May 29, 2024 | Samantha Henman

8 Breathtaking Destinations American Tourists Haven't Discovered Yet

Off The Beaten Path

There’s nothing like traveling halfway around the world…only to find yourself surrounded by other tourists. If you’re looking to plan your next big trip, but don’t want to end up at a tourist trap surrounded by a flock of fellow Americans, these one-of-a-kind destinations are definitely off the beaten path.

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Maiori, Amalfi Coast, Italy

We’ve all seen videos of the dark side of tourism on the Amalfi coast, Italy—flocks of people with their phones out blocking the scenery, trudging through the streets, and clogging the beaches in places like Positano. But there are still hidden gems, where you can go to experience the real Amalfi coast, like Maiori.

Town under Hill on Amalfi Coast in ItalyMichelle Toma, Pexels

Why Maiori?

Though Maiori may not be as well-known as popular destinations for international tourists like Sorrento and Positano, it actually has the longest stretch of unbroken beach on the Amalfi coast. As such, it’s actually been a popular tourist destination since Roman times—albeit, more for locals than far-flung visitors.

Castle on Amalfi CoastMichelle Toma, Pexels

Maiori’s Natural Beauty

Maiori’s beautiful blue waters are contrasted by the lush rolling green hills and cliffs of this coastal town. Thanks to its rich history, it’s notable for its beautiful architecture, boasting a 9th century castle, an 11th century abbey, and 13th and 16th century churches. It’s also home to the highest peak on the Amalfi coast, monte Falerzio.

Its breathtaking beauty has led to its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Minori italy beachAlexander De Leon Battista, Flickr

Maiori’s Tourism

More than 2 million people, most of them from the US, visit the Amalfi Coast each year, despite towns boating populations in the mere thousands. Though Maiori is home to some 5,000 people, it has fewer tourists, giving a more intimate glimpse of what life is like for a typical Amalfi coast native.

Maiori, sunsetDaria, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Things To Do In Maiori

Though not as geared to international tourism as other enclaves, Maiori is nonetheless a bustling destination offering local markets, dreamy cafes, adorable small shops, and beachfront services like chair and umbrella rental for a day of sun ‘n’ fun. Thanks to its relative lack of tourism compared to other Amalfi coast destinations, it’s also more budget-friendly.

Maiori, beachDaria, CC BY 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

A Day In Maiori

This region of Italy is known for its lemons, and there’s a trail that links Maiori and a nearby village, Minori, that’s lined with wild lemon trees. Corso Reginna is where you’ll find many shops, while the waterfront promenade is the place best to sip a coffee or drink and people-watch. Though the beaches fill up by midday, they’re by no means crowded.

view of the resort of Maiori on the Amalfi Coast, ItalyJohn Corry, Shutterstock

Nara, Japan

Though most tourists flock to Tokyo and Osaka, Nara, though smaller, is also calmer and less-crowded. If Tokyo was New York City, Nara would be like visiting Philadelphia or Chicago—just as much personality, with a truly interesting history.

Nara, Japan at Koriyama CastleSean Pavone, Shutterstock

Why Nara?

Not only is Nara more calm than other cities that may draw more tourists, it was also the first permanent capital of Japan beginning in the 8th century, and as such, has an incredible rich history reflected in its museums, architecture, and monuments.

Tōdai-ji temple, city of Nara, Japan,Rita Willaert, Flickr

Nara’s Natural Beauty

In Nara Park, a large population of deer roam free among the lush greenery and notable sites like Tōdai-ji temple and Daibutsu, a nearly 50-foot tall bronze Buddha. The park is overlooked by Wakakusayama, a grassy mountain. Nara is also situated about an hour from Yoshino, Japan’s most famous spot for cherry blossoms—which makes for a breathtaking day trip.

Nara, Japan pagoda and cityscape at dusk.Sean Pavone, Shutterstock

Nara’s Tourism

Though Nara certainly attracts tourists—especially during cherry blossom season—there are fewer crowds to be found than in, say, Kyoto. Though the attractions in Nara draw tourists seven days a week, the city is much quieter and calmer than larger Japanese cities, and as such, also offers better prices on things like lodging and food.

