If you're anything like me when you go away, you'll relish the opportunity to discover the ‘real' destination – the one they don't always show you in pretty brochures or travel agency shop fronts.
I've never been one to ‘fly and flop', instead I want to meet the locals and, as much as possible, experience what they do – from the stores they shop at to the restaurants and cafes they eat at – and of course, where they go at the weekend for some downtime.
This is local tourism at its finest – and there's no better way to get to know a destination than by getting in with the locals.
Plus when I explore a destination, I want to show my kids that this great big world that we live in really exists outside of their screen-obsessed bubbles that they wrap themselves in.
There were huge lessons learned when I took my kids on a South African rural tour to spend the day with kids who had absolutely nothing.
And they've had their senses heightened and thrills galore taking part in activities such as shark cage diving, Big 5 safaris and theme park thrill rides.
And they love it of course. So VIP and I continue to choose different destinations for our family holidays every time we go away. There is so much to see – and so little time to see it.
I'm hoping that they'll have the opportunity to go RTW-backpacking (as we did) before settling down with jobs and responsibilities.
And whatever I can do to instil that sense of adventure in them, I have made my mission to do so.
Brits are getting braver
And it appears that my family isn't one of few yearning to tread the path less trodden – and find the best-kept travel secrets and destinations to explore!
According to a study by Kuoni, eight in ten wander-lusting Brits are interesting in escaping the usual tourist traps on their next holiday.
A significant number of those questioned said that they want to take in destinations that none of their friends have been to before.
It seems like people are increasingly looking to carve their own travel experience – me included. I like nothing more than telling friends and family the little-known places we've discovered when we visit a new destination.
That's why we always look to hiring a car when we go on holiday – it allows for spontaneity, and that's part of the thrill in finding new places that only the locals know about, isn't it?
We also try to befriend some of the locals to ask for their advice – and this is where VIP comes in as being particularly handy to be with.
His multi-lingual skills have many a time lead to great experiences and making new friends on our holidays – whoever said learning a language at school was a waste of time?!
Operators and hoteliers have also cottoned onto the fact that people are seeking best-kept travel secrets and destinations – and will offer tours or promote lesser-known attractions to their customers.
We all went of course and it was stunning – no one was there for a while and then we were joined by some locals teens who decided to do back flips off the cliffs into the water below.
It was great to watch, but I was praying none of them would get hurt (that's the mother in me!)
One of the most common reasons given as to why people seek out hidden holiday gems was the sense of seclusion and the feeling that you're experiencing it all for yourself.
In fact, this is an important factor for many people, with holidaymakers willing to pay an average of £300 extra on their holidays, if it included an unforgettable secret sight.
I'm guessing that this revived wanderlust is largely in part to changes in our busy lifestyles including
- The influence of picture perfect destinations on social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter.
- Film tourism fuelling Brits' desire to travel – evident by the number of tourist offices reporting an influx of tourists following the launch of a movie that was filmed in the destination.
- The rise of cruising, with unique itineraries and smaller ships/river cruises reaching lesser known destinations.
And while visitors numbers to destinations and attractions such as Egypt's Pyramids, The Great Wall of China, India's Taj Mahal and The Grand Canyon, show no signs of dwindling, there's a new breed of travellers who are increasingly seeking to live like the locals and venture deeper.
Apparently, just 1% of the UK has heard of Indonesia’s Gili Meno Island, selected by the operator due to its pristine beaches and crystal-clear waters.
While its neighbouring island Gili Trawangan is now a hotspot for backpackers, the island of Gili Meno remains firmly off the beaten track.
And a minuscule 0.1% of Brits are aware of the tranquil garden complex of Mehtab Bagh, on the banks of the Yamuna River in India, just behind the Taj Mahal.
20 of the best-kept travel destinations
- Views of the Taj Mahal from Mehtab Bagh, India
- The island of Gili Meno, Indonesia
- El Nido Pangulasian Island, Philippines
- Jaffna, north Sri Lanka
- Con Dao Island, Vietnam
- The hike between OIA and Imerovigli, Santorini, Greece
- The island of Bequia, the Grenadines
- Tirimbina Rainforest Reserve, Costa Rica
- The Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Heritage Area, Virginia, USA
- Salar de Uyuni (Uyuni Salt Flats), Bolivia
- The town of Matera in the Basilicata region of Italy
- The koalas of Kennet River on the Great Ocean Road, Victoria, Australia
- Farewell Spit, New Zealand
- Bukchon Village in Seoul, South Korea
- Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
- Omodos Village, Cyprus
- KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), South Africa
- Yaxchilan, the ancient Mayan city in the state of Chiapas, Mexico
- Margaret River, Western Australia
- Zebra migration in Botswana
I've personally ticked off numbers 12, 16, 17 and 19, but I've got plans to tick off many more including some that I devised myself (now on the bucket list!)
What's your best-kept travel secret or destination?
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