Like to blaze a trail when it comes to discovering the next holiday hotspot? Here are half a dozen lesser-known destinations we reckon you should check out, all gratifyingly obscure, out of the ordinary and off the beaten track. Just don’t wait too long to get there – they’re all tipped to take off big time in the very near future…
Patagonia – the remote mountainous region that straddles southern Chile and Argentina – is set for a popularity boost thanks to the recent launch of the world’s longest hiking trail. The Route of Parks runs for 1,700 miles and passes through 17 national parks en route from Puerto Montt to Cape Horn. For the moment, though, the area still feels remote, empty and unspoiled. Is it the cheapest part of the continent? No, but then it’s a long way from anywhere, so essential supplies have a long way to travel. You can keep costs down by camping, staying in hostels or booking rooms in local homes and by travelling outside the peak period of December to March. And frankly, whatever you pay, it’s worth it. This is a stunning part of the world with scenic treats at every turn, from the dramatic granite peaks and icy turquoise lakes of Torres del Paine to the colossal, creaking, blue-white cliffs of the Perito Moreno glacier.
Every year glossy travel mags and newspaper travel supplements nominate their hot destinations for the year – and for 2019 pretty much everyone seems to agree that Namibia is the place to be. Time to get your skates on then, if you want to enjoy its vast open wildernesses without too many fellow travellers spoiling the view. The big buzz at the moment is about a spate of new luxury lodges opening up, allowing travellers with big bucks to stay in serious style – but the cash-poorer can carry on doing things in time-honoured fashion, travelling around by battered four-wheel-drive and staying in campsites and modest guest houses. You don’t come here for swanky accommodation anyway; you come for the extraordinary, awe-inspiring landscapes – the rugged beauty of desert and dunes, the wild drama of canyons and coast, the close encounters with all kinds of wildlife and the most spectacular night skies you’re ever likely to see.
The Canadian province of Alberta isn’t exactly undiscovered – down on the south-western border with British Columbia you’ll find plenty of tourists admiring the waterfalls, glaciers, lakes and mountains in the Banff and Jasper National Parks. Most of them flock here in summer though, so come outside peak season and you’ll find things altogether quieter. Or just head further north and east, where there are fewer tourists and quirkier landmarks, from an eccentric collection of roadside sculptures (including a ginormous dinosaur and the world’s first UFO landing pad) to the Star Trek-themed visitor centre in Vulcan and Torrington’s Gopher Hole Museum, entirely devoted to dioramas of furry critters dressed up in character costumes. Keep going to the far north of the province and you’ll come to Wood Buffalo National Park (Canada’s largest national park and the world’s largest Dark Sky Preserve), where bison graze the plains, beavers build giant dams and the Northern Lights often dance across the autumn and winter skies.
It’s a couple of years now since the former Soviet republic of Georgia got its first direct flights from the UK, and a year since Lonely Planet named it one of the top destinations for 2018. Yet still this eastern European country continues to fly under the mainstream tourist radar, remaining one of the continent’s best-kept secrets. For now, at least, as returning travellers wax ever more lyrical about the beauty of the country, the excellent food and drink and the warmth and hospitality of the people, it can’t be long before the word is out and Georgia finally shakes off its underrated status. Definitely time to go there now, then, and be a step ahead of the crowds when it comes to exploring Tbilisi’s red-roofed old town, touring the vineyards of the Kakheti wine region, and hiking and skiing the uncrowded slopes of the Caucasus mountains. It won’t cost a fortune: transport, food and accommodation are all reasonably priced, making this a great destination for travellers on a budget.
For years, Aussie-bound tourists have neglected Tasmania. That’s all changing though, and visitor numbers are beginning to boom as the world suddenly wakes up to everything this isolated island has going for it, from fascinating heritage and weird and wonderful wildlife to burgeoning foodie and cultural scenes – so go now if you want to be ahead of the crowds. Renting a car is the easiest way to explore but if you’re travelling solo and can’t split the cost with anyone, the alternative is to join a backpacker tour instead – it’s not as flexible but it will work out cheaper. Do urban cool in the increasingly buzzy cities of Hobart and Launceston; explore convict sites and colonial villages; and follow gourmet trails that guide you round vineyards, farms and boutique breweries. Most of all, though, get out in to the great outdoors: huge chunks of Tasmania are made up of protected reserves and National Parks just crying out to be explored in whatever gung-ho manner takes your fancy.
Already one of the most sparsely populated countries in Africa, Botswana also gets far fewer tourists than places like South Africa and Kenya, so you don’t get the nose-to-tail safari traffic jams that can occur in some of the continent’s busier game reserves. The opportunities for wildlife viewing are superb, whether you’re crossing the vast saltpans of the Kalahari or paddling a dug-out canoe through the Okavango Delta. The bad news? It doesn’t come cheap. In fact, it comes positively pricey – but there are ways to cut the costs. Forsake the luxury lodges and opt instead for a self-drive holiday or join a mobile safari, where you travel round with a guide and a vehicle full of camping supplies; the more you’re prepared to muck in (putting up your own tents and helping out with the cooking), the cheaper it will be. Alternatively, travel in the rainy season (November/December to March/April): wildlife is trickier to spot and some roads might be cut off but lodges reduce their overnight rates.
Ready to search for your own under-the-radar destination?