Nara Park, Nara, JapanDomenico Convertini, Flickr

Things To Do In Nara

Nara is not only home to many notable Buddhist temples, but also a number of remarkable Shinto shrines and a former Imperial palace, Heijō Palace. Though the climate can be temperamental, with heavy rain falling in the summer, it’s also home to gorgeous public gardens, like Isui-en, preserved since its creation during the Meiji period.

Nara Japan castleCarla Abanes, Flickr

A Day In Nara

Did you know that there are so many deer in Nara Park that there’s not enough grass to feed them? Do your part by paying a visit and shelling out for a bag of deer feed. Make sure to catch a mochitsuki, the ceremony of stretching and pounding rice to make mochi—before trying the treat itself, which is one of a kind.

And be sure to visit Tōdai-ji, which many say is the most impressive temple in not just the country, but the world.

architecture of Todaiji Temple in Nara, JapanCHIU CHING YU, Shutterstock

Visieu, Portugal

People have been flocking to Portugal not just to vacation, but also to live in recent years. Most come for the bustling city life of Lisbon or the beaches of the Algarve. Lisbon, in particular, has become a hotspot—but it also faces the same problems that similarly alluring cities do, like crowds, overloaded infrastructure, and resentment from locals.

On the other hand, there’s the city of Visieu—which has all of Portugal’s best features, and few of the drawbacks.

Viseu - PortugalVitor Oliveira, Flickr

Why Visieu?

Portugal is beloved for it’s warm, sunny weather, beautiful cities and green mountains, and delicious food & wine. Visieu has all of these things. It’s often named as one of the best places to live in Portugal—and for good reason.

Duarte, Viseu in PortugalVitor Oliveira, Flickr

Visieu’s Natural Beauty

Visieu has a Mediterranean climate, with a long, dry, summer that lasts, in some years, from May to October. One of the reasons that Visieu is often voted as one of Portugal’s best places to live is because of its many green spaces and public squares, with numerous picturesque parks in the city.

Igreja da MisericórdiaVitor Oliveira, Flickr

Visieu’s Tourism

Many cities and towns in Portugal have their own annual traditional festivals, celebrating Portuguese history, religion, and culture. If you’ve ever been to one, you know they’re unforgettable, and are a great building block to center a trip around. While it can be impossible to find lodging or get around during festivals in larger cities, Visieu remains quite hospitable during the Feira de São Mateus, which takes place through August and into the start of September.

Igreja de Nossa Senhora da Conceição in Viseu, PortugalVitor Oliveira, Flickr

Things To Do In Visieu

Visieu’s long history means that its architecture displays a variety of influences. The Visieu Cathedral features some of the beautiful blue tilework that is characteristic of Portugal. Visieu is also home to a number of notable museums, including the Museu Nacional Grao Vasco, an art museum.

Manteigas, Viseu, PortugalHans Pohl, Flickr

A Day In Visieu

Visieu is within the Dão region, famous for its wine. While a day trip to one of the area’s many wonderful wineries for a tasting is a fine option, you can also grab a bottle and a picnic basket filled with some of Portugal’s famed tinned fish, fresh bread, and a couple of pasteis de nata, AKA custard tarts, and head to one of Visieu’s beautiful parks, like Aquilino Ribeiro Park, the largest green space in Visieu.

Lamego, Viseu, PortugalHans Pohl, Flickr

Nosy Be, Madagascar

If you want to an island getaway that’s luxe but is in a place you’re sure not a single person you know has visited before, the volcanic island of Nosy Be in Madagascar may be just the thing you’re looking for.

Nosy Iranja, MadagascarMoongateclimber, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Why Nosy Be?

The beaches of Madagascar are wildly underrated compared to other tropical destinations and Nosy Be is more than set up to be the spot for your next beach trip, with numerous well-appointed hotels that come at a fraction of the cost you might pay elsewhere.

Nosy Be, MadagascarBettina Neuefeind, Flickr

Nosy Be’s Natural Beauty

Aside from the clear waters and long beaches, Nosy Be is lush, green, and home to an amazing variety of wildlife—from the unique lemurs, frogs, and chameleons that can be found on at the Lokobe Reserve, to the wild underwater life visitors can see snorkeling or diving off the coast.

