Which big sights deserve to step out of the shadows? We’ve discovered seven destinations that are now firmly on our dream destination list – there’s also some specialist advice on how to get the best from them…
Have you watched the sun set behind the Sydney Opera House? Have you touched the pearlescent surface of the Taj Mahal? Have you sidled up to the Statue of Liberty for a selfie? Established sights such as these feature large on many people’s wishlists – but what about discovering something that takes you by surprise, something in the raw? Here we round up a few falling-under-the-radar sights to set your pulse racing.
THE GOLDEN TEMPLE, AMRITSAR, INDIA
This monument quite literally outshines the Taj Mahal. Its 750 kilograms of gold gilding make this revered Sikh temple a blinding spectacle. Floating serenely in the centre of a pool surrounded by marble walls, the complex offers a welcome respite from the bustle of the city beyond.
TOP TIP: Enjoy the unique experience of dining in the world’s largest kitchen or ‘langar’ at the Golden Temple, which serves up free (and delicious) food for up to 100,000 people a day, regardless of their nationality or faith.Golden Temple. Image by jool-yan at Fotolia.com
SALAR DE UYUNI, BOLIVIA
Looking for an experience that’s out of this world? Here it is. Covering some 4,000 square miles, the world’s largest salt flat is eerie to behold. Aside from the salt, though, there’s plenty more ethereal experiences in this area of the Andean Plateau, including multi-coloured desert lakes teeming with flamingos, bubbling hot springs and even an ancient island of giant cacti.
TOP TIP: Take inspiration from photos of Salar de Uyuni’s famous optical illusions to get some memorable images of your own.Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia. Image by ivanka84 at Fotolia.com
BAGAN, MYANMAR (BURMA)
Having only recently emerged from decades of military rule, Myanmar’s treasures have yet to draw huge throngs of visitors, despite playing host to archaeological wonders every bit as impressive as Angkor Wat or Machu Picchu. The jewel in the country’s crown, however, is the 26 square miles of verdant canopy dotted with thousands of temples and pagodas that make up the former ancient kingdom of Bagan.
TOP TIP: Rise in tandem with the sun, ensconce yourself in a hot air balloon and drift serenely over this breathtaking temple complex.Bagan. Image by platongkoh01, Deposit Photos
IGUAZU FALLS, SOUTH AMERICA
It might not be as well-known as its North American neighbour, Niagara, but it wasn’t out of diplomacy that First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt exclaimed “Poor Niagara!” during her visit. More than just a single curtain of water, Iguazu Falls offers hundreds of waterfalls spread across the border of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay with everything from idyllic jungle clad-cataracts to the raging white-water and mist of the gargantuan Devil’s Throat.
TOP TIP: Be sure to devote enough time to see the falls from both the Argentinian and Brazilian side to get the most from the experience.Image by Grafissimo – iStock
LI RIVER, GUANGXI, CHINA
While it tends to be the manmade wonders of the Great Wall, Xian’s Terracotta Warriors or Hong Kong Harbour that receive the plaudits, China’s natural wonders are equally impressive and capture the pre-developed past of this ever-changing nation. For a relaxing introduction to the scenery, take a boat ride along the winding Li River, passing epic karst mountains and village life that has changed little for centuries.
TOP TIP: Keen walkers can make the four to five hour trek along the most scenic section of the river between Yangdi and Xingping.
Often overlooked in favour of Marrakech and Fes, the imperial city of Meknes offers the same architectural marvels and Moroccan culture minus the crowds. What’s more, the city is within a short drive of the remarkable Roman ruins of Volubilis and the pretty whitewashed town of Moulay Idriss – it’s the perfect daytrip.
TOP TIP: If you’re offered a whisky berbère, don’t expect any alcohol but do accept the offer and enjoy a delicious mint tea – it’s the national beverage and the ideal way to ingratiate yourself with the locals.Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia. Image from Tourism Western Australia
NINGALOO REEF, WESTERN AUSTRALIA
While it may be eclipsed by the sheer size of its east-coast neighbour, the Great Barrier Reef, Ningaloo Reef has plenty of strings to its bow, not least migratory humpback whales and whale sharks that gather in huge numbers each year. Best of all, its isolated location means vast stretches of white sand all to yourself.
TOP TIP: Time your visit to coincide with whale shark season from April to August for a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to swim alongside these gentle giants.
These top spots and tips were compiled with the help of the team of travel experts at Trailfinders. Their new travel centre at 5 Union Street, Bath, is open from 30 May. Tel: 01225 724 000; trailfinders.com