Travelling to off the beaten path destinations is the way to go in 2021!
Prior to 2020, the tourism industry was booming. Many countries, cities and landmarks became subject to mass tourism which was having a negative impact on local communities and the environment. It also leads to a commercialised and less authentic experience for travellers.
In 2021, when it is safe to travel again, why not pivot to choosing destinations that are off the beaten track? If you are up for an adventure, to push yourself out of your comfort zone and to experience places completely different then you need to get off the beaten path!
Not only will you gain a lot from travelling like this, but you will also help support local communities and small businesses.
In this post, you will discover 11 of the best off the beaten path places to visit in 2021. International travel in 2021 is on the cards. So get planning for travel in 2021 with these places off the tourist trail.
The Arabian country of Jordan is becoming more popular with tourists. However, it is still relatively new on the tourist scene and there are some amazing places to visit without the hordes of package-deal tourists.
There are many places to go off the beaten path in Jordan. Think beyond Indiana Jones and Petra and you will find more lost civilisations and awe-inspiring desert landscapes.
Places to visit in Jordan that are off the beaten path include Amman, Jerash, the King’s Highway, Dana Nature Reserve and you can even go hiking on the dead sea.
Amman often gets overlooked as a destination but you will find a sun-soaked cosmopolitan capital city. Jerash is an ancient city that can be visited in a day from Amman by taxi. Instead of going straight to Petra, take a day to admire this less-visited ancient city.
Instead of travelling to Petra and Lawrence of Arabia desert at Wadi Rum via the Desert Highway take the King’s Highway instead. The Desert Highway is faster and has more public transport but the King Highway is an epic route that has been used for over 3,000 years. This is a key trade route with epic canyon views where public transport wouldn’t dare go.
The Dana Nature Reserve is an ecologically diverse sanctuary with hundreds of plants and animal species. It is a great overnight stop to explore the village of Dana. Another less touristy thing to do is trek near the Dead Sea where you will experience lush canyons, hot springs and swimming pools.
There are a number of Dead Sea trekking options to trek up lush, stunning canyons to hot springs and swimming pools.
2. Eastern Turkey
Tourism has been starting to take off in Turkey in recent years.
Western Turkey is becoming popular with tourists, however, the more controversial East is still very much off the beaten track in Turkey. Many of these places you may have never even heard of!
Eastern Turkey is full of incredible hidden gems that travellers with an adventurous spirit should be adding to their bucket list! Eastern Turkey is home to many ancient ruins, biblical sites, tons of incredible museums as well as the world’s oldest temple.
Çayönüis a Neolithic settlement in Southeastern Turkey at the foot of the Taurus mountains which was inhabited between 7200 to 6600 BC. This is the first place where animals were domesticated and where the oldest piece of cloth was found.
Göbeklitepe in Eastern Turkey is the site of the oldest temple in the world. It has been home to many prominent people over millennia including Babylonians, Romans and Ottomans. Göbeklitepe is a fascinating place that has great insight into the earliest human civilisations, what they believed in and how they lived their lives.
Sanliurfa is an important Biblical city to visit which is home to crucial aspects of religious history. If you are big on museums then you must visit Gaziantep to museum hop through the ancient wonders of Turkey.
Adiyaman is an amazing ancient city to visit in Eastern Turkey. You will see and be able to walk through ruins and burial caves. This city was buzzing during the golden age of the Roman Empire.
Mount Nemrut is another must-visit place in Eastern Turkey. It is one of the highest peaks in Mesopotamia and contains the tomb of King Antiochus I of Commagene. You will see huge statues of gods at this unique UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Mongolia is a true off the beaten track destination that you should visit in 2021. It is a landlocked country in Central Asia bordered by Russia and China. It is a huge country home to vast open spaces, blue skies, breathtaking landscapes and unique culture unlike anywhere else in the world. It’s made up of a brilliantly diverse landscape, consisting of mountains, grasslands, waterfalls, valleys, deserts, and pine forests.
If you don’t like crowds, then Mongolia is the place for you! It has one of the lowest population densities in the world with a population of 3 million inside a whopping 1.566 million km²!
Many Mongolian’s are truly nomadic. They live in traditional tents called yurts or gersand move around the country with the seasons. One of the best experiences you can have in Mongolia is staying in a ger with a Mongolian family in the desert. This is the best way to truly experience their culture and unique way of life.
Visit the Red Flaming Cliffs in the Gobi Desert, the largest desert in Asia. Don’t miss the Havtsgait Valley, which is the site of ancient rock drawings dated back 15,000 years. Lake Khovsgol and Yolin Am Ice Field are also must-visit spots.
