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jul 15 2015

10 Tourist-Free Adventure Destinations

Azores

Discover the beauty and magic of the Azores—before huge crowds of tourists get there!

(Courtesy hcoffee/myBudgetTravel)

This article was written by Mary Mazzoni and originally appeared on Yahoo Travel.

Sick of overcrowded streets, congested bus rides and suffocating travel groups? You’re not alone. One of the top trends in travel this decade is the quest for the untouched—those pristine, less-traveled destinations you can explore without bumping into selfie-takers at every turn.

Luckily for us, the folks at the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA) know a thing or two about traveling off the beaten path. To bring you the tourist-free experience you crave, we asked experts at the recent AdventureElevate conference in Colorado to share some of their favorite secret spots. Read on to get the skinny on these exotic locales before the crowds show up.

For untouched culture: Tolar, Argentina

This small town of less than 300 people is a favorite of Veronica Lampon of Say Hueque. Although her firm is the No. 1 tour operator in Argentina, it only sells around one trip a year to this unexplored location—so you’re sure to get a pristine adventure experience.

Located in the deserts of Northern Argentina, Tolar boasts beautiful mountains, rendered in technicolor thanks to mineral deposits, and a unique cultural experience that can’t be beat. The remote location was heavily influenced by the Incas, and it remains untainted by waves of tourists. “You can still get a lot of that culture from 200 years ago,” Lampon told us. “It’s an amazing experience.”

For watersport: Rio Cangrejal, Honduras

Situated in Northern Honduras, the Rio Cangrejal is “one of the great whitewater rafting and kayaking rivers in Central America,” said Mark Willuhn of the Mesoamerican Ecotourism Alliance.

Using a coastal town like La Ceiba as your base, you can easily explore the Rio Cangrejal region and all it has to offer. After you give kayaking and rafting a try, head to the nearby Pico Bonito National Park to check out untouched rain forests without bumping elbows with other travelers. Or, peep exotic sea life on a snorkeling adventure on the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef along the Honduran Bay Islands.

Related: Secret American Beaches You’ve Never Heard of

In your backyard: Point Reyes National Seahore, California

Although it’s only an hour from San Francisco, Point Reyes National Seashore remains “very much a hidden secret,” said Christina Tunnah of travel insurance operator World Nomads. “It’s a jewel in that part of California that is still thankfully very pristine and still very rugged at the same time.”

At Point Reyes, around 240 miles of trail beckons hikers, bikers and horseback riders to explore the protected countryside. On your travels, be sure to check out the historic lighthouse and the many wildlife viewing areas, such as the tule elk range or the Elephant Seal Overlook. Visit from January through April, and you may also catch a glimpse of the annual gray whale migration from one of the park beaches or headlands.

Adventure made easy: Town-hopping in Alaska

Visiting Alaska is a surefire way to get off the beaten path, but it can seem daunting to pick a locale amidst its 660,000 square miles of terrain. We caught up with Jack Bonney of Visit Anchorage for a local’s perspective.

His tips: Start and finish your trip in Anchorage for seamless airport access, then use the railroad system to explore Alaska’s backcountry. Kick off your adventure in Seward, a small fishing town that’s about a three-hour train ride from Anchorage. Explore the untouched seaside village, and take a quick boat trip to Kenai Fjords National Park which is home to 38 stunning glaciers and some of the most breathtaking views in Alaska.

For an even more off-grid experience, hop back on the Alaska Railroad to Spencer Glacier. “When the train pulls away, the people who got off the train with you are the only ones who are going to be out there,” Bonney said with a smile. Enjoy float tours, hiking and camping at one of the most spectacular glaciers in Alaska before the easy train trip back to Anchorage. Adventure and convenience? Sign us up!

Soft adventure paradise: Amalfi Coast, Italy

Looking for an offbeat trip but aren’t quite ready for sub-zero camping or remote hiking tours? Don’t worry. You can have the best of both worlds on the Amalfi Coast of Italy, said Tom De Napoli of Diamante Eco Adventure Park in Costa Rica.

A less-traveled destination that’s far from rugged, the Amalfi Coast is home to pristine beaches and stunning hillside towns. Take a relaxing bike or scooter ride, or simply enjoy the scenery in this quirky destination that’s perfect for families and low-impact travelers.

For unmatched diversity: Azores

Although it’s a perennial editor’s favorite for top 10 lists, this autonomous region of Portugal remains a relatively unknown destination for North American travelers.

A mere four-hour flight from Boston, the nine islands of the Azores each offer their own distinct landscape—ensuring something for everyone and banishing boredom for good. Explore the red deserts of Santa Maria, the lush mountain peaks of Sao Jorge, or the semi-submersed caves and stunning seaside vistas of Pico and Faial. Seriously, there’s so much more than we could ever list here. Check out their website to learn more.

For ancient history: Sierra de San Francisco, Baja California

This UNESCO World Heritage site is home to “the most significant collection of prehistoric rock art in North America,” said Peter Grubb, founder of Row Adventures.

It’s truly a trip of a lifetime, but expect a bit of a trek to get there: Visitors hike in on foot, using mules to carry their belongings, and are unlikely to run into anyone outside of their small tour group. Visited by only around 300 travelers a year, the site features remarkably well-preserved rock paintings from as far back as 100 B.C.  

Spot some wildlife: Pantanal, Brazil

“Honestly, the Pantanal is the most underrated destination,” said George Duffy of Adventure Engine. Or, as Lonely Planet puts it, “The Amazon gets the press coverage, but the Pantanal is a better place to see wildlife.”

Tour the lush rain forests of the region, and you’re sure to see exotic native creatures maxin’ and relaxin’ without fear of tourist crowds. For sea life, head to Bonito for stunning freshwater snorkeling in warm, crystal-blue waters.

Related: Secret Islands in France That No One Knows About

Boozy adventure: Isle of Harris, Scotland

The mostly untouched Isle of Harris is home to some of the best beaches in Scotland—not to mention the most remote whiskey distillery in the world, set to open later this year. Tour the distillery and even reserve one of its first barrels, which you can pick up in 10 years after it’s finished aging.

On your visit, take in the island’s lush landscapes and stunning beaches on a cycling and hiking tour courtesy of Wilderness Scotland.

The offbeat Eurotrip: Macedonia

This landlocked Balkan nation, bordered by Albania and Greece, is the perfect place to “see authentic Europe that really hasn’t been disrupted by tourism,” advised Kathy Kramer of Firefly Journeys.

In Macedonia, check out rolling countrysides, stunning mountain vistas and picturesque villages—without a tour bus in sight. Link up with Macedonia Experience for hiking and biking tours with expert guides to make sure you don’t miss a beat.

WATCH: Go Now: The New Seventh Wonder of the World—That’s Empty

jul 13 2015

Want a Free Home in Sicily?

Gangi, Sicily (pictured here, with Mount Etna in the background), has too many empty houses on its hands. So it's giving them away to people who'll commit to fixing them up.

(Juergen Schonnop/Dreamstime)

In the market for a new vacation home? How about an Italian vacation home? Well, the town of Gangi, Sicily, is offering a price that's right: Free. Does free work for you?

There are, of course, a few quid pro quos and provisos. Namely, you've got to have the funds and/or the home-improvement skills to turn an empty, likely rundown Sicilian house into a thriving home, vacation rental, or hotel. You have four years to do so.

jun 18 2015

How to Visit the World's Endangered Destinations

Australia's Great Barrier Reef is one of Budget Travel's picks for Where to Go in 2015. But this ecosystem is threatened by carbon emissions and farm runoff, raising the possibility that within a century the world's biggest and most beautiful coral reef system will be gone forever.

(Tanya Puntti/Dreamstime)

Some of the world's most beautiful travel spots are under attack by climate change and booming human populations. Here's how you can visit some of these endangered destinations responsibly before they're gone forever.

GREAT BARRIER REEF

The world's biggest, most beautiful, and most diverse reef system (1,400 miles) could be gone in 100 years due to global carbon dioxide emissions and runoff from farms into the ocean. As the ocean temperatures rise, the coral, fish, and marine mammals all suffer. But if you visit this Australian must-see respectfully, you can snorkel, scuba, or even just watch the Technicolor show in a glass-bottomed boat or kayak.

jun 09 2015

10 Best Budget Eats in Milan, Italy

Detail of Duomo Cathedral in Milan Italy

If you can tear yourself away from Milan's magnificent Duomo, here are the best places to enjoy an Italian treat for less.

(Lonely Planet)

For some, the highlight of a trip to Milan is viewing Leonardo da Vinci's The Last Supper. But for the food-obsessed, a visit here revolves around eating supper (and breakfast and lunch, too). In a country revered for gastronomic treasures, Milan's culinary abundance stands tall. Best known for fashion and finance, this chic, sleek, and efficient Northern Italian city will tantalize your taste buds at every turn. History and geography are on its side. Milan is located in the Po Valley, surrounded by fertile pastures and prolific rice fields, which translates to your plate with luxuriously rich cheese and butter, plus the risotto of your dreams. Centuries of foreign conquerors have left their mark with an open-minded food scene and authentic ethnic cuisine.

jun 04 2015

New 'Mini Fashion Bar' Lets You Buy High-Style Clothes in Your Hotel Room—Affordably!

Hotel Fashion Bar

Need a jacket for sightseeing? A new European service offers clothing and accessories for purchase right from your hotel room's closet.

(Courtesy Pimkie)

The very concept of a hotel room closet filled with new, fashionable clothing you can buy on the spot—just like you would a can of soda from the mini bar—sounds like something only the one percent could afford, right? Wrong!

The Mini Fashion Bar, just launched at the Banks Boutique Hotel in Antwerp, Belgium (rates from about $112 per night), by French fashion brand Pimkie, stocks boutique hotel rooms with stylish women's duds like bomber jackets, statement necklaces, cool jeans, and little black dresses, all hand-picked by fashion bloggers and stylists—and tailored to the weather and your location. The best part: Prices start at less than $6, with clothing averaging about $28 per piece.

may 27 2015

Awesome Summer Food Festivals

The Gilroy Garlic Festival

The Gilroy Garlic Festival, in Northern California, is known not just for serving tons of the aromatic harvest all weekend, but also for culinary pyrotechnics.

(Courtesy Bill Strange)

Ready to get an early start on your summer travel? Some of the world's tastiest food festivals are happening over the next few weeks in some of the world's most beautiful spots. Pack a bag, and an appetite.

EXPO MILANO

may 21 2015

#BTReads 'Eating Rome: Living the Good Life in the Eternal City'

(Lonely Planet)

I love cooking for my family. I especially love introducing them to dishes and flavors that I've encountered in my travels. And when I walk into my kitchen intent on dishing up something fresh and Italian, my first question is often "What would Elizabeth cook?"

Elizabeth Minchilli, a Budget Travel contributor and author of the best-selling apps Eat Rome, Eat Florence, and Eat Venice, has published an incredible memoir, Eating Rome: Living the Good Life in the Eternal City (St. Martin's Press, 2015), that absolutely breathes its subject. Having known Elizabeth for years, I fully expected the book to deliver delightful, sometimes surprising recipes and locals-only intel on restaurants. It sure does.

may 05 2015

16 Picture-Perfect Small European Towns

this picture was taken early in the morning at hallstatt, austria on november 12th, 2008.

A beautiful morning in Hallstatt, Austria.

(Courtesy tgreuter/myBudgetTravel)

This article was written by Zeneba Bowers and Matt Walker and originally appeared on their blog, littleroadseurope.com.

Europe is full of small towns that look like they're lifted right from a postcard rack: Sweeping vistas; cobblestone streets; thatched-roof cottages or terracotta-roofed villas; idyllic parks; quaint storefronts selling meats, cheeses, flowers, and crafts; restaurants and pubs full of local flavor, in their cuisine and in their people. Some of these, like the villages that surround Italy's Lake Como or dot the landscape in England's Cotswolds, are dauntingly pricey and crushed with tourists during high season. However, there are many places, if you know where and when to look, that offer dining, shopping, and admissions to sights for very reasonable costs; lodging, too, is significantly less than you'd expect, especially in the off-season. Here are 16 picture-perfect European towns that we've discovered over the years.

Hallstatt, Austria

apr 17 2015

Contiki Wants Millennials To See The World!

Contiki in Paris

This epic jumping photo in front of the Eiffel Tower was taken during my first Contiki trip to London and Paris. I'm second from the right.

(Courtesy Kaeli Conforti)

Attention Millennials: Get ready to have the time of your life! BT readers between the ages of 18 and 35 can save 15 percent on four fabulous Contiki tours when they book by Apr. 30th for travel thru 2015.

mar 20 2015

Would You Pay $250 for a Professional Vacation Photographer?

Couple in Bali

A Flytographer duo guided this couple through a shoot in Bali, ensuring they followed local customs (no kissing in front of temples) and asking permission from rice farmers to pose in their fields.

(Vony and Bayu for Flytographer in Bali)

Forget the selfie stick. Brand-new photo service Flytographer has recruited professional photographers in more than 130 cities worldwide to take fanciful candid or posed photos of you on your dream trip. No more tilting your smartphone's camera just right, hoping to catch your face and most of the Eiffel Tower in the background. And don't even get us started on the social awkwardness that ensues when you ask a stranger to take your picture.

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