Travel off the beaten path gives you that real sense of exploration and discovery that’s so rare in our hyperconnected online world. But how do you really get off the grid and find those hidden gems?
Travel was once a rare and refined luxury. But today, billions travel internationally every single year, and the world’s top destinations are sinking – sometimes literally – under the weight of the crowds.
Overtourism is pushing local residents out while Instagram influencers can turn a sleepy village into a selfie-stick nightmare.
How can you get a real break – and a slow and simple vacation?
Here are my tips for travel off the beaten path:
1. Do your research
With more slow travel blogs and magazines than ever before, all wanting to push a unique story angle, finding a spot off the tourist route sometimes just takes a bit of research.
2. Switch up your transport
Take a train, rent a bicycle for a weekend in the country or hire a van for a week of camping. When you get away from the typical plane, then new roads open up.
3. Connect with the locals
Local residents often have invaluable insights into what destinations are worth seeing, and which spots are completely overrated. Read local blogs, join Facebook groups for local walking tours and connect with other locals who are passionate about travel.
4. Book with niche tour groups
It’s not profitable for a huge tour company to offer trips off the beaten path, and you may not always have time to arrange your own solo tour. A small, niche travel company can be invaluable for exploring a country’s lesser-known destinations. And since such small companies are often launched by those who are young and/or passionate about travel, you’ll be getting a really unique experience.
5. Find a boutique hotel
Staying at an original, small boutique hotel with lots of charm and history can be a great introduction to travelling more off the beaten path.
6. Be brave
You’re likely to come up against disbelief from family and friends when you share your travel plans with them. Stand firm and go after what you want – now what others tell you that you should see.
7. Stay at a small hotel.
Your hotel can be one of the highlights of your trip. An authentic hotel can charm you and connect you with the local community. And it can make the past come alive. It can make you feel at home even in the most unfamiliar city. Or it can be an experience in itself.
A boutique hotel can often offer a more unique experience than a chain skyscraper. Fewer guests mean the staff have more time for personalized service. And boutique hotels are often more unique since they don’t have to follow corporate standards. This original personality will make you feel like a local.
Boutique hotels don’t go beyond 100 rooms. And this means fewer noisy neighbours and less crowds filing past your door.
Here are some websites to help you find that one-of-a-kind boutique hotel:
Small Luxury Hotels of the World (SLH) has some 500 independent hotels in more than 80 countries that promise distinctive experiences. The hotels are small and offer intimate charm. You can search by destination or by experiences like properties in UNESCO sites.
Great Small Hotels offers a collection of 3,637 hand-picked small luxury hotels from around the world. Each promises to enrich your travel experience with something different. They offer a slice of local history or a unique sense of place. Founded by two Barcelona architects, the website launched when finding unique hotels wasn’t easy. However now with information overload, they say careful selection is essential.
8. Use Google Maps to pick your neighborhood
Before your trip, get on Google Maps and map out all of your must-see sites at your destination. Then pick a hotel roughly in the middle of those attractions. This will let you explore more of the city on foot. You can wander the neighborhood and blend into its everyday life.
9. Listen to the expats
Expats can give you valuable insight into their adopted cities and the most original hotels.
You can often find expat communities in Facebook groups. Make some friends and they’ll be happy to recommend an incredible hotel.
10. Use Pinterest to find blog posts
Pinterest is a gold mine to discover local blogs with reviews of hotels off the beaten path.
11. Read the local media.
Read online magazines that give an insight into the city’s life. And they’ll help you pick the best up-and-coming hotel or hip ecolodge.