There is the Naadam Festival, which is Mongolia’s national holiday. Witness Mongolians competing in traditional sports such as wrestling, horse racing and archery.
One of the best ways to visit Mongolia is to take the Trans-Siberian railwayfrom Russia to China via Mongolia. You will be able to visit 3 off the beaten path destinations all in one!
For some reason Mongolia has remained off the beaten path, making it an oasis from mass tourism. It gives an opportunity to experience ancient living traditions and see unforgettable landscapes.
Madagascar is one of the most off the beaten track places to travel in Arica. This island is unique and unlike anywhere else in the world. Travelling to and around Madagascar is hard work (as are many off the beaten track destinations!), but the harder to have to work to get somewhere the more rewarding!
Madagascar is most famous for lemurs but there is a lot more incredible wildlife in Madagascar to explore. The island is also excellent for diving and spotting whales, whale sharks and sea turtles. The islands in the north of Madagascar like Ankazoberavina are perfect bases for diving.
Madagascar is also filled with National Parks with amazing rocky landscapes and an abundance of wildlife to spot! Tsingy of Bemaraha in the west is a great place to visit as is Baobab Alley and Kirindy Park.
10 years ago a visit to Iran would have seemed like an insane idea! But now the country is open for tourism and growing in popularity among the adventurous as an off the beaten path destination. Iran has so much to offer in terms of culture, food, history and epic landscapes!
Iran is known for having the friendliest people on Earth with the happiest, helpful and hospitable people you can imagine. It is also very safe for solo female travellers to visit.
This country has much more to it than just the people! Iran has a unique cultural history with breathtaking architecture and some of the most incredible mosques in the world. Some of the top cities you should add to your Iran list include Isfahan, Yazd, Kashan, and Shiraz. These cities are beautiful and have plenty of things to do and see.
Abyaneh is a small mountain village which is one of the oldest in Iran and is well worth a visit. It is like stepping back in time where the locals speak the original language and continue to practice old customs.
The natural scenery in Iran is top of the notch as well. It is home to the highest mountain in the Middle East, Mt Damavand which has endless hiking opportunities. The landscape is much more diverse than you might think with deserts, rainforest, salt lakes, waterfalls, islands and national parks with plenty of wildlife to explore.
Kosovo is Europe's youngest nation, which declared its independence in 2008. Sadly Kosovo is usually associated with conflict and civil war. But today Kosovo is absolutely safe for tourists to visit and is still very much off the beaten track.
Kosovo is a small country, making it easy to travel around and has so much to offer in a small space.
The capital city of Prishtina is a must-visit in Kosovo with amazing food, coffee and nightlife. Other sites include the National Library, the Cathedral of Saint Mother Teresa and the Newborn monument.
The city of Prizren is the cultural capital of Kosovo where you can explore the old architecture. Walk over old stone bridges, see beautiful mosques and shop for filigree. Gjakove is home to one of the biggest bazaars in Europe where you can see traditional craftsmen carrying on traditional trades through generations.
Peja is a small city which is the gateway to the rugged north and the epic Rugova Gorge. You can go hiking, white water rafting and zip-lining. You can even hike over the border to Albania’s Accursed Mountains.
Kosovo is full of hidden gems and should definitely be on your list for European off the beaten path destinations.
7. El Salvador
El Salvador is a tiny nation in Central America and is one of the least visited. It takes a bit of effort to reach but those who do are greatly rewarded with one of the best off the track destinations. Expect black sand beaches, volcanoes, Mayan ruins and friendly people.
El Salvador’s Pacific Coast has world-class surf breaks. The surfing town of Player El Tunco is a backpacker favourite. It offers great value accommodation, nightlife, cafes and incredible sunsets of course.
El Salvador also has some of the best Mayan ruins that Central America has to offer. Tazumal is a group of flat top stepped pyramids which are still being studied by archaeologists to this day. Joya De Ceren is another well preserved Mayan village that was buried in volcanic ash which offers an insight into the ancient way of life.
The Santa Ana volcano is a must-visit when in El Salvador. It is famous for its panoramic views of Lake Coatepeque. Steam is constantly rising from the volcano's green lagoon.
Oman is an outstanding destination in the Middle East and is most certainly off the beaten path. It is not often featured on travel bucket lists, but it should be!
Oman is on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula. It is a must-visit for travellers who love hiking, the outdoors, swimming and exploring natural landscapes. There are also a lot of man-made marvels to visit! Expect sand dune deserts, ancient forts, rocky canyons and pristine beaches.
