Looking for an eco-resort in Ecuador? A Japanese village lined with boathouses? A fly-fishing paradise in Cuba? Our travel experts reveal their favorite hidden destinations.
Ever wondered where seasoned travels go to avoid the crowds and find real culture away from touristy hubs? We asked our A-List advisors to share their favorite "hidden gem” destinations in 2023 that are lesser-known and offer incredible experiences steeped in local flavor.
Outer Islands, Italy
“If you’re looking for a different Italy, one where time has stood still, head to the so-called outer islands. It will involve one more flight or boat, but you'll be rewarded with fewer travelers. The Aeolian Islands are a volcanic archipelago where you can hike Stromboli (volcano permitting) , boat around Panarea, and taste Malvasia di Lipari wines. Pantelleria, Italy’s southernmost point, is about 47 miles from Tunisia, giving the island a decidedly North African feel. And Ponza, part of the Pontine Islands, begs you to discover its seaside coves and white-sand beaches. — Joyce Falcone, The Italian Concierge
“France is so much more than Paris and the South. Discover lesser-known regions such as Burgundy, the Loire Valley, and Brittany. Lyon amazes travelers every time they visit, with cultural, gastronomic, and architectural delights. Let your travel expert show you a more authentic France at prices that are considerably less than the country’s top spots, even in high season.” — Philip Haslett, French Promise
Smaller Greek Islands and Wroclaw, Poland
“Tourists are flocking to Greece, especially places like Mykonos and Santorini, but we're having great success encouraging people to consider the smaller and less-famous islands of Milos and Naxos. In Poland, as much as we love Krakow, it's the country's most touristy city. Wroclaw, a university city less than 200 miles from Krakow, is a below-the-radar delight, with similar architecture and far fewer crowds.” — Jay Ternavan, JayWay Travel
“I'm a big fan of Siracusa in Sicily. This jewel gets overlooked because it doesn't have big-brand hotels, but it's a magical city with a Greek and Roman history. Great boutique hotels give you easy access to explore this UNESCO World Heritage site.” — Keith Waldon, Departure Lounge
“Asturias in northern Spain crams everything into its borders, including snowy mountains and sandy beaches, humble tapas bars and avant-garde restaurants, raucous fiestas and quiet valleys where bears and wolves still roam.” — Nigel Hack, Madrid & Beyond
Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador
“Mashpi Lodge, a former National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World property, is tucked away in a private reserve in Ecuador. There are waterfalls, butterflies, soaring views over the canopy, and private birding guides. It is a challenging three-hour transfer from the airport, but worth every moment for luxury in the middle of the wilderness.” — Allie Almario, Premier Tours
“Barichara is an incredible hidden gem in Colombia, a perfectly preserved colonial village with a strong artistic community and few crowds. It's near one of the world's deepest canyons, Chicamocha, and is a great base for family adventure, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, rafting, and rappelling.” — Joe Sandillo, Almaz Journeys
San Blas Islands, Panama
“The San Blas Islands of Panama are a stunning archipelago of 365 picture-perfect islands. Home to white-sand beaches lined with coconut trees, pristine coral reefs, and crystal-clear waters, the San Blas Islands are where travelers can disconnect from the outside world and enjoy the slower pace of island life. The islands are run by the Indigenous Guna tribe, and guests have the chance to immerse themselves in Guna culture.” — Emmanuel Burgio, Blue Parallel
Jardines de la Reina, Cuba
Jardines de la Reina, a protected archipelago off the southern coast of Cuba, is a diving and fly-fishing paradise that also offers local Cuban culture. It was named by Christopher Columbus in honor of the Queen of Spain.” — Betsy Donley, Camelback Odyssey Travel
“In Hawaii, the two hidden gems are the island of Lanai and Kauai. Lanai has a population of only 3,100 people, so if you're looking to get far from crowds, this is the island to unplug and relax on. Lanai City features casual restaurants and art galleries. Plan a trip around the July Pineapple Festival, and you'll enjoy a small-town feel. For lodging, stay at the Four Seasons Resort Lanai, Sensei Lanai, A Four Seasons Resort, or Hotel Lanai.” — Jim Bendt, Pique Travel Design
“Nikko in the Tochigi Prefecture of Japan offers mystical views of a mountain region and is home to the famous 'see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil' monkeys. Luxury accommodations have arrived, which makes a two-night stay a must. Another gem is Kyoto by the Sea. Two exceptional areas are Amanohashidate, a gorgeous sandbar jetting out into the Sea of Japan, and Ine, a bayside fishing village lined with boathouses.” — Scott Gilman, JapanQuest Journeys
Tsodilo Hills, Bostwana
“The Tsodilo Hills, in the northwest corner of Botswana, offer an archaeological record of human activities and environmental changes over 100,000 years. Imposing rock paintings inside shelters and caves may date back as early as the Stone Age. Massive quartzite rock formations and a dry fossil lakebed also provide insight into early human life.” — Julian Harrison, Premier Tours
South Georgia Island
“South Georgia, an island halfway between Antarctica and Argentina, is sometimes called the 'Serengeti of the Southern Ocean.' Imagine being surrounded by as many as 450,000 penguins, elephant seals, albatross, and so much more. To us, this is the wildlife fantasy that people dream of, and the absolute highlight of any trip to Antarctica.” — Jonathan Alder, Jonathan’s Travels
For more Travel & Leisure news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!
Read the original article on Travel & Leisure.