We love discovering those not-yet-discovered destinations, whether it’s a city suburb that’s beginning to command attention, or somewhere a little more off-the-beaten-path. So ever on a quest to find the latest in travel’s best kept secrets, we’ve selected our top ten picks for 2014.
Shark Bay, Western Australia
Our ongoing quest for untouched, off the beaten track hot spots has taken us to the lesser known, albeit incredible west coast of Australia, with endless coastal vistas, unspoilt wilderness and remote beaches. An eight hour drive north of Perth takes you to Shark Bay, a secluded peninsula hundreds of miles into the sands of Australia’s largest state and 150 kilometres off highway 1, Western Australia’s coastal drive. This is the place to go for rugged beaches, deserted lagoons and epic sunsets, with rich red clays, white sands and the deep blue Indian Ocean creating some of the most beautiful views imaginable.
Here resides the world’s largest population of dugong and tiger shark, with vast hidden meadows of sea grass lining the floors of the bay, providing sanctuary for turtles, dolphins and manta rays – to name but a few. With trips to discover our planet’s wildlife becoming increasingly popular, this is the ultimate place to discover Australia’s abundant marine life, along with the iconic Kangaroos, pelicans and emus. Sunset nature cruises, dolphin feeding at Monkey Mia and trips to Shark Bay’s very own pearl farm are at the top of our list. We predict big things for Western Australia.
Folegandros is known for its amazing, unspoiled and almost primitive natural environment. This relatively small island is situated in the southwest side of Cyclades, between Santorini, Sikinos and Milos, a short boat ride from Piraeus the port of Athens. The steep, barren mountains, scenic Hora, the secluded coves with the azure waters and the incredible Aegean views draw those that are looking to escape the bustling crowds usually found in this part of the Mediterranean and to experience the wild, untouched side of Cyclades.
This island is perfect for remote beach-hopping, where the beaches such as Ambeli and Katergo, only accessed by boat, are surrounded by interesting caves and rock-formations for walks and exploring. Hole up at the romantic and lesser known (but absolute favourite of ours) Anemi hotel, nestled in the sleepy Karavostasi port, the perfect base for exploring the ancient monuments and temples of the island. This really is Greece 20 years ago.
Bayan Ogily, Western Mongolia
The most western of all provinces of Mongolia, Bayan Olgiy borders Russia and China. However the border is a mere 40km away and Kazakhstan is within very close proximity. Mongolia is still untouched by mass tourism but this area is particularly remote and honest to its cultural roots. For those looking for something really unique, this is it. Traditions such as hunting for food and fur with golden eagles are still very much alive in Bayan Olgiy. Pursuing foxes and wolves in the Altai mountains, right at the farthest tip of Western Mongolia is truly one of the most unique and rare experiences you can have in the world – you will learn how to hunt and learn how they control their eagles to hunt.
The short flight to Olgiy from Ulaanbataar is oddly nostalgic, evocative of a simpler travel era and then you land on the vast plains – time it right for the Eagle Festival in October 2014 and you can witness some of the only hunters of this type in the world come together before the tradition is lost forever. Whilst the Nadaam festival is pretty famous in Mongolia, this is the lesser known and less visited but truly spectacular festival.
Nyika Plateau, Malawi
As well as celebrating 50 years of independence, Malawai is investing in new accommodation, exciting developments in Nkhotakota Wildlife Reserve on the back of the success of the Majete Wildlife Reserve restocking program, and new flight routes in and around the country. This is traditional, uninterrupted and crowd-less safari country, and Malawi has so far escaped the safari-suited ‘bush and beach’ crowd. Think close encounters with elephant, rhino, lion, leopard and buffalo without the pesky 4WD scrum so common in Africa’s best known parks.
Malawi has often been overshadowed by some of the bigger African countries, but we’re always in support of the more unusual, authentic and off the beaten path destinations and laid back beach life without the “beach to bush” crowds – which is why Malawi is on the rise in popularity. So get there quickly. With its stunning lake (it’s believed that there is more species of fish in Lake Malawi than any other lake in the world), pristine beaches and mountain hikes, it is rightly grabbing our attention.
Sodermalm, Stockholm, Sweden
This is the lesser known area of Stockholm is aptly known by the locals as “bohemian island”. Un-debated level of full-on trendiness on show everywhere, from fashionable people to fashionable bars, obviously with the rough and rugged twist that encapsulates the flavour of the day. Comparable to Shoreditch (London), Abbot Kinney (Los Angeles) and Brooklyn (NYC), to give you a flavour of the emerging scene in Sodermalm.
However Sodermalm has a beach-park, which Shoreditch definitely doesn’t. There are charming cafés around, sometimes an out-door cinema is arranged, and the location is so central – perfect place to go in Stockholm. It’s the people watching place too. And if you just want to watch the whole of the city go by, walk straight up the Mariaberget hill (with a pit-stop at the bakery next to Hotel Rival to buy some take away-treats and peek for local celebrities). At the top of the hill, behind the picturesque little houses, there is one bench which will give you front row access to the most amazing view of Stockholm.
Ladakh is one of the few places on earth which is still virtually untouched and unexplored. It’s one of India’s best kept secrets, and we want to let you in on it. Enjoy the calm serenity of the fresh mountain air without a care in the world, and wander through the ancient hills on a trans-Himalayan voyage of discovery through this majestic land. The phrase, ‘Journey of a Lifetime’, is much quoted but it seldom applies to a journey better than the Trans Himalayan Expedition from Delhi to Srinagar. Likely the greatest journey you can ever take solo, from start to finish there is breathtaking scenery, rich flavours of India, amazing roads and unique experiences.
On two occasions the road climbs to more than 5,000 meters (16,404ft) and for days on end you can be at 4,000 meters (13,123ft). Drive some of the highest motorable passes in the world and look down onto lush or arid plains and mountains in equal measure. This unusual and beautiful unexpected road trip through Ladakh lets you escape to the unknown valleys and villages of the Indus Valley – the perfect 2014 adventure.
Mergui Archipelago, Myanmar
Isolated and undiscovered – the beautiful Mergui Archipelago is located in Myanmar’s far southern Tanintharyi Region. The archipelago is made up of 800 deserted islands with pure white sands, thick dense jungle, and crystal clear waters. Guests can sail around this untouched string of islands, where they can anchor for a swim and snorkel the pristine coral reefs, as well as explore the rare wildlife of the mangrove swamps.
Sailing around this truly remote region means at times guests won’t see another soul, apart from the odd fisherman in a dugout canoe. To understand the culture of this stunning region close to the Thai border, which has only been open to foreign tourists since the late 1990s, guests can spend time with the local inhabitants of the islands; the Mukon people (often referred to as the sea gypsies), to discover the way of life out in this remote corner of the Andaman Sea. Whilst Myanmar is growing in popularity, this particular area is still under the radar.
In contrast to the Italo-Spanish metropolis of Buenos Aires and the surrounding grassy Pampas, Argentina’s Andean north-west is a meeting point for South America’s indigenous communities, with a strong Andean and spiritual heritage. The region is famous for its spectacular scenery and rich coloured landscapes, where you’ll be greeted with red-rock valleys, multi-coloured and monochromatic hills, and terra-cotta mountainous peaks all set against stark blue skies.
The diversity of this area lends itself as an adventure haven, with activities such as trekking, horse-riding, rafting and 4×4 drives through the mountains on offer. The city of Salta, with some of the best preserved colonial architecture in Argentina, is fast-becoming a cultural gem not to be missed with its attractive plazas and regional cuisine. When it comes to the menu, like most places in Argentina carne is king, yet unlike most Parrillas, Salta’s well-known establishment El Charrua Restaurante Parrilla serves up tasty dishes of tender llama meat, such as its llama stroganoff. For oenophile’s the regions high altitude wineries such as the vineyards of Cafayate (dubbed the Tuscany of Argentina) are well worth a visit in comparison to Mendoza.
Virunga Mountains, Rwanda
Gorilla trekking in short make it a must for us. A third of the planet’s remaining mountain gorillas reside in the country’s northwest corner (and it’s a small country at that meaning density is high), much of which is protected by the Volcano National Park. Here, guided hikes through thick bamboo forests afford intrepid travellers a very up-close and intimate look at the endangered primates.
This safari-focused tourism, which is particularly affordable and eco-friendly, is leading Rwanda’s spirited comeback from the genocide that scarred the country nearly two decades ago. It’s great value for money and hasn’t been inundated with luxury design hotels which would perhaps distract from the main reason to visit Rwanda – wildlife and incredible trekking.
South Carolina, USA
South Carolina, or SoCo as its affectionately dubbed, is a state full of surprises and an old-world charm. Once over the border you’ll notice a distinctly soulful vibe that marks the beginning of the deep south – where accents are thicker, traditions are strongly preserved, and Po’boys and crab soup are staple dishes. Escaping the busier beaches of California and Florida, South Carolina offers miles of golden coastline dotted with sleepy seaside towns, palm tree lined boulevards, and grand colonial plantations.
No visit to the Palmetto state would be complete without a couple of nights in Charleston, awarded first place in the top 10 best city’s is the U.S 2013 – even more of a reason to go. Once you’ve tried the food, mingled with the friendly locals and admired the architecture, you can head out to sea to the islands, where you can experience the unique Gullah culture linked to the former West African slaves.