Escaping the Masses: The 2024 Guide to Travel’s Hidden Gems
Escaping the Masses: The 2024 Guide to Travel's Hidden Gems - Off the Beaten Path in Italy's Piedmont Region
Tucked away in the northwest corner of Italy, the Piedmont region often gets overlooked by travelers making their way to more famous destinations like Rome, Florence and Venice. But venturing off the standard Italy itinerary reveals a part of the country that’s just as full of charm, culture, food and wine as its more popular counterparts.
Piedmont remains refreshingly tourist-free, with charming medieval villages and castles dotting rolling vine-covered hills. The regional capital of Turin offers elegant piazzas, cafés and museums without the overwhelming crowds. And the local cuisine features artisanal cheeses, truffles, pasta and iconic dishes like bagna cauda that you won’t find further south.
Base yourself in understated Turin to get a taste of royal splendor and cafe culture or opt for peaceful Alba surrounded by vineyards. Take a wine tasting tour through the prestigious Barolo, Barbera and Barbaresco regions or hunt for the elusive white truffle. The storybook village of Barolo makes a perfect home base.
Venture into the countryside around Asti and Acqui Terme to find a landscape dotted with ancient castles and abbeys. Stop at towns like Canelli and Nizza Monferrato to sample sparkling wines and wander through open-air markets. Don’t miss the medieval village of Neive with its pastel houses and portico-lined streets.
In Cuneo province, take the train through mountain valleys to the French border. Car-free mountain towns like Cervasca and Vernante feel like hidden gems. Or hike in the Maritime Alps to secluded mountain lakes and alpine meadows. Discover slow-paced mountain life in villages seemingly untouched by time.
What else is in this post?
- Escaping the Masses: The 2024 Guide to Travel's Hidden Gems - Off the Beaten Path in Italy's Piedmont Region
- Escaping the Masses: The 2024 Guide to Travel's Hidden Gems - Lesser-Known Caribbean Islands Without the Crowds
- Escaping the Masses: The 2024 Guide to Travel's Hidden Gems - Budget-Friendly Outdoor Adventures in Eastern Europe
- Escaping the Masses: The 2024 Guide to Travel's Hidden Gems - Undiscovered Hiking Trails in Patagonia
- Escaping the Masses: The 2024 Guide to Travel's Hidden Gems - Charming Small Towns in the American Southwest
- Escaping the Masses: The 2024 Guide to Travel's Hidden Gems - Authentic Cultural Experiences in Southeast Asia
- Escaping the Masses: The 2024 Guide to Travel's Hidden Gems - Road Tripping Through Quaint French Villages
- Escaping the Masses: The 2024 Guide to Travel's Hidden Gems - Tasting Your Way Through Croatia's Underrated Islands
Escaping the Masses: The 2024 Guide to Travel's Hidden Gems - Lesser-Known Caribbean Islands Without the Crowds
Trade mega resorts for barefoot luxury on some of the Caribbean’s most unspoiled islands. With swaying palms, talcum sand beaches and aquamarine waters, you can find a slice of paradise without the crowds.
Skip past crowded hotspots like Nassau and Montego Bay and head to the Out Islands of the Bahamas. Here, 700 islands and cays offer endless seclusion. Rent a villa on Eleuthera to enjoy pink sand beaches without the masses. Or island hop around the Abacos and make Elbow Cay your home base. Relax at intimate inns like the luxurious The Landing, with just seven oceanfront rooms. Spend days bonefishing, paddle boarding and beach hopping.
St. Kitts retains old Caribbean charm, with lush rainforest-covered mountains, plantation heritage and quiet beaches. Stay at Golden Rock Inn, dramatically perched on cliffs above the crashing Atlantic. Or check into new luxury resort Park Hyatt St. Kitts, secluded on Banana Bay. Sign up for volcano climbing, zip lining or diving trips led by local guides.
For natural beauty and historic forts, make your escape to Nevis. With an inactive volcano at its heart, waterfalls and hot springs dot the interior. Check into rustic Hermitage Plantation Inn with its gingerbread cottages. Spend mornings lounging in hammocks and your afternoons swimming at Pinney’s beach.
