Off the Beaten Path: Do This, Not That

If you’re anything like me, you’re constantly trying to find a way to talk to your friends about where you want to travel to next. Sometimes they get annoyed (which we will never understand) and most of the time they’ll have an opinion on what you should see and not see (even if they haven’t been there).

Pictured above: me to my friends.

This, I realise, is beginning to sound like an article where I’ll be complaining about things people suggest. Please let me clarify. It’s great to get as many tips, tricks and thoughts on what you should see before heading out on your next adventure. The problem with this is that as a traveller, you get bombarded with the ideas OTHER people have about how your time away needs to happen. 

“You’re going to Paris? You HAVE to go up the Eiffel Tower!”

“Rome? Next month? You NEED to go to this pizza place I read about online.”

“Wow, Budapest! So exciting. Bathing in a hot thermal pool with other people is ESSENTIAL.”

I could go on forever, so I’ll stop myself there. 

It’s great to get all these ideas from family and friends alike, but don’t forget that there’s so much more to every single destination than what’s in the headlines. Sometimes you need to go off the beaten path to appreciate the classics. Allow me to share some alternatives that offer a unique perspective on your favourite countries.

Climb the Arc de Triomphe, Not the Eiffel Tower

When you think of Paris, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? It’s probably the Eiffel Tower. The structure is France’s most popular one with tourists, and once you see it in person it’s not hard to understand why. However, the line get up is pretty outrageous (especially if you’re there during peak season and not on a tour). While the climb does offer great views of the city it lacks the iconic accent of the Parisian skyline, the Eiffel Tower (because you’re on it).

Climbing the Arc de Triomphe is an equally excellent option. Not only is the climb easier, but you get even better views of the city. On top of this, you can see just how incredible the Eiffel Tower is and why it’s so famous across the globe.

Go To Český Krumlov, Not Prague

Photo credit: Debarshi Ray via / CC BY-SA

I’m not saying don’t go to Prague at all, I’m just saying that Cesky Krumlov isn’t as busy and it’s easier to conquer in a short stretch of time. Though you may think that since it’s smaller Cesky Krumlov would be limited, it’s really not.

If you’re looking for a chance to really delve into the Czech Republic’s culture, then going to a smaller unique area of the country will do that perfectly for you. On top of that, Cesky Krumlov is a UNESCO World Heritage site! There are also a number of mind-blowing lookouts to take photos that aren’t the typical ones you would see in Prague. You can check out some of those lookout points here.

Go To Macedonia’s Lake Ohrid, Not Italy’s Lake Como

Photo credit: filipthedesigner via Visual hunt / CC BY

Who doesn’t love a good lake? Northern Italy is home to lakes that have been touted as something you cannot miss in your lifetime.

I mean, if you’re in Italy, obviously see as much as you can in the time you have. But have you heard of Lake Ohrid in Macedonia? It’s absolutely stunning. Lake Ohrid has a surface area of 388 km² while Lake Como is much smaller at 146 km². The impressive lake is also the deepest lake in all of the Balkans and holds stunning views from every angle of its 87.53 km shoreline. One thing to note is that though most of the lake is in Macedonia, a portion of it is shared with Albania so both countries deserve credit for this stunning body of water.

Do The Salkantay Trek, Not The Inca Trail

Photo credit: mckaysavage via Visualhunt / CC BY

Yes, the Inca Trail is incredible. I’ve done it and I would never take it back, but I added this one in here to show everyone that there are other options, and the Salkantay Trek is one of those.

If the Inca Trail is out of permits, the Salkantay Trek is a perfect second option (I would actually recommend it being your first). It’s a lot less crowded, unlike the Inca Trail which has exploded in popularity. It’s said that if you want to see ancient ruins, take the Inca Trail, but if you want to have your mind blown by outstanding views, choose the Salkantay trek. If you choose to do the Salkantay trek, you’ll also hit the highest peak in the Vilcabamba mountain range, which is an accomplishment in itself.

Either way, always pick the trek that’s right for you, but the Salkantay Trek offers views and an experience that rivals the Inca Trail experience.

Hike Two Brothers in Rio, Don’t Hike Sugarloaf Mountain

Views from the top of Two Brothers

When you’re doing your Rio de Janeiro research, I guarantee you that you’ll come across the hike (or gondola lift) up Sugarloaf Mountain. Sure, the sunset is cool, but what’s not cool is battling hundreds of others trying to get a photo at the front. No, hundreds is not an exaggeration.

The perfect alternative which offers (in my opinion) better views throughout the entire hike is Two Brothers (Dois Irmãos). You know that iconic mountain that has two peaks? It’s that one. The hike can be a bit difficult, but I did it without much of a pre-climb fitness routine to speak of, so you can 100% do it too. As you hike up, you hit forest areas, incredible scenic openings and you’ll probably even come across some cute (but wild) monkeys. The best moment of all is when you hit the top and see the most incredible view of Rio de Janeiro’s beaches and scenery.

Go To Thessaloniki, Not Athens

Photo credit: Jim Makos via / CC BY-ND

Athens, it’s worth a stop to check out the Acropolis and a few other things, but in terms of staying a while, I recommend Thessaloniki, Greece’s second-largest city.

Just like the rest of Greece, Thessaloniki holds incredible history, culinary creations and impressive views. There are major differences between here and Athens though. One big difference is that Thessaloniki is a smaller city making getting around (even by foot) quite simple. The main reason I’d suggest passing on Athens in favour of Thessaloniki is because it’s home to some truly stunning waterfronts and beaches you won’t have to fight for a spot on.

Go To Canada, Not America

Photo credit: ♡ dare to share beauty via VisualHunt / CC BY

As much as the USA houses incredible places like California, Arizona, New York and many more spots, Canada has been on everyone’s radar this year. As a Canadian, I can tell you why…

Well firstly, Canada’s turning 150 years old in 2017. With those celebrations come some pretty great perks when visiting, one being a free entry to nearly every national park in the country. On top of that, Canada has a variety of different landscapes, from the Rocky Mountains to the prairies all the way to beautifully unique coastlines. In Canada, you can even see the Northern Lights far up north, along with a ton of wildlife including moose, elk, grizzly bears and more.

Canada’s been a bit under the radar for many people, and finally as it turns 150 years young, it’s becoming a hotspot for travellers across the entire globe (for obvious reasons). You can dog sled in one region, and then grab a short flight to go surfing in another. Oh and did I mention poutine? 

Based in Toronto, Katie has travelled to over 25 countries and loves going to new places, trying new food and cooking as much as she can. After living in Banff, Alberta for two years, she continued to travel Europe and South America extensively. Now, she continues to see the world one step at a time.

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