Exploring Off the Beaten Path in 5 Popular Destinations
While many travelers know the must-see sights in the world's most famous destinations, every place has hidden gems or lesser known sweet spots that are just waiting to be discovered. With 45% of travelers saying that they want to be more adventurous in their choice of travel destination*, why not swap the well-known tourist activities for something a little more unique and unexpected? We've scoured the globe to bring you some surprising adventures you can have in (or near) five of the world's most popular destinations to inspire your curiosity and get you exploring off the beaten path.
Flores Island, Indonesia
Travelers often flock to the beautiful and popular Indonesian island of Bali, but a trip to Flores Island to see the magical color-changing lakes is just as mesmerizing. For travelers who enjoy the water, spirituality and tranquillity, the Crater Lakes of Mount Kelimutu are the perfect getaway. The lakes can mysteriously illuminate in different colors from blues, to greens, to reds and even to black. Imagine waking up to catch the sunrise over Mount Kelimutu while watching the three colorful lakes sparkle and shimmer in a kaleidoscope of colors.
Where to stay: Who doesn’t love the idea of experiencing a uniquely local stay surrounded by the beauty of nature? If exploring a lush tropical paradise is at the top of your list, The Gekos Homestay offers great opportunities for hiking due to its proximity to Mount Kelimutu. Our travelers love the homestay’s friendly staff who are always on hand to help guests arrange day tours around the jungle, rice fields and surrounding traditional villages.
Orlando, Florida, US
Orlando is a beloved bucket-list destination for thrill seekers, however beyond the long lines at the amusement parks, it's also an ideal escape for those seeking to relax surrounded by pristine wilderness. As an alternative to the bustling theme parks, spend a few days in Ocala National Forest, known for its many jewel-toned natural pools, including the enormous Lake George. Encompassing more than 600 square miles, Ocala National Forest is a perfect place to commune with nature while keeping the whole family entertained, from canoeing, to horseback riding, hiking, camping and even unwinding in a bubbling natural spring.
Where to stay: Located within Lake Sumter in The Villages is the charming lakeshore Waterfront Inn. After an active day on the lake, you can savor some scrumptious Southern specialties at Amelia’s restaurant or enjoy a little live music at The Villages. The Waterfront Inn is ideally located with both the Lake Griffin State Park and the Ocala National Forest just a short drive away - perfect for exploring another side of the surprisingly diverse Orlando area.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Travelers to Brazil are often eager to capture a photo of the iconic Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro. However, the lesser known Pedra da Gávea, located in the nearby Tijuca Forest is just as epic. Although the climb to the summit may not be for the faint hearted, and is often described as one of the most difficult hikes in Rio (taking around seven hours), the breathtaking views you are rewarded with afterwards are truly worth the aerobic output.
Where to stay: Le Chateaux Joá Boutique Hotel is a splendid option for adventure-seekers looking to conquer the impressive Pedra da Gávea hike, as this getaway is just 10 miles from the Tijuca Forest National Park. Before embarking on the demanding hike, you can tuck into a tasty local breakfast and check in with the local guides at the reception for some handy tips on exploring the surrounding area.
China’s largest city is renowned for its bustling metropolitan vibe, awe-inspiring architecture and as a shopping hot spot. For travelers who revel in the opportunity to experience different cultures and experiences, it not only offers brilliant sightseeing opportunities, but also some alternative options for those looking to learn something new. Shanghai is home to many quirky museums and galleries, including the China Tobacco Museum, National Anthem Museum and the Shanghai Glass Museum. For art aficionados, you can even visit an old airplane hangar that’s now home to a collection of contemporary works at the Yuz Museum.
Where to stay: From unique learning opportunities to unique accomodation, The Drama is the perfect stay for travelers who love the extraordinary. As the first theatre-themed hotel in Shanghai, the design has been inspired by Shakespeare’s plays, with each room being named after one of his masterpieces. It's also only a short drive from Meow Don’t Care, a hidden cat café for those really wanting to venture into the unknown...
While Tokyo is famous for its cherry blossoms and as a foodie paradise, many travelers might not know that it’s also a major hotspot for sports lovers and that the Japanese absoluely adore baseball. For those looking to cheer on the home team and experience another authentic aspect of the local culture, Tokyo has not one, but two baseball clubs, playing in the Tokyo Dome and Meiji-Jingu Stadium.
Where to stay: For sporty types, the Hotel Niwa Tokyo is just a short walk from the Tokyo Dome. The hotel offers a combination of Western and traditional touches, including seasonal Japanese kaiseki multi-course meals that can be savored with views of the garden. After all that sporting excitement, the hotel also offers a relaxation lounge with massage chairs for guests that overlooks a mini rooftop garden.
*Research commissioned by Booking.com and independently conducted among a sample of 21,500 respondents, across 29 different markets (including 1,000 respondents from Australia, Brazil, China, Columbia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, South Korea, Spain, the US, the UK, Russia, and 500 respondents from Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Croatia, Denmark, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand). In order to participate in this survey, respondents had to be 18 years of age or older, had to have traveled at least once in 2018, be planning at least one trip for 2018 and either the primary decision maker or involved in the decision making of their travel. The survey was taken online and took place in August 2018.