Top 10 Off The Beaten Path Spots Around The World

Top 10 Off The Beaten Path Spots Around The World - Her Bags Were PackedSo often we choose to travel to destinations simply because we’ve been told they are the places we’re supposed to go see, places like Times Square, The Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Colosseum and so many more. Sometimes we forget to stop and ask ourselves if or why we really want to go. Sure, there are usually valid reasons to see these sites, but only if we allow ourselves to truly engage and not just treat them like a to do list, snapping selfies and moving on.

While I would never say you should go all the way to Paris and skip the Eiffel Tower, or all the way to Rome and skip the Colosseum (although I would suggest skipping Times Square…), I would say that these are usually not the most meaningful memories of my travels. Usually the best days are the ones spent off-the- beaten-path, wandering, exploring and coming across something unique and little known.

Here are ten of my favorite off-the-beaten-path spots I have come across during my travels around the world. None of them are the reason I chose to visit that city, and, yet, they have all left me with a uniquely fond memory or story.

The Illusion Dome in Rome

 

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In 1642, while The Church of Saint Ignatius was being built, they ran out of money and had to cancel their plans for building a monumental dome. Instead, Andrea Pozzo, a Jesuit brother, Baroque painter, and architect, suggested painting a life-sized illusion to make worshippers believe they were viewing a dome.

Painted between 1685 and 1694, this insane piece of perspective work still fools visitors today.

When you first enter the church, you’ll find a yellowish marble circle marker on the ground. This is considered the most ideal vantage point for viewing the dome and ceiling.

After you’ve taken it all in, walk towards the altar. As you pass under the dome, you’ll get to take in the alternative perspective… one that makes it look like the entire dome is toppling!

Check out other unique things to do in Rome here.

Stuyvesant Wine Bar in Amsterdam

 

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The building that now hosts Amsterdam’s Stuyvesant, a trendy wine bar, was built in 1614 and served as the West Indies House/home of the Dutch West India Company. This very spot is believed to be where the decision to settle New York (originally New Amsterdam) was made.

Find more off the beaten path things to do in Amsterdam here.

Gilligan’s Island in Puerto Rico

 

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While I was in Puerto Rico last winter, there were back to back nor’easters hitting the East Coast of the United States. These storms created record breaking waves that battered the north and west sides of the island of Puerto Rico, making it impossible to snorkel where we were staying. Determined to get some time in the water, we drove down south where the waters were calm and hired someone from a local bed and breakfast to ferry us over to a little island known as Gilligan’s Island.  This little island (named after the TV show) is not well known, is made up completely of mangrove trees, has crystal clear waters, and is teeming with incredible marine life.

Hellulaug in Iceland

 

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Iceland is known for its hot springs and natural pools, but most of the ones I’d read about and mapped out were no longer open to the public (thanks, tourists). Thankfully Hellulaug in the Westfjords, the one I was most excited about, was still accessible.  This natural hot-spring fed pool is built in to the rocks on the beach and looks out over snow capped mountains and the ocean.

The Accord Freedom Trail in Saint Augustine

 

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The ACCORD Freedom Trail marks the local landmarks where men and women in Saint Augustine met during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement to make plans and stand up bravely against injustice, sacrificing greatly. While congress debated over what would become known as The Civil Rights Act of 1964, televised demonstrations in St. Augustine began forcing legislators to take action.

The steps shown in this photograph, known as the Gault Street Steps, are one of the stops along the Freedom Trail and are all that remain of the Roberson Family Home. Bungum Roberson served as local treasurer of Dr. King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference and his family lost their home to a firebomb after his sons entered the all-white Fullerwood School.  

Check out other great things to do in St. Augustine here.

Abbazia di San Fruttuoso in Portofino

 

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While I was staying in Camogli, an off the beaten path alternative to Cinque Terre, I took a ferry to Abbazia di San Fruttuoso. The Abbey, hidden within a cove at the foot of heavily wooded hills, can only be accessed by hiking trail or boat and has a unique and complicated history involving time as a traditional Catholic Abbey and a pirate hideout. Once you arrive, you can relax on the beach, go for a hike, dive down to the Christ of the Abyss statue, or tour the grounds.

Hartley Mason Reserve in Maine

 

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Back in 2015, while staying with friends of friends in New Hampshire, I decided to go for a drive to try to see some of Maine. I randomly chose the town of York. I felt like I was driving through the setting of a Nicholas Sparks novel: beautiful homes and cottages were set up on cliffs overlooking the ocean. But my favorite spot was the Hartley Mason Reserve, a many-acred grassy park up on a hill with big trees and lots of shade that looks out over the beach and ocean. My understanding is that Hartley Mason left this land in his will for the public to use as a “pleasure ground” because he felt such outdoor space was going to become limited.

While exploring the Reserve, I discovered the Cliff Path or Cliff Walk, a narrow trail that takes adventurous explorers along the cliffs that line the coast. Some parts were wooded with a wide path, some parts were very rocky and narrow, some had pathways down to the rocky shore line, and others had steep drop offs.

Crucial Coffee Cafe in Saint Augustine

 

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Visitors to St. Augustine will discover a lush garden with a handful of tables beside a charming little shack on the corner of Charlotte and Cuna Streets.

Formerly a blacksmith’s shop, this shack is now known as Saint Augustine’s most whimsical coffee shop, Crucial Coffee Cafe.

Crucial Coffee is a perfect spot to relax with a book among the flowers; or a quiet spot to catch up on work (if you work remotely, like me) during the day; but at night the garden is transformed by live musicians and twinkle lights strewn throughout the garden creating the perfect after dinner stop for coffee and dessert.

Check out other great things to do in St. Augustine here.

Zevenlandenhuissen in Amsterdam

 

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Across the street from Amsterdam’s famous Vondelpark and just a few blocks away from Amsterdam’s Museumplein is a unique and off-the-beaten path spot known as Zevenlandenhuizen, which I am told translates to “Seven Countries Houses.” These seven houses, built in 1894, each represent the architectural style of a different European country (Russia, Germany, Italy, Spain, Netherlands, France, and England) and were designed by architect Tjeerd Kuipers and commissioned by wealthy banker, politician, and philanthropist Sam Van Eeghen in the 1890s and demonstrate the Dutch fascination with faraway lands.

Find more off the beaten path things to do in Amsterdam here.

Pyramid of Cestius

 

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There is an ancient pyramid in Rome known as the Pyramid of Cestius. Modeled after the Egyptian pyramids and standing 124 feet tall, the Pyramid of Cestius was built sometime between 18 and 12 B.C as the tomb for Gaius Cestius, a Roman senator and general.

Opportunities to tour the inside of the pyramid are limited to the 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month, but you can also check out the outside 24 hours a day, as it is located right on the side of the road.

Check out other unique things to do in Rome here.


What are some of your favorite off-the-beaten path spots that you’ve come across?