Dominica is one of the region’s last unspoiled islands, with few big resorts or cruise passengers. Tucked between the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique, its mountainous interior is primed for hiking past waterfalls and hot springs. Scuba dive in marine reserves filled with manta rays, whale sharks and sea turtles.
Anguilla belongs at the top of any secluded Caribbean list, with over thirty pristine white sand beaches and just three large resorts. Stay in a hillside villa overlooking the sea or check into Frangipani Beach Resort. Dine at beach shacks and grills run by local families and take day sails to tiny cays nearby. Leave crowds and glitz behind and come home with the perfect Caribbean tan.
Escaping the Masses: The 2024 Guide to Travel's Hidden Gems - Budget-Friendly Outdoor Adventures in Eastern Europe
Forget overtouristed Western Europe – adventurous travelers know Eastern Europe is where you’ll find epic outdoor pursuits without blowing your budget. With dramatic mountain ranges, wide rivers and preserved forests, the region is a playground for hiking, biking, rafting and more. Leave the big-name national parks behind and head into the Carpathians, Balkans and beyond.
Poland’s Bieszczady Mountains remain an undiscovered gem with hundreds of miles of trails traversing primordial forests and grassy highland meadows. Base yourself in the tiny village of Wetlina to set out on rugged day hikes past lakes and waterfalls. Spend the night in remote mountain huts and shelters for under $10 a night. Local outfitters like BieszczadyWild can arrange camping trips, horseback riding, rafting and more.
In Slovakia, the High Tatras offer a budget alternative to pricey Switzerland. Take the Golden Loop hike on a stretch of the Tatranská Magistrála trail, with epic views of glacier lakes and limestone peaks. Cabins like Zamkovského Chata have dorm beds from $20 for those who want to extend the alpine adventure. Or opt for an action-packed day of via ferratas or whitewater rafting down the Dunajec River into Lesser Poland.
Romania’s Carpathians contain the last virgin forests in Europe and wolves, bears and lynx still roam the mountains. Try a multi-day trek from Bran Castle to Brasov, hiking past sacred sites and sleeping in remote shepherd’s cottages. For around $30 a day, Peczka Hutra will point you towards legendary trails and hidden monasteries. Outside Rasnov, cycle or hike up to the ruins of Poienari Fortress – said to be the inspiration for Dracula’s castle.
Serbia’s Djerdap National Park stretches along the Danube River, with deep gorges perfect for hiking and rafting. Local Balkan Green corona outfitters run cycling, caving, rafting and kayaking day trips for around $50 per person – including guides and equipment. Or take a scenic boat cruise through the Iron Gate gorge for views of low-key resort villages and beach clubs dotting the shores.
Escaping the Masses: The 2024 Guide to Travel's Hidden Gems - Undiscovered Hiking Trails in Patagonia
Stretching across southern Chile and Argentina, Patagonia’s stunning landscapes of glaciers, mountains and steppe feel endless. Most visitors flock to famous parks like Los Glaciares and Torres del Paine on well-trodden trails. Yet just beyond lie hundreds of miles of untouched wilderness and undiscovered routes where you can find adventure and solitude.
Venture into the isolated Cordillera Darwin in Chile’s Tierra del Fuego for a true expedition. Multiple days trekking through subpolar forest brings you close to the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, with chances to see elusive huemul deer. Experienced outfitter Tierras del Sur can customize private trips with backcountry camping under the midnight sun. Or base yourself at the new Singular Hotel for day hikes across the Martial Glacier.
In Argentina’s Los Alerces National Park, escape the crowds and challenge yourself on the multi-day Circuito Lagos trail. Linking together off-the-grid mountain refuges like Refugio Lago Verde, you’ll traverse old growth forests past pristine lakes and open valleys. With proper gear and navigation, self-guided hikers can complete the 40 mile traverse. Or go with Cuyin Manzano outfitters for your wilderness guide.
Take the road less traveled on Chile’s Carretera Austral through thick native forests. Turn off on side roads like the PN Queulat to explore trails along the hanging Ventisquero Colgante glacier. Check upcoming openings at the GeoLodge Patagonia, a stunning nature lodge and basecamp. Further south, Parque Pumalin’s secluded Cabo Tete hike leads through cypress groves to glimpse granite cliffs plunging into the Pacific.
