Secret Hideaways – 7 Small and Underappreciated Destinations Worth Visiting
Travel is often filled with museums, crowds, and breakneck itineraries. But, the off-the-beaten path travel is far more memorable and relaxing. Typically smaller towns in more out-of-the-way locations offer a chance to slow down, explore, and take in the spectacular scenery all away from the crowds.
Here are some of the best secret hideaways worth checking out around the world.
This sleepy town in eastern Ireland is a perfect hideaway for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Dublin City. The affluent suburban peninsula is just 30 minutes from Dublin by DART and allows for a proper view of “the rest” of Ireland through a pleasant day trip or overnight stay.
The town’s most notable attractions are included in a three-hour cliff walk which rings the peninsula connected by quiet paths around hills of health and stunning cliffs.
Stroll through the ruins of 14th-century St. Mary’s Abbey, walk to the lighthouse, which housed literary giant Salmon Rushdie, or walk down to the water’s edge and admire the Irish Sea.
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The Oregon Coast is a magnificent, 350-mile stretch of undeveloped beaches, park, hills and forest with rugged coves and craggy cliffs. The hauntingly beautiful coastline is best appreciated from the string of state parks that forms to preserve the oceanside running the length of the state and are best traveled via car or bicycle.
The main route of Highway 101 closely follows the contours of the seaboard offering many turnoffs for postcard-worthy water views, and some quiet country roads allow for peaceful pedaling. The Oregon coast is typically broken into two parts: the North Coast, from Astoria through Lincoln City, and the South Coast, running from Lincoln City through Brookings. The south is considerably less developed and more rugged than the northern sections with far fewer visitors. The rocky beachside scenery and small working-class towns lends the place a tangible authenticity, one not likely to be forgotten by anyone interested in having experiences off the beaten path.
La Paz, Costa Rica
Besides the La Paz Waterfall and Butterfly Gardens, the secret hideaway appeal of La Paz is the Peace Lodge. Only an hour outside of the busy capital, San Jose, the Peace Lodge feels like a world away. The lodge captures the natural beauty of the rainforest with striking views of the La Paz River Valley. Even if you choose to stay elsewhere, the La Paz Waterfall Gardens are a wonderful sanctuary and the perfect hideaway.
The idyllic trail takes you past five waterfalls, which allow you to admire from many different views. In addition, a visit to the Butterfly Observatory and Hummingbird Gardens offer a chance to feel as a part of nature. The lush rainforest, the beautiful butterflies and the magnificent waterfalls are just a few reasons this is considered a secret hideaway.
North Rim, Grand Canyon
The Grand Canyon is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world, which means it’s insanely crowded throughout the entire year. If you’re looking to experience the majesty of the park without the crush of the crowds, opt for the quieter North Rim with its cooler temperatures, thick wildflower meadows and lush forest with ponderosa pines. While there are few opportunities for scenic overlooks, there is plenty of hiking for all fitness levels, plus the classic “Grand Canyon Mule Ride” which takes you either around or below the Rim.
As expected of a “secret hideaway,” there are fewer amenities in this more remote section of the Grand Canyon, but there are campgrounds, small motels, and The Grand Canyon Lodge, an impressive wood-and-stone hotel that sits on the canyon rim commanding extraordinary canyon views. As the North Rim is located in Northern Arizona near Southern Utah, with a 1,000 feet higher elevation than the more popular South Rim, facilities are closed from mid-October to mid-May, although you can drive into the park and camp until the first snow closes the roads.
Lake Champlain, Vermont
The open islands along skinny Lake Champlain are a perfect retreat from the everyday hustle and bustle. With close proximity to major cities like Boston, Providence, Hartford and New York this tiny parcel of paradise makes a wonderful leisurely road trip. The pristine islands are small, but idyllic. With few tourist amenities, there is a sense of stark beauty in the 30-mile road connecting the low, open island parks that push up to the Canadian border.
Each of the islands offers plenty of opportunities for swimming, camping or hiking, and picnic tables and cooking grills are peppered throughout the area. North Hero State Park is often considered the crown jewel of the Lake Champlain Island Parks, with 399 acres and offering a variety of services and facilities including 99 spacious, wooded and private campsites. To fulfill the workout quota, some islands rent kayaks or canoes, perfect to appease an adventurous spirit or provide a leisurely paddle around the lake. Or, if it’s true adventure you crave search for the elusive Lake Champlain monster, Champ.
The small-town of Gryon is an unlikely stop on a grand tour of Europe; however, the combination of an idyllic location sandwiched between breathtaking mountains and a fantastic hostel makes Gryon an ideal place to recharge. While Gryon’s untouched tranquil setting makes this a lovely sanctuary; its main draw is the Swiss Alp Retreat, housed in the Chalet Marin. Nestled in a 200-year-old farmhouse, this bohemian backpacker establishment not only provides a cozy bed and clean bathrooms, but also rents skis, has daily sign-ups for cheese farm tours, paragliding, thermal baths, and wine or chocolate tasting among other sorts of daily activities – all with a rustic charm.
While the name “hostel” conjures up images of party-loving backpackers, those who stay at Chalet Martin range from the hardcore backpacker to honeymooners, middle-aged couples and families. With spectacular views, hiking and walking trails from the front door, and close proximity to the ski town of Villars, this is a perfect haven for those looking to connect with nature.
US 500, between Silverton and Ouray, is often known as the Million Dollar Hwy. Not only for the “million-dollar” views around every corner, but it is rumored that the road-bed fill contains valuable ore. The road takes you past mining an old mining town of the old Wild West, larger-than-life alpine scenery, and spectacular Rocky Mountain peaks that are so close they seem ready to grab you.
The Ouray hot springs are the perfect place for a healing soak and the cascading waterfalls, Ouray Ice Park, and magnificent mountains are just some of the activities to keep you occupied. Awesome doesn’t do the place justice. What makes this place even more special are the accommodations. Many of the lodges are destination within themselves, fitting for all budget types. Ouray might just be that little bit of paradise.
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Photo credits: Howth, Ireland by Kieran Lynam on flickr, Oregon Coast by pfly, La Paz by Edwin Dalorzo, North Rim Grand Canyon by John H. Kim on flickr, Lake Champlain by Travisleeharden, Chalet Martin in Gryon by walknboston, Ouray by flamouroux