Discover the roads less travelled
Ready for the adventure of a lifetime? Join seasoned travel journalist Zack Cahill, who’s written for GQ, OutThere luxury travel magazine and international tourist boards, as he takes you around the world to 3 destinations off the beaten track.
We all yearn for unique travel experiences. After all, experiences are the new wealth. The roads less travelled brings with it no expectations and an insatiable appetite for adventure. And a recent survey by Hidden Scotland revealed 84% of respondents prefer to travel off the beaten track1.
So, what’s the secret behind seeking out these new horizons? Well, those destinations you crave might be pretty close to that beaten track. It can be as simple as dismissing your first thought - zoom out a little when you’re searching for destinations and check the neighbouring areas. You’ll have a similar climate, with fewer tourists, and a far more unique experience to be had for your money. After all you don’t need to machete your way through a rainforest for adventure – it might just be a few clicks away. All that’s left to do is pack your bags…
Firstly, swerve the Aussie stag parties in bustling Seminyak. Start in Ubud, but not the congested town centre. I stayed a mile or two from town in a bamboo eco lodge and it was perfectly tranquil. Just be sure to search for accommodation with a jungle view. It’s not a place for jam-packed itineraries. I took a sunset walk along Campuhan Ridge and learned to make an Indonesian curry from a local woman. Outside on the fields, thousands of cloves lay drying on a massive sheet suffusing the air with their smell.
From Ubud, I took a bus and ferry to the Gili islands to meet some friends. We chose Gili Air, the quieter island. To give you an idea of how small the place is, I texted a friend the night before to get the address to meet them. He replied, “Get off the ferry, turn left and walk down the beach. You’ll see us.” These were my only instructions despite having travelled across the planet, and sure enough I found them eating seafood in the shade at a bamboo shack. We spent a few days paddleboarding and trying (and failing!) to cook like the locals. Like much of South East Asia, the islands are developing fast. Get there now before the secret gets out.
"You don’t need to machete your way through a rainforest for adventure – it might just be a few clicks away"
The Portuguese island of Madeira has its share of mega hotels in the capital. But it’s the same latitude as Casablanca and a growing eco hotel trend provides a rustic yet chic alternative to the usual tourist traps. And I can attest to Madeira’s incredible tropical climate during the winter months. Back in October, I kayaked off Câmera de Lobos on the south coast, through caves on crystal-clear water. I could have easily been in Hawaii. The island is awash with interesting history and unique flora. The levadas, ancient aqueducts, built during a period of Spanish rule, crisscross the island, providing a gentle soundtrack to a spectacular hike. I even managed a sunrise yoga class, surrounded by thousand-year-old trees in one of the Unesco-protected forests.
The Isle of Skye
For destinations within the UK, the Isle of Skye offers the perfect mix of dramatic landscapes, outdoor activities and fine dining. In one day you can eat at a Michelin-starred restaurant, go rock climbing, and see some fantastic local wildlife. My own personal gillie, an immensely knowledgeable man, taught me to fish, schooled me in Scottish history, and generally showed me what an incapable human I am. It was my favourite trip that year. Jura in the Inner Hebrides is home to some of the most spectacularly located hotels in Britain, though you may have to travel the final leg by helicopter to enjoy a dram of local whisky.
You don’t always have to go to such lengths, of course: just a little extra thought and a push past the first few search engine results. A friend recently went online and booked the first flight he saw for under a hundred pounds. A day later he was in the medieval Romanian town of Cluj, staying at a beautiful guest house with a quirkiness that could never be replicated by an identikit hotel in the average tourist trap city.