Just across the Argentine border, pedestrian crossings into Chile’s little-visited Parque Patagonia open up transboundary adventures. Link Puerto Guadal’s seaside trails to the new trekking infrastructure at Valle Chacabuco. With camping and refugios available, multi-day routes can incorporate the iconic Fitz Roy skyline across the border. Arrange logistics with Argentine tour operator Upscape or Chilean experts Fantastico Sur.
Escaping the Masses: The 2024 Guide to Travel's Hidden Gems - Charming Small Towns in the American Southwest
The American Southwest is filled with iconic national parks and bustling cities, but some of the region's most memorable destinations are its charming small towns. Getting off the beaten path to explore vintage Main Streets, eclectic galleries, and local flavors offers a window into authentic Southwestern culture.
In New Mexico, the historic town of Taos delivers a slice of bohemian paradise at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Wander narrow lanes lined with colorful adobe buildings, or relax in Taos Plaza surrounded by galleries and cafes. Nearby Taos Pueblo provides a glimpse into 1,000 years of Native American culture and traditions. Artist Georgia O’Keeffe found inspiration here, dubbing it a “land of contrasts.”
Just outside Palm Springs, the retro oasis of Palm Springs Villager transports you back to the 1950s heyday of Rat Pack pool parties and midcentury modern architecture. Stroll streets dotted with boutique hotels and indie shops before cooling off at the Sparrows Lodge pool. Don't miss the natural wonders of Joshua Tree National Park located just 20 minutes away.
Down the California coast, San Luis Obispo or “SLO” epitomizes laid-back beach town vibes. Explore the historic mission town on foot before heading to the nearby beaches of Avila and Pismo. Sample your way through SLO's urban wine trail and the many craft breweries that have sprung up, from Libertine to Central Coast Brewing.
In the high desert of eastern Oregon, Bend strikes the perfect balance between outdoor adventure hub and cosmopolitan mountain town. Whether paddle boarding the Deschutes River or pub crawling through the funky Old Mill District, you'll find the best of the great outdoors and good living here. Nearby ski resort Mt. Bachelor offers ideal conditions for winter sports when the powder starts flying.
With red rock vistas and a lively arts scene, Sedona exudes spiritual energy. New age travelers have flocked here for decades, drawn to the vortexes said to radiate healing power. Outdoor enthusiasts also thrive thanks to the hundreds of hiking trails winding through Oak Creek Canyon into the Coconino National Forest.
Escaping the Masses: The 2024 Guide to Travel's Hidden Gems - Authentic Cultural Experiences in Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia offers travelers the chance to immerse themselves in rich cultures and traditions that have been passed down through generations. Getting off the typical tourist trail and connecting with local communities provides once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to experience authentic cultural encounters. Understanding and engaging with diverse lifestyles opens minds, challenges preconceived notions, and creates indelible memories.
Wandering through floating villages and meeting locals is one of the top ways to dive into the culture of Vietnam and Cambodia. In Vietnam, cruise along palm-fringed canals via longtail boat to visit stilted homes and floating markets. Seeing how Mekong Delta residents live, work and socialize on the water gives you rare insight. In Cambodia, take a guided boat tour through Kampong Phluk, where an entire fishing community resides on the lake. Interacting with villagers as they go about daily life provides a meaningful cultural exchange.
Nothing compares to sitting down for a homecooked meal with a local family. Sharing food and conversation creates bonds across cultures. In Chiang Mai, Thailand sign up for an Experience Phuket home dinner to enjoy authentic dishes and learn about family traditions. Across Indonesia, organizations like Travel Sparks connect travelers with welcoming hosts for meals, music and storytelling. These real interactions shift preconceived notions, replacing judgment with understanding.
Losing yourself in the spiritual rituals and festivals across Asia leads to magical moments. In Ubud, Bali, head to sacred sites like Tanah Lot sea temple for blessings and offerings. Join locals in colorful parades during Nyepi Day or Ogoh-Ogoh effigy burning. Myanmar’s month-long Taunggyi Fire Balloon Festival mixes merriment with awe-inspiring candle-lit balloons drifting into the night sky. Witnessing deeply-rooted traditions condenses centuries of culture into potent experiences.
