Popular destinations like Bali, Rome, and Venice are, well, popular for a reason. But these destinations are often flooded with tourists, which can really dampen your travel experience. The good news is there’s a simple solution to this travel woe – visiting lesser-known destinations where you can immerse yourself in culture or nature without encountering hordes of tourists.
From culture-rich, historical gems to Instagram-worthy paradises and untapped archipelagos, here are five lesser-known destinations you might want to visit next – plus a pre-travel checklist.
1. The Faroe Islands, Denmark
If outdoor adventures and wildlife watching are your idea of a good time, you’ll love the Faroe Islands.
Nestled between Iceland and Norway, the Faroe Islands is a secluded northern archipelago and Scandinavia’s ultimate off-the-beaten-track destination. This cluster of 18 volcanic islands feature striking, dramatic landscapes of glaciated valleys, narrow fjords, and razor-sharp cliffs.
From horse riding and hiking to sea kayaking and fishing, it’s possible to do just about any outdoor activity in the Faroe Islands. And if you’re a fan of birdwatching, taking a ferry to the island of Mykines is a must to see the thousands of puffins and other seabirds that nest there.
Streymore Island is home to Tórshavn, the tiny capital city of the Faroe Islands. It’s here you’ll find the Nordic House, which hosts exhibitions and concerts, as well as the government buildings – thought to be one of the oldest parliamentary meeting places in the world. 6 of the 10 highest Faroese mountains are on the island of Kunoy, which is lesser known to tourists but definitely worth checking out.
COVID-19 entry requirements: As of 1 March 2022, the Faroese government has lifted all COVID-19-related restrictions on entry to the Faroe Islands.
2. Flores, Indonesia
Ninety minutes’ drive from Bali is Flores (Portuguese for ‘flower’), Indonesia’s hidden gem. This lush island is bordered by untapped white-sand beaches, and home to one of the only pink beaches in the world.
Perfect for diving enthusiasts and photographers, Flores has 50 diving sites – each offering a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to swim alongside a wide variety of marine animals, like dolphins and even giant manta rays.
One of Flore’s top attractions is Mount Kelimutu, which is surrounded by 3 vibrant volcanic lakes – each with different colours that change throughout the year. The Kelimutu Volcanic Lakes have quite a unique backstory; locals in the area believe that their ancestors’ spirits live on in these lakes.
COVID-19 entry requirements: As of April 2022, all travellers entering Indonesia will need to comply with a number of COVID-19 requirements, including supplying a valid vaccination certificate and proof of a negative pre-departure RT-PCR test result, undergoing an RT-PCR test upon arrival, as well as completing e-HAC (Electronic Health Alert Card) – a mandatory COVID-19 health declaration form. For the latest information, visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ website.
3. Jaffna, Sri Lanka
Once ravaged by 26 years of civil war that only ended in 2009, the town of Jaffna has since been rehabilitated and only recently opened up to visitors. Located on the northernmost peninsula of Sri Lanka, Jaffna is led by its Tamil population and a strong Hindu culture – setting it worlds apart from the Sinhalese Buddhist culture of its southern counterpart.
If you’re a fan of all things history, Jaffna is for you. Jaffna Fort, which was originally built by the Portuguese, and then the Dutch (followed by the English), was one of the most impressive forts in Asia in the late 1600’s. This ancient fort is free to visit, and offers spectacular views over the moat, Jaffna Lagoon, and the city.
The Nallur Kanidswamy Hindu Temple is also a must-visit. Dedicated to Skanda/Murugan – the god of love, war, and beauty, the golden-ochred (and very Instagrammable) temple is one of Jaffna’s most significant landmarks. If you’re travelling to Jaffna during August, be sure to visit the Nallur Kandiswamy temple to witness the month-long Nallur festival for a once-in-a-lifetime cultural experience.
Delft, which is an outlying coral and limestone island located about 30 kilometres from the city of Jaffna, is another historical gem. The island has an extensive history dating back to the Chola Dynasty, Portuguese, Dutch, and British colonial periods. Remnants of the island’s history can be found across Delft. When you’re there, be sure to explore the Portuguese/Dutch Fort, Old Dutch Hospital, and Dutch Horse Stables.
