Unusual vacation destinations guide

Every year we hear about a new and undiscovered destination, tipped to be the next big thing to see before it’s spoiled when everyone else goes. The problem with this kind of tourism is that many countries, newly arrived on the travel scene, are unable to manage the sudden influx of visitors, leading to problems with overtourism.
One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.
– Henry Miller
The kind of unusual destinations we like to explore challenge our preconceptions of places and leave us wanting to know more. It’s less about the latest travel trend and more about seeing another side of countries often underrated or misunderstood. Travel with a local guide and you’ll gain an insight into local cultures, stay in family homes or traditional camps, or get an expert explanation of the wonderful native wildlife. So go against the flow of footsteps and discover somewhere really off the radar. These aren’t your average bucket list destinations; these are countries for the curious traveler.

Is an unusual vacation destination for you?

Go if...

… you’ve got an open mind. Whether it’s learning about the culture of a country once closed to outsiders or discovering your new favourite food, these destinations are only challenging because they might change the way you think. … you're happy to waive your creature comforts. Sleeping under desert skies means getting sand in places you don’t want it, roads can be long and lumpy, the menu options may be small and, worst of all, there’s no WiFi in the wilderness. … you prefer lively to leisurely vacations. Vacations in wild places often involve a lot of hiking. Sometimes it’s through jungles and sometimes over mountains, but always along scenic trails.

Don't  go if...

… you’re just looking to tick off another destination on your list. Bucket list travelers won’t see the benefit of being in many of these places. You’ll need to be engaged with your environment to get beneath the surface – meaning fewer selfies and more time face to face with friendly locals. … you're a fussy eater. One of the joys of travel is discovering new foods, but some local delicacies are more delightful than others. Not all countries can offer the varied diet you may enjoy at home, although some cater very well to both vegetarians and vegans, and alcohol isn’t always allowed. … you're not a people person. It’s the people that really make the experience when it comes to visiting unusual destinations, but remember that they’re not a tourist attraction. Talk to locals who will gladly give you details about their culture, the land they live on or wildlife they live alongside.

Our top Unusual destinations Vacation

Chad holidays, expedition to the Ennedi

Chad vacations, expedition to the Ennedi

Tubu nomads, desert crocodiles and the Sahara's best scenery

From £3999 to £4149 15 days ex flights
Small group travel:
2023: 16 Oct
2024: 14 Oct
Travel Team
If you'd like to chat about Unusual destinations or need help finding a vacation to suit you we're very happy to help.

What does an unusual destination vacation look like?

Small group vacations

Unusual destinations are often misunderstood, if known about at all, and traveling with a local, knowledgeable guide is often the best way to uncover the area’s secrets and start up conversation in the communities. Groups are kept small to guarantee interaction with your guides, who will be keen to share their insights and in depth understanding of the culture and geography. It also means you’re more likely to meet other travelers with similar interests, similarly intrigued by an unconventional choice of vacation. Most tours will be focused on outdoor or cultural activities, such as a culture and festival vacation in Bhutan or a walking and wildlife vacation in Romania, so it’s good to know you’ll be with like-minded people. Keeping things small allows you to be accommodated by locally owned guest houses, or to stay in traditional tribal camps, and get around remote areas or wilderness without disturbing the wildlife.

Tailor made vacations

Tailor made vacations offer you the opportunity to make the most of your time in an unusual destination you’re likely to only ever visit once, like Oman or Colombia. Whether you want to spend more time in one place than another, do something different or stay a little longer, your tour can be tailored to suit, or you can even drive yourself.

Self drive vacations offer you the freedom of the open road, but with the indispensible local knowledge that means you know where to stop and how long each journey will take, taking you along the more scenic routes while also ensuring you don’t spend too much time on the road. In short, they do the hard work for you. They’re great for exploring friendly destinations like Tasmania, where you get to stay in small and unique, locally owned B&Bs that may only be accessible by car but can’t cater to larger tour groups. They’re also tailor made, so many of the sights and stays will be so far off the beaten track you’re unlikely to find them in a typical tourist brochure, and you’ve always got the security of 24-hour assistance.

Family vacations

You may be surprised, but some unusual destinations can be brilliant places to take the kids. Borneo, and much of Malaysia, is made for family vacations, featuring child-friendly resorts and fascinating furry creatures. Adventure loving little ones can join shorter walks – specially tailored for shorter legs – and experience the spectacular scenery of Bhutan. Georgia and Armenia will amaze junior history buffs, while you can wear them out with everything from kayaking to horse riding. Oman offers camel trekking and wadi bashing (4x4 drives through dried up riverbeds) – but long bumpy roads aren’t best for kids (or anyone) who get car sick. Romania is a living fairytale of castles, spooky stories and bears, while traveling in Tasmania is made easy with the flexibility of a self drive tour and very kid-friendly food.

Some destinations are more appropriate for older teens, often due to altitude, weather, or the type of activities on offer. Madagascar is not well-suited to young kids due to risk of stomach upsets, bug bites, long and arduous roads and hot weather and, for this reason, many tour companies don't accommodate them. Older, active teens (aged 14 onwards), on the other hand, will have a fantastic time kayaking, camping, hiking and spotting fluffy lemurs.
Written by Bryony Cottam
Photo credits: [Page banner: Bernd Thaller] [Is an unusual vacation destination for you?: Trevor Cole] [Small group vacations: Adam Singer]