Slow Travel,  Travel

11 Incredible Tips For Travel Off The Beaten Path

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

travel off the beaten path

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

travel off the beaten path

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.

65 Comments

  • Monika Ribeiro (writer/poet)

    Wow, Dee. I love your post and the beautiful pictures, but… it makes me feel like I have to explain myself. 🙂 So…, I’m actually Polish (Nigerian dad but born and raised w Matce Polsce). I must admit I don’t fancy travelling around Poland so much, but not because it’s not a beautiful country – it is. However, Poland is not very diverse hence I’ve spent my young years there having to explain my Polish origins (I’m mix-raced). I left Poland almost 15 years ago, so things might be different now but I like not having to explain where I’m from when in London or in other metropolitan cities. I totally agree with you though – it’s good to stray off the beaten paths. To me, locations are just as important as my experiences there, so I might be bias when praising one city more than another… Great blog post – it sure inspires me to give Plock and Poland a chance. ♥

    • Dee

      Thank you, Monika! I’m also Polish but I left when I was young, so it’s home but at the same time not too familiar. And I know what you mean about having to explain yourself.. Poland is a bit different now, especially in the larger cities, but it’s definitely not as anonymous as New York or London. Whenever I go back, I get questions about my accent or why I don’t speak Polish very well. All that being said, there are so many hidden gems and I’m happy that I got to explore some of them. I hope you get to revisit soon!

  • aviottjohn

    My wife and I have been walking a lot these past few years when we travel, avoiding tour buses and guide books and crowded “must see” locations. We’ve discovered there’s beauty everywhere, and we’ve met beautiful people along the way. Thanks for liking my blog. Following you now.

    • Dee

      Thank you, John! Those group tours can be so exhausting, especially when they pack the itinerary – that’s hardly even a vacation.

  • seraphsun

    I totally agree with you. Sometimes the places that are popular with tourists lose their authenticity, and I always did dislike crowds. Some of my favourite places in Japan are still not as well known, like Kanazawa and Kinosaki, and but they are beautiful.

    • Dee

      Yes! It’s amazing how the little known places can be just as beautiful, if not more so, than the huge tourist attractions.

  • wanderlustwookies

    Beautiful post, thank you for sharing! One of the ways my kids and I like to travel is by staying in one location for an extended period of time, and stay at lodging which connects us to local folks away from the big name hotels. Buying our food from local vendors, swimming at the local pools, etc. The real wonders of a place are hidden in plain sight. 🙂

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