I’m definitely off the beaten track girl. Must-see places are cool, but this is NOT where the magic happens. To me going off the beaten track means interacting with the local crowd. You need to let the people guide you. Don’t count on visiting famous sights, you will more likely end up in their favourite bar, but you will learn way more about the country than you would otherwise (and you can take some great photos!). Just imagine that in Russia we met some incredible folk who by the end of the conversation invited us to their dacha (summer-house) so we could actually see how they live. Isn’t it great?
I’m not afraid to ask a stranger for recommendations but if you are shy, try to go to one of the meet ups or couch surfing weekly meetings in the area. I usually post online my next destination (on my Facebook or in one of the couch surfing groups) and the response is always positive – people want to meet especially in less touristy places. If you stay in a hostel ask the staff for their favourite spots. A good idea is to browse some local blogs about the place you want to visit. For example, if you are going to Paris try to look for a blogger who lives there and is passionate about discovering new, interesting spots in the city. They key to travelling off the beaten track is THE PEOPLE!
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About the photo – we were visiting a local friend in Yerevan when we spotted two men playing black gammon on the street.
My top off the beaten path destination has to be Kaeng Krachan National Park in Thailand.
I found it on the Thai National Parks website and set about arranging a short trip there on my recent visit to the country. It’s not easy to get to if you don’t have your own vehicle and this is a blessing because it keeps the hordes away. I camped there with my girlfriend in July and there was only one other guest and the Park Ranger (not to mention more wildlife than I have ever seen anywhere in one place).
My experience hiking through the jungle there was unforgettable and a little nerve-wracking at times. Walking through dense rainforest and camping where leopards, elephants and tigers live, not to mention some of the world’s deadliest snakes and scariest spiders had the adrenalin pumping but was the experience of a lifetime.
We stayed at the Ban Kraeng Campsite inside the national park. You must hire a driver and vehicle to get into the park if you don’t have a car. You can take taxis or minibuses to the main park office near Kaeng Krachan Town (an hour from Hua Hin or four hours from Bangkok). Entrance to the park is 300 Thai Baht and the vehicle and driver cost 1400 Thai Baht return.
Darvaza (The Door to Hell)
It doesn’t get more ‘off the beaten path’ than a giant fire crater in the middle of a desert in one of the world’s most closed and secretive countries. I was planning on travelling back to China from London along the old Silk Road and needed to pass through Turkmenistan in Central Asia to complete my trip. While investigating the country to see what I could see along the way, I came across the Darvaza gas crater and this was an absolute must on my trip.
The crater exists as a result of soviet gas exploration in the 1950’s. After an accident where the drilling machinery sunk into a giant sinkhole scientists discovered natural gas and decided to burn it off, reckoning on about a week. 60 years later it is still burning strong. I wasn’t disappointed and spent one night camping in the desert next to the crater with a friend who was joining me on part of my journey. The heat and noise of the flames was intense and as the sun set a lightning storm broke out to make it one of the most eerie experiences I’ve ever had on the road.
For me, going off the beaten track means exactly that. It means simply walking or cycling until I am in the middle of nowhere. I usually ask hostel staff the best places to go to escape the crowds or for a particular hidden gem, but I will usually chose a destination that is not touristy to begin with. I usually research my destinations using guidebooks and online resources like Wikitravel and then head for the smaller places rather than the capital or tourist hotspots.
I live in China and with a population of 1.3 billion it can seem almost impossible to find somewhere away from the crowds and off the beaten track. However with a little inside knowledge and a sense of adventure it can be done with relative ease. On my days off I usually look at the map for areas of green and simply cycle in that direction. I have found some wonderful things doing this, including an ancient village that is not marked on any map which was a real treat for me!
I also think there are levels of “off the beaten track” too. For example I consider travelling to countries like Kosovo, Turkmenistan or North Korea off the beaten track simply because of the number of visitors. Other times it can be a smaller city rather than a larger one (Xi’an instead of Beijing). I recently spent three weeks in Thailand and was daunted at the thought of a tourist hell, but even there with a little research I was able to find somewhere off the beaten track.
Here Are Some Great Destinations To Check Out From Travel Bloggers Around The World.
Have you been to any OFF THE BEATEN TRACK PLACES? If so send us an email on [email protected] (with a short written piece up to 500 words and 3 photos and your blog and social media links) and we will feature you.