When you think of a gap year, or your Big O.E, what springs to mind? The Great Wall of China, London’s Big Ben, the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro? Or do you have dreams of discovering new lands?
The big tourist spots are great, don’t get me wrong. There’s a reason why millions of people visit Niagara Falls or the Coliseum every year: They are flat-out amazing and you should definitely see them if you’re lucky enough to get the opportunity.
But often, going a little off-piste is where you’ll find the real treasures, and where you’re likely to create lasting memories. If for no other reason than to be able to gaze upon natural beauty without the reality of a forest of selfie sticks in your face.
While these destinations aren’t exactly venturing into the depths of the Congo, they are a little more adventurous and original than the norm. Been to any of these, or want to add your own? Comment below!
#1. Deià, Mallorca
If you’ve heard anything about the Spanish island of Mallorca, it’s probably that it’s a super trashy party island for sunburnt Brits. And that is unfortunately true, if you’re hanging out on the beach in the capital of Palma. But the village of Deià is pretty awesome; a picturesque bunch of old, traditional buildings nestled in the coastal hills. When I was there, music from a local cathedral was bouncing out across the valley: ultimate chill. Deià has been a haven for writers, poets and musicians throughout the years, and apparently Richard Branson has some digs there, though I never saw him.
#2. Lerici, Italy
Another quiet, seaside beauty, Lerici is part of the Italian Riviera. Buildings of pink and yellow are perched upon little winding streets and there are some wicked secluded beach spots, if you know where to look. There’s also an imposing, 1000-year-old castle which is now a museum for palaeontology, if you’re into that vibe. From Lerici you can catch a ferry to the famed Cinque Terre, where you’re guaranteed some of your best Instagram shots yet. A good time to go is September, when it’s still warm enough to swim, but the peak tourist season has died off.
#3. Hydra, Greece
Pronounced more like ‘ee-dra’, this quaint island is two hours by ferry from Athens. Best if you’re travelling with a backpack, as there are no cars on the island and you’ll feel lame wheeling your suitcase up the little cobbled streets. Incredible views and beautiful swimming spots, with wide, flat rocks for sunning yourself on, seal-style. And the food, of course; salads and seafood, fresh as you like. Book a return ticket in case you feel like you’re never going to be able to leave.
#4. Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil
Foz do Iguaçu is home to the mind-blowing Iguaçu Falls, which make the Huka Falls look like a spa bath on low. Most of the Falls actually do their thing on the Argentinian side of the border, so you’ll be able to cross a whole other country off your list on the day you visit. (I’m kidding, Argentina needs a proper visit too!). Take a boat ride around the falls – it’s an adrenalin fix that’ll last you for years to come and potentially put you off water for life, but you’ll love it, I promise.
#5. Tintagel, England
Remember King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table? This is where they used to hang out. If you like old, old things, legends and windswept Atlantic coastlines, this is the place. Visit the remains of King Arthur’s castle and trek the mountainous Cornish walkways with your imaginary sword and shield. Since you’ve come all this way, why not take a drive down to Land’s End, the southwestern-most point of Britain, and really feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere – in the best possible way.
#6. An Bang Beach, Vietnam
Vietnam isn’t all about zipping around crowded streets on a vespa, having near-death experiences. Once you’ve visited the beautiful old town of Hoi An, zoom on down to An Bang beach. A small, traditional fishing village, it is the primo place to chill. Don’t be tempted to sleep in though, get up at the crack of dawn like a local and take a dip in the clear, warm water. Actually, take a dip in the evening too, and experience the phosphorescence under a starry night sky if you’re into having your mind blown.