Updated: Feb 14, 2019
Bonjour! 2019 is the year for travel. The world and all of its secret corners have never been more accessible to us, which means there will be fewer and fewer hidden gems for you to explore. Are you looking to visit some of the biggest tourist attractions on Earth, fighting the crowds for the perfect selfie and eating mediocre tourist food? If so, STOP READING! Find travel secrets to the world's most popular cities, before it's too late.
If you're looking for a more unique experience, away from the crowds, consider one of these amazing, culture-rich destinations:
1. Lima, Peru (link to a free itinerary below)
I bet Cusco and Machu Picchu is on your list already, and why wouldn't it be? This iconic Incan estate was voted one of the "new" Seven Wonders of the World. But, guess where most of your connecting flights will land before you get there: Lima! Lima used to be a stopover city, but now it is flourishing with life and purpose of its own. It has ruins nearly 1000 years older than Machu Picchu, colonial architecture protected by UNESCO, a wild surfing community, and a food scene that is "en fuego" with street food ceviche and Michelin Star candidates alike. You can eat at some of the top 50 restaurants in the world for a fraction of what meals cost in New York City. Rethink Lima, and check out this free itinerary.
2. Bogota, Colombia
Bogota gets a bad rep. It's associated with drug cartels and violence, plus it's high on a plateau, not down on the beach like Cartagena. We forget it is also the political, economic, administrative, industrial, artistic, cultural, and sports center of the country. The "La Candelaria" neighborhood features colonial-era landmarks with bright-colored neighborhoods like what you'd expect to see in Havana, Cartagena, Old San Juan, and other jubilant Latin American cities. For the art-savvy, Bogota is home to popular museums including the Museo del Oro (Museum of Gold) and lots and lots of awesome street art. And lastly, for the caffeine connoisseurs, Bogota has access to the best coffee farms in the world where you can harvest and taste perfection at its source. Head here for a Bogota itinerary.
3. Durango, Colorado
Too busy "shredding the gnar" or "carving fresh pow" high in Vail, Aspen, and Breckenridge? Too busy "chugging brewskies" in the craft beer scenes of Boulder and Denver? If you want to see what Colorado was like before the tourists turned it into an outrageously expensive skiing and sipping wonderland, head to Durango. Durango is a small city in southwestern Colorado, near the New Mexico border, and is famous for its Silverton steam train that passes through mountains and canyons. Grab a drink at a saloon, thaw out in thermal hot springs, and picture yourself discovering the wild, wild west. Head here for a Durango itinerary.
4. Brooklyn, New York
A trip to New York City can be intimidating. The airports, Times Square, Central Park, and basically all of Manhattan are all teaming with tourists. Brooklyn is a fresh alternative that will leave you more inspired and less drained. If Brooklyn were its own city, it would be would be the fourth largest city in the US, so expect a lot of diversity. Neighborhoods range from high-end DUMBO (between Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges); to Williamsburg, a hotbed of indie music, art and nightlife; to leafy, row house–filled Park Slope. Head here for a Brooklyn itinerary, or here for an even less known Queens itinerary.
5. Malaga, Spain
Barcelona is really fun to say in a Spanish accent, but it is overrun with tourists practicing their best "cerveza" orders, too. Head instead to Picasso's birthplace, Malaga, for better yellow-sand beaches, unexpectedly amazing hiking, and really interesting North African influences. Looming over Malaga's modern skyline are the Alcazaba and the Gibralfaro ruins, both remnants of Moorish rule. At the Museo Picasso Malaga you'll see Picasso's earliest works and witness how his style evolved over the years. This low-key Spanish haven will teach you more about Spain than other cities because it's so much more approachable. Head here for a Malaga itinerary.
6. Belfast, Northern Ireland
If you want a very unique take on Brexit, set your sights on Belfast in 2019. Northern Ireland has always been torn between Irish and British identities, and now Brexit is forcing residents to think about whether British caretakers or European caretakers are better for the future of Northern Ireland. Belfast was a stiffly industrial town, producing the RMS Titanic out of its shipyards. Now, Belfast is renovating these dockyards, while still offering easy access to hiking the infamous Northern Ireland countryside. Head here for a Belfast itinerary.
7. Hamburg, Germany
Hamburg is actually closer to Denmark than it is to Berlin. As a result, it's German, but also very integrated with other Northern European experiences. Hamburg has large areas of parkland perfect for the city traveler who still wants to stroll amidst nature. It also boasts a red light district that's much less touristy than Amsterdam's. Hamburg's core feature is the hundreds of canals that slice through the city; hints of its history as a major German port. Head here for a Hamburg itinerary.
8. Ohrid, Macedonia
You may have never heard of Ohrid or Macedonia, but they are not to be missed. Ohrid sits near Macedonia's borders with Albania and Greece. Ohrid is a small resort city on the hilly shores of a large lake that separates Albania from Macedonia. It is quiet here; the compact old town has medieval churches, monasteries, and traditional houses with red-tiled roofs. Come here to rest, but also to discover a culture you may never have thought to explore. Head here for an Ohrid itinerary.
9. Amman, Jordan
Most people go to Israel to visit the Dead Sea. Amman offers a path to the Dead Sea from the east, while teaching a uniquely Islamic perspective on the region's history. Amman is a fully modern city with amenities for all (including hipster Millennials), but get amped to explore some ancient Roman ruins, historic mosques, and traditional hummus and falafel dishes while you're there. Head here for an Amman itinerary.
10. Beirut, Lebanon
Again, Beirut's image has been tainted with the recent Lebanese Civil War, but Beirut has been rebuilt and is ready to welcome back its reputation as "The Paris of the Middle East." In fact, the recent conflict makes Beirut even more fascinating to visit right now. The Beit Beiruit, a museum about the Civil War, struggles to open due to residual disagreements on how to explain the conflict succinctly. Dig up the scoop yourself by talking to locals along the city's Green Line. Head here for a Beirut itinerary.
11. Mumbai, India
The city's dense population intimidates most risk-averse tourists. It's true: sitting in Indian traffic is no joke, but is it worth it? Yah, if you have a plan. The Bollywood film scene is thriving here, there are offshore islands with Hindu temples to explore, and local hipsters are revitalizing abandoned sugar mills into delicious restaurants and thumping clubs. Mumbai requires patience, but it will reward you with life-changing inspiration. Head here for a Mumbai itinerary.
12. Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Thailand and Vietnam continue to be Cambodia's more popular neighbors, and even within Cambodia Angkor Wat draws the largest crowds. For those on their way to Angkor Wat, spend three days in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's busy capital. On its walkable riverfront, lined with parks, restaurants and bars, Phnom Penh has its ornate Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda. You can also embrace some very intense history by visiting the Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum, both dedicated to never forgetting the widespread murders by the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1970s. Head here for a Phnom Penh itinerary.
13. Manila, The Philippines
With 7,641 islands in The Philippines, how do you know which ones to visit? Most go to Boracay, Cebu, or Bohol, but few stay in the layover city of Manila. Manila is a densely populated bayside city on the largest island, Luzon. It has remnants of Spanish colonial architecture in the Intramuros neighborhood, but it also has modern skyscrapers and hip nightlife in Makati. From Manila, the pristine beaches of Capones Island and phenomenal hiking to Pagsanjan Falls are each just a day-trip. Head here for a full Manila itinerary.
CRUSOE has a network of real travelers who write perfect 3-day itineraries to every city in the world. They save you hundreds of hours of research by revealing their hidden gems in these extremely-detailed itineraries. Morning, afternoon, evening; breakfast, lunch, and dinner — everything is planned out on paper so you can explore more real culture in this world.