Escaping the Masses: The 2024 Guide to Travel's Hidden Gems - Road Tripping Through Quaint French Villages
Winding your way through rural France is a joy for lovers of wide open roads, stunning scenery, and charming villages. Venturing into the countryside reveals a slower pace of life and close-knit communities where time-honored traditions endure. Exploring by car allows you to wander at will, following whims down country lanes in search of market days, flower-filled squares, and friendly locals sipping café au lait in the sun.
Base yourself in underrated Aix-en-Provence, where plane trees line boulevards and students on bikes fill the streets. Stop to sniff fields of lavender nearby before heading north through Luberon’s hilltop hamlets. In Gordes, stroll cobbled alleyways dotted with art galleries and restaurants serving up regional specialties. Mix with locals at the Tuesday morning market in Lourmarin, then relax under the trees in Cadenet's town square.
Continue your road trip through the tranquil Drôme Valley, where gentle, vineyard-covered slopes stretch to the horizon. Don’t miss a stop in Grignan, dominated by its imposing 17th century castle, and Châteauneuf-du-Rhône with its medieval architecture. Wander markets featuring local produce and Provençal textiles before kicking back riverside in Loriol-sur-Drôme.
Venture east toward the Alps to postcard-perfect Annecy, set on the shores of Lake Annecy. After browsing the town’s boutiques and stopping for a tarte aux myrtilles, head into the mountains. In megève, admire chalets with flower-bedecked balconies before continuing on to Chamonix and the majestic Mont Blanc massif. Carry on through Alpine pastures and villages crowned with spired churches straight out of a fairytale.
Cross country through the gentle terrain of the Loire Valley, stoping to appreciate regal châteaus nestled amidst verdant parklands. Walk the medieval ramparts in Loches before having a picnic riverside under the towers of Langeais. Don't miss adorable Saché, which inspired painter Alfred Sisley. Let the kids run free at the gardens of Villandry, resplendent with geometric flowerbeds and vines trailing over stone walls.
End your road trip up north in Normandy, where half-timbered houses and thatched cottages dot the countryside. Soak up vistas of the rugged coastline, then head inland to experience daily life. Browse through street markets featuring mounds of local Camembert, fragrant fresh berries, and towering displays of seafood. Nothing beats sipping a crisp French cider in the square of photogenic Honfleur as the glow of the afternoon sun lights up the Belle Époque facades.
Escaping the Masses: The 2024 Guide to Travel's Hidden Gems - Tasting Your Way Through Croatia's Underrated Islands
Beyond Dubrovnik and Split, Croatia’s island gems remain blissfully crowd-free. Ferry hopping between these Adriatic outposts reveals a slower, more traditional way of life along with delicious hyper-local cuisine and artisanal wines. Base yourself in an island village to dive into flavors most visitors miss.
On Korčula, renowned for dry white wines, stay in medieval Korčula Town and take day trips throughout the island. Drop into tiny family wineries like Azzurro to try indigenous grapes like Pošip and Grk only found here. Savor just-caught seafood at tiny konobas in sleepy harbor towns like Lumbarda. As the birthplace of Marco Polo, Korčula Town charms with winding marble lanes and 15th century churches.
Foodie heaven Hvar has it all – rolling vineyards, lavender fields and jagged coastlines dotted with coves for swimming in the crystalline Adriatic. Check into boutique hotels like the Parisian-chic Maslina Resort right on the harbor. Sign up for an Eat With a Local food tour to discover hole-in-the-wall eateries most tourists don’t know about. Feast on fresh flaky pašticada beef stew and tangy octopus salad as you listen to stories of island history and culture.
On Brač, hang with the in-the-know set in Bol’s trendy beach clubs by day before watching the sun set from Vidova Gora peak. savor slow food meals with ingredients sourced from the interior at restaurants like Konoba Kamoš. Taste artisan olive oils, capers and wines made from indigenous grapes during private tastings at small family farms. Sign up for a full-day excursion to sample authentic delicacies and sip memorable vintages most visitors will never experience.
Venture further south to agricultural Vis, where vineyards cling to hillsides above hidden coves. Sample citrus liqueurs and herb-infused grappas during intimate dinners at people’s homes organized by Vi sits Vi. Tuck into mouthwatering roasts slow-cooked under iron bell-like pekas and toast with crisp Plavac Mali reds. Talking with your welcoming hosts gives insight into the island’s compelling history.