One of the top things to do in Oman is to hike the Jebel Shams Balcony Walk. The Jebel Shams is Oman’s answer to the Grand Canyon. The balcony walk is a trail that goes along the edge of the canyon. There is a steep cliff face on one side and a 500m drop on the other. There are stunning views and a waterfall at the end to top it off.
Wadi Bani Khalid and Wadi Shab are also must-visit spots in Oman. The Wadis are freshwater rivers and lagoons that run through the palm tree-lined canyons that you can hike to and swim in. Paradise!
Uzbekistan has long been firmly off the tourist trail. However, it is starting to become more accessible to those travellers wanting to go off the beaten path.
Uzbekistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia which shares borders with 5 other countries. It is the perfect place to visit if you are after somewhere unique and unusual. Uzbekistan was once the heart of the fabled Silk Road. Today it is home to three incredible must-visit Silk Road cities, Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva.
These history-rich cities have breathtaking architecture and bazaars that will simply take your breath away. You will find soaring mosques and beautiful tombs which are all intricately decorated with elaborate blue tiles. The blue tiles are signature to Uzbekistan and will leave you in awe.
The Capital of Tashkentis a stark contrast to the Silk Road cities. The country’s Soviet past is evident in the stark communist architecture. The Chorsu Bazaar is a must-visit in Tashkent. It is under a strangely shaped dome and is the perfect place to soak up the local culture.
It is also worth making the effort to visit the Moynaq Ship Graveyard in the desert. This is literally a ghost town in the middle of the desert. The area was once a busy Soviet fishing port on the Aral Sea but today is nothing more than a barren desert.
When travelling through Uzbekistan don’t miss the metro in Tashkent and the shared taxis to get around which is an experience in itself!
There is now an e-visa to permit entry into the country making it much easier to visit than in the past. Now there is no reason not to visit this exquisite country that is off the beaten track!
Pakistan is another epic destination to visit off the beaten path. Before 2019 it was very tricky and expensive to get a visa to visit and many parts of the country were off-limits to tourists. But today visas can be obtained for years at a time and much more of the country is open to foreigners. There is much more infrastructure like hotels, hostels and transportation to accommodate foreigners making this one of the best places to get off the beaten track!
Pakistanis are incredibly friendly and hospitable to foreign travellers. You will find strangers bending over backwards to help you with accommodation, meals, transport and jus to have a yarn. Pakistani’s believe that “guests are a gift from God” and you are treated as such!
Pakistan is a country with immense natural beauty and breathtaking historical sites. Lahore is the biggest city which is full of old forts, shrines, mosques and tombs. It is also a foodie’s heaven, with endless street carts and restaurants serving up incredible food at all hours.
Pakistan is home to some to some of the largest and most dramatic mountains in the world, the mighty Himalayas. The best region to visit the mountains in the Hunza Valley which has sights like Nanga Parbat, the Passu Cones and Attabad Lake to name a few. The mountains of Pakistan are perfect for travellers who have a spirit for adventure!
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is also a great place to visit to see Swat Valley and small villages in the Upper Chitral district. This area of Pakistan is less developed and has much fewer tourists. But this ultimate off the beaten path destination is home to some of the most hospitable people in Pakistan.
Last but not least is Bhutan. This is one of the most unique off the beaten path destinations to visit in the world, and is one of the more challenging ones to visit! Bhutan is a small Buddhist country between Tibet and India.
Bhutan is very strict about maintaining it’s cultural integrity and keeping its traditions alive, meaning they have not allowed foreign tourism to flourish. You can only get a visa to visit by buying a (pricey) organised tour in advance. A few days in Bhutan is enough and is worth every penny to have the privilege to have a glimpse of this beautiful country.
Most of the famous landmarks in Bhutan are located at least 2km above sea level (hello altitude sickness!) and has one of the most dangerous airports in the world. The Himalayas stretch across Bhutan, meaning Bhutan has incredible nature. You can go trekking, enjoy the unique architecture, visit temples and immerse yourself in their traditional Buddhist culture.
When you travel through Bhutan you will see people wearing their traditional clothes and keeping their customs alive. The people of Bhutan are also some of the friendliest you will meet in the world.
The most famous site in Bhutan is Paro Taktsang or Tiger’s Nest which is a beautiful monastery. It is located on top of a cliff that is over 3km above sea level. You need to hike for 3 hours to get there, but it is worth every effort!
It's time to go off the beaten track in 2021!
There you have 11 of the top destinations to travel in 2021 to get off the beaten path!
If you wondering where to travel in 2021 and want to get a bit off the beaten path, these destinations are for you.