View of the tropical beach from the wooden pontoonPierre-Yves Babelon, Shutterstock

Nosy Be’s Tourism

Nosy Be, which translates to “Big island,” is actually Madagascar’s largest and busiest tourist resort—but still has few American visitors compared to other beach destinations. Yet since it is such a hotspot for tourism, it’s relatively safer than other islands in the area. It is home to a number of luxury hotels and wellness resorts, including the highly-rated Andilana Beach Resort.

Luxury Andilana beach resort and beach on Nosy Bechriscasey, Shutterstock

Things To Do In Nosy Be

The best thing to do in Nosy Be is pull out the sunscreen, a good book, and a drink, and post up on a beach chair all day at one of Nosy Be’s beautiful beach hotels. After all, that’s why you’re there right? However, if you’re crazy enough to come in out of the water, Nosy Be offers a number of activities geared toward the natural beauty of the island, from horseback trail tours inland to guided dives of Nosy Tanikely, a nearby marine reverse.

Madagascar Nosy Be beachMarco Assini, Flickr

A Day In Nosy Be

If furry friends are your thing more than marine animals, take a trip to Lemuria Land, a zoo where you can observe Madagascar’s famous lemurs. Hell Ville, the capital city of Nosy Be, can be an exciting contrast to relaxed beach life, with its spice market and colonial houses. For a peaceful ending, book a guided tour to the Arbre Sacré De Mahatsinjo, a breathtaking religious site. And finally, for an unforgettable diving experience, visit the Mitsio wreck.

Juvenile panther chameleonCraig139, Shutterstock

Svalbard, Norway

Talk about off the beaten path—Svalbard, Norway, may just be the most remote place that you can visit on this list. This Arctic Ocean archipelago is halfway between Norway and the North Pole and is a welcome foil for anyone looking for more adventure and variety than just sun and fun.

norway colorful houses landscapeginger_polina_bublik, Shutterstock

Why Svalbard?

Svalbard is home to the best that the Arctic Circle has to offer, with midnight sun in the summer, beautiful wildlife, and breathtaking scenery. To protect Svalbard’s natural beauty, Norway has introduced regulations barring ships with more than 200 people on board—which mostly affect cruise ships, meaning less hordes of tourists to contend with as you might in other port cities of the north.

image of Svalbard, NorwayDaniel Foster, Flickr

Svalbard’s Natural Beauty

Glaciers, mountains, and fjords—what more could one want from a visit to the Arctic Ocean? Thanks to the high latitude, well-timed visitors to Svalbard can plan around the midnight sun in the summer and experience long, gorgeous twilights. Svalbard is also home to your stereotypical—and adorable—Arctic wildlife, like reindeer, polar bears, and the Arctic fox.

Portrait of a reindeer with massive antlersPav-Pro Photography Ltd, Shutterstock

Svalbard’s Tourism

Though Svalbard does have an Arctic climate, it’s warmer than other places at the same latitude, making it slightly more hospitable to visitors. Svalbard is home to many company towns and research outposts, so it’s not as simple as just picking a town on the map to visit, though some may have hotels meant for those taking day trips from Longyearbyen, the most populous area in Svalbard.

Northern Lights in the night sky over winterTsuguliev, Shutterstock

Things To Do In Svalbard

Most tourism is centered in Longyearbyen, the only incorporated town on Svalbard. Originally a coal-mining town, it offers unparalleled views to the Northern Lights, which appear between late September and the middle of March. Though coal is still the main industry, tourism also plays a significant part.

Touring Alkefjellet with zodiac in Spitsbergen, Svalbardbleung, Shutterstock

A Day In Svalbard

Active nature lovers have their pick of the litter in Svalbard. Hiking, kayaking, and walks through glacier caves are all popular activities. Less strenuous yet simultaneously heart-thumping activities like snowmobiling and dog sledding are also popular. You can also visit the old coal mines, and finish it all off with a visit to the Karlsberger Pub, which has a great selection for such an isolated place.

image of Northern lights in SvalbardFrode Ramone, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Puerto Morelos, Mexico

Hardly a winter goes by without seeing friends’ social media feeds clogged up with photos of beach trips to Mexico. While some pick the tourist mecca of Cancun, others go for the luxe, Boho vibe of Tulum—but there’s somewhere in between. Quite literally.

