By Amanda Slavinsky, owner of Farsickness travel blog.
There are plenty of places in the world you know you should go. Cities and countries with famous landmarks and powdery white beaches with turquoise waters. Places that are constantly written about and photographed. Places with famous dishes and wines.
But what about the destinations that aren’t talked about as much? Expanding your travel horizons can allow you to visit a place with fewer people, have the chance for a more authentic and unique experience, and, often, spend less money.
Whatever the reason, check out these five places that are a little less well-known, but just as fun as the big-name destinations…
1. Seoul, South Korea
South Korea often gets overshadowed by East Asian travel powerhouses Japan and China, but Seoul, a city the combines the ancient with the ultra-modern, shouldn’t be missed. Get a taste of history by visiting Gyeongbokgung Palace, having a cup of ‘cha’ at a traditional tea house in the Insadong neighborhood, and wandering through the traditional Korean houses, called hanok in Korean, in Bukchon Hanok Village.
A trip to Seoul isn’t complete without a sampling a bit of Korea’s one of a kind drinking culture. Begin at a barbecue restaurant with strips of samgyeopsal (pork belly) and glasses of somaek (beer with a shot of Korean liquor dumped in). Then move onto a few other bars before ending up in a noraebang, or private karaoke room, where you can sing your heart out for a few bucks an hour. Don’t be surprised when you see a few men in suits passed out on your way home.
Book a place to stay in Seoul from €7-15 per night.
2. Madrid, Spain
Spain’s capital is often overlooked by tourists who instead flock to places like Barcelona and Valencia or other European capitals like London and Paris. Because of this Madrid retains an authentic Spanish feel. You won’t hear much English being spoken and will find Madrileños relaxing in the large Parque del Retiro or gathering in Puerta del Sol.
Join this slower paced life by sipping on a caña, what they call a small draft beer in Madrid, or by checking out the burgeoning craft beer scene at Fabrica Maravillas. Discover Spanish cuisine on a tapas crawl and then dance until the wee hours of the morning at one of Madrid’s busy discotecas.
Can a whole country be underrated? As Taiwan seems to be barely mentioned by travellers in Asia, I think so. From exploring the bustling metropolis of Taipei and taking advantage of one of Asia’s best bike share programs in Kaohsiung to hiking through the Taroko Gorge and surfing in Kenting, Taiwan has you covered.
While not as cheap as Southeast Asia, Taiwan can still be explored inexpensively. The country’s many night markets offer the chance for you sample various dishes on the cheap, including the legendary stink tofu. Where else can you taste something that smells like dirty gym socks and body odour? (It’s good, I promise!)
4. Naples, Italy
To say Naples suffers from a bad reputation would be gross understatement. People go on and on about the corruption, the trash, and the crime, and while these things are problems, Naples does have some redeeming qualities. Most importantly, Naples is the birthplace of pizza and there plenty of places to try a pie.
If you’re looking for authentic Neapolitan pizza stick to Pizza Marinara (topped with tomatoes, oregano, olive oil, and garlic) or Pizza Margherita (topped with tomatoes, olive oil, fresh mozzarella, and basil leaves). When you’re done eating, wander the historic centre and enjoy the beauty of old Italy without the crowds of tourists you would find in Rome, Florence, and Venice.
Book a cool place to stay in Naples from €15-20 per night.
5. Detroit, United States
Detroit is another city that has a rather unsavoury reputation. For many years, there was no reason to visit Detroit. It was the murder capital of the USA and filled with mostly abandoned buildings and dilapidated houses. Today, though, Detroit is experiencing a renaissance of sorts.
Avoid going ruin-hunting and instead explore the changes that are slowly making Detroit great again. Immerse yourself in African and African-American art at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History, sample food from one of Eastern Market’s 200 vendors, and remember Detroit’s heydey by gawking at art deco buildings or visiting the Motown Historical Museum.
If you’re hungry after all this, don’t worry. The city is full of popups and other delicious, creative permanent restaurants showcasing all sorts of cuisine.
Do you agree? What would you add? Tell us below…
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Thanks to Luke Ma, James Wu, Felipe Gabaldon, Taco Ekkel, Antonio Picascia, jeff kerwin and Knight Foundation for the images off Flickr. Please note, Flickr images were hed under the Creative Commons licence at the time of publication. All other photos c. Amanda Slavinsky.