COVID-19 entry requirements: All travellers entering Sri Lanka must supply proof of vaccination and mandatory COVID-19 insurance. As of 1 March 2022, COVID-19 PCR or Rapid Antigen tests are no longer required for fully vaccinated travellers or children aged 12 or below prior to their departure.
4. Assateague Island, the US
Sun, sea, sand…and horses. Smack in the middle of the East Coast, Assateague Island is a preserved stretch of coastal wilderness. The island is home to stunning sandy beaches, salt marshes, and maritime forests, but its main attraction is its wild horses. Fun fact: Assateague Island is one of the only destinations in the US where travellers can see horses roaming freely.
Wildlife photographers will love Assateague Island. While horses are the island’s best-known inhabitants, many other species roam the island as well. Other inhabitants include deer, snow geese, water fowl, shorebirds, ghost crabs, and more. Wildlife tours that offer an extensive look at the island’s many inhabitants are available too.
This lesser-known destination is also ideal for outdoor adventurers. The island has a variety of paved and unpaved hiking paths, and 37 miles of beach to explore. Biking, kayaking, and swimming are also some of the Assateague Island’s most popular outdoor recreation options.
COVID-19 entry requirements: As of March 29, 2022, all non-US citizens travelling to the US must show results of a negative COVID-19 test taken 1 day before their flight’s departure. Travellers must also show proof that they are either fully vaccinated, or are eligible for an exception to the vaccination requirement.
Kiribati (pronounced ‘Kiri-bas’) is one of the lesser-known – and least-visited – Pacific Island nations. Straddling the equator halfway between Hawaii and Australia, many of the small islands that make up this Pacific Island nation are uninhabited – so if you’re looking for somewhere secluded to swim, dive, snorkel, or fish undisturbed, Kiribati is the destination for you.
Kiribati is made up of 3 island groups – the Gilbert Islands, the Line Islands, and the Phoenix Islands, a UNESCO heritage site and one of the world’s largest marine protected areas. The coral-rich Kiritimati Island, one of the Line Islands, is a must-visit for fishing enthusiasts.
History lovers will enjoy exploring the country’s capital city, Tarawa, which is home to a number of historic sites and artifacts related to the Battle of Tarawa (one of the bloodiest World War II battles).
COVID-19 entry requirements: In light of the nation’s latest coronavirus measures, all international commercial flights to Kiribati remain suspended until further notice.
Pre-travel checklist: 5 things to do before you fly
Here is a handy pre-travel checklist you can use before you embark on your next adventure:
- Find out everything there is to know about your destination: You’ve probably done your research on the top sights, attractions, and restaurants of your next holiday destination, but don’t forget to find out about other essential information, such as your destination’s COVID-19 entry requirements, last-minute COVID-19 travel warnings, where to get SIM cards in the country you’re visiting, your hotel’s COVID-19 policy, etc.
- Pack the right things: This point might seem like an obvious one, but it must be done. No matter where you’re flying to, it’s important to pick luggage that is lightweight, versatile, and large enough to hold all of your essentials. And don’t forget to lock your luggage to maximise your travel safety.You’ll also want to pack smart (not lots of) clothing options – especially if your destination’s weather is unpredictable, or you’re visiting multiple places. Also make sure you’ve packed your health supplies and travel documents.
- Prepare your home: It’s essential to get your home in order before you fly. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Hire a pet or house sitter, if necessary
- Unplug all of your electronics – your bills will thank you later!
- Change your bills’ paying method to auto-pay
- Clean out all perishable items in your kitchen
- Store your valuables in a safe place
- Protect your home and its contents with comprehensive home insurance
- Book your pre-departure COVID-19 test: If your destination country requires you to take a pre-departure COVID-19 test, you’ll need to book an appointment with an MOH-approved clinic. Be sure to check your clinic’s expected test report turnaround time, so you can plan and schedule your test accordingly.
- Buy travel insurance: Travel cover is a small price to pay for peace of mind, so you can focus all of your attention on your overseas adventure. Be sure to review your travel insurance policy’s details in case you need extra cover for medical expenses, home contents, or COVID-19-related expenses.
Looking for travel insurance? Regardless of whether you’re travelling to a popular or lesser-known destination, Tiq Travel Insurance lets you travel confidently by giving you comprehensive protection before, during, and after your trip – and the option to add COVID-19 coverage.