12 Best Places You've Never Heard of
There are precious few spots that are both off the grid and out of this world. We asked a dozen professional globe-trotters to take us to their most secret hideaways.
Lord Howe Island, Australia
RECOMMENDED BY Charles Veley, founder of most traveledpeople.com. Trekked more than 2 million miles (so far) on his quest to see each country, territory, dependency, and island in the world.
Charles Veley likes Lord Howe Island so much that he's been there twice. That means something for a man on a mission to collect every passport stamp in the world. The crescent-shaped island, a two-hour flight northeast of Sydney, is just seven miles from tip to tip, with a long white stretch of lagoon beach at its center and emerald green mountains at either end. Veley recommends renting a bicycle at Wilson's Hire Service (011-61/2-6563-2045, bikes from $5 a day), picking up lunch at Thompsons General Store (011-61/2-6563-2155, wraps from $6.75), and circling the island. Don't miss the starfish in the tide pools near the lagoon and the hand-fed fish at the lovely and secluded Neds Beach. Wherever you go, you're not going to get lost; there's just one main street and only 18 small-scale hotels such as the 19-room bungalow-style Leanda Lei Apartments (leandalei.com.au, doubles from $165). "It's just you and fabulous white sand with the most beautiful palm trees all around."
RECOMMENDED BY Zane Lamprey, host of Spike TV's Three Sheets. Hunts for bars, beers, drinking customs, and all things alcoholic for his televised, around-the-world pub crawl.
He's downed Mekhong whiskey in Bangkok and vodka shots in a Moscow bathhouse. Yet for all the cocktailing bluster, it comes as a surprise that Zane Lamprey's favorite destination is quiet Saint-Sauvant (population: 517), in the heart of cognac country: "It's my fantasy version of France." Saint-Sauvant is a quintessential 14th-century village, with a fortified tower, four winding streets, and only one place to stay, the Design Hôtel des Francs Garçons. Outside, the hotel looks like any medieval building: thick walls, wood shutters, and a tiled roof. But inside, a team of seven French, American, and British architects has transformed everything. The reception is a modernist forest with black-and-white wallpaper hand-printed with leafless trees. Out back, a swimming pool abuts the village's 12th-century Romanesque church, a French cultural monument. There's not much else to Saint-Sauvant, which is fine with Lamprey. "They have a pace of life I could get accustomed to," he says. "Lunch lasts for at least two hours, and it may just be two pieces of bread and some ham and cheese. But for some reason, it takes the French a long time to eat a sandwich." francsgarcons.com, doubles from $127.
Keahiakawelo, Lanai, Hawaii
RECOMMENDED BY Valerie Yong Ock Kim, film-location scout and professional photographer. Has scouted exotic spots for scenes in Pirates of the Caribbean, The Tempest, and Batman Forever, among other films.
You need a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get to Keahiakawelo, which could easily stand in for the surface of Mars in a Hollywood blockbuster. On the northwest side of Lanai-the least populated of the Hawaiian Islands-the sweep of red rock gardens and giant boulders pops against a backdrop of blue skies and ocean. "I don't know of any place else like it," says Valerie Yong Ock Kim. "The wind actually rolls the rocks around." Being in Hawaii, you can certainly decamp to the beach, but it's far more interesting to visit with Kepa Maly, the executive director of the Lanai Culture & Heritage Center (lanaichc.org, admission free). "He makes the trip worth it," Kim says. "He knows all the stories." You can also get your fill of Hawaiian culture at Hotel Lanai's Lanai City Grille, where the menu is the work of Beverly Gannon, a founder of Hawaii's regional-cuisine movement (hotellanai.com, doubles from $99, pulled-pork wontons $11). From your table, it's just steps to a plantation-style room at the hotel, where your dreams will likely be the stuff of fiery myths.
RECOMMENDED BY Laura Aviva, owner of L'Aviva Home. Tracks down indigenous, handcrafted housewares for hotels and interior designers, and for her online boutique, lavivahome.com.