Destinations (Yet) Untouched by Tourism
More often than not, by the time the time everyone is talking about a place, tourism has already taken off, experiences are contrived, prices overblown, and the rugged charm that made the destination attractive in the first place, washed-out. Fortunately, there are still many treats to be discovered.
Traveller, storyteller and LUXE contributor Andrea Oschetti has personally scouted all the following destinations for tailor-made trips designed by his travel company Blueflower. Several might have garnered a bad rep, or been overlooked by tourism; all are long-held secrets by those in the know – hotfoot it to them quicksticks before the word gets out and they become yet another trendy tick off the bucket list.
Sudan: Archaeology for the Soul
Sudan is a country that sparks security concerns, yet the troubles are in located in the south, and not in Sudan proper. Sudan is paradise for those with a taste for history and archaeology – I recently visited and had several ancient sites all to myself. When compared with Egypt, Sudan’s tourism is practically nonexistent: there are six-million visitors per year in Egypt competing for the perfect Instagram shot vs 100,000 in Sudan. At the same time, Sudan can boast a larger number of pyramids than Egypt, most of which are rarely visited. Sites aside, travellers can expect to be welcomed by the Sudanese with the naivité of a country that is just beginning to realise its travel allure.
Twenty years ago, Italian Elena Valdata fell in love with Sudan and saw its potential before anyone else. She still runs the only two places to stay: The Nubian Rest House in Jebel Barkal and The Meroe Camp which is within walking distance of the pyramids.
Colombia: Happiness for All
Another country that is often misunderstood is Colombia. After years of unrest and insecurity, Colombia is emerging to face the future with a positive and cheerful attitude. Long gone are the days of “La Violencia”, and the cultural and natural treasures of Colombia are opening up for travellers – it wouldn’t surprise me if Colombia becomes a favourite destination in the next decade.
The best regions to explore are Bogotá for culture and art, the Coffee Triangle, for… well… coffee, and Cartagena is a glittering treasure of the Caribbean. Finally, Tayrona, where few travellers venture, is without equal for its nature and huge biodiversity. The best place to stay in Cartagena is Casa San Agustín, a colonial-era hotel that mixes history and luxury to perfection. Hacienda Buenavista, in the coffee region, is an adults-only boutique hotel with jaw-dropping views and fine dining in the middle of the mountains. In Tayrona, Casa Galavanta, an eco-luxe lodge in the heights of Sierra Nevada is a heavenly proposition.
Transylvania might evoke images of moody vampire castles ― certainly an attraction to some ― but the truth is that it possesses a rich cultural landscape dominated by untouched forests and mountains, while managing to keep the charm of bygone eras intact. This is a place to be free. Go on a horse ride through the forest – canter for as long as you want, there are no fences in the way. Not into horses? Drive a sports car down the Transfagarasan Road, considered one of the world’s best drives. Viscri 125 Guesthouse allows you to experience the Transylvanian heartland at your leisure.
Inner Sardinia: Keep it Secret
Sardinia is famous for its beaches, which I won’t deny are some of the world’s most beautiful. However, we must look inland to find one of the island's best-kept secrets. Surrounded by nature in the rugged hinterland, Hotel Su Gologone is a wonderful experience, with the power to turn each day into a work of art. In the 60s, Peppeddu Palimodde wanted to offer authentic Sardinian cuisine to visitors; under the artistic guidance of his daughter Giovanna Palimodde, the hotel grew around the restaurant and it has become a hub for Sardinia’s best artists, as well as a natural haven for those looking for a retreat.
Vanuatu & New Caledonia: The Other Paradise
Some places are overshadowed by more famous destinations, so they don’t get the spotlight they deserve (although this is all the better for us to enjoy them without all the tourists). Vanuatu and New Caledonia in the South Pacific are the destinations one should look to for the perfect Fiji vacation. Although such a comparison is unfair, for each has much to offer in its own right. In Vanuatu, you can take a vaka (a traditional vessel), and sail under the stars for three or five nights, and discover what could very well be your own desert island. In New Caledonia, experience some truly unexpected cultures, such as the Caldoche Cowboys. Riding alongside these French-speaking wranglers is a hands-on way to learn about their centuries-old culture.
India: Wildness Wonders
Let’s not forget, there are also secret travel destinations within countries firmly planted on the tourist map. Usually overshadowed by Rajasthan's Ranthambore, and more remote than other parks, Pench National Park is a true traveller’s secret. Stay at Jamtara Wilderness, a 10-tent luxury lodge where you can enjoy the wild without sacrificing on comfort. While other parks focus on the tiger, Pench offers a broader experience with an abundance of leopards, wild dogs jackals and the Bengal Tiger. I should know, I spotted them all during my stay earlier this year.
Intrepid traveller, storyteller and photographer, Andrea has spent the last 20 years pushing the boundaries of travel, oft reaching inaccessible cultural and natural landscapes. When not on the road, you'll find Andrea designing tailor-made itineraries for his travel company, Blueflower.
- Andrea LOVES... Getting under the skin of a place, masks, storytelling, negroni, picnics, meaningful conversations with locals and Spotify
- Andrea LOATHES... Aeroplane announcements, touristy experiences, roaming charges, visas
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