It’s called Puerto Morelos, it’s about halfway between Cancun and Tulum, and it has everything you’d want from a Mexican beach vacation, minus the hordes of obnoxious tourists.

Drone view of Puerto Morelos in MexicoMardoz, Shutterstock

Why Puerto Morelos?

Well, when you’re talking the coast along the Riviera Maya, there’ll never be a beach area that’s truly off the beaten path. After all, they’re made for tourists. However, while you can go to any large resort along the Highway 307 in Quintana Roo, Puerto Morelos really feels like a small beach town, but with everything a tourist could want in terms of activities, food, and drink.

Aerial view of Puerto MorelosMardoz, Shutterstock

Puerto Morelos’ Natural Beauty

Like many other cities along the Riviera Maya, Puerto Morelos is split into two parts—the beach area, with the water on one side and a mangrove swamp on the other, and an area more inland toward the highway, west of the mangrove swamp. Though the beach, with its white sands, blue waters, and coral outcroppings, is obviously a big draw, there’s also natural beauty inland.

Puerto Morelos old bent lighthouselunamarina, Shutterstock

Puerto Morelos’ Tourism

While Americans flock to neighboring tourist meccas like Cancun and Playa del Carmen, you’re more likely to find visitors from Canada and the rest of Mexico in Puerto Morelos. It’s certainly more tranquil than those party town counterparts, though it boasts all sorts of lodging, ranging from beachside resorts to laid-back hostels to rental condos in complexes frequented by families looking to stay close together.

Typical street road and cityscape of La Quinta AvenidaArkadij Schell

Things To Do In Puerto Morelos

Though Puerto Morelos has no shortage of places to stay, the waterfront still has plenty of space for the public, and isn’t dominated by the sea of pay-to-use lounge chairs and valets you might see at other beach destinations. Accommodations, food, and drinks are far more budget-friendly than in other cities along the coast.

Most hotels are just a short drive from attractions inland like the Croco Cun Zoo, stunning cenotes, and Dr. Alfredo Barrera Marín Botanical Gardens.

Croco Cun Zoo crocodile sanctuaryColinmthompson, Shutterstock

A Day In Puerto Morelos

Puerto Morelos is centrally located for those still interested in exploring other areas of the Yucatan Peninsula, like the Tulum ruins, an hours’ drive, or Cozumel, a boat ride of the same duration. Book a diving tour to check out the wildlife in the Puerto Morelos portion of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System.

Cheap tacos and gelato abound in the town center, which is fantastic for people-watching, or you an “splurge” (it’s still incredibly affordable) at Punta Corcho, a rooftop patio restaurant above an arts and crafts market. End the evening with a walk on the beach, which is safe even after dark.

Chichen Itza, MexicoSCStock, Shutterstock

Edinburgh, Scotland

Looking for something that blends a big city experience, rich history, stunning architecture, and a hopping cultural scene, that’s also somehow underrated? Look no further than Edinburgh, Scotland. Yes, it’s a capital city—but it has so much offer and often gets overlooked compared to London and Dublin.

Edinburgh castle, Scotland at sunsetTTstudio, Shutterstock

Why Edinburgh?

No less an authority than Rick Steves called Edinburgh one of Europe’s most entertaining cities—and there’s truly so much to do there, with something for everyone. The Royal Mile, between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Palace, is just a microcosm of what the city has to offer, with fascinating museums, imposing cathedrals, and plenty of restaurants and cafes with old school charm.

Street view of the historic Royal Milef11photo, Shutterstock

Edinburgh’s Natural Beauty

Edinburgh’s beautiful old fortified buildings and cobblestone streets are contrasted by Arthur’s Seat, the inactive volcano that looms over the city, and Salisbury Crags, the neighboring green cliffs. Both its medieval Old Town and New Town, introduced in the 8th century, are UNESCO World Heritage Sites—like getting a 2 for 1 architecture tour.

Cityscape of Edinburgh from Arthur's SeatSergii Figurnyi, Shutterstock

Edinburgh’s Tourism

Edinburgh, beyond being a historical center, is also a major cultural hub, playing host to both the Edinburgh International Festival, and the world’s largest performance arts festival, the legendary Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Though its festivals do attract tourists, it’s possible to stay off the beaten path, and easy, too—Edinburgh is a compact, walkable city.

Edinburgh Fringe Festivaldvlcom -, Shutterstock

What To Do In Edinburgh

Edinburgh Castle, perched high above the city on Castle Rock, forms an imposing presence, and is a major draw for visitors. No trip to Scotland is complete with tasting a little Scotch whisky, and Edinburgh has numerous places to visit, taste, and learn about the iconic tipple. Of course, since it’s a capital city, it also has the best to offer in terms of museums, monuments, as well as many attractions that celebrate the city’s literary history.

Castle hill in EdinburghTTstudio, Shutterstock

A Day In Edinburgh

An sunrise or sunset hike to the top of the Arthur’s Seat will give you unparalleled views of the city—after all, it’s the best “seat” in town. Get in a few more steps at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, which has an incredible collection, including pieces by Picasso and Matisse. Then, take a seat at Scotch at the Balmoral hotel, which has the largest selection of its namesake drink in Edinburgh.

Scottish National Gallery of Modern ArtUlmus Media, Shutterstock

Flores, Indonesia

The island of Flores, with its untouched forests, intensely colored lakes, and National Park, is proof that Indonesia has so much more to offer than just the tourist mecca of Bali. Located basically smack-dab in the middle of Indonesia from west to east, has so much offer to visitors looking to experience some seriously breathtaking views and adventures.

Padar Island, Flores, Indonesiajivika, Flickr

Why Flores?

Like many of the hidden gems on this list, Flores integrates stunning natural beauty like clear blue waters and lush jungles, giving visitors access to adventures like mountain climbing and diving. It’s also unique in that, due to its past as a Portuguese colony, it is primarily Roman Catholic, whereas the rest of Indonesia is mostly Muslim. There are prehistoric heritage sites to explore as well—did you know that Flores was home to its own extinct species of archaic humans who lived until about 50,000 years ago?

Wae Rebo Village in Flores IndonesiaRossiAgung, Shutterstock

Flores’ Natural Beauty

Flores has an absolutely stunning landscape. Surrounded by beautiful blue waters, Flores is home to the Kelimutu Volcano, which contains three lakes that change colors from bright red to green and blue, depending on the oxidation state of the water. Flores also has lush jungles, and is one of the homes of the Komodo dragon.

view of Kelimutu volcano and its crater lakespradeep_kmpk14, Shutterstock

Flores’ Tourism

Flores’ rainy season runs from September to January, and at that time, the area may be subject to landslides and flooding. Because Flores is less visited by American tourists, there are less accommodations (and we don’t mean hotels) for English-speaking travelers—but that doesn’t mean the people aren’t warm and friendly.

Most accommodations inland—and now we do mean hotels—are geared toward budget travelers and backpackers. Luxury resorts can be found on the coasts.

Panoramic view of Mount KelimutuThrithot, Shutterstock

Things To Do In Flores

Divers will be delighted to visit Flores, which features many whale sharks in the waters around Labuan Bajo, a fishing town on the western tip of the island. Most visitors center their trip around visiting the volcano, whereas the village of Bena offers Stone Age megaliths. A great way to explore the island is by cycling tours, some of which can take place over days.

A foggy morning on the ancient Bena VillageRifqi Maulana, Shutterstock

A Day In Flores

Start with a cup of Flores coffee, which has become more popular in recent years due to its sweet chocolate and floral flavor notes and heavy body. If you want to take a peek into Flores’ true history, visit the Wae Rebo village, an ancient settlement that involves a three-hour trek. The conical buildings, nestled among rolling green hills, are absolutely stunning.

Layers of ripe coffee cherries are placed on stone slabs to dry in the hot sunToto Santiko Budi, Shutterstock


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