The Coronavirus has prevented most travelers taking trips now, so I thought I would take this pause to describe some mostly “out of the way” destinations that merit exploration and discovery when travel opens again.
These are places I have visited over the years that I found very worthwhile visiting. While first-time travelers will likely choose to visit such places as Paris, Rome or London, I suggest including some lesser-known destinations that would enhance your experience. I will list the following places for your consideration.
#1 Easter Island
This is the most remote and mysterious island in the world and is the furthest place from land in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. It is famous for its gigantic hand carved Moai statues erected by the unknown Rapa Nui people who somehow reached this island centuries ago. Historians can only speculate how they carved and move these huge 12 to 20-foot tall statues across the island, all facing inward. No large trees exist today. There is no place on Earth with any place more awesome and mysterious.
This land of Genghis Khan on the high plains of the Gobi Desert is largely untouched by modern civilization. Its few inhabitants still live in so-called Gers (large round tents) and lead a mobile lifestyle as they continually move to feed their animals. They usually have only one or two animals, such as yaks, camels or goats, and only eat their cheese and milk in the summer months and their meat in the winter. Their life has existed this way for centuries and remains untouched by the present. A visit is a trip back in time.
#3 Sarlat, Domme & Lascaux, France
These sights are all within a 15-mile radius which makes touring of this historic area very easy. Sarlat has been described as the best-preserved Medieval town in France. It is full of a network of irregular narrow cobblestone streets lined with a concentration of 16th-century facades. It is only 4 miles to the magnificent bastide town of Domme, which sits high on a bluff overlooking the Dordogne River and a pastoral valley of lush meadows. Nearby in the valley is the small village of Rogne-Gageau which is perched along huge limestone cliffs. It has been voted the prettiest town in France. A short distance from Sarlat is the prehistoric cave of Lascaux dating from 1600 BC. It is known as the Sistine chapel of Cro-Magnons, with vivid prehistoric images of bison, elk and other animals. This is the best-preserved prehistoric cave in the world. The entire area was the sight of the 100 years wars between France and England, so there are also many castles to visit. No place I know has such a selection of magnificent sights to explore.
#4 Cesky-Krumlov, Czech Republic
I first visited this Medieval town in 1991 with my son Dwight. I was attracted to it because it was listed by UNESCO as one of the 3 deserving places to preserve in Europe. We stayed in a small hotel, but then was not a single tourist store in town. It has a large castle overlooking the town, and a river flowed through it. It was a delightful escape. Several years later, my wife and I visited. We had to park outside of the town with several tour buses. The town was now crowded with tourists and had 25 or 30 stores catering to the visitors. It was still a pretty Medieval town, but so very much has changed in the intervening years so I was glad to have seen it in its original state.
#5 Santillana del Mar, Spain
This is my favorite small Spanish colonial town with a very well-preserved Medieval character. It has a pleasant square filled with former noblemen homes. I still recall sitting in the square and watching local herders drive their cattle through town to their fields. It is near another prehistoric Cro-Magnon cave.
#6 Matera, Italy
This is a very popular Italian tourist town, but largely unknown to American tourists because it is in a very remote location in Southern Italy. I found it most interesting because I stayed here in a former Troglodyte cave dwelling. Most every place in town is located in a former cave. It is believed to be one of the first human settlements in Italy. It is a unique and unusual place to visit.
#7 Antarctica & Greenland
I have visited both and was amazed at the sheer beauty and grandeur of the huge glaciers rising high above the frigid waters. Many people wonder why they should go to such a cold place. I felt that too before my adventure, but found that despite the cold and discomfort, this is one of the most spectacular sights to see. It is different but clearly worthwhile.
#8 Galapagos Islands
Darwin opened our eyes to these remote and beautiful islands that today celebrate its birds and animal. These creatures roam and flourish here so you get to observe them in their native habitat. It is a great place to use your camera to record your visit.
#9 Taormina, Sicily
This city is fairly well known, but its perch atop a mountain overlooking Mount Etna makes it a place off the beaten track. It is a well-preserved town of Medieval structures and wonderful views. Also, nearby is a very remote village that happened to be the place were part of the “Godfather” movie was filmed. Sicily has many interesting places worth a visit.
#10 Dinkelsbuhl, Germany
This is a small town on the romantic road of Germany that lies south of the more famous town of Rothenberg. Neither was damaged in World War II because they held children refugees. Dinkelsbuhl is surrounded by Medieval ramparts and watchtowers, and its town is full of 14th-century structures. It is also widely known for its famous gingerbread, which permeates the entire town with a pleasant odor.
#11 Durnstein, Austria
This town lies along the Danube river beneath a castle ruin which once housed Richard the Lionhearted, who was imprisoned there after the Third Crusade. A large baroque church with a huge blue tower sits in the middle of the Medieval town. I enjoyed staying there and seeing it twice from river ships.
#12 Mostar, Bosnia
An excellent example of a delightful historic town that has preserved its Muslim culture. When my wife and I visited there several years ago we experienced the culture by sleeping on a mattress on the floor in a Muslim home. While the town was heavily damaged in the Serbian War, its 16th-century Turkish bridge has been perfectly rebuilt.
#13 Estella, Spain
This town was a one-day wonder which has special memories. Several years ago, my wife and I were driving in hot and humid northern Spain, so we decided to stop in a small town with one four-room hotel. Later that afternoon and through the evening we were disturbed by loud music, singing, shouting and demonstrations. We were in the middle of an annual celebration. The next morning, I stepped out on our balcony and was lucky to witness a ‘Running of the Bulls’ through town. Quite a memorable sight. This is an example of the experiences you can enjoy when you travel off the beaten path.
#14 Cavendish, Prince Edward Island, Canada
My family sent many vacations here and we enjoyed peaceful and enjoyable times. Cavendish is bordered by massive sand dunes and steep red cliffs of incredible beauty. Its coastline is dotted by small lighthouses and piles of crab nets, and a photogenic pastoral interior. Its lobster suppers are worth a journey.
#15 Taos, New Mexico
This is my favorite place in the U.S. It has an attractive Spanish plaza and architecture, but its biggest draw is a well preserved Native American Village that lives as if in the past with no electricity and obtains its water from a river that flows through it. Its buildings are all original. It is an excellent place to experience the past.
I have written about a few places that recall my special experiences, but there are hundreds of similar places that are “Off the Beaten Path” that are equally worth visiting and exploring. I encourage all travelers to seek out these places and enjoy your own memories.
Dave Pattison has lived in Marco Island since 1999. He has traveled to every continent and over 100 countries. He tried taking five-six trips annually until the COVID-19 Pandemic. Dave is a well-respected travel writer, winning first place in a Florida Press Association contest. Dave was a lawyer/lobbyist for the insurance industry, and had worked in the White House for 4 years before retiring. A widower, Dave has four adult children and five grandchildren.