pedro Helder Pinheiro/Shutterstock

“Everyone thinks the Amazon is the place to go in South America for wildlife, but the vegetation is too thick and the habitat destruction [is] too widespread now. With vast grasslands, animals are much easier to see (and photograph) in the Pantanal wetlands of southern Brazil. It’s the best place on the planet to see jaguars in the wild.”

Book it: Get prices for Hotel Mato Grosso Aguas Quentes and other area hotels

For more travel inspiration, we recommend National Geographic‘s Secret Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Best Hidden Travel Gems, co-written by Joe Yogerst.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2012. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.

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