Every so often, during my travels, I will come across beautiful destinations that it imprints on my memory forever. These are usually off the beaten path destinations, which the standard holiday maker may not go to.
It’s places like these that make me never tire of travelling. I strive for more adventurous and breathtakingly unknown destinations.
The following places really made an impression on me so here are some of my favourite places that people might not have heard of…
Jiu Zhai Gao National Park – China
This national park was on my bucket list before I started travelling and I delayed going until the Autumn season. This is because during this season the leaves start to change colour. You are treated to reds, oranges, greens and browns resulting in an amazing display of colours to compliment the unreal shades of the lake. I asked many travellers if they were going here, whilst travelling in China and most had never heard of Jiuzhaigao before.
Translating to 9 Valley Village, local citizens still reside in 7 of the 9 Tibetan villages. Located in the mountains of Sichuan Province, JiuZhaiGao sits 2000-4500m above the sea level. The park comprises of many lakes with surreal colours and mind-blowing waterfalls.
The park is colossal in size, and you need a couple of days at least to see it properly. Many of the local tourists ride around on the park buses but don’t explore much further than where the buses stop. I recommend to walk as much as you can. Only this way can you get away from the crowds and see the park in its full glory.
The colours and clarity of the lakes will mesmerize. You won’t believe that these pictures had not been edited until you see it for yourself. The lakes have varying shades of blue, green and yellows. The levels of calcium carbonate in the water, different depths, residues and surroundings form unique colours in the lakes.
Yuanyang Rice Terraces – China
Another one of China’s off the beaten path destinations is one of my favourite places in the world. Not only is it beautiful but it’s also very serene. The villages in the area remain extremely basic and locals enjoy a simple way of life. You must go deep into the terraces to explore the villages, where the locals were shocked to see us. There were not even any shops in some of these villages. Many of the locals here don’t even speak the Chinese language and communicate in their own dialect completely different to Mandarin.
At many times of the year the rice terraces are full of water for growing the rice and this results in a man-made wonder. Looking at them, from a viewpoint or right on the terraces, it’s a marvellous spectacle. During sunset and sunrise, the colours in the sky are reflected in the water making the terraces resemble something from another planet.
Trekking on the terraces is overwhelming, where you feel like a speck of dust in a huge world. Just ensure you bring a good pair of shoes as the mud gets wet and I put my feet into some marshy terrain more than a few times. Plan your route as best you can, as the place is vast. Getting lost here is extremely easy and if you do, like we did, it’s hard to navigate to the next area of civilization.
My guesthouse was incredible. Run by a friendly lady from Guangdong, the place gave insane views of the terraces without even leaving the dormitory.
Perhentian Island – Malaysia
I have already raved on about this island on another post, but this island is unreal for so many reasons. The Perhentian Kecil (small) Island is a perfect size for exploring, not too small that you see everything in a day, and not too big where it becomes too much like a small town. Strictly not one of the most unknown off the beaten path destinations but this is still worthy of a place in my list.
The water is turquoise blue and the marine life here is extraordinarily diverse, with sharks, rays, corals and turtles. You won’t find hoards of foreign tourists here like Thailand. As you can see in the picture, it is very secluded, so you can enjoy the beach without the buzz of everyday life.
This is a fantastic island to visit with friends where you can snorkel, kayak, dive or just relax. Exploring the water was my favourite thing to do. It was extremely liberating to be on these crystal clear seas with nothing around me but the waves. Stay on a beach side hut to enjoy the convenience of stepping out into the ocean as soon as you rise in the morning.
Khongoryn Els Singing Sand Dunes – Mongolia
These spectacular sand dunes are in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia. In terms of off the beaten path destinations, Mongolia has got to be top of the list. It remains to this day one of the most vast and beautiful places I have been. Mongolia remains an unknown destination for travel but also one of the countries I can’t wait to explore again.
I stayed in a Ger, which is a local tent near to the desert. Two or three hours before sunset we rode off towards these huge dunes. From the bottom you cannot envisage the ordeal this climb poses. It is only during the ascent, that you realize the challenge in front of you. Two steps forward and the sand will push you back again. Remain mentally strong, persevere to reach the top and you will be rewarded by the beaming rays of the sun, previously hidden by the sheer gradient of the dunes.
The view on the other side is vast desert. Nothing I’d ever witnessed in my life, compares. On the dunes, were no more than 10 people. This isn’t a destination for your average holiday maker.
As the sun goes down, you can enjoy a spectacular sunset disappearing into the horizon. Don’t forget to run down the sand dunes too; so much fun! I urge and recommend any adventurous travellers to come to Mongolia.
Shiretoko – Japan
This beautiful destination is located in the Northern Island of Japan. It is actually the most eastern point of the island of Hokkaido and many miss it out due to its remoteness. Ensure you sort your international drivers license before you arrive as many areas are unreachable without a car.
5 lakes national park, named after it resemblance to God’s 5 fingerprints has extraordinary nature. It’s a photographers dream with a backdrop of mountains and volcanoes. You must be careful of the Hokkaido Brown Bears, which are highly concentrated in the park. The park ensure you learn how to deal with brown bears from a brief video before entering the park. On sighting of bears, the park closes, so hopefully you don’t see one, or if you do, best to be at the end of your trail.
Also nearby, you will see many deer wandering for food. The panoramic views out towards the Sea of Okhotsk will also stun you as they span across the horizon. In the nearby town of Utoro, you can enjoy the quiet life and visit an Onsen. Water from the hot springs fill these baths and there are different ones on offer, with varying temperatures, and some inside and outside.
Lining the shore are several huge rocks. One of the big ones have steps leading up to the top where I witnessed the most special sunset in my life.
Take the time to visit Hokkaido, it is the most beautiful part of Japan. Make sure you visit Shiretoko on the east side of the island.
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