5 HIDDEN GEMS YOU NEVER
KNEW YOU WANTED TO VISIT
While world-famous destinations, iconic landmarks and atmospheric city squares are undeniably worth visiting, what if we told you your travels could be even more satisfying once you step off the beaten track? If you're planning your next holiday, try leaving the bucket-list sights and excursions off your to-do list and explore some of the lesser-known destinations - not only will you avoid the touristy crowds, but stumble upon cosy hidden towns, spectacular secret beaches and tasty local eateries that didn't make it onto the map.
1. CASABLANCA, MOROCCO
Vibrant souks, colourful spice markets, dramatic desert landscapes, grand Hammams and the hustle and bustle of the city's medina are what you can expect from a spectacular city break in Morocco. This buzzing metropolis is located on the western Atlantic coast, offering a mixture of gorgeous beaches, ancient walled medinas, noteworthy architecture and mesmerising local culture. Its seafront location is fantastic if you're looking for balmy beach holidays, with a wide range of watersports such as surfing and scuda diving available, and if you're a history lover, visit sites including the Hassan II Mosque. Admire the hearty Moroccan cuisine which combines rich spices with tropical flavours, La Sqala is a spectacular restaurant tucked into an 18th-century bastion in the city centre and offers traditional dishes from tasty tagines to mint tea.
Things to do:
- Explore the art galleries at Cathedrale du Sacre Coeur
- Shop till you drop at Marche Central
- Visit Hassan II Mosque and look through the glass floor
- Have your beach moment at fabulous Ain Diab
2. ANTEQUERA, SPAIN
Nestled in the south of Andalucia is the historic town of Antequera, with stunning century-old streets boasting whitewashed houses, gorgeous churches and bustling Plazas. If you want to soak up a little Spanish culture while you're away, this (mostly undiscovered) fortified town is a delight - with incredible architecture such as the Moorish Alcazaba Castle dating back 4500 years, a handful of museums and the fascinating preserved Dolmen Caves and tombs - which have been standing proud since before the Egyption Pyramids. For fantastic 360 views of the town, trek to the top of the rugged hill and look down - it'll be worth the walk.
Things to do:
- Visit the heart of Antequera, the Alcazaba Fortress
- Hike up to the Antequera Lovers’ Rock
- Stroll around the Gardens of Tito Pepe
- Explore the Dolmens of Antequera
3. SABA, CARIBBEAN
A spectacular green mountain roofed by a halo of white clouds and surrounded by sparkling blue ocean - that's right, it's the gorgeous Caribbean island of Saba. This dreamy destination is a true hidden gem and often referred to as the Caribbean’s ‘Unspoiled Queen’ - and with just 4 cosy villages and no coastline it's easy to see why. If you're into exploring eco-tourist destinations, this is one of the best, serving up plenty of scenic hiking trails and over 25 excellent diving sites. You'll fall for the island's beautiful villages with gingerbread houses clinging to the plush green mountainside, not to mention the colourful rainforest, unbeatable scenery and unspoiled natural beauty - better stil, you can have all of this without the attendant costs and tourist-caused chaos!
Things to do:
- Dive the famous Saba Marine Park and encounter sea turtles, colourful coral and a variety of tropical fish
- Hike to the top of Mount Scenery, stretching to almost 3,000 feet in height
- Plan a trip during the pre-Lenten festival of Carnival to see how locals celebrate
- Visit Windward side, the Bottom, Hell’s Gate and St John’s to experience Saba’s local charm
4. GIETHOORN, NETHERLANDS
Dubbed as the ‘Dutch Venice,’ Giethoorn is the kind of city you'll have seen in storybooks. No cars, no roads, just quaint canals and rustic wooden bridges. Just like Venice, the entire city is linked by picturesque waterways. But, despite the similarity, the city stands apart in its unique design, with most of the houses sitting calmly on pretty islands of their own! Explore the pretty town in a canoe (the locals call it ‘whisper boat’), with noiseless engines to keep from breaking the tranquil atmosphere. The loudest sound you will hear all holiday is the quacking of ducks or twittering of other birds - bliss.
Things to do:
- Rent a private boat and explore the canals, or rent an inflatable ball walk on water… or float.
- Tour the city’s three museums: Museum De Oude Aarde, the Histomobil and Het Olde Maat
- Take a day trip to the quaint villages and soak in the countryside vibe
- Sample the local cuisines and drinks at the city’s chic cafes and restaurants
5. GOKARNA, INDIA
Miles of unspoiled, rocky beaches, stunning golden coastlines, magnificent hills and quaint surroundings, this is the topography of Gokarna in nutshell. A newly found spot for beach lovers, honeymooners and hippies, alike, Gokarna is a pretty little town on the west coast of India - just a 3 hour drive from gorgeous Goa. Gokarna brings a whole new meaning to beach hopping, as the sandy stretches here can be a struggle to reach - but that's what makes them spectacularly serene! If you prefer sitting-back-and-doing-nothing type holidays, this is the perfect place for a low-key beach holiday that's luxuriously far